Identifying DeArmond 200, 2000, and 2K Pickups

Originally a part of my review of a Guild X160 Rockabilly guitar. I felt that the subject was asked about enough to warrant its own aritcle.

The pickups in Guild X160 Rockabilly guitars are DeArmond 2000s, and yes, this is about to get very confusing. If you’ve done even a little bit of reading about this topic, then your head is no doubt swimming with 2000, 2k, the other 2000, the vintage 200, and maybe that other company that’s making a 2000. Oh, and let’s throw the word Dynasonic in there for good measure.

Let’s talk some history.

Originally there was the DeArmond 2000 which Gretsch called the Dynasonic (because Gretsch). That pickup is shown in this original catalog page from 1965, where you can plainly see that it was called the 2000 and not the 200. I bring that up because at some point someone decided that it was called the 200 (possible due to a typo in a ’60s Gretsch catalog, though I have not yet proven that) and that stuck, causing even more confusion over the years which I’ll show you in print in just a bit. Read that again: there is no such thing as a DeArmond 200! Remember that as there may be a quiz at the end.

By the way, I would like to personally thank Ben Cheevers again because he supplied me with high-res scans of the entire 1965 DeArmond catalog, which is where this beautiful purple page is from. Compared with the original pic I had (which was by far the nicest I’d been able to find), this is amazing, so thanks Ben!

In the late ’90s Fender owned the DeArmond name and reissued the pickups (sort of) as the DeArmond 2K for their import DeArmond guitars, but they were not the same design; they just look the same from the top. From the back they look like this with the DeArmond logo embossed on the baseplate, and most importantly, the large pole pieces extending through the plate. These are Fender-designed pickups that are said to be constructed like P90s.  Although I’ve not taken one apart, that comes from Bill Turner who was in a position to know exactly what the deal was with these pickups. Oh, he’s also one of the guys that founded EMG, so yeah—he knew his pickups.

At some point around then, Gretsch (who would not be sold through Fender until 2004) contacted Fender about using DeArmond pickups for their Historic series of guitars. You can read more about this in this interesting thread over on, where Bill Turner from Fender is quoted as saying that they had also designed a “better” 2000 reissue when they designed the 2K. That better reissue would be called the DeArmond 2000 even though it wasn’t the same design as the original 2000, either. These new DeArmond 2000 pickups are what is in this Guild X160 Rockabilly guitar. It’s a DeArmond 2000, which is not a 2K but not an original 2000, either. Got it? The important thing to remember is that these 2000s sound more like the original 2000s than the 2Ks do.

But wait; there’s more!

To make matters even worse, Gretsch later reissued pickups designed more like the originals and called them DynaSonics (shown to the right), but at least they didn’t call them 2000s. Then TV Jones came along and released his T-Armond pickups which are also like the originals having been designed based on the vintage pickups in Brian Setzer’s Silver Jet guitar. The Seymour Duncan custom shop will also wind you a pair in vintage or hot specs which they thankfully do not call a 2000 or 2k or anything of the sort, instead calling them Duncan Dynos.

All of these pickups look very similar from the front, so it can be quite challenging to determine which model is in a guitar without turning some screws, and even then it can be tough if you don’t have any good references. Perhaps I can be of some assistance in that regard, because like most everything in my life, I went down the rabbit hole in order to learn as much as I could about these pickups. Remember kids, when you go down the rabbit hole you may meet (or become) the Mad Hatter.

Remember when I said that a lot of sources insist that there was a DeArmond 200 pickup? Well, take a look at this page from the July-December 1999 Guild Galleries magazine/catalog which states that the 2K single coil pickups updates the original DeArmond Model 200 which is found on some of the world’s most collectible vintage guitars. By the way, that’s the same freaking catalog that I referenced in the introduction that states on page 33 that the X160 Rockabilly comes with DeArmond 2000 pickups and then on page 42 of the same catalog it says 2k. It’s no wonder people are confused!

I should point out that I can’t tell you if the Westerly-made X160 Rockabilly guitars have 2Ks or 2000s unless someone sends me a pic of the back of a pickup like I’ve shown here. Sure, the catalog page from 1999 says that they have 2K pickups, but catalogs can be wrong as we’ve seen. You know, like how it says that the 2K is based on the non-existant 200. Furthermore, the 2002 Fender Frontline catalog I have shows on page 15 that the X160 Rockabilly (now made in Corona) has Model 2K pickups while page 29 of the same catalog says that pickups in that model are DeArmond 2000s. Clearly, the confusion is not limited to Internet forum posts. For what it’s worth, this Westerly-made X160 Rockabilly appears to have DeArmond 2000s in it.

