The Stag Mag cannot be mentioned without a fair reverence given to it’s predecessor, The Mag. The original version goes back to the earliest days of the Seymour Duncan company, even appearing in the notorious 1979 “Van Halen” guitar magazine ad. Yet, it does not seem to get as much adoration as the 59 Model, the Jazz, the JB Model, and the Custom model that all hit the streets during the same era.
First up, what’s going on with the different names? Seems as if “The Mag” on the sticker was akin to “The JB Model” and “Duncan Custom” stickers on those respective pickups. In this case, however, there is much more of a difference than just the names. Yes, the magnets.
The old The Mag model had Alnico 5 rod magnets in place of conductive pole pieces and a single long bar magnet. Rod magnets are essentially what’s in your traditional single coil pickup. What you get with this design is a more focused magnetic field. In The Mag, the Alnico 5 rods are all the same length and come flush with the top of the bobbins.
Looking at the SH-3 Stag Mag, you have Alnico 2 rod magnets. Additionally, the magnets have a stagger in the fashion of a single coil. Hence, the “stag” in the name. And that is the unique approach to the design. It is about like getting a humbucker from of two traditional single coils.
Wait? What? Yes, that’s right. Put the 4-con lead wire in to play, and you can wire it up for whatever splitting option you prefer. As such, the alnico rod magnet design will give you a much more Strat-like tone than you get from splitting a regular humbucker.
For this application, I put The Mag and the Stag Mag in the same double-hum guitar. For giggles, I do try them in both positions. Either way, each pickup has it’s own switching for series/split/parallel.
For starters, the Alnico 5 The Mag is pretty strong and beefy. If you want a richer and fuller response from the neck, The Mag would be it. However, for the standard run-of-the-mill playing styles, I do find The Mag to be a little more at home in the bridge position.
Full disclosure on my Stag Mag. It’s an old 80s one by MJ from back in the day. That does not mean that the Alnico 2 Stag Mag is a neck-only pickup. While a good fit in that role, I also find the Stag Mag to be an excellent bridge selection. It has good definition and plenty of drive in series mode.
Taking either of these pickups into split mode and you will quickly see the allure of using the Alnico rod magnets. Either alone, or in tandem, these run the gamut from glassy to snappy to quacky to edgy to full to big to warm. Try splitting one bobbin and then the other to determine the nuance that best fits your needs. From there, it’s a matter of your pick attack and your amp settings.
Check out this video of a Stag Mag in the neck position:
How about some specs:
Series – 13.888 K
Inductance – 5.191 H
North – 6.956 K
South – 6.965 K
Parallel – 3.477
Magnet – Alnico 5 rods
Series – 16.398 K
Inductance – 5.396 H
North – 8.146 K
South – 8.294 K
Parallel – 4.107 K
Magnet – Alnico 2 rods
Resonant Peak – 6.5 KHz
You might be thinking those are pretty high resistance readings for something that’s essentially two single coils. For all intents and purposes, these are strongly believed to be JB Model coils. The lower reading on that old The Mag? 70s JB coils are known to be a little less underwound that what we are used to seeing these days.
This really also goes in to play with the versatility of the winds that Seymour originally developed when he was starting out. The JB coils are also known to be the backbone of the Distortion and the Invader, with variations leading to the Eclair bridge and the Dokkenbucker (currently the Hunter).
When it comes to The Mag, you’re going to have to really hunt one down. The Stag Mag is remains on the current production menu. Both are good for country, jazz, rock, alternative, punk, funk, reggae, and garage rock.
For reference, this Seymour Duncan SH-3 Stage Mag humbucker pickup set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs used were Marshall 1960B cabs loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.