Are Duncan Designed Pickups Good?

Are Duncan Designed Pickups Good?

Some pickups are branded as being “Duncan Designed” instead of being from Seymour Duncan. Are they made in the United States?

Seymour Duncan makes an incredible pickup. Many guitar manufacturers request this equipment for their instruments, but the cost is prohibitive when creating a mid-level product. That’s why the Duncan Designed products are considered an alternative.

They’re modeled after the American-made pickups from Seymour Duncan. You can find them on the ESP LTD, Fender Squiers, Schecter Diamond Series, and the Aria Pro II. Several other brands also use this product.

Are Duncan Designed pickups as good as the original?

Are Duncan Designed Pickups Good?

Duncan designed pickups are essentially a budget-friendly copy of an actual Seymour Duncan product. If you were to replace the generic item with the authentic one, you’d notice a significant change to your guitar tone. The ones they’ve designed still provide clarity and balance improvements.

Although they don’t carry the Seymour Duncan name, the Duncan Designed pickups still come from the same innovative foundation.

They’re built in one of the best pickup workshops in Korea, China, or the Philippines, with some options modeled after the American line the brand has released.

Duncan Designed pickups are only available as an OEM product. They’re shipped directly to guitar manufacturers for instruments that typically retail for $800 or less.

The sound and quality aren’t the same as a genuine Seymour Duncan product, but musicians are also paying significantly less for their instrument.

This option works well for beginners who don’t want to spend a lot to see if they enjoy playing the guitar.

Duncan licenses the designs to the guitar manufacturer for creating the pickups on the instrument.

That makes the manufacturer responsible for fabrication instead of Seymour Duncan, which is why the quality can be variable across the entire Duncan Designed lineup.

If the manufacturer wants to cut corners or order cheaper parts to use, they can do it because Seymour Duncan isn’t claiming ownership over the product.

That allows Duncan to avoid warranty responsibilities while providing more brand recognition for their product.

My Favorite Duncan Designed Guitar

When I play a Duncan Designed pickup, I want it to be on a guitar with above-average qualities.

It doesn’t matter if it is new or used as long as the results work with my playing style.

That’s why I prefer the Jackson DK2S Dinky. This guitar looks fantastic and belts out notes and chords like crazy.

With the Duncan Designed pickups and a Sustainiac Driver, you’ll be ready to shred a solo or pound out some power chords with relative ease.

Jackson uses an alder body on the guitar with a maple neck and a rosewood fretboard to maximize its sound.

The model I love the most has a flamed maple top with a transparent finish, but there are a few different options out there if you want something different.

Once you play the strings, you’ll get a predictable and intense result where the feedback is controllable and sustainable.

It operates well at any volume, which means I’ll crank it high when I’m jamming out on a practice session.

The one issue that I had to learn how to manage with the Jackson DK2S Dinky is the action.

The compound-radius fingerboard creates a curve at the nut for simple chording, but it gets lower toward the neck joint. You must play with a relaxed hand to avoid fretting out.

Another option to consider is to grab a Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS32 and outfit it with the Duncan Designed pickups instead of using the brand’s humbuckers.

Are Duncan Designed Pickups as Good as the Original?

Ducan Designed pickups are not meant to be as good as the original Seymour Duncan product. The brand-name items are manufactured in the United States to the highest quality standards. That results in a superior sound and a price tag that some musicians can’t afford or don’t want to pay.

The Duncan Designed pickup is still better than the stock ones that come from off-brand or no-name creators. You’ll pay a bit more for them than a dirt cheap guitar, but that’s the point.

When comparing the differences between the Duncan Designed pickup and a no-name generic product, the results are profound.

It’s the same step-up you’ll notice when upgrading from the designed item to a Seymour Duncan authentic.

Some Duncan Designed pickups are modeled after a few of the brand’s most popular choices.

Others aren’t intended to replicate anything that Seymour Duncan creates. You can find options for bass and hollow-bodied guitars if those are your preferences.

When shopping for Duncan Designed alternatives, I recommend looking for guitars that have pickups designed to model the following units.

