Neo Aura Quad 6
Hello Y’all. Since our NAMM debut in January 2015, we’ve been very busy going into limited production for the first batch of Auras. For those of you who have been eagerly waiting, thank you very much for your patience. Many of you know that we’ve been working on the Neo Aura project for quite some time now. This project turned out to be be a lot more complicated than we initially expected because it’s not just a pickup but a whole modular infrastructure!
So, allow me to present The Neo Aura, the technology and the infrastructure behind it. Follow this link to learn more →
Neo Aura: 21st Century Pickups for the Modern Guitar Player
Neo 6 Six-channel pickup
This month, we stopped production of the original Neos in anticipation of the new Neos. We have a new version coming out with much improved specs and features:
- Greater than 8x crosstalk performance than the original -54dB vs -38dB with permalloy shields and active crosstalk cancellation. Far exceeds the Roland GK3 which measures at -45dB crosstalk, with proper installation.
- Better looks with each coil encapsulated in resin so the pickup looks pretty as-is without the need for an enclosure. We value aesthetics!
- Curvature adjustment (small screws at each side) makes it easy to have the pickup conform to the bridge/neck curvature of your guitar. This will further enhance signal and crosstalk performance.
- Easier to integrate and install in a guitar. Following the lead of the Neo Aura, we will include all necessary components and connectors, all solder free plug and play.
Neo 8 Eight-channel pickup
Hello Y’all. So, Cycfi Research will have a presence in NAMM 2015. William Banks will be our NAMMbassador :-). He will be bringing with him a prototype of the Neo Aura HD Pickup set (pictures below). For more information, go visit the Neo Aura page. I will be incrementally updating it with more information (technical info, sound clips, etc.). Bill will be posting updates on twitter @cycfiresearch (#CycfiResearch and #NAMM2015). Feel free to follow us for updates.
Pre-wired Neo Aura Assembly
Aura Strat Set with Resonant Filter.
Neo Aura Production Prototype
Update: here’s a link to the main Neo Aura page: Neo Aura
Meet the Neo Aura High Definition Pickup. This is not your grandfather’s pickup! These are new generation, 21st century pickups, designed for the modern guitar player.
High Definition means full frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz and beyond. From whales to bats! These are active pickups utilising very low impedance (Lo-Z) coils with an ultra low-noise preamplifier to boost the lower level Lo-Z signal. A full bandwidth pickup gives you complete freedom to shape the frequency response —it’s the perfect blank canvas. Sculpt the tone using EQ matching to capture the frequency response of another pickup, an acoustic guitar or something else entirely new you haven’t heard before.
Neo Aura Bottom View
The coils are connected series phase-opposing, like a typical humbucker. The Neodymium magnets’ north all point toward the center. This setup doubles the signal strength (about twice that of the vertically oriented single coil) while eliminating the hum. The coils are dead quiet! And I mean dead quiet! Using an oscilloscope, I had to place a hefty power transformer a few millimetres above the coil to actually see the hum being cancelled while switching one coil on and off.
Innovation is so hard! People often ask me why I don’t just do it like everybody else; —you know, the “tried-and-true” path. The easy path. Well, I enjoy innovating and I’m not complaining. Such is the nature of Research and Development. Anything worth doing is not easy. We have this box full of failed projects as proof!
Failed examples from our Box of Shame
Now it turns out that the multichannel sidewinder project is another dead end. All tests (power tests, noise tests, spectrum analysis) ran perfectly, except one. It failed the crosstalk test. The original Neo multichannel pickup still proves to be the king of the hill with measured -38dB crosstalk. Contrary to what I initially expected, crosstalk is worse with the side-wound pickups measuring an abysmal -24dB
The side-wound double coils are both a blessing and a curse. Its sensitivity is very good! But that also proves to be its undoing, at least for multichannel pickups. It can easily detect signals from adjacent strings. On the other hand, it is a blessing for the monophonic sidewinder where the extra sensitivity gives it better balance and uniform response.
In short: the monophonic sidewinder is still a go. We are gearing up for production now. All tests are as perfect as ever! As for the multichannel sidewinder, we’re back to the drawing board with the goal of surpassing the original Neo multichannel pickup‘s performance. Now that’s a tough goal!
“Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Ah my favourite Einstein quote. Apart from the Infinity project, here’s what we’ve been working on for the past couple of months: Coming very soon, an easy to use Neo setup. This solderless system includes everything you will need to get a high-definition pickup system up and running as quickly as possible. This setup shown is for a Fender Stratocaster S-S-S configuration, but various customisations are possible. For example, the bridge pickup can be paired with a Neo6 multichannel pickup (my favourite setup!). Dual humbuckers? Sure, that’s two pairs (four pickups). The tonal combinations would be awesome if you combine four pickups in various ways. Or how about 6 pickups!
In addition to 6 string pickups, available on request, we will also offer pickups for 7, 8 and 9 strings (we are committed to the ERG crowd!). We use premium components only (Bourns potentiometers, Switchcraft jacks, gold-plated headers and connectors etc).
If you wish for a highly customised setup, don’t hesitate to send us a message. Basic customisation options include:
- Volume control
- 5-way switch
- Passive low-pass filter
- Passive high-pass filter
- Active resonant filter with variable Q and sweepable frequency
- Lithium-Ion battery pack and charger (not shown)
- Single-coil or Sidewinder
Here’s the system on a Fender Stratocaster. I love it so much I decided to keep it permanent! I’ll post some sound clips soon.
Cycfi High-definition pickup set
High-def pickups on a Strat!
Here at Cycfi Research, we test everything. It’s not just by pure luck that we have these great sounding pickups. We go through dozens of iterations until we find the best candidate. It takes time and a lot of patience. We do power tests, frequency response tests, noise tests, etc. Then of course we also do listening tests —that’s the fun part.
Here are some workshop views of our test jig, with the SideWinder undergoing power testing, using the original Neo1 as our baseline. Things are looking good!
Our pickup testing jig
The new Neo Side-Winder prototype undergoing tests
Automatic string picker in action
I am falling in love with sidewinders! Last time, I wrote about this nice double-coil monophonic side-wound pickup design. Now how about a multichannel (polyphonic) version? Each channel has two side-wound coils wired series phase-opposing (humbucking).
Monophonic Sidewinder Design
You get double the signal strength while still maintaining the full frequency range of the original Neos. Each coil pair has its own extremely low-noise, low-power preamplifier. This time I’m using a discrete design using ultra low-noise transistors. Tests show that the broadband noise performance is comparable to the OPA209 which has an impressive 2.2 nV/√Hz (1kHz) noise figure. In english: audiophile quality.
Neo Sidewinder Module
The poles are adjustable. That way, you can fine tune the string to string balance, without having to mess with the mixer every time. Also, it is now possible to move the poles closer to the strings because there’s less string pull. That should give you better signal strength and less cross-talk. Instead of having multiple versions (Neo1, Neo2 and Neo6), this time there will only be a single version (similar to Neo1). This modular design can be grouped into sets of 6, 7 and 8 or more strings, placed on a base board with different base-boards for different number of strings and configurations.
What’s nice about active, low impedance pickup design is the compact size. The coils are a mere 5mm tall by 10mm wide. Stick two of ‘em coils sideways, put adjustable poles in the middle, aligned at right angles, and you can still fit the whole assembly inside a standard Strat single coil enclosure with enough space underneath for the preamp.
This configuration is turning out to be my favourite! The coils are connected series phase-opposing, like a typical humbucker. The Neodymium magnets’ north all point toward the center. This setup doubles the signal strength while eliminating the hum. The overall signal strength is about twice that of the standard vertically oriented single coil. But the hum (which is already insignificant to begin with because of the low impedance), cancels out. The coils are dead quiet! And I mean dead quiet! Using an oscilloscope, I had to place a hefty power transformer a few millimetres above the coil to actually see the hum being cancelled while switching one coil on and off.
The sidewinder concept is not new. The unusual pickup geometry is decades old, yet there only are only a few examples, including the EB humbucker from Gibson (50s early 60s), the Bicentenial Thunderbird pickup (also from Gibson), Bill Lawrence L-250, the P-90H Humbucker (again Gibson), the Lace “Holy Grail” and the futuristic looking Q-tuner.
Slap on a low noise preamplifier into a low impedance sidewinder, and you have an ultra-quiet pickup with very tight bass, pure natural mids, high-definition sparkling clean sound with lots of overtones way beyond the human hearing range. That’s the way I like it! Perfect. Just perfect!
This set of 110 Neo1s is ready to go. It will be amazing too see what the end user will do with all these! No, it won’t be a 110 string guitar