Differences Between DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Rouge Delta, May 26, 2020.

  1. Rouge Delta

    Rouge Delta Member

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    I'm a Seymour Duncan man. I've got several Duncans ranging from a Seth Lovers and a set of 59s, to Invaders and The Slug. I've only got one guitar with DiMarzio: Super Distortion / Red Velvet / FS-1 (HSS).

    One thing that's kept me from diving into DiMarzio's pool is that the Super Distortion has me fooled. I was looking for a dark set of HSS pickups. I went on their website and literally just sorted by bass output for a humbucker and two single coils, and bought some pickups. The Super D is SUPER BRIGHT...but really warms up well with the tone knob in that mahogany body guitar. So, I find it to be very versatile (cuts well with the tone knob up, and then gets stupid warm with the tone knob turned down). So, I'm happy with that guitar.

    But now I don't trust DiMarzio. I don't want to pull the trigger on something again and end up getting fooled in a way that I can't make sweet lemons like I did with the Super D.

    I'm learning that DiMarzio has a few tricks up their sleeves that Seymour Duncan does not. I'm not sure if it works the other way around. So, what are the "technical" differences between DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan? What can cause their published data on the Super D to be so totally out of whack with reality that the brightness of that "bass heavy" pickup is a topic on every guitar forum on the internet...??? I don't see that happening too much with the Duncan lineup, and don't have that problem with the pile of Seymour Duncans that I have laying around.

    -R.D.
     
  2. David Garner

    David Garner Gold Supporting Member

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    I've only owned a handful of each, but I too prefer Seymour Duncan for the stuff I've purchased. DiMarzio Twang Kings are okay, but I prefer the Custom Shop Texas Specials in my Tele. I had Areas in the Tele and the Strat, but I ultimately decided I preferred true singles (not DiMarzio's fault by any means). I'm also on the "I'm not going to buy a pickup from a company that aggressively enforces a trademark on a vague color scheme and abbreviation for 'Patent Applied For' that pre-existed the company by decades" bandwagon.

    Having said that, I think the Super D and PAF are classic designs and probably sound great in the right guitar. I don't think they're awful products. I have just come to the realization that if Duncan says a pickup sounds like X, it probably sounds like X. And I have yet to be disappointed in a Seymour Duncan pickup. They are my go-to these days. A set of Antiquities, and then a set of Custom Shop Pearly Gates, booted the Wolfetone Dr. Vintage set from one of my Les Pauls. The Psychedelic Strat set did the same for a set of Bare Knuckle Apaches. Wolfetone and Bare Knuckle both wind great pickups, but I've found I can get what I need from Duncan, whether off the rack or from the Custom Shop.

    I just put a JB/59 set in my other Les Paul and it might be my favorite set. The JB is an older 80s model, and the 59 is probably early 2000s or so. I'm completely satisfied with them, and they're just normal off-the-rack Duncan pickups. Seymour Duncan knows what he's doing, and as a company they wind great pickups for reasonable prices.
     
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  3. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    They both offer some great pickups. I have several of both and couldn't possibly generalize, especially based on small sample sizes.
     
  4. WordMan

    WordMan Silver Supporting Member

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    It’s a West Coast / East Coast Thing. Seymour Duncan is Tupac and Larry DiMarzio is Biggie.

    ;)

    I am a West Coast / Duncan guy. His presentation of his pickups is as clear as can be, to me. I was building a Tele. For my first build, I paired an ash body and a Duncan Jerry Donahue sig Tele bridge. Sublime. This second one was a Korina body. A Donahue sounded way too harsh - compressed mids buzzing like a wasp.

    I got on his site, looking for a lower output, scoop-ier pickup, so it would complement the Korina better. Picked one of his vintage alnicos that was described this way, dropped it in and it was perfect. Haven’t looked back.
     
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  5. disconnector

    disconnector It's been swell, but the swelling's gone down. Silver Supporting Member

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    It's really hard to generalize since pickups and the way that we hear them is intensely personal. Plus there's really no secret to making a good vintage pickup . . . it's just magnets and wire in the end. Most of my guitars over the years have had pickups from one camp or the other though so here goes nothing :eek:

    To my ears Duncan is a bit more "vintage" and Dimarzio is a bit more "modern". They both make pickups that fit into both camps but Dimarzio tends towards more clarity while Duncan tends towards warmth. Duncan tends towards polite pickups while Dimarzio is willing to get nuts. Duncan is far more traditional in most of their designs while Dimarzio experiments quite a bit with odd designs.

    One thing that is totally different though to my ears - Dimarzio has the noise-free single coil market completely locked. Duncan doesn't have anything that's in the ballpark of the Injectors or Area pickups.

    I used to be 100% in the Duncan camp. After getting a JEM 7-WVH (Vai EVO) and really listening to the Dimarzios in it I really had to rethink my position. Now I simply buy by the tone - vintage = Duncan / modern = Dimarzio. Of course both makers have both sounds - but on average this is my experience. I find that I have more Dimarzio than Duncan now. My ears enjoy the extended frequency response.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
  6. Custom50

    Custom50 Member

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    I've bought and use both and like both.

    Honestly, they both make so much stuff that I think both companies would have an option for pretty much anything you would want, but I can't think of something one company does that the other doesn't.

    I agree Duncan does a somewhat better job of explaining exactly what they are shooting for with each pickup. DiMarzio might tell you that their pickup uses "airbucker" technology but may not always give you the best description of what an airbucker is.
     
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  7. TreeHugsBam

    TreeHugsBam Member

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    The 3 bar eq graph is barely useful on the SD and dimarzio sites.

