I was talking to Seymour the other day about the types of magnets used in vintage Fender pickups. I knew that Fender used strong, punchy alnico V magnets in most of their models, but I didn’t know that the earliest Teles used softer-sounding alnico IIs, or that the first Strats used even softer-sounding alnico IIIs, a detail confirmed by Fender’s page on the topic.
I recently had a chance to compare the sound of alnico II and alnico V while hacking together guitars for the Mongrel Strat Project. I’d tried an Alnico II Pro in the middle position of this mongrel, and liked it. But as I continued to experiment, I gravitated back to the more traditional alnico V sound — maybe because I play so much in lowered tunings, and in bands without bass, so I really like the strong, defined fundamental you get from an alnico V.
But until now I’d never tried literally splitting the difference via Duncan’s Five-Two, a hybrid that has three alnico V rods for the bass strings and three alnico II rods for the trebles. The idea behind this arrangement is to deliver a bold, snappy sound in the low resister, but with some softening and sweetness on top.
How does it sound? You tell me — here’s a demo video I made. Plus, there’s a micro-contest: The first person to name the tune I’m playing will have their name
immortalized for the ages mentioned in an upcoming post. (That might be better than a poke in the eye, depending on whose eye it is.)
Have a listen:
A couple of observations: I wasn’t able to detect any weird tonal shifts when playing melodies that span the treble and bass strings. I like the pretty, chiming sound of the trebles, even when nudged by a germanium overdrive, as heard here. There a real nice feeling of air up there! And only now do I realize that I should have included examples of how the new pickup blends with the other two (a RW/RP SSL-1 in the middle, and a Twang Banger in the bridge). I guess I was just getting into the way I could get so many different tones from the one pickup. Anyway, the Five-Two meshes just fine with the others.
Do any of you guys have a strong magnet preference in Fender pickups? And has anyone had experiences with Fenders that have alnico 3s or 4s?