Category Archives: Electronics

To Infinity and Beyond!

      Infinity, Neo Series, Pickups, Sustain
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The Infinity Project

Hey, we have a New Project! Here’s a very early prototype of the Cycfi Infinity Polyphonic Sustain System. The proof of concept video above demonstrates dual sustainer drivers at the neck position with the Neo6 polyphonic pickup at the bridge. In this demo, the sustain drivers drive the two upper strings (B and E). The high, thinner strings are the most difficult to drive due to low mass and weak magnetic pull. The thicker strings are a lot easier to drive into infinite sustain.


Infinity v0.1

We use plain D’Addario Strings (0.009 – 0.042 super light gauge). The output of the Neo6 is summed to mono and goes to a Marshall combo with the treble set to zero, a bit of bass and mid. The amp is mic’d (Shure SM57) and recorded using Logic Pro, no guitar effect plugins, flat E.Q., a bit of reverb and a touch of delay.

The strings are driven into sympathetic resonance using both hardware and software phase and frequency locking mechanisms. The drive waveform is synthesised from the polyphonic signal coming from the Neo6 pickup. The polyphonic drivers are driven at the fundamental frequency of the vibrating string with additional controlled odd and even harmonics.

More info to come. Stay tuned!



      How To, Neo Series, Pickups
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Audio_mixer_fadersHow do you wire the Neos?

The initial release of the Neo series polyphonic pickups was for DIYers, serious hackers and guitar builders. The Neo is not your typical pickup. You can’t install it just like any other pickup. It is polyphonic and requires more work to set-up properly. In Cycfi’s FB page, Steve Hodge comments: “A full system would be excellent. I love the concept but have no idea how to hook it all up”. Soon, we will provide support infrastructure such as breakout boxes, controls, and multi-pin cables and connectors to make it easier for anyone to use the pickups.

In the meantime, for those who are adventurous enough, it’s really not that difficult. You don’t really need an elaborate setup to get into polyphonic string processing.

Allow me to reply to an email from Sam Park:

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Iron Man

      Infinity, Neo Series, Pickups, Sustain
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Iron Man Test Guitar

Iron Man Test Guitar

Meet Iron Man, one of our test guitars. You’ll immediately notice a Neo6 in the bridge position. But what is that thing in the neck position? Can anyone venture to guess? Hint: click to zoom and you’ll probably notice 6 more staggered, rectangular coils in there. If you can guess what it is, you are looking a very early prototype. Friends, this is our future! 

First batch of Neos shipped

      Neo Series, Pickups, Release
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shipment We shipped the first batch of Neos. Yay! To all early adopters, a warm THANK YOU. To those who were left out because the initial release was intended for DIYers, serious hackers and guitar builders only, we are working hard on addressing your needs and requests. Right now, we are in the process of prototyping support infrastructure to make it easier for anyone to use the pickups. A full system for end-users is in the works, including a breakout box for ease of use. I’ll also be I will be posting a series of how-to instructions. Hopefully that will help those who are interested in using the pickups but don’t have any idea how to yet.

It’s Official: Neo Series Now Available

      Events, Neo Series, Pickups, Release, Store
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Easter, April 20, 2014. Today marks the official public release of the Cycfi Neo Series Active Polyphonic Pickups. After a long wait, the Neos are now available! As previously noted, we will have a very limited, initial production run. All items are inspected and fully tested according to very strict specifications. The Neos are now available for sale in our online store.

We invite you to join us explore this new exciting world of Polyphonic String Processing. The journey is just beginning!

Neo Series
Neo Series

The Neos are very small, Neodymium-core active pickups that can be used individually or in groups. These are hacker friendly, general-purpose pickups that can be used in a variety of applications. These are active pickups with low impedance coils and individual balanced, low-power, low-noise preamplifier for each coil. Neo1 conains a single coil with a single differential preamp. Neo2 contains two coils and dual differential preamps. And Neo6 contains six coils and six differential preamps.

This release is for DIYers, serious hackers and guitar builders only. The basic assumption is that you know what to do with the pickups and you have prior experience with guitar building or at least customization. With the electronics involved, you know how to at least read wiring diagrams and are not afraid to do some soldering. The Neo is not your typical pickup. You can’t just plug it in a standard guitar amplifier, for example. You can’t use your standard 5-way or 3-way switch, nor can you use your typical volume and tone potentiometers.

