Are the Mustang and Duo-Sonic the same guitar?
These guitars appear to be nearly identical, but however there is one rather major difference between the two that's not readily seen at first glance.
Above is a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar.
...is a Fender Mustang guitar.
I got asked on my Facebook page that aside from the cosmetic differences, what is it about these two guitars that's actually different from each other? After all, they look almost exactly the same.
Here are the cosmetic differences:
Duo-Sonic has a one-piece pick guard and a traditional smaller Fender headstock. When loaded with two single-coil pickups, one leans and one is straight. The knobs and switch tip are metal.
Mustang has a two-piece guard (one pearloid plastic, one steel) and has a larger 1970s-era headstock. When loaded with two single-coil pickups, both are leaned forward. The knobs are switch tip are plastic.
All this stuff doesn't affect playability of the guitar at all...
...but there's something else that definitely does.
Examine the bottom of the body under the pickups. You'll notice the Duo-Sonic's middle curve has a position that is more forward compared to the Mustang. On the Duo-Sonic, the highest point of the curve is between the pickups. On the Mustang, the highest point is directly under the rear (bridge) pickup.
When playing in a standing position, you will notice no difference between the two guitars.
When playing in a seated position with the guitar resting on the leg however, there's a huge difference.
In the seated position with the guitar on the leg, the Duo-Sonic's neck is closer to the player compared to the Mustang because of that middle curve position on the bottom of the guitar body. You will definitely notice that the headstock feels a lot closer to your face with the Duo-Sonic. That's not your imagination, because it definitely is closer.
My take on Duo-Sonic vs. Mustang
Both these guitars are 24.0-inch short scale, but in the seated position with the guitar on the leg, I prefer the Mustang.
When I play the Duo-Sonic, the physical distance of the neck for my fret hand is too short and I genuinely have a difficult time getting along with the guitar.
When I play the Mustang however, the neck distance when playing in the seated position feels much better. It's somewhat similar to the Jaguar (also a 24.0-inch short scale,) and that's not a bad thing.
For playing in the standing position however, the Duo-Sonic might actually be the better short scale to get along with. But then again I've never played one standing, so I can't really comment any further on that.
Which is the better of the two?
This directly depends on how the neck position feels to your fret hand, particularly when playing in the seated position. You will need to play both to figure out which feels best.
If you don't have access to these guitars, find a Jaguar and try that. If you find yourself thinking you want something where the neck is just a little bit closer to the player, then get a Duo-Sonic. If the neck feels fine where it is, then you will most likely get along better with the Mustang.