  • HB-101: Seymour Duncan ’59 Model SH-1
  • HB-102: Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-4 Bridge with SH-2 Neck
  • HB-103: Seymour Duncan Distortion SH-6
  • HB-105: Seymour Duncan Blackouts
  • HB-108: Seymour Duncan SH-8 Invader
  • HR-101: Seymour Duncan SHR-1 Hot Rails
  • SC-101: Seymour Duncan SSL-2 and SSl-6 Hybrid

Just remember that you cannot typically purchase a Duncan Designed pickup from a parts retailer or online vendor. They’re shipped to manufacturers directly for installation on new guitars.

Even if you need to fix it, the instrument will need to be taken to a local repair shop or luthier to secure the parts.

You can find used Duncan Designed pickups online at places like Reverb or eBay. The cost of upgrading from a no-name part to that one might be worthwhile if you have an instrument that you love.

If the pickup is free, it’s always worth going ahead with the upgrade.

When the cost of a Duncan Designed pickup is more than what it would take to get a new instrument, you’re better off spending some extra money to purchase the real deal.

Best Seymour Duncan Pickups to Use Today

Are you ready to upgrade your guitar? If you’ve been playing on generic pickups, or your instrument has started to sound like trash, there’s a Seymour Duncan product ready for installation.

Although you’ll need to check on your instrument’s configuration before installing the new pickups, these Seymour Duncan originals are something you’ll want to consider getting.

Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz Set Electric Guitar Electronics
  • Hot Rodded Humbucker Set
  • An Absolute Must for Every Metal and Hard Rock Guitarist
  • Extremely Versatile
  • Matched Set of JB and Jazz Neck Models
  • 4-Conductor Cable and Wax Potted
  • Alnico V Magnets
  • Easy Setup
Get it on Amazon

1. Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz Set

This classic humbucker combo first got together in 1974 in England. It’s still one of the best sets you can grab for a guitar because it delivers an impressive level of versatility.

You’ll get extra juice in the bridge position of any instrument equipped with humbuckers. It delivers the hot coils, an alnico five-bar magnet, and an unmistakable upper midrange attack.

2. Seymour Duncan SH-8 Invader

Why settle for a Duncan Designed pickup when you can grab an SH-8 for about the price of dinner with your family?

Its combination of three large ceramic magnets with hot coils and a dozen black oxide cap screws gives a guitar an electrifying performance foundation.

It’ll pump power into your amp for extra brightness and an evolved sound. You’ll get the four-conductor cable in the box with the pickup.

3. Seymour Duncan Phat Cat Set

You can’t miss these gorgeous pickups when they’re installed on your guitar. They’ll deliver a fantastic growl that stays true to the P-90 with your humbuckers.

The attack isn’t quite as focused as some of the other Seymour Duncan products, but the harmonics are bright and chirpy. You’ll give solos a strong finish when you’ve got this set equipped to your instrument.

4. Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model

This humbucker pickup uses Alnico 2 pole caps to create a unique experience. You’ll get a Strat sound in split mode once equipped, which makes it the ideal installation for anyone who loves blues, jazz, or country.

It even does well with classic rock. It’s the Zebra version that works with most guitars, although harder music could be variable since the pinch harmonics are a little lacking.

At this price, this pickup is a definite upgrade for most mid-range guitars without a significant expense.

My Thoughts on Using Duncan Designed Pickups

Duncan Designed pickups are another way to satisfy the needs of the mid-level customer. Although they cost more than something no-name and generic, they also deliver a better punch and sound for those who are just starting their journey with the guitar.

Although guitar manufacturers in the low-to-mid range often have more unhappy customers than satisfied ones, it’s because the expectations of their product are so high. Can you imagine being satisfied with a Datsun after expecting a Rolls Royce?

That perspective isn’t on the guitar’s maker. It’s fueled by a general lack of awareness about the instrument manufacturing industry.

Duncan Designed pickups aren’t a terrible thing to use. I’ve picked up my Jackson more than once to play gigs where I was concerned about how well my primary guitar would play. Did it change my sound a bit?

Sure – but a musician is also providing style, charisma, and passion on the stage.

If you want to experiment with a guitar that feels and sounds like one with genuine Seymour Duncan pickups, the Duncan Designed option is your best choice. You’ll save some cash, have fun playing, and build your skills.

When you’re ready to reach the next level, Duncan pickups aren’t that expensive. You can upgrade a mid-range guitar with this new sound for much less than you might expect.


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