Fender Duo Sonic vs Mustang [2020]: How To Choose The Best?

By Jodie Chiffey | Electric Guitars

In this Fender Duo-Sonic vs Mustang comparison, we’re going to explore the features of the modern (2016) editions of these two gorgeous offset body electric guitars to help you decide which one is best for you.

These two guitars are remarkably similar, differing only in small changes to body and headstock shape and pickup placement so it’s going to be a hard call to say which we think is best… here goes!

We will look at both of these popular and reasonably priced guitars, describing the shape and sound, other key features, other possibilities, and finally, which one we recommend to you whether you’re a beginner or a player with more experience.

Main Differences Between Fender Duo-Sonic vs Mustang

The main differences between Fender Duo-Sonic vs Mustang are:

  • Fender Duo-Sonic has an angled bridge pickup, whereas the Mustang’s is not angled.
  • Fender Duo-Sonic has a bigger mid-range sound, whereas the Mustang has great rhythm guitar sounds.
  • Fender Duo-Sonic has a more balanced single-coil sound, whereas Mustang has more perky pickups.
  • Fenders Duo-Sonic is more likely to be a lower-priced compromise for somebody who likes the tones of a strat whereas Mustang is a guitar wanted in its own right.

To be honest, though, there are more similarities and differences between these two guitars, from the offset shape and alder/ maple construction to the twin single-coil pickups. Also, both are very popular with indie and alternative rock bands, due to their amazing sounds.

Key Specifications

  Fender Duo-Sonic Mustang
Body Shape offset Mustang (offset)
Body Material alder alder
Neck Maple, 24-inch, C-profile Maple, 24-inch, C-profile
Frets 9.5-inch radius maple fingerboard, 22 medium jumbo frets 9.5-inch radius Pau Ferro fingerboard, 22 medium jumbo frets
Pickup 2 x Duo-Sonic single-coil pickups 2 x Mustang single coil pickups
Warranty 2-year limited warranty 2-year limited warranty
Latest price See here for the latest price info. See here for the latest price info.

Exploring Fender Duo-Sonic and Mustang features

Here are the main features of the Fender Duo-Sonic and the Mustang:

The Fender Duo-Sonic

Launched back in 1956, the Fender Duo-Sonic suffers from a reputation as a beginners’ guitar, despite being used by the likes of Jimi Hendrix. (If you are a beginner, check out our guide to Online Guitar Courses.) It’s recently been reintroduced in an updated model, but still in the same vein as the version from the early Sixties.

If you’re looking for something a little out of the middle-lane, something different from the usual line-up of Telecasters and Stratocasters, and something easy to play, then the Duo-Sonic may just have what you’re looking for.

There are two models of Duo-Sonic available. One with two single-coil pickups, and the Duo-Sonic HS which combines a single-coil with a humbucker. We’ll be focusing on the model with the two single-coil pickups.

Key Features

  • Solid body
  • Bolt-on neck joint and c-shaped maple neck
  • 24-inch scale length
  • (slightly) offset shape
  • Two Duo-Sonic single-coil pickups.
  • Six-saddle string-through-body hardtail Strat bridge with bent steel saddles
  • Master volume and tone controls and three-way pickup switch

Size and Shape

The Duo-Sonic was originally described as a ¾ sized Fender – a smaller guitar for younger students and beginner musicians, though the quality of the guitar has surpassed these specs and it is happily used by many professionals.

It has a solid, and slim, alder body, with a bolt-on medium C-shaped maple neck with a 24-inch scale – another concession to younger, beginner guitarists or those with smaller hands.

The fingerboard is maple or rosewood with 22 medium jumbo frets. The short length of the neck and the jumbo fretboards make this an incredibly playable guitar.

Fender Duo-Sonic

The Duo-Sonic also features a plastic pickguard, along with a smaller headstock and chrome-plated flat top volume and tone knobs.

The modern Duo-Sonics have a waist that is slightly higher on the bass side, so while it’s in the offset range, it’s definitely closer to symmetrical than the Mustang.

Sound

The two Duo-Sonic single-coil pickups are aligned in a straight configuration on the bridge and angled on the neck.

A reverser wind/ reverse polarity circuit gives a great humbucking performance from these single-coils when both are selected. The coil splitting on the pickups gives some very versatile sounds, meaning that you can happily play rock, metal, jazz, or blues on the guitar. Another great feature is the stable tuning from the hardtail bridge.

Despite that undeserved “beginner” reputation, the Duo-Sonic delivers some awesomely strident bridge and neck tones, a sound that’s almost a hybrid of Telecaster and Stratocaster. When strumming a nice clean rhythm, you get a bell-like jangling tone.

