The “right” guitar tone is an elusive and personal thing, and many seasoned guitarists strive to achieve a particular tone that reflects their musical style or matches the genre in which they are playing. In response to this, Dialtone is set to launch its new guitar pickup aimed squarely at the musician who likes to adjust their sound on the fly. Claimed to be the world's first on-guitar version of an infinitely adjustable pickup, the Dialtone promises a lot of tone control without the need for further effects boxes or software control.
In the quest for the perfect sound, musicians will often mix and match combinations of amplifier, effects boxes, settings – even the thickness of the strings that they use. One aspect central to this quest is the pickup. Traditionally, the pickup is a combination of magnets and coils of wire whose job is to create electrical signals when the guitar strings vibrate.
Sick of Ads?
Join more than 500 New Atlas Plus subscribers who read our newsletter and website without ads.
It's just US$19 a year.More Information
However, these traditional pickups are relatively inflexible in the sound that they produce and so musicians often mix them up in various wiring configurations designed to give a particular sound; funk, jazz, rock, country and so on. Indeed, many musicians obsess so much about this that they look to more than just the pickup selection on standard guitars; they often wire and rewire their own in a quest for that “ultimate” tone.
Enter John Liptac, a musician sick of swapping out and rewiring pickups in his search for the perfect tone. Not content with the limited pickup selection for standard guitars, John decided to make one that would be adjustable, in situ, on the guitar itself.
Using his background in engineering and physics, and his knowledge of guitars, he designed an infinitely variable pickup that – with the judicious twiddling of the two knobs on it – could effectively tune the resonance (in this context, the ideal frequency at which the sound energy, or note, produced by the plucked string is at its most efficient) and the “Q” (simply, filtering the resonant frequency produced by the string to tune it to a narrow bandwidth thereby giving the note better “quality”). This allows the guitarist to fine tune the pickup for the best tone without having to pull it and rewire it.
The result is the Dialtone infinitely adjustable tone pickup. Simply put, the Dialtone pickup allows the user to adjust for the optimum performance from their guitar strings. By making sure that the output from the pickup most directly reflects the true resonant frequency of the plucked string, and then further ensuring that the output is finely adjusted to that frequency, the output can be made to achieve the utmost clarity. This may also be particularly useful in ensuring optimal output as such things as string wear or changes in humidity affect the resonant frequency of the string.
Conversely, by adjusting the resonance and Q so that the output is, say, under-damped (decay with oscillation) or over-damped (decay without oscillation), then the guitarist can create various sounds on the guitar to achieve a particular tone. This may prove useful for those wanting to achieve a particular sound (e.g. “funky”) as previously mentioned.
“Dialtone pickups give musicians more control over their sound and flexibility in performance, (the) pickups work by integrating knobs into the pickup itself, letting the player dynamically tailor the instrument’s frequency response.," Liptac told Gizmag.
Of course, guitar manufacturers often try to account for a particular tone using combinations of pickups – HSS being one such combination, where “H” = “Humbucker” (a pickup wired to reduce noise), and “S” (single-coil), and various switching arrangements allow guitarists to select between a range of various, but fixed, tones.
Additionally, units such as the Game Changer guitar from Music Man allow thousands of variations, while aftermarket pickup manufacturers also abound; the likes of the Fishman Fluence with the ability to toggle between various tones on the one unit being a notable example. There is, of course, even an app available to switch stompbox tones from an iPhone, if you so desire.
Similarly, there are a plethora of effects boxes – both digital and anlaog – on the market, along with all manner of computer software and MIDI devices that can change the tone of a guitar in almost infinite ways, even to the point where a guitar can be made to sound like almost any other instrument.
However, as a simple, endlessly adjustable way to “fiddle” your guitar between varying tones, the Dialtone may well offer a good choice for those who want a bit more versatility from their instrument, but don’t want to go down the effects-in-a-box or full on computer-controlled route to achieve it. And that’s what may appeal to some folks the most about this pickup. The Dialtone is currently only configured to replace humbucker pickups, but Liptac has plans to introduce a single-coil pickup replacement at some stage as well.
Dialtone is set for launch in a demonstration on June 1st in Livermore, California, and the company will be launching a 30 day Kickstarter campaign to coincide with that launch.
The Dialtone pickup can be seen – and heard – in action in the following brief video.