How 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:
Hey Joel, so I have one question about the Neos. Now I’m no professional hacker by any means, but any regular maintenance or fixing that a guitar needs is something I can manage. I’ve had my share of swapping pickups and so the process is no mystery, but I have not ever made or taken an active pickup apart.
It looks like the Neos is something that requires some building to be done. My question is how much building?
Is it difficult to learn to install the Neos to the point I would have to take them to a professional?
Before anything else, always refer to the Neo Data Sheet.
The easiest, most flexible, and cost effective way to get into polyphonic processing is to hook up the Neos digitally to a Digital Audio Workstation running multiple audio effects plugins —one per string. All you need is a laptop, a multi-channel audio interface and of course software. You’d probably have all these already! Then, all you have to do is find a way to connect the Neo’s individual outputs to the audio interface. There are many ways to do that, from the simplest to the most elaborate. I’ll illustrate some basic ideas and move on to more elaborate schemes in future installments.
All processing is done in your Laptop. A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) such as Apple’s Logic Pro, Mainstage, Ableton Live or Cubase will be your main tool for multi-channel processing. Each string goes to a separate channel (or track) where you can insert various effects. It’s amazing how software based effects plugins have matured in the recent years. These software effects have become quite powerful and fast, especially when using multi-core CPUs which are more or less the norm these days. Effects plugin software such as Guitar Rig are remarkably convincing in emulating various stomp-boxes, amplifiers, speaker cabinets, etc. You can have as many effects as you want limited only by your computer’s processing power.
What audio interface should you use? Well, you need to have at least 6 inputs (more if you have a 7 or 8 string guitar, less for 4 string bass). Latency is also a big issue. You need the interface to be usable in real time. Get one with minimum latency. Here’s a good list of recommended (and not recommended) audio interfaces: Survey of Working Audio Interfaces (VGGuitar Forums).
Probably the trickiest part is how you actually wire the Neo in a guitar. The Neo Series Data sheet provides wiring diagrams (scroll down at the bottom). Here’s an example for Neo6:
For the internal connections (inside your guitar), Leo Pedersen offers a simple solution using Screwless Terminal Block to a DB25 Female Connector:
You might have to do a bit of routing to place that inside your guitar. Don’t forget to get a bunch of 4.7uF capacitors. You’ll need to insert them after each Neo output and before the DB25 connector. See diagram above.
For the other end, the one that connects to the Neo, you can either use a standard 2-mm spaced female header or simply solder the wires directly to the pins. The Neo6 uses a 10 pin male header (2-mm spaced). There are many good brands to choose from. We use gold-plated Molex connectors.
You can get these header terminals from electronics suppliers Digikey:
Notice that two of the terminals connect to a battery or an external power supply. If you prefer batteries, you can use two AA batteries (Alkaline or rechargeable). You’ll need a battery holder such as this:
All the other terminals connect to the DB25 Terminal Block. You’ll probably need an On-Off switch to turn off the battery when the pickup is not in use.
You may also choose to use external power instead coming from the DB25 connector. Should you prefer to use an external power source, be sure it is well regulated, supplying a very clean 1.8 V to 5.5 V D.C. supply. Either way, battery or external power, do not exceed the supply voltage maximum (5.5 V). Never use a 9V battery. The Neo1 is not protected against over-voltage. The Neos are protected against reverse voltage, but not against over-voltage.
That’s it. Feel free to ask any question, or if anyone has a helpful idea or alternative setup, that will be much appreciated! There are many ways to connect the Neos. Next time I’ll suggest other connectivity options. For now, I hope this helps. Stay tuned!