Other Features

The string-thru-body Strat hardtail bridge has bent steel saddles which means that you don’t need quite the same tension on the strings and can even opt for a heavier gauge string if you so desire. Fender standard tuners with metal tuner buttons.

Because of the shorter scale, you can use a heavier gauge string. The tension allows string bends even when using .013s or .014s – a really chunky tone but still with great playing.

There’s a nice selection of finishes. The Player Duo-Sonic comes in Desert Sand, Seafoam Green, or Tidepool (blue), while the HS version comes in Crimson Red Transparent, Ice Blue Metallic, or Sienna Sunburst.

Reliability

While you might think that the budget price indicates a lower build quality, you’ll be glad to know that this is not the case. Made in Mexico to allow for lower production costs, this is still a good quality instrument using Fender parts and high-spec materials.

Fender Duo-Sonic HS Electric Guitar
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The Mustang

A guitar that’s cut its teeth on stages across the world. The Mustang was in production from 1964 to 1982 and was then reintroduced in 1990, where it was widely used in alternative rock.

Despite its intention to be a “student model”, this is still a popular guitar for all levels of skill, including Kurt Cobain and Matthew Healey.

There are four models of Mustang available from the 2016 range: the Vintera ‘60s Mustang, the American Performer Mustang, Player Mustang 90, and Player Mustang. Today we’re reviewing the Player Mustang.

Key Features

  • Solid body made from Alder
  • Fender “Dynamic” Vibrato bridge
  • Proprietary single-coil pickups
  • Bolt-on neck joint with a maple fingerboard.
  • 2 Mustang single-coil pickups
  • 24” scale length, c-shaped neck.
  • Six-saddle string-through-body hardtail Strat bridge with bent steel saddles
  • Master volume and tone controls and three-way pickup switch

Size and Shape

The Mustang has a short neck making it a smaller guitar. Its size is perfect for individuals with large hands as well as small and the smooth finish allows the hands to glide easily between frets. The classic C-shaped neck allows easy bends and fast action with the fingers.

In fact, older versions come with two options for the neck. The 24-inch, with 22 frets, was more popular than the 22.5-inch, 21 frets, version, and is the only option in the newer models.

fender mustang

The slab style body popular with the older Fender Mustang is now in use for all the newer versions. This makes the guitar extremely comfortable because of its narrow stature. It’s compact and comfortable to play, with the newer versions weighing in at just over 7 pounds.

Sound

Two single-coil pickups in an angled alignment give various options for different tones. The switch controls give a Push/Pull coil select feature, and a three-way toggle switch for selecting either Bridge pickup, neck pickup, or both. With the Mustang you get an authentic Fender tone, but with a bit of a difference. It could be described as crisp and articulate.

To be honest, it’s difficult to compare the sound of a Mustang with other guitars because it really does sound… like a Mustang! With the basic stock pickups, you get a nice rounded and bright sound, with a sparkly single-coil sound which makes it perfect for country. That’s not to say that you can’t use it for blues or punk though, because those crunchy tones can also be found.

The Vintera 60’s and American Player models also feature a tremolo system that gives it a different sound from other brands, allowing you to make small or wide variations in note pitch so you can opt for a flat or a sharp quality of sound. This combination produces such a unique sound that it helped define the alternative rock genre.

Other Features

While a range of colors is available in the other models, the Player is available in Firemist Gold, Sienna Sunburst, and Sonic Blue.

Just like the Duo-Sonic, the Mustang features a six-saddle string-through-body hardtail Strat bridge with bent steel saddles, allowing you to adjust strings separately and to hold the tuning well.

Again, like the Duo-Sonic, the Mustang comes with master Volume and Tone controls and a three-way pickup switch.

The Mustang comes with an Urban Short Scale Guitar Gig Bag, though it would be recommended to get a hard shell case for longer journeys or moving around. Read more about choosing a guitar case here.

Reliability

Like the Duo-Sonic, the modern Mustangs are made in Fender’s factory in Ensenada in Mexico. Despite its reasonable (for Fender) price tag, you can tell that it’s well made and it feels very reliable.

Fender Mustang - Sonic Blue
$599.99
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 12:24 pm GMT

Pros and Cons

Fender Duo-Sonic Pros

  • Solid wood construction
  • Great for beginners
  • Cutaway makes it easier to hit the higher frets
  • “Indie” looks
  • String-through design for increased sustain
  • A shorter scale means less string tension required so you can use heavier gauge strings

Fender Duo-Sonic Cons

  • Lacks a tremolo system
  • Sometimes there can be issues with faulty switches

Mustang Pros

  • 24-inch scale makes for easy maneuvering, even for those with larger hands
  • Light guitar with a smooth finish
  • Clear and articulate sounds from the bridge pickup.
  • Nice sound – a mix of the classic Fender with more mids and bass.