There were quite a few queries from end-users asking how they can use the Neo or how to install the pickups in their guitar. If you are one of those folks who want to get into polyphonic pickups and processing, but have no idea yet how to proceed, well, you might need to get some help from someone with a solid background in electronics to do the installation for you. If you are a very adventurous DIYer and want to learn by yourself, we will of course be happy to assist you in any way we can.


Here come the Neos!

      Electronics, Neo Series, Pickups
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The first batch of Neos… A few more tests and we’re ready to go! It is a very limited production run, as planned. But it is a good first step nevertheless. For those who expressed interest, Thank You! We’re still a long way to go, but I would be scared to carry on with the journey without the positive encouragement of people who support the idea. It takes a lot of determination to think differently and go against the grain.

Multi Pin Cables

      Neo Series, Pickups
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Support hardware for the Neo polyphonic pickups requires a suitable cabling system for connecting the multi-channel outputs to an audio interface. In addition to carrying audio signals, it will also have to carry supply voltage and MIDI data. MIDI control is the only reasonable way to control parameters for all channels.

I’ve tried using snake cables. For the prototype, they work fine. But they are heavy, bulky and cumbersome to use (I find it awkward to have to tighten the jackscrews every time I plug and unplug). Moreover, I need at least 14 pins for 8 audio channels plus 1 mono, V+ power supply and MIDI. Unfortunately, the DB25 connector, commonly used for snake cabling, is designed to carry only 8 balanced audio signals (hot, cold and ground per channel). For the prototype, I ended up using a 12 channel snake cable which is even bulkier. Such monstrosity!

Yes, I also considered using DIN 14 connectors. It’s the same connector used by the Roland GK pickups. I decided not to use it primarily because I find it not sturdy enough to withstand the rigours of stage and studio use. The cables and plastic plugs and connectors Roland uses are flimsy! Why would Roland use such a flimsy connector design? Obviously, they simply want to cut cost.

I’m a perfectionist. I do not want to cut corners! Here’s the cable that I decided to use:


LEMO self-latching multipole connectors

These are metal, self-latching multipole connectors with alignment key and gold plated contacts. These connectors are the best I can find. They are robust yet easy to use with its circular profile and push-pull self-latching technology. Well made, robust connecters should not be bulky! The connector itself is a mere 15 mm (0.6 inch) in diameter. The 19 pin connector (see below) is more than adequate to carry all the signals that I need plus ample room for future expansion.


  • Push-Pull self-latching
  • Color coded alignment key
  • Brass (chrome plated) shell and collet nut
  • Nickel plated brass latch sleeve and mid pieces
  • Brass (gold plated) Inserts (contacts)
  • 15 mm diameter (20 mm nut)
  • Multipole 19 pin contacts

The other end-point will be a breakout box that will provide clean supply voltage, a standard DB25 snake connector for the 8 individual channels, a Roland 14-pin connector for the first 6 audio channels (alas, 6 is Roland’s limitation) and a mono output. The last bit (the mono out) is not as you expect; it’s not a mono mix of the polyphonic pickup, but rather, it’s for additional mono pickups you might want to install in the guitar alongside the polyphonic pickup. We’ll have more on that mono signal later.


Multi-Pin Plug and Standard 1/4″ Plug


Receptacle, Cable Collet Front


Receptacle, Cable Collet Back


Transparent Pickup Covers

      Electronics, Neo Series, Pickups
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A friend of mine suggested having transparent pickup covers for the Neo6 pickups. I think it’s a good idea. If there’s interest, we might be able to provide these covers as an option. The coils will be encapsulated in either clear or tinted epoxy. Tell us what you think!

Transparent Neo Enclosure

Transparent Neo Enclosure

Transparent Neo Enclosure Back

Transparent Neo Enclosure Back

Neo Series Active Polyphonic Pickups

      Electronics, Neo Series, Pickups, Uncategorized
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Small, Modular Active Polyphonic Pickups.

