Category Archives: Evolution

Alpha Revisited 2017

      Alpha, Construction, Evolution

Time to revisit the Alpha and replace Alpha’s pickups with what else but Nus and XRs! Dimarzios out, Nu and XRs in… Ehmm, OK I suppose I’d refret the guitar as well.

In case you have no idea what Alpha is, check out this link. Alpha is a thru-Neck Carbon Fiber over Bamboo with a Carbon Fiber Body I designed and built a few years ago. I’ll have more of Alpha in the coming days. Stay tuned. I am highly considering building a few of these sexy Carbon Fiber guitars with even crazier ideas brewing in my mind over the years, perhaps in collaboration with a fine luthier in the U.S. or in Europe (To my luthier friends: send me an email if you are interested and let us talk). You want the bleeding edge, this is it! It will be a complete multichannel system with the Nu, Nexus and Infinity all standard features, just as I envisioned it when this all started a few years ago. Yes, Infinity! My holy grail is now within reach with recent breakthroughs!

Watch out!

Beyond the Guitar

      Events, Evolution, Innovation, Nu Series, Pickups
halldorophone

The Halldorophone

It’s amazing what creative minds can come up with. There is exciting innovation everywhere, and it is not limited to the guitar. I thought violin (and cello) builders are the most conservative. After all they’ve “perfected” the violin construction and wouldn’t care for anything more beyond that, right? Well, no…

Meet Halldór Úlfarsson and his invention, the Halldorophone —a Cello-ish electro acoustic string instrument designed to facilitate feedback on the strings. The Halldorophone features 8 strings (for the newer models). 4 on top and 4 resonator/harmonizing strings under the fingerboard. This kinda reminds me of the Hardanger fiddle with sympathetic “understrings” that resonate under the influence of the other four.

Each string has its own pickup, now using the Nu multichannel pickups on the latest models.

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Virtual Pickups Revisited

      Design, DSP, Effects, Evolution, Filters, Modeling, Nu Series, Open Source, Pickups, Software

A little background: I’ve written a series of articles before about Virtual Pickups and how they are implemented in software (DSP). It’s a three part series: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I wrote about Standing Waves, Nodes, Antinodes and Pickup Position, Comb Filters, some underlying Math and Simulation in DSP code. I also presented what I thought was a minimal interface I really like.

Infinity_GUIIt has taken a while (I can’t believe it has been almost 2 years now!), and now I’m back to writing the software. What has transpired since then? Production of the XR and the Nu took the most of our time and I’m left with very little time to do what we I best: R&D. Now that the Nu is out, it makes sense to go back, pick up and continue where we left off, starting with the GUI.

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Infinity goes FM

      DSP, Electronics, Evolution, Hardware, Infinity, Processing
fm

Testing the FM synthesizer

What do I do on Christmas eve? What else, but hack some C++ code. I got a new highly optimized sustain driver design that also acts as pickup! The power consumption is now at 20mA, each. With the new drivers, I upgraded to FM synthesis from simple additive synthesis. Now I will be driving the strings with FM waves, the same tech behind the 80s Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. FM synthesis was developed by John Chowning at Stanford University in the 70s. In the 80s up ’till the mid 90s, Yamaha virtually monopolized the market with their hardware implementation. The patent expired in 1995.

FM is cool! I think FM synthesis is the best fit for the Infinity project.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

 

Nu Update: Mounting the Modules

      Design, Evolution, Nu Series, Pickups

Nu-Multi-AngledLast time, I hinted at ways to mount the pickups. Surely, a guitar builder will find a zillion ways to mount these modules. I’ve had inquiries, not only from Guitars builders but from Violin and Cello builders too! I bet these builders have cool ideas how to mount these bad boys. Here are some examples. Images convey a lot of information, so here again are some 3D renderings for your perusal. Click the images to zoom in!

Which one do you prefer? Comments and suggestions welcome (in the comments box below or in our FB forum).

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Nu Update: Modular Design

      Design, Evolution, Nu Series, Pickups

How do you mount the Nu modular pickups? You’ve seen the basic Nu capsules before. Mounting these miniature pickups might be tricky. One way involves making a printed circuit base-board where these pickups are soldered into. As I said in the previous post, the problem is that we need a multitude of base-boards for different string spacings, number of strings and skew. That defeats the intent of the modular design.

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Nu Update and Road Map

      Design, Evolution, Nu Series, Pickups

Nu-ActivesThe Nu modular pickup is ready. It’s been ready for quite some time now. The design and implementation is just about perfect, I would say. The next evolutionary step from its predecessor, the Neo, the sound is superb, the clarity and separation is amazing.

So… for those who have been patiently waiting, if you want them now, send us a message. We can arrange for an initial batch for manufacturing. But here’s the thing… At this point, the initial batch will be for uber-tech-savvy builders only. Be warned that this goes way beyond a standard pickup install. A multi-channel system requires an elaborate setup for processing each channel. I will assume that you know what to do with these pickups. If you are a builder with background in electronics, then this is for you. You know how to incorporate these pickups in your design, including mounting, power, audio routing, wiring the multi-pin connectors, and perhaps building a breakout box. All designs (schematics, PCB layout, software, bill of materials, and CAD drawings) will be provided.

But There’s More…

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More Sidewinders!

      Evolution, Nu Series, Pickups, Side Winder

neo6-sidewinderI 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).

NeoHD

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

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.

Sidewinder

      Evolution, Nu Series, Pickups, Workshop

NeoHD

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!