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!
Category Archives: Electronics
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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.
For more sound samples: Check out this link: Sculpting the Tone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Gibson Les Paul||59.57 dB|
|Fender Stratocaster||47.52 dB|
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.
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!
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.
We got the initial batch of our custom-designed coils from Chipsen!
- 1300 turns (0.040mm, AWG 46)
- 450Ω D.C. Impedance (Max),
- 20Hz-20kHz flat frequency response
- 9mm diameter, 5mm height.
Hello! We’ve been busy. It’s been a while, but we are inching slowly, but surely, towards production. Let me present the Six Pack production prototype (v1.4). If you have been following this project, you will notice that this is very similar to the Six Pack version 1.1 prototype apart from a few design changes.
- Six low impedance coils (1300 turns, 350Ω D.C. Impedance, flat frequency response, 20Hz-20kHz).
- Modern, Low power, Low noise OPA2314 differential Op Amps.
- Single supply (1.8 V to 5.5 V).
- Stainless steel height adjustment screws and springs.
- Premium gold-plated, 2 mm pitch header connector.
- Precision 1% thin-film, low TCR, low noise, Yageo and Vishay resistors.
- Panasonic low noise film capacitors.
- Fender Stratocaster Profile (14 mm total height excluding connector).
- EMG style pickup enclosure.