Category Archives: Workshop

More XRs Coming

      Events, Pickups, Workshop, XR Series

The XRs, especially the XR8s and XR6s, are often out of stock. They sell out quickly! So sorry about that 🙁 My intention is to have a steady stream of XRs. As you know, these are handmade pickups crafted with meticulous attention to detail. We can only manufacture a limited number of these pickups per batch, but we’re trying our best to keep up and produce more.

PDB181-GTR_SPLIt’s been crazy though. We also needed to produce support electronics for these. One big stumbling block, and one that we’re still struggling with, is the supply of some parts. One crucial component, the one we use for Volume, Tone and Blend control, the Bourns PDB181-GTR01 25K potentiometer went out of stock and has been out of stock for almost two months now. We couldn’t find them anywhere! Anywhere I look, they will be back in stock by January 1, at the earliest.

I love the solid feel and quality of these pots, and I can’t settle for anything less. In the end, I went for its bigger brother, the PDB241-GTR01 25K. The downside is that we had to redesign a PCB for these. Oh well. I guess these are the things builders deal with all the time.


Pickup Testing

      Electronics, Nu Series, Pickups, Side Winder, Workshop

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


      Evolution, Nu Series, Pickups, Workshop


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!


Observations on the sorry state of commercial DMM offerings

      Electronics, Workshop

Gossen Metrahit Energy – die “Benz S-Klasse” of DMMs.

Digital multimeter (or DMM for short) is one of the most ubiquitous tools around, found in every electronics professional’s or hobbyist’s tool kit. Yet, one can be surprised by the fact, that in the boiling sea of portable device innovations, DMMs had stood as islands of stubborn stability: a rather expensive Fluke DMM purchased in 2013 is not substantially different from its siblings sold in 1995. Even electrical kettles enjoyed more progress.

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New stuff from Digikey

      Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack, Workshop


New stuff from Digikey. We ordered a bunch of precision SMD resistors (1% and 0.1% laser-trimmed), a bunch of low-power, low-noise Op Amps, gathered from this table here, plus a bunch of general purpose low-power cheapos for non-critical applications. We will need these for prototyping. The precision resistors are needed to have good common-mode rejection ration (CMRR) for the differential amplifiers.

The one at the upper left is C5000, ultra-low-power DSP Booster Pack for the MSP430 launchpad from TI (below). The Booster Pack contains a TMS320C5535 fixed-point DSP chip with two multiply-accumulate (MAC) units capable of up to 200 Million Multiply-Accumulates per Second (MMACS) and a tightly-Coupled FFT Hardware Accelerator. At $10 a piece (per 100 at Digikey), these DSP elves are very capable.