My First Hexaphonic Guitar Prototype

Latest updated 15 nov 08

What It's All About

So, what's the meaning by having a so called hexaphonic pickup and what is it? Well, the term "hexaphonic" means that there can be one separate output for each string if the player desires. This enables individual string panning in the stereo field as well as individual overdrive on each string. Personally I think the sound is totally awsome and I've had this idea for quite some years now. As we all know the only well-known hexaphonic pickups are used for MIDI purposes and it appears that the market is happy about that. I just had to challenge this. There are a couple of sound samples that you can listen to to get an idea of how it sounds. This is of course the most important thing. I would say that there are more benefits than downsides with this guitar pickup. It could very well be made backwards compatible for example.

About This Prototype

This prototype consists of a regular low budget electric guitar with a pasteboard pickguard to hold the single coil sized hexaphonic pickup. Of course a regular pickguard can be used but they usually have the bridge pickup tilted slightly and this pickup isn't designed to be optimized for that. The pickup could of course be modified to suit a tilted pickup slot easily. The earlier version had one separate RCA connector for each string but those have been replaced by a multi pole DIN connector. The channel separation is estimated to around 24dB.

This prototype is only made to evaluate the concept of hexaphonic pickups. This is how poor planning is rewarded as you can see on this photo of the interior. On a useful product all wires would be replaced with flatcables of course. This is how the second layout looks like. The first one was even more messy.

Lets have a closer look at the actual preamp boards. Those are an important part of the design.

A closeup photo of the connector used. Unfortunately I don't think those are standard anymore. This one has 10 poles, six of them are for the strings and the other three are -Vcc, GND and Vcc supply voltages.


I've tried to gather some material to give an idea of how it performs. I guess it can be considered promising while realizing that this is the very first prototype built. As I said the pickguard is made of pasteboard for example and the interior aint to pretty.

I'm not a good guitar performer but I've got a couple of friends who can play rather decently. Therefore I've let them perform a couple of tracks. This should give you a hint of the features and character of the sound. It's definetively worth a listen!

All Strings Loose In Mix

These demos illustrate how it sounds when all strings are mixed independently and panorated in the stereo field. This gives a synthish quality to the sound while maintaining the feel of real analog sound. Not to be confused with MIDI stuff in other words.

This is a demo of the Thin Lizzy song Rosalie. Really sounds like a whole bunch of guitarrists in some places! Now try to do that with a regular guitar pickup or a GK-3! Keep in mind that this is only one guitarrist playing on only one guitar in only one single take! Don't mind the funny outro :P lizzy_rosalie_demo.mp3
Another Thin Lizzy song Don't Believe A Word which is unfortunately performed by me. Hey I said I was a poor performer so go easy on me. With this sample I want to illustrate how it sounds when you take a full chord with plenty of saturation. I dare to say that would sound pretty awful on a regular monophonic pickup. Usually one needs to crank down gain if one wants several notes in a major or minor chord. Again this experience can only be achieved with this system. lizzy_believe_word_demo.mp3
Allright, as you can hear in this Led Zeppelin song Black Dog is the formidable channel separation. ledzep_black_dog_demo.mp3
Some effects added. One can obtain pretty whacky sounds with chorus and phaser and it can be done individually on each string of course. Something you definitely can't do with the existing gear on the market. Although this take of the Megadeth song Symphony Of Destruction wasn't too successful I decided to show this one as well. megadeth_symph_demo.mp3
Here are some improvisations that although not played too well hopefully contribute to promote this funky pickup system. improvise1_demo.mp3

Some Strings Loose In Mix

This delivers a very groovy sound experience. The reason for this has to do with how some note intervals intermodulates with each other. By choosing those strings who have particularly minor chord intervals and other dissonant intervals to each other loose in the mix they will not contribute with dissonant noise. What will be left is the desired intermodulation that will give this razor sharp power chord experience.

Lets hear a comparison where the G string is loose from the mix which can be done with a hexaphonic pickup and compare that to the performance of when they're all mixed as in a monophonic pickup. What I want to illustrate is a weakness in regular pickups especially for minor chords when using overdrive. Observe how the minor chord sounds much less noisy with the hexaphonic performance. with_hex_perf.mp3
Now check this out! Listen to how it sounds when taking full riffs and barre chords with the G string loose and with G, B, E strings loose from the mix. I've also mixed in and out the loose string and the rest of the mix! riff_demo_g_b_e_loose.mp3

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