Mustang Cons

  • Sharp edges to the fretboard.
  • The three-way toggle switch on the pickups means that you lose the ability to put them out of phase with one another.
  • Some reported issues with quality – glue, and filler visible on the fretboards
  • Some adjustments and set-ups needed before you can play it.

Are there any alternatives?

Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Stratocaster

squier classic vibe

Inspired by an original Fender design, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Stratocaster is easy and fun to play. This guitar is very affordable, yet with a sound quality that you’d think came from a much more expensive guitar.

You could play the Squier Classic Vibe day in, day out, on stage or at home, and never tire of it. A great, affordable, and very playable and reliable option.

Squier Classic Vibe 60's Stratocaster
$399.99
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 02:24 am GMT

Harmony Juno

Harmony Juno

The Harmony Juno is a recent, and not cheap, offering. Its mahogany body is compact yet lightweight, and with the gold foil p-90 pickups, it offers a rich and harmonious sound. It gives some really clean tones and just begs to be finger-picked, giving a great sound to arpeggios and chords, pop lines and rhythm.

You’d need to try out this guitar, as the sound isn’t for everybody, but if you love it, you’ll adore it and won’t be able to put it down.

Harmony Juno Electric Guitar (Pearl White)
$1,199.00
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 02:24 am GMT

G&L Tribute Fallout

g&l tribute series

The G&L Tribute Fallout is an odd hybrid of different ideas and features. Bizarrely, this mash up actually works in its favor, allowing it to take the best of G&L and put them all on one guitar.

A really cool guitar, it features a p-90 style single-coil pickup on the next and a humbucker on the bridge, delivering a great range of tones. Its slim body with a full 25 ½ inch scale neck make it a great choice for guitarists seeking a characterful guitar at an affordable price.

G&L Tribute Series Fallout Electric Guitar
$449.99
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 02:24 am GMT

FAQs about Fender Duo-Sonic and Mustang

Are the Fender Duo-Sonic and Mustang only for beginners or students?

Not at all. Despite the reasonable price, the build quality and materials are great. Professionals and students alike can enjoy playing these guitars.

Originally Fender wanted their guitarists to begin with a lower-priced Duo-Sonic or Mustang and then move on to higher spec Stratocaster or Telecaster playing, but over the years these guitars have been recognized as the treasures they are.

What are the finishes on the Fender Duo-Sonic and Mustang?

There are a variety of different finishes available on both guitar types, all in Gloss Polyester which gives a lovely smooth finish. The neck of each is also finished in satin urethane to create a silky smooth movement for your hands.

Other finishing touches include the white dot inlays and 3 ply mint green pickguard on the Mustang and the black dot inlays and 1 ply gold anodized Aluminum pickguard on the Duo-Sonic.

What kind of tuners are used on the Fender Duo-Sonic and Mustang?

Both the Fender Sonic-Duo and the Mustang use Standard Cast / Sealed Tuning machines.

What is an offset guitar?

Where the two sides are not symmetrical, and one is higher than the other, you get a slanted look. Both Sonic Duo and Mustang are in Fender’s “offset” range, though the Duo-Sonic is less offset than the Mustang, which means that you can certainly feel the difference between them when playing in a seated position – as it will affect where the guitar rests on your knee.

How do the Duo-Sonic and Mustang compare to a Stratocaster?

The Duo-Sonic is considerably lighter than a Stratocaster. Being a “beginner” guitar they’ve kept things simple, clean and lightweight. In addition, because of the shorter scale, the string tension on a Duo-Sonic is a bit lower, though that does mean that you can go with a heavier gauge string which will get rid of that difference.

Our Verdict: Which is Better Between Fender Duo-Sonic vs Mustang?

This is such a tricky question. The Fender Duo-Sonic and Mustang are so similar, it’s like asking somebody to choose their favorite child. Actually, we can’t pick between them. They are both great guitars and the small differences will be totally down to personal preference.

The Fender Mustang is a great instrument. Occasional jagged edges on the frets can be an annoyance until you are used to them, but they don’t stop you from playing or producing an awesome sound. The sound quality and tones are unique, and the guitar feels and looks amazing. It’s an affordable, yet reliable option.

The Duo-Sonic looks clean and simple, producing a great Fender sound and playing really easily.

Both guitars are very user-friendly because of the shape of the neck, the lightweight, and the shorter length. They are both good quality, well-made and affordable Fenders with great hardware.

They both produce an interesting sound that’s made them tremendously popular with a range of professional and well-known artists, as well as beginners.

In the end, both of these guitars are great and we would recommend that you give them a try and find which one suits you the best.

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