Global Bass Online July 2001
LightWave Systems is at it again!
LightWave Systems truly reinvented the wheel last year with their innovative Optical pickup. We featured a Cover Story with Chris Willcox, President of LightWave in our September 2000 issue.
In that article we went into great depth with Chris covering this innovative way of deriving a pure and unfettered signal from string vibration. No unwanted noise whatsoever was produced by the pickup thereby allowing the purest musical tones and fundamentals to be transmitted directly to the amplification system.
Never one to leave good enough alone, Chris wanted to make good even better. LightWave is therefore announcing the release of the S2 (Series Two) Optical Pickup.
If there was one thing that some artists, manufacturers and retailers found wanting in the original pickup, it was the inability to adjust the fixed position (preset) tone controls. Chris told us, "On System 1 we had all of the tone control parameters on the same PC board as the preamp and mixer stages. That sort of cemented them in place. We found that different manufacturers with different styles of instrument, made from different woods wanted different tone controls.
We came up with what I call 'Open Architecture' which allowed us to put two sockets on that main board for two 'daughter boards'. Daughter board One would be with whatever tone control the manufacturer decides upon (within of course, our power constraints), and Socket Two brings out the output of each string separately and would interface with a 13-pin midi-style connector. This was so you could plug into a midi converter box. There are all kinds of downstream applications that we've been discussing with other companies. It might be signal processing gear that could be utilized on a string by string basis. We will soon find out what the marketplace wants to do with that feature, but Midi of course. is the main concern."
When asked if he ever saw LightWave itself being involved in the 'Midi Market' themselves, manufacturing a LightWave Midi, Chris said, "Not any time soon. We have so much to do with the front end of Optical Technology, spreading it to electro-acoustic and electric guitars. We would prefer to be on peripheral equipment, signal processing and strings and all the other stuff that we could have complimentary designs on. We would rather work with existing companies in the design phases but not so much in the manufacturing and distribution phases.'
In looking at the list of luthiers that are coming on board with models containing the LightWave System, we asked if LightWave had approached any of the large manufacturers like Fender and Gibson. "Absolutely, Fender is very interested and we are on our third prototype with them. They've been test marketing with their endorsing players. Of course the bigger companies are slower moving so most of the companies that are ready to launch in Nashville (Summer NAMM) are smaller to mid-size companies."
In our last interview, we discussed the fact that there will always be those that resist change, that pine for the old pickup design. We asked Chris is he was finding more acceptance for the S2 and LightWave in general now that some time had passed. "We're finding that players when they first audition LightWave instruments, generally try to find traditional sounds. It's sort of a comfort zone for them. By en large we find that anyone who spends some time with the instrument finds out what it is and what it isn't. It isn't a magnetic instrument, although one of the new features we have is called 'Magnetic Emulation". That's a simple switch operated feature that puts a 6 db per octave rise across the board."
The irony of this is that seemingly sabotages the strengths of the LightWave Pickup!
"Sort of, but we find out that it's a better alternative than actually the Hybrid idea that generally comes up. Putting a magnetic pickup on board (a LightWave enhanced instrument) would compromise the performance even more because of the magnetics influence."
When first Global Bass heard of the LightWave pickup, it appeared as if this innovative idea might just replace the magnetic pickup. Over time however it became obvious instead that people may in fact choose to own one of each, a conventional pickup assembly and the LightWave system, on two separate basses.
"We're positioning the product as an 'addition' to magnetic pickups, not a replacement. Over the years, that may happen, we'll find out. Particularly when our price points come down (costs of manufacturing) and we get better and better at emulating magnetic tonalities, it's possible that we could become the status quo, but for the time being it's exciting for the manufacturers because it's an opportunity to sell an instrument to somebody who already has their magnetic version and wants the new tonal palette."
This new system offers LightWave Monolithic bridge, in effect, a bridge for each string. "The original bridge design was a machined bridge assembly with a base plate. It was expensive and it was trying to be like a hybrid system with a more traditional style. The new system has a new and interesting approach. It's a single piece for each string and it's injected molded with a proprietary recipe of 'Graphtec'. It incorporates a whole new look and feel and it's sort of a trademark look for us as well. It's really lightweight and easy to mold. It has the transfer characteristics of aluminum so it's sonically transparent as well."
Look for their systems on many of the basses at the Summer NAMM show, and the next Winter NAMM show LightWave will be introducing their technology on electric and acoustic-electric instruments as well.
You can contact LightWave yourself and gather more information by visiting their website at:
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