Over the course of the past year or so, I’ve managed to procure a pair of ’90s DeArmond 2Ks and a pair of original 1950s DeArmond 2000s to go along with my 2000s from the early 2000s (which should make this even more confusing). This picture shows the 2002 DeArmond 2000 from this X160 guitar on the left (white), a 1990s DeArmond 2K in the middle (yellowed), and a 1950s DeArmond 2000 on the right (black). There are subtle difference aside from the color of the covers, and I should point out that the ’90s 2k in the middle may be discolored from age, though it certainly does help with differentiation in this discussion. Just when I think I’ve proven that all 2ks have yellowish covers I see some with what looks like pure white tops which just proves that looking at pictures on the Internet is not really research.

The ’90s 2k (middle) seems to have flatter pole pieces than the other two which appear to have more bevelled poles. Aside from that (and I wouldn’t make a determination on that), there is little to differentiate the three pickups when viewed from the front. Remember, the middle one is possibly yellowed with age and the black one is black because it came from a Gretsch. Really, the only way to be sure is to pull them and look at the backs, so let’s go ahead and do that.

The backs of these pickups tell a more complete story. Here, the 2002 Dearmond 2000 from this guitar is on top, the ’90s 2k is in the middle, the the ’50s 2000 is on the bottom.

The 2002 pickup (top) has the adjustment screw bottoms showing through the baseplate, while the 1990s pickup (middle) has the pole pieces sticking out. The 1950s DeArmond 2000 (bottom) is quite clearly very different than the other two. While the modern Gretsch and TV Jones reissues look like the ’50s pickup at first glance, the tell-tale marking on the vintage pickup is the markings that state: DeArmond  REG U.S. PAT. OFF and ROWE INDUSTRIES TOLEDO.O. U.S.A. molded into the plastic back of the pickup body.

How these pickups sound in comparison to each other is outside the scope of this article and is a subject for another time. Some other great resources for learning about these pickups and their variations can be found here, here, and a special acknowledgment to dbirchett over on the LetsTalkGuild forum who got it all right in his post here. By the way, if you’d like to see the internals of these pickups, check out this excellent thread over on Gretsch-Talk where someone did a teardown of the modern 2000 and 2k pickups thus proving visually that the 1990s DeArmond 2k is build more like a P90 than a vintage DeArmond.

To summarize:

  • The DeArmond 2K from the 1990s is built like a P90 and doesn’t sound like the vintage 2000
  • The DeArmond 2000 from the 2000s is built more like the vintage 2000 and sounds great
  • The DeArmond 2000 from the 1950s is the real deal and looks like the valves on an engine from the back
  • There is no such thing as a DeArmond 200

See? Clear as mud.


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6 thoughts on “Identifying DeArmond 200, 2000, and 2K Pickups

  1. Mystery solved…..
    Had a DeArmond Starfire Special some years ago. I really liked the sound of the 2K’s. IMO, they kind of sounded like there own thing, but they definitely leaned more toward P-90’s in tone. Clean, they were not as “percussive” sounding as a vintage Dynasonic. With overdrive or distortion is where they really parted ways from a vintage Dyna and sat firmly in P-90 territory. Not much experience with the later Fender made “2000’s” but a lot of folks over at the Gretsch Pages refer to the Fender made 2000’s as “Dyna Lites”.

  2. Just to confuse things further, Guild has apparently reissued the later 2000 pickups, the ones that were in the Gretsch Historic and Electromatic series and the Guild X160 and they call them the Guild Dynasonic. Could they have made things any more confusing?

  3. Martin used original 2000 in F series and GT Series plus acoustics too.
    They can do everything from Jazz to Hard Rock.
    The DeArmond and Gibson’s P90 the sound of 1950’s Jazz, blues znd rock.
    Ok…those bolt on’s also.

    1. “Just when I think I’ve proven that all 2ks have yellowish covers I see some with what looks like pure white tops.” For the record RE the Starfire Special, final year of the run (2001) for korean built DeArmonds saw minor cosmetic changes: 3 humps to 1 narrower headstock, tuners (standard to keystone), and headstock nomenclature. Gone was the “by Guild” on the now blank truss rod cover and rear headstock. The pickguard for some unknown reason wars a bit larger, but more to the point, and to add to the confusion, the 2K (?) pickup covers were BLACK…

      1. And then there are the black front 2k pickups used at least in the Fender Telesonic.
        Thanks for the article by the way, too much conflucting info out there and you are spot on.

  4. Really helpful artical. I am about to pick up a DeArmond Starfire Special, 98 Cort serial, that should have the 2k’s. I’ve been searching for a great jazz guitar and my luthier steared me away from a 2015 Guild Starfire V, not sure why, but he told me to go after the DeArmond. The few clips I have heard that are jazz clips on youtube from that instrument nail the sound quality I am looking for. I haven’t heard it from anything else though the Gretsch high ends and the Guilds come close.

    So thanks for this, would love to hear any clips people have of these in use.

    Hope this works out. I have a strat for the rock sounds.

    My Luthier was concerned about the Guild, he said go for those if they are the old ones, and heavily favored DeArmond.

    BTW the P90’s just don’t seem to have the tonality to really fill out jazz to my ears, but the 2K’s I heard on you tube do, you can hear it.

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