I have two real nice dual humbucker Strats: the "new" '97 Big Apple Strat with the 59N and PG+ pickups and my MIJ Strat that I installed the PGN & Duncan Custom pickup set in.
Both are alder and both have medium jumbo frets and a rosewood fingerboard. Only big diff between the two is that the Big Apple has the standard 25.5" scale length and the MIJ Fender Strat has a shorter 24.75" scale like a Gibson Les Paul.
I'm going to focus on the way the pickups sound, bearing in mind that there is a scale diff between the two guitars.
Another thing: I know I have 500K pots in my MIJ Strat...I don't know what pots are in the Big Apple. I would assume they are 500K...but I don't know.
I spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of days comparing the tones of the two guitars through my '66 blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb Amp
So let's start with the alnico 2 PGN vs. the alnico 5 59N and compare both the humbucker tones and the tones split.
The PGN has plenty of bass...but the 59N gives the sense of having more bass.
The PGN has plenty of treble, but the 59N seems to have more treble.
The PGN has more mids...the 59N has plenty of mids but I get a sense of the 59N as having a bit more of a hollowish tone in the mids.
And both have plenty of output...but the 59N sounds "larger" or "wider".
Split, both sound very good. (Not exactly like a Strat pickup but very good.) The tone from either is totally usable for both Stratty rythym and soloing tones. The PGN is warmer...less treble. The 59N is slightly brighter and deeper...the PGN has more mids and a warmer tone.
Which do I prefer? Well, I have to say the PGN.
I have to say that in a Les Paul, the 59N does have a alot more bass than I need, but in a Strat it sounds clearer and less woofy than I remember it sounding in my Les Pau. So hearing the 59N in a Strat has been a reality check for me and I'm going to have to readjust my thinking about the 59N because it sounds much livlier, clearer and bouncier in this Strat than I remember it sounding in a Les Paul and in Gibson guitars.
How about the Duncan Custom vs. the PG+ in the bridge position?
Well: the Duncan Custom sounds brighter to me!
People often mention that the PG+ is bright and harsh and overly trebley, etc., etc. I don't hear it that way. Doesn't seem to bright at all - not at all.
In fact, it's not as edgey or as bright as the Duncan Custom!
The ceramic magnet Custom seems to have plenty of mids...more than the alnico 5 magnet PG+.
In truth, the PG+ sounds alot like a 59B to me...and that's the pickup design that Clapton used with Cream and with the Bluesbreakers. Most likely, the bridge pickup in Clapton's '60 Les Paul was a '60 alnico 5 paf almost identical to the 59B or PG+...and the pickups in his SG were the same thing: alnico 5 paf Gibson humbuckers.
Clapton's tones with the Bluesbreakers and Cream were produced primarily with pickups almost identical to the Duncan 59B and the PG+...and those tones are my personal favorite humbucker tones of all time. So the PG+ does not sound offensive to me at all...just the opposite: the PG+ recreates some of my favorite humbucker tones of all time.
But which do I prefer for my own playing? I have to say the Duncan Custom.
It's hotter than the PG+ and pushes my amp harder, and it has more mids than the PG+ which makes getting modern overdriven tones easier as well as those vintage Clapton tones I like...even though Clapton didn't use a Duncan Custom.
So I have to say that I'm loving the tones I'm getting from the Big Apple Strat with the 59N & PG+ and that the two pickups balance beautifully and sound great both split in full humbucking mode...but that the PGN & Duncan Custom set sounds just a little better to me.
How do either of these sets split into single coil mode compare to the Antiquity Surfers in my other Strats? Well, the Surfers are stronger, livlier and bouncier and better...but the split tones from either set of humbuckers are very good and totally usable if you're looking for a "one guitar does it all" sort of thing.
That's about it. I'm liking the Big Apple Strat so much that I doubt I'll make any changes to it anytime soon...but I do slightly prefer the pickup tones of my other Strat with the PGN & Custom.
I do prefer the Big Apple Strat in terms of scale length and playability. I like the larger neck and slightly taller frets. And I like the acoustic resonance of the Big Apple alot! The neck shape and feel is just fine with me...it plays beautifully. It's kind of a flattened C shape...sort of a D shape, but still more of a C than a D shape. Plenty round but wider feeling than my other Strats. As I mentioned in another thread, it reminds me of the SRV Strat that I played...only better. Maybe just because the Big Apple is set up better than the SRV I played in a store.