We created the LightWave Optical System to give musicians a non-intrusive, absolutely transparent pickup that allows the purest and most natural sound from string instruments. Conventional pickups interfere with string vibration. The LightWave Optical Pickup System uses our patented infrared light technology to detect string vibrations, the first and only of its kind. Our pickup ‘sees’ the vibration of the string without affecting string motion in any way. It harnesses the pure power of light to deliver accurate, full-range sound.
How it works
The LightWave technology utilizes optoelectronics to “see” the vibration of the string, enhancing the strings’ true voice by eliminating the magnetic influence or “pull” on the metal strings. As a non-contact sensor, optics do not interact with the movement of the string. Instead, they provide a flat, even response throughout the tonal spectrum of the vibrating string, producing a sonic foundation that accurately represents the instrument and the musician. This neutrality allows the string to vibrate naturally, resulting in the most powerful and responsive method of string transduction ever developed, and a sound advantage for today’s music.
The optical pickup is a proprietary type of transducer which utilizes an infrared emitter and an array of photodetectors for each string. The emitter casts a shadow of the string onto the photodetectors. As the string vibrates, the size and shape of the shadow changes accordingly and modulates a current which passes through the photodetectors. This current is the analog electrical signal which represents an accurate depiction of the vibrating string.
The Voice of the String™
What you will hear is extraordinary: the sound of the strings, the sound of the instrument, and most importantly, the sound of your playing. You will notice a whole new sensitivity in the interaction between your fingers, the strings, and the instrument that give you a new palette of subtle nuances and unique tonalities. Playing chords, heavy fingerstyle or slap styles, screaming leads, tight intervals, complex voicings or harmonics on your LightWave instrument will be a revelation. You hear an openness, transparency and dimensionality unlike anything you have previously experienced.
Since the Optical Pickup System does not interact with the strings and because it is capable of much greater sensitivity, the strings sustain naturally. In fact, the Optical Pickup will read string vibration for its full duration, fading in a pure, linear fashion into silence, without an abrupt ending or distorted artifacts.
Unlike magnetic pickups which induce extraneous noise to the sound, the LightWave Optical Pickup System has virtually no inherent noise. As a result, you can play at any volume without annoying background hum or buzz. This is an breakthrough for recording: virtually noise-free, extraordinarily transparent sound. Even with your amp at high volume, you experience amazing dynamic range and sensitivity – loud notes will be loud and clear, while soft notes and subtle nuances are not masked by hum or buzz.
If you wish to use EQ or signal processing to shape your sound, you can use any amount desired to create subtle or dramatic tonal variations without tonal artifacts. Since the output of the LightWave pickup is pure and transparent, you augment the actual sound of the string, as opposed to the odd response curves and background noise found in conventional pickups.
iceTone™ Our exclusive circuit allows blending the LightWave Optical Pickup with tailored piezo transducers built into each string saddle. The result is a smooth, natural high frequency enhancement ranging from crisp high end to percussive presence. iceTone cannot be selected separately, but is added to the optical signal as the control knob is turned up.
1. Does it use lasers?
No. We know that would seem sexier, but it uses infrared LEDs and photodetectors.
2. Is it digital?
No. Each string’s signal starts out analog, and stays that way throughout.
3. How does it sound?
Like you’ve never heard before. Players are impressed by the optical pickup’s depth and richness. It captures more lower fundamentals and higher harmonics than previously possible. You hear clearer double-stops and chords, and increased dynamic range – all without the hum and buzz produced by magnetic pickups. Unlike prior pickups that exert their own influence or color on the strings’ sound, our optical transducers faithfully reproduce each string’s natural harmonic content, and better reveal the sound of the instrument’s wood, and construction.
4. What about when I want distortion or other effects?
A clean signal source doesn’t imply that downstream processing is impeded in any way. In fact, having a superior quality starting point is advantageous for overdriving or effects, especially when you want the most organic sounding distortions.
5. Can I retrofit an existing instrument?
No. Currently, our system is available only on our own instruments.
6. Do I have to do anything special to connect a LightWave instrument?
No, treat it as you would any active pickup output. It is low-impedance and can be directly connected to any amplifier rig, effects box, DI, or line input of a mixer/recorder console.
7. Do I plug-in the usual way?
Yes. The standard 1/4″ phone jack delivers the expected analog instrument output, at conventional levels.
8. Do I have to use special strings?
No. Just the opposite. You can experiment with new strings you couldn’t have considered before. Remember, the strings no longer have to be ferromagnetic. They don’t even have to be metal at all.
9. Are there any differences affecting how I should use my amp rig?
Probably. The response from the pickup system is flat, and extends deeper than prior pickups. If you’re used to boosting the bass on your tone controls/EQ, you may want to back off on these to start. Caution is advised while getting used to the pickup’s powerful bass response.
10. Are there any differences affecting how I should play?
Probably. The pickup system is very clean, responsive to dynamics, and revealing of good technique. It may bring out your style, nuances, and expressiveness more than ever.
11. Are you saying that it just won’t produce hum or buzz?
Yes, we are. Any such problems you experience on stage or in the studio will be due to old-fashioned AC power corruption or ground loop problems (as between your amp rig and a mixing console). The pickup itself is simply not susceptible to the usual electromagnetic interference.
12. Since this is an optical based system, does it work in daylight, or under bright stage lights?
Yes. We’ve gone to great pains to design a system that does.
13. iceTone™ doesn’t sound like a usual piezo; is it?
Unlike conventional piezo systems, iceTone™ is designed as a selective enhancer; you can use the optical pickup signal by itself, or dial in iceTone to add mids or mids and highs. The iceTone™ signal cannot be played by itself, however. The LightWave system’s master volume and tone controls affect both the optical and iceTone signals.
15. Doesn’t the bright LED being on all the time drain the battery faster?
A tiny amount. The power status LED is a special daylight-visible, low-current device, and is an insignificant portion of the total system power draw. Its utility as an in-play battery status indicator more than makes up for it.
16. How long does a recharge take?
About 60 minutes for a fully-drained battery pack. And, you can play while the charger is plugged in.
17. How about Road-Worthiness?
The LightWave system is robust. It is designed to endure all of the demands of real musicians.