Category Archives: Electronics

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

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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Lotsa Coils!

      Neo Series, Pickups, Six-pack
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We got the initial batch of our custom-designed coils from Chipsen!

  • 1300 turns (0.040mm, AWG 46)
  • 10mH
  • 450Ω D.C. Impedance (Max),
  • 20Hz-20kHz flat frequency response
  • 9mm diameter, 5mm height.

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Pre-Production Prototype

      Electronics, Neo Series, Pickups, Prototype, Six-pack
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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 Pack 1.4

Six Pack 1.4


  1. Six low impedance coils (1300 turns, 350Ω D.C. Impedance, flat frequency response, 20Hz-20kHz).
  2. Modern, Low power, Low noise OPA2314 differential Op Amps.
  3. Single supply (1.8 V to 5.5 V).
  4. Stainless steel height adjustment screws and springs.
  5. Premium gold-plated, 2 mm pitch header connector.
  6. Precision 1% thin-film, low TCR, low noise, Yageo and Vishay resistors.
  7. Panasonic low noise film capacitors.
  8. Fender Stratocaster Profile (14 mm total height excluding connector).
  9. EMG style pickup enclosure.

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On Emulation

      Design, DSP, Electronics, General, Modeling, Pickups
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reflectionMy observation is that in general, guitar players are conservative when it comes to guitar sound. I think that is the reason why digital emulations of amplifiers, speaker cabs, pickups, guitars, etc., are quite popular, for example. Take the Roland VG guitar. You see emulations of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, all sorts of amplifiers and speaker cab emulations, all sorts of pickup emulations (single coil, double coil), effects emulations, even microphone emulations and placement, etc. The same can be said of all the current generation plugin effects available for computer based recordists.

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Cycfi Six Pack Hexaphonic Pickup v1.1

      Electronics, Pickups, Six-pack
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Here’s the V1.1 prototype based on the V1.0 design and specification. The version is bumped to 1.1 since there are slight modifications from the original 1.0 design.

Fully Assembled Hex Pickup

Fully Assembled Hex Pickup

Follow this link for more…

Cycfi Six Pack Hexaphonic Pickup v1.0

      Electronics, Pickups, Six-pack
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After countless hours experimenting and iterating over the basic design, I think I’ve reached a point where I have something that am actually finally satisfied with. Here now, let me present version 1.0 of the Six Pack Hexaphonic Pickup.


Read more here…

Op Amp Shootout Updated

      Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack
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Our Op Amp Shootout has been updated to reflect recent research and development. The previous favorites are now replaced by better choices and there are more choices to choose from depending on requirements from highest performance and highest power, to moderate performance and low power.

Check out the the Op Amp Shootout page. The page is continually being updated. The Op Amp table is maintained as a linked Google Doc Spreadsheet.