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What gauge wire is a seymour duncan pickup?

Pickups are a critical component of any electric guitar or bass. They translate the vibrations of the strings into electrical signals that can be amplified. The type and quality of the pickups have a huge impact on the overall tone and sound of the instrument. Seymour Duncan is one of the leading pickup manufacturers, known for making high quality replacement pickups for guitars and basses.

When selecting a Seymour Duncan pickup, one important specification to consider is the gauge of the wire used in the pickup winding. This has an effect on the output, tone, and performance of the pickup. In this article, we’ll take a look at what gauge wire is used in different Seymour Duncan pickup models and the factors that determine the ideal wire gauge.

What is Pickup Wire Gauge?

The wire gauge refers to the physical thickness or diameter of the copper wire used to wind the coils within the pickup. Some key points about pickup wire gauge:

  • Measured in AWG (American Wire Gauge) or sometimes mm
  • Thinner wire has a higher gauge number (i.e. 42 AWG)
  • Thicker wire has a lower gauge number (i.e. 15 AWG)
  • Higher gauge wire (thinner) is easier to wind, allowing more winds
  • Lower gauge wire (thicker) has lower resistance, allowing higher output

So thicker, lower gauge wire generally produces a higher output/hotter pickup. While thinner, higher gauge wire allows more winds for a given coil size, resulting in more power and high end response.

Standard Wire Gauges Used

Here are some typical wire gauges used by Seymour Duncan for their standard passive pickups:

Wire Gauge Type of Pickup
42 AWG Vintage output single coils
41 AWG Lower output single coils
40 AWG Medium output single coils, P-90s
39 AWG Higher output single coils
38 AWG Modern humbuckers
36 AWG Very high output humbuckers

The most common wire gauges you’ll see in Seymour Duncan pickups are 42 AWG, 40 AWG, and 38 AWG. Let’s take a closer look at how each gauge affects the pickup performance.

Effects of Different Wire Gauges

42 AWG

42 AWG is considered a “vintage” wire gauge. With its thinner construction, more windings can fit in the coil for increased high end and output. The tradeoff is less low end response. Vintage output pickups like the SH-1N and Vintage Strat use 42 gauge wire to emulate classic bell-like Strat tones.

40 AWG

40 AWG hits a balanced sweet spot between vintage and modern wire gauges. It has enough winds to deliver singing highs and increased output, while still retaining some warmth and low end. Many of Seymour Duncan’s medium output pickups use 40 AWG, like the SH-4 JB humbucker, giving a versatile tone.

38 AWG

With its thicker construction, 38 AWG has less resistance and more low-end punch than higher gauges. The decreased winds result in a more focused midrange as well. Seymour Duncan uses 38 AWG wire for many of their hotter output pickups, like the SH-13 Dimebucker, allowing high output while retaining articulation.

Specialty Wire Used in Some Models

In addition to standard enamel coated wire, some higher end Seymour Duncan pickups also incorporate other specialty wire:

  • Formvar Wire – Has a silk-like coating that some feel enhances high frequencies and clarity. Used on Custom Shop models.
  • Uncoated Plain Enamel Wire – The lack of a coating produces a more vintage voiced tone. Found on Antiquity models.
  • Degaussed Wire – Magnets in the wire are neutralized for reduced hum and noise. Seen in Blackouts Active pickups.

Pickup Outputs and Recommended Gauges

Here is a general guide to what wire gauges Seymour Duncan recommends for their pickups based on model and output:

Output Recommended Wire Gauge
Vintage/Low Output 42 AWG
Medium/Classic Output 40 AWG
High Output 38 AWG
Extra High Output 36 AWG

Factors that Determine Ideal Wire Gauge

The best wire gauge for a particular pickup depends on a few key factors:

  • Output – Higher output pickups need thicker wire for handling the increased power
  • Tonal Goals – Thinner wire enhances treble, while thicker boosts bass
  • Music Genre – Blues and rock favor thicker wire, while country and punk lean towards thinner
  • Personal Preference – The tone that best fits the player’s subjective preference
  • Equipped Guitar – Wire gauge can compensate for brighter or darker sounding guitars

Choosing the Right Seymour Duncan Pickup

When selecting a Seymour Duncan pickup, consider the output and sound characteristics you want, then choose a model made with the appropriate wire gauge. Keep in mind factors like guitar wood, scale length, and desired musical tone. Consult Seymour Duncan’s pickup chooser guide and sound clips to dial in the right pickup for your setup and playing style.

While wire gauge is just one variable, choosing a pickup wired with your tone goals in mind will go a long way towards achieving your ideal electric guitar sound.


In summary, Seymour Duncan uses a range of wire gauges from vintage 42 AWG to modern 36 AWG to achieve different tones within their pickup lineup. Thinner, higher gauge wire offers increased cut and output, while thicker, lower gauge wire provides bigger lows and smooth mids. Matching the wire gauge to the model’s output and sound characteristics is key.

Considering your own tonal preferences and guitar specs will help determine the optimal Seymour Duncan pickup and wire gauge combination. With a wide selection of models and windings, Seymour Duncan offers versatile pickup options suited for all styles of music and playing.