Hexaphonic (divided) Pickups?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by btmendenhall, Aug 27, 2012.


  1. btmendenhall

    btmendenhall

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    Anyone have some good reading material on these? I understand the basic concept, but am curious for more info.
    Anyone have a bass with these installed?
  2. FunkMetalBass

    FunkMetalBass

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    Aug 5, 2005
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    No experience, but I'm curious about these as well. I think it'd be perfect for an ERB to try to balance string output.
  3. btmendenhall

    btmendenhall

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    Jul 18, 2012
    Does anyone else even know what they are? lol
  4. FunkMetalBass

    FunkMetalBass

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    Here's the link for anyone interested. It's similar to the Wal pickup in that it has one (or one pair) of coils per string. Each coil has its own output, which is sent via a 7-pin or 13-pin cable to an external unit where it combines the signals in a variety of ways.
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  6. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

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    suburban Chicago
    The Godin A4 basses have one (piezo) pickup per string and a 13 pin output connector. Anyone who owns one of those can tell you something about them. I believe some of the Godin six string guitars are hexaphonic, the basses are quadraphonic or quintaphonic. This concept starts to generate too many x-aphonic names, I vote we just call them all polyphonic. Roland sells polyphonic pickups for guitars and bass guitars to use with their synthesizer. Godin publishes very little in the way of reading materials, Roland has some. I may get an A4 some day but currently I do not own a polyphonic pickup equipped bass.

    Ken
  7. btmendenhall

    btmendenhall

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    I have been considering updating the pickups in my bass. This would be a pretty extreme direction to go down, but it would be unique for sure. And, they pickups can be purchased for less than $300 it looks like (which, i dont think includes the interface).
  8. Nerevar

    Nerevar

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    Halifax, NS
    This is a pretty cool idea actually. It could allow for extreme flexibility, different effect loops on every string. or etc. I suppose that is why they are so often used for synth guitars. I'd like to look further into this myself
  9. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Supporting Member

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    The original Bartolini Hi-A pickups were polyphonic (Hexaphonic for 6 strings, and quadraphonic for 4 strings), and could be wired up for multiple outputs. Some of their pickups are still built that way, but have a single output.
  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    And don't forget the Ampeg AMB-1 Scroll Basses, introduced in 1967. The black rectangular pickup has four small round coils inside, one for each string. The coils are wired together in series, with alternating winding directions and alternating magnet poles.

    Did any other manufacturer make a polyphonic bass pickup before that?
  11. MrSaxoBeat

    MrSaxoBeat

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    Sep 13, 2012
    There's one system I know of that has truly independent and uninfluenced output signal for each string, and it's the Lightwave optical pickup. Chris Willcox actually has a number of years of development into hexaphonic systems with Roland and I think should be coming out with products in early 2013. That's the only details I've got though, we'll see what happens.

    Quick question though, how many of you guys have ever used a polyphonic system, or what WOULD you like to use it for?
  12. BawanaRik

    BawanaRik Supporting Member

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    I have a Roland with the Hex pickup. And the Hexafuzz, I believe was the name of the effect. Possible the greatest guitar I have even if I don't like the neck.

    As an aside rumor has it that Clapton's Cream guitar part were sometimes recorded a string at a time. Rather complete control. The effect of hearing the riff for She Was Like a Bearded Rainbow makes me thing that might have been an example.
  13. Roy Smith

    Roy Smith

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    York, PA
    I'm a collector of the Peavey B-Quad basses from the 90's. They were among the first production basses to have piezo bridge pickups in addition to the magnetic pickups. Although they did not provide a multipin output for separating each string individually, they did have a second, stereo output that you could use to pan the strings in the stereo field. So the low E would be hard left, A would be mid left, and so on.

    All of the Roland GK series hex pickups for guitar and bass offer the ability to do separate processing on each string (I think RMC makes a breakout box for that). But the real problem with the Roland style hex pickups is their placement - right next to the bridge. This works great for guitar synth because you are only trying to figure out what frequency the string is vibrating at, but the actual audio sound from those pickups is very strident and tinny.

    I've screwed around with these things over the years and my conclusion for you would be that hex pickups really are not worth the effort necessary to get it right. You'd have to have good sounding pickups with separate outputs, then you'd need some kind of a processing rig that was built to handle 4-6 separate inputs, applying different processing to each.

    Good Luck!
    Roy
  14. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

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    Aren't Wal pickups like that? I owned one before and there were I think 16 wires coming out of each 4 string pickups.
  15. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Supporting Member

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    Yes they are, but they are only 5 or 6 wires coming out.
  16. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    A few of us luthiers out on the wacko end have made basses with this style of pickups, using a separate coil for each string. Here's the "M-Pickup" that I developed for one of my Scroll Bass models a few years back.

    Each coil has three 1/4" Alnico 5 rod magnets. The four coils are wired together in series, but with alternating wind directions and magnet polarities. So the group functions as a humbucker.

    The main reason I developed this pickup is because this model bass has a 4" fingerboard radius. I needed the independently adjustable coils to get an equal output from the four strings. But a side effect of this configuration is a "sensing aperture" that's the opposite of most pickups. The aperture is quite long along the length of the string, and narrow across the string. The result is an increase in the dynamics and attack profile, from plucking, and a reduction in harmonics and ringing.

    It's a great sounding pickup with flatwounds on that style of bass. I also sold one set to a player who used it to electrify an upright, and they worked very well for that. But I tried a set in a conventional electric bass with roundwounds, and the owner didn't like them. I think they didn't have enough high end for his taste. That may just have been the particular formula that I wound those coils to.

    Anyway, there's plenty of room for experimentation with multi-coil pickups. I don't think there are any massive advantages to them, but they can allow some unusual configurations. Not many companies have used them in production instruments, because they are expensive to build. Squeezing pickups into small packages is extra work. I had to make up all of my own bobbins and parts for these.

    Attached Files:

  17. sven kalmar

    sven kalmar

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2009
    makes me think of phil lesh and his quadrophonic alembic...76?

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