Category Archives: Support Electronics

Modula Update: The Preamp

      Electronics, Modula, Support Electronics

Look what we have here! It’s the Modula Preamp. It’s a balanced design using the ADA4084 Low Noise, Rail-to-Rail Input/Output, Low Power Operational Amplifiers, with a 625μA supply current per channel and 3.9 nV/√Hz noise density. The Op Amp can go up to 36 volts (imagine the headroom)! But for practicality, 9-18v ought to be enough. Hey, this is a rail-to-rail amplifier, meaning the output can swing to the full supply range without clipping. I can’t even imagine driving a guitar amplifier with 9v peak to peak, but you can if you want to, and if your strings can generate that much oomph. Perhaps the bass guitar can? Yet, if your battery is running low, it can still work down to 3v!

After at least 5 revisions, this is so far, the best small preamp we can come up with. This guy went through a long incubation period (tests, tests and more tests!), until we finally settled on a design that I really like. I’ll share some test results soon.

The design is modular too! This preamp is reusable. You have balanced inputs —headers at the top for +in, -in and ground, and single-ended output, plus supply —headers at the bottom for out, ground and supply.

The preamp assembly connects to the S-shaped Modula adaptor board and which can accommodate mono or stereo (using two Modula preamps). Stereo Modulas allow for split pickup configuration (See A New Breed of Pickups).

Modula update: Concentric Pots

      Modula, Support Electronics

Look what we have here! Concentric pots, anyone? We’re developing the next generation Resonant Filter and this might just be the key. Before, we had to use two separate pots to control frequency and resonance, which required more space! With the Modula project, we’ll be using concentric pots, along with a redesigned State Variable Filter E.Q., thanks to recent developments in low-power, low noise, Op Amp technology. A full-frequency response pickup (Nu, XR, Modula) plus a resonant state variable filter can simulate all types of pickups by mimicking their electrical characteristics (Resonant frequency and Q). See Helmuth Lemme’s table: Resonant frequencies of some well-know pickups for various parallel capacitors. With a state variable filter, we can even go beyond the sound of the traditional pickups, for example using very high Q settings. Synthesists know this very well!

Complete XR Flex Sets 25% Off Starting Father’s Day

      Electronics, Events, Pickups, Store, Support Electronics, XR Series

Beginning Father’s Day, Cycfi Research is pleased to offer a 25% discount on complete systems featuring our XR Flex Series extended-range pickups. The discount applies to the purchase of our pre-configured XR Flex systems including S-S-S (3 XR Dual pickups) or H-H (2 XR Quad Pickups) for 6, 7, and 8 string instruments. In addition to the pickups, systems include a 5-way switch, Active Volume, Blend or Tone Control, Output Jack, 9V battery clip and all necessary cables and hardware. Complete systems with the Resonant Filter are also available.

The new discounted XR Series pickup-system pricing kicks off Sunday June 18, and will continue until new pricing is announced. Come and visit our store.

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Nu Update: Roland 13 Pin Adaptor

      Electronics, Nu Series, Release, Support Electronics

You’ve been asking for this for a long time now. A gift to the Roland aficionado. Finally, a Roland 13 Pin Adaptor for the Nu Series Modular Active Pickups.

FPC Receptacles

  1. CH1-4 – Nu Multi Channel 1 to Channel 4 In
  2. CH5-6 – Nu Multi Channel 5 to Channel 6 In
  3. 1 & 2 – 13P FPC Receptacle

6P Male Headers

  1. S1 – Switch 1 Input
  2. S2 – Switch 2 Input
  3. GND – Ground Pin
  4. MONO – Guitar Mono In
  5. GK-VOL – Volume Control
  6. GND – Ground Pin

2×4 Male Power Pins

  1. GND – Ground Pins
  2. 5V – 5V Regulated Power Pins
  3. -VE – (-)7V Power Pins
  4. +VE – (+)7V Power Pins

Nexus Update: Programming MCU Module

      How To, Nexus, Support Electronics

The MIDI module includes a small, general purpose 16-bit MCU (Texas Instruments’ MSP430) that converts control voltages (CV) to MIDI. It is designed to be hackable. If you are adventurous enough, you can reprogram the code for your own purposes. The software is Open Source and can be cloned via Github (see Nexus repository). The code is based on the ubiquitous Arduino platform to make it easy to hack into.

You need a programming device to update the MCU Module firmware. There’s a lot of MSP430 programmers available out there, but the question is. “What is the cheapest we can get?”. Answer: the MSP430 launchpad dev board from Texas Instruments. Dev boards from chip manufacturers are often heavily subsidized, making them very inexpensive. The table below shows the price comparison for a few MSP430 programming devices including the MSP430G2 Launchpad Development Board.

