Been working on some of my Strats and comparing them last night.
I put Joe Bardens in my G&L SC-3 and wanted to compare it to my Homebrew '57 with Antiquity Surfer N & M and Ant Texas Hot Custom Bridge....and also to my Hamer Daytona with APS-1 N & M and Twangbanger bridge.
It seems to me that alnico 5 Strat pickups are brighter, bubblier and clearer and that alnico 2 Strat pickups are more for those who play with distortion.
Since I do like an overdriven/slightly distorted tone from the bridge pickup, I like the alnico 2 Twangbanger and alnico 2 Ant Texas Hot Custom as bridge pickups.
But since I like a bright, glassy, bubbley, clear and chimey tone from the neck and middle pickups, I prefer alnico 5 Ant Surfers....the alnico 2 APS pickups sound slightly muddy by comparism.
As for the Barden Strat pickups, they sound awesome individually, but they do not have have classic vintage Strat tone when I combine the N & M or M & B.
IMO, the best sounding Strat I own is my Homebrew '57 style Strat with the Antiquitys. I compared all three of these Strat type guitars and wound up playing the Homebrew '57 for hours! It's been my fave for a while now.