Update: Easter, April 20, 2014. Today marks the official public release of the Cycfi Neo Series Active Polyphonic Pickups. After a long wait, the Neos are now available

  • Neo1
    Single Active Pickup

The Neos are the culmination of the Six-pack project. These are active pickups with low impedance coils and individual balanced, low-power, low-noise preamplifier for each coil. The Neo Series Active Polyphonic Pickups are very small, Neodymium-core active pickups that can be used individually or in groups. These are hacker friendly, general purpose pickups that can be used in a variety of applications.

Here’s a short clip with a “classical” EQ capture with the Cycfi Neo6 polyphonic pickup mounted on a Fender Stratocaster bridge position. The strings are panned from right to left, with the low-E at the right and the high-E at the left. See Sculpting the Tone for details.

Sound Clips

For more sound samples: Check out this link: Sculpting the Tone.


Data Sheet
Wiring Options
Neo Base Boards

The Neos


Neo1 Single Active Pickup

Imagine being able to place active pickups just about anywhere! The Neos are very small, Neodymium-core active pickups that can be used individually or in groups. These are hacker friendly, general purpose pickups that can be used in a variety of applications.

The Neos are the culmination of the Six-pack project. These are active pickups with low impedance coils and individual balanced, low-power, low-noise preamplifier for each coil. Neo1 contains a single coil with a single differential preamp. Neo2 contains two coils and dual differential preamps. And Neo6 contains six coils and six differential preamps.


Neo2 Dual Active Pickup

The pickups are designed for polyphonic effects processing —one for each string (distortion, EQ, compressor, delay, pan, pitch-shift, etc). Such extensive processing is now very possible due to advances in digital signal processing and multi-channel audio interfaces and multi-track audio software becoming commonplace.

Modular Design

Various Neo1s and Neo2s pickups can be combined to get all sorts of configurations. Examples:


The modular pickups are not just for guitars. Neos can also be utilized for other musical instruments such as the bass guitar, harps, pianos, xylophones, etc. The Neos are perfect for fanned-fret electric guitars with the pickup poles positioned at various angles.

Frequency Response

Low-impedance pickups have a wide frequency response (full range). Unlike traditional high-impedance passive pickups, there are no big peaks and dips in the response, which to many give the pickup it’s “character”. That should not be a problem since we can always shape the frequency response later on in the signal chain using various tone-shaping methods. The pickup is very rich in harmonics. It has a lot more harmonic content than even the bright, but very noisy Stratocaster pickup. Having a wide and flat frequency response gives you the freedom to sculpt the tone that you want using analog or digital filters. The idea of a low-impedance pickup which imparts very little coloration to the guitar sound is appealing. You get whatever tone you want using appropriate tone shaping EQ rather than a fixed, predetermined guitar tone.


Actual Measured Frequency Response

Low Power, Low Noise

The Neos use the OPA2314 in a differential configuration. This Op Amp consumes 150μA (quiescent current) per Op Amp, with a respectable 14 nV/√Hz (measured at 1kHz) noise figure. The coils, are connected to the + and – inputs of the differential amplifier without any direct path to ground (floating differential mode). The Neos give you best of class signal to noise ratio.

Measured SNR
Gibson Les Paul 59.57 dB
Fender Stratocaster 47.52 dB
Neo 72.91 dB



Stratocaster Style Pickup Enclosure


EMG-style Pickup Enclosure


Top-mount Base


Double-coil mount base

Open Source

The Neo is entirely Open Source. The designs (schematics, PCB layout, software, bill of materials, CAD drawings and source code) are freely shared, 100% free, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. That means you can use the designs in your own projects, even commercial ones.

Creative Commons License Neo active pickups by Cycfi Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

“Sustain” Myth and Science

      Alpha, Construction, Infinity, Myths, Sustain
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Question: Which solid body guitar has better sustain, the Fender Stratocaster or the Gibson Les Paul? If you were like me, you’d probably pick the Les Paul. I’ve taken it as plain truth that there’s no competition: Gibson Les Paul = incredible sustain. Boy, was I so wrong!

Nigel’s Guitar Room

Nigel’s Guitar Room

An article by Mottola, R.M. “Sustain and Electric Guitar Neck Joint Type”, piqued my interest. Mottola, in his experiments performed power analysis, spectral analysis, and listening evaluation on three types of solid body electric guitars with 1) Bolt-on neck construction 2) Neck-thru construction and 3) Set-neck (glued-in) construction.

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