Device Price
TI-MSP-EXP430G2 $9.99
Olimex MSP430 – BSL $11.24
Olimex MSP430 JTAG-Tiny-V2 $58.96
FlashPro-430-LB $159.00

What we need:

  1. Nexus MCU Module

  2. MSP430G2 Launchpad dev board
  3. Female-to-female jumper wires
  4. USB Type-B mini cable

Step 1. Remove all header shunts

Carefully remove the shunts highlighted on the dev board. RX/TX pins should also be removed to avoid data collision when programming an external MCU.



Step 2. Connect the jumper wires to the Launchpad

Follow proper jumper wire color coding indicated in the pictures below.

Step 3. Connect the jumper wires to the MCU Module

Step 4. Connect the USB Cable

Step 5. Install Energia IDE

Follow this link for Mac, Windows and Linux installation guides.

Step 6. Download and clone the firmware

Follow this link. You can download or clone the repository to your local drive.

Step 7. Flash the Firmware

  1. Open the source file using the Energia IDE.
  2. Click upload.
  3. Wait until the app indicate finish upload without errors.

Nexus Update: In-Guitar Control and Connectivity

      Electronics, Nexus, Support Electronics

This is the fourth part of the Nexus documentation series. The first part documents the Basic Kit, the second part details the Mixer Module and the third part, the MIDI Module. This time, we explore In-Guitar Control and Connectivity —stuff that you install in your Nu-equipped guitar. Eventually, all of this will end up in a single document.

With up to 12 channels of Audio, the Nexus offers a lot of versatility. There are many ways to set up your guitar with a Nu multichannel pickup alongside other standard monophonic pickups such as the Cycfi XR active pickups.

But how do you control an N-channel system? Take the master volume for example. Adding a master volume to a traditional monophonic guitar is easy. A simple potentiometer will do. For an N-channel instrument, good luck if you can find an N-ganged potentiometer. Or how about switching? How do you switch N-channels? The traditional Strat-style 5-way switch and 3-way Les Paul toggle switch will no longer be adequate. The most versatile solution of course is MIDI. Use your external gear (or DAW) control master volume or patch settings or just about any parameter you wish.

Control voltages may be sent along with audio through any of the 15 channels via a LEMO compatible connector. Control voltages come from specialized potentiometers and switches. This will be converted to MIDI messages in the Nexus.

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Nexus Update: MIDI Module

      Documentation, Electronics, Nexus, Support Electronics

This is the third part of the Nexus documentation series. The first part documents the Basic Kit, the second part details the Mixer Module. This time, we explore the MIDI Module. Eventually, all of this will end up in a single document.

The MIDI Module converts control voltages (CV) from the guitar to MIDI. The basic firmware supports up to 6 analog and 7 digital inputs. The Multichannel Guitar Input (see Basic Kit) can carry up to seven control voltages or switches. Some of the back panel 1/4″ jacks may also be repurposed to carry additional control voltages or switches. The MIDI output is sent through a standard 5-pin DIN connector at the back panel.

Note: Please do not be confused with MIDI control and MIDI conversion. The MIDI module does not do any pitch tracking and MIDI conversion of the notes.

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Nexus Update: Mixer Module

      Documentation, Nexus, Support Electronics

This is the second part of the Nexus documentation series. The first part documents the Basic Kit. This time, we investigate the Mixer Module. Eventually, all of this will end up in a single document.

The (optional) Mixer module is a daughter board that sits atop the Main Board (see Basic Kit). This module provides a simple, yet extensible and hackable mechanism for mixing (up to) 12 audio channels down to stereo. Each channel can be mixed to either left or right using the L/R selector configuration headers.

The diagram at the right shows the routing for each channel. The center pins connect to the buffered outputs of channels 1 through 12 via 10K summing resistors. The left and right pins connect to the summing junctions of a dual OpAmp (OPA2209 low noise precision operational amplifier). The mixer gain is -1.

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Nexus Update: Basic Kit

      Documentation, Nexus, Support Electronics

I’ll be providing the Nexus documentation in tranches. This is the first part of the series. Eventually, all of this will end up in a single document. Let’s start with the Basic Kit.

nexus-block-diagramThe Basic Kit includes the 1) Main Board where all signals from the multichannel input as well as control voltages pass through, plus where power regulation and conditioning are handled, 2) I/O Module: 12 channels where each channel can be configured as an input or output. Typically, these are used to send multichannel audio to your effects, amp, mixer or multichannel audio interface. But, if you do not need all 12 channels, they can also be configured as inputs (e.g. Foot switches and Expression pedals). The Basic Kit includes the blue boxes in the Nexus block diagram at the right.

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