The switchboards have arrived. They are amazing to see. The prototypes were produced quickly and cheaply and as such were not nearly as thin as the real thing. These boards are very thin, allowing the Sub Pro to be only 5.7mm underneath both E strings! They will shortly be mounted to the stainless steel baseplate for extra strength.
Some time ago it became apparent that different guitarists were requesting different types of jack socket for their Sub Pros. After a survey of customers who had pre-ordered or crowdfunded the new pickup, I hastily made arrangements for some Sub Pros to come with a moulded socket and some with an endpin jack that would fit acoustic guitars and some hollowbody guitars.
I received an email from one customer questioning the repairability of the moulded connectors. With so much going on inside the pickup I had lost focus on what was happening outside. After some long and protracted discussions with our cable assembly supplier we’ve arrived at a solution that I hope will please everyone. Cables and connectors wearing out is inevitable and I’m not a fan of built in obsolescence or disposable plastic.
Whilst some parts have arrived, our assembly is being held up by difficulties with the housing and with the circuit boards. The company making the die cast housing have found the part very hard to produce. They have taken longer than was originally anticipated. Due to the nature of injecting molten metal into a mould, you can never be 100% sure of the result. As you can see from the photo below we are extremely close! We are working with them to solve the last snags and I’m confident we will have solved the problem in the next few days.
The circuit boards took much longer to complete due to minute error early in the process. The boards are now completed. The switchboards have arrived in the UK. The other boards are with our coil supplier who mount the coils directly onto the boards. We’ve found this to be the best method as it reduces wastage and improves pickup reliability and accuracy.
I’m hesitant to predict a new date at this stage - we’re still so reliant on other companies promises and estimates. When everything has arrived and I have soldering iron in hand I’ll be able to say exactly. Keep an eye on this blog over Christmas for more updates.
I’m pleased to announce that manufacture has begun. As we speak the mould for the housing is being CNC-ed. The metal stamping part tooling, I’m told, is already made. In the next few days molten zinc will be forced into the mould, and will cool. It will then be polished, chrome plated and polished again. This along with the coil assemblies, magnets, circuit boards, switches, custom cables and packaging should all arrive here in Stroud on or before 15th December 2018. Leaving a manic five days for assembly in order to make the last Christmas post. That’s right, those of you in the UK will hopefully receive your Sub Pro before Christmas! My apologies to those of you elsewhere in the world, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
I say hopefully. This is if everything goes to plan. As I’ve found with manufacturing; nothing ever does. I’m checking in with suppliers on an almost daily basis, giving them a nudge when necessary in order to make sure that we make that deadline.
If things weren’t hectic enough we’ll be moving to larger premises at some point before the manufacture. This broom cupboard has become too small!
So where are we at with the design and manufacture? Since I last wrote there have bee two total redesigns. One which shaved a very necessary 0.8mm of the height of the Sub Pro and another which was a rebuild using a different form of 3D modelling. This was a frantic 48 hours as our die casting manufacturing partner had the machinery booked but found that the file I had sent was too complicated. Not much sleep was had in those days last week.
This is almost exactly what you will receive in a few weeks. The design is ever so slightly different to this prototype (this is a photo by the way, not a render). But essential all the salient features are there. As you can see the aim of getting the switches onto the pickup was successful. A vast improvement, I think you’ll agree, over having them on an endpin jack or on a circuit board elsewhere.
I’ll be checking addresses before posting begins along with other relevant details.
Wish us luck! Will keep you posted with any developments!
Hi everyone. Thanks again for your patience with this. We’ve been having issues with suppliers and also chasing gremlins around the pickup switching system. Here’s where we are up to now:
The connectors work! The insides of the pickup will now be split into two boards. This helps with assembly and also reduces wastage.
It also opens up the possibility of offering other switching systems in the future. Two ideas that spring to mind are just have two 3-way switches at each end of the pickup. On the bass side the three positions would offer (E), (E+A) and (E+A+D). On the other side (E), (E+B) and (E+B+G). Would like to know your thoughts about this!
Also for players who want dynamic control of string switching - strings on and off in the middle of songs there is the exciting possibility of swapping out the switchboard for a hexaphonic breakout board. This may not be for some time but it is definitely something that I am keen to get made!
Let’s take a look at how the rest of it is going together:
As before, the final housing will be a die cast chrome plated shell. The remaining metal work will be brushed stainless steel.
Here is a rough idea of how the Submarine Pro will go together. Hiding beneath the main body of the pickup is the baseplate. As before the height of the pickup can be adjusted using the hex screws on the top. One of my favourite things about the aspect of the design is that the height adjustment mechanism also doubles as a clamp