    Kinda like setting the 3 knobs on a fender the same as a marshall and expecting them to sound similar
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
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  8. northstar6000

    northstar6000 Member

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    The other thing to remember is that when installing pickups the results are not guaranteed.

    A guitar is a sum of all of the parts together.
    For example I put a Seymour Duncan Hotrails in the bridge of a strat. It produced the most ice pick high treble make your ears bleed tone. It was just terrible.

    And yet the Hot Rails are a highly renowned pickup. For me they just didn’t work in that guitar.

    I agree that the Seymours overall are a bit more vintage leaning, with the Dimarzios being a little more modern.

    I like both equally.
     
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  9. TTHX

    TTHX Member

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    I've used and liked both. I've had most variations of Duncan's HB in guitars, but I've always eventually switched them out. It wasn't until I tried a pair of 36th anniversaries where I was really blown away and realized I didn't give Dimarzios enough attention. I think in general not having a really big community hub like the duncan forums and less marketing materials really don't help the perception of Dimarzio but they have a lot of great players on their draft so they're doing something right. I do agree though that their website and descriptions could really use some work.
     
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  10. Rouge Delta

    Rouge Delta Member

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    That's kinda what I'm asking. I love hearing the opinions because obviously both companies make great products. That Red Velvet and FS-1 are exactly what I was looking for!

    But what about some of those technical differences, like the "air" design that they use. Are there any preferences that they tend towards in their windings and magnets that SD does not...or visa versa?
     
  11. EndGame00

    EndGame00 Member

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    If we are to compare both 59’s of Duncan and DiMarzio, I would prefer DiMarzio. i find them a lot more balanced in the EQ than the Duncan.... Duncan 59 is a little more shrill on the treble, and I notice there is a metallic “plink” sound on the open high E string.

    Price-wise, DiMarzio.... For selection of vintage/low output pickups, I think I prefer Duncans.
     
  12. donnievaz

    donnievaz Member

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    I know this is completely useless information but I've been playing Duncans (mostly Custom series & JB's) for so long that I tend to feel like there's something missing whenever I buy an HB loaded guitar without them. The only guitar I didn't get that with was a Gibson Vintage Mahogany Les Paul with Burstbucker Pros that I loved the sound of immediately from the first strum. (regret getting rid of that one)

    Anyone else feel this way? I wish I could explain it better but I can't really put my finger on it.
     
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  13. David B

    David B Silver Supporting Member

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    My breakdown is pretty simple, but also overgeneralized. Duncan is where I go for "old stuff", and Dimarzio is where I go for "new stuff". If I need a vintage sounding PAF, Tele PU or Strat PU, Duncan can usually cover pretty authentic sounding and looking pickups, Dimarzio has some decent stuff here too, but I break toward Duncan, and really it's just the "Seth Lover that has the lock. When I need low noise modern pickups, Dimarzio has put more realized effort on that side. The Area pickups are about as good as any low noise strat or tele offering. The 36th is also where I go when I need an "airy" PAF sound, and the pickups that Andy Timmons uses are popular with people who bring guitars to me for work, and I really like them too.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
  14. JPH118

    JPH118 Member

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    I didn’t have much of a preference for one over the other until I got my first set of Duncan Antiquities, and haven’t looked for much else since.
     
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  15. Dominik

    Dominik Member

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    The "Air" models use plastic spacers designed to simulate a weaker magnet, reducing string pull. "Dual resonance" are mismatched coils wound with different wire gauges. However Larry's most famous USPTO registrations are the "PAF" and "double cream" trademarks.

    Dimarzio obviously built its reputation off the Super Distortion in the 70s and high output humbuckers for practically every 80s shredder but they have some nice vintage/low output offerings. I like the EJ Custom and Air Classic. I made a list a while back of all their humbuckers that would fit standard covers for screws and slugs (not the two rows of hex poles) and included the patents which I think they stopped listing on their site probably because some have expired.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. deepcove17

    deepcove17 Supporting Member

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    I think Dimarzio was hitting the mark with the high output pickup craze in the 80's and Duncan is more in line with what a lot of consumers are currently seeking in an aftermarket pickup. With this being said I had a couple Dimarzio's in the 80's and use Duncans for aftermarket humbucker's in a couple of my Les Paul's, those being of the vintage variety Antiquities and Seth Lovers.

    I do not think the whole double cream patent is helping Dimarzio when it comes to support from a lot of players....
     
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  17. CanserDYI

    CanserDYI Member

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    My experience is Seymours have a fullness and reactiveness I can't find in Dimarzios, at least the two I've used, SuperD and Air Norton, which were both great pickups, just for my guitar and my playing the Seymours just feel more alive and bouncy, the JB and Pegasus being two of my favs.
     
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  18. jiml

    jiml Supporting Member

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    The whole "Double Cream" mess with Dimarzio kinda soured me, very silly.

    But, I love their Area lineup, use them in all my strat types.

    Duncan struck gold with the JB, and then again with Antiquity, I have Duncan humbuckers in most of my humbucker loaded guitars..
     
  19. RockDebris

    RockDebris Member

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    The Duncan 3 bar tone graph, Output level bar and consistent sound samples makes it easy to compare and I've been able to pick the one that works for me accurately. I wish every model had them to compare though, I can understand it takes a while for that to be available for each model.
     
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  20. Rouge Delta

    Rouge Delta Member

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    I get a great 70s hard rock sound from my JB that just sounds raw...but like you said "alive and bouncy" in a way that I don't get from my Super D.

    The Pegasus is awesome. My #1 guitar is an Ibanez AZ with the proprietary SD Hyperions. They are a mellower more versatile Pegasus / Sentient. I'm really hooked on that sound right now. Not as compressed, more open, yet just as colorful, and they handle distortion just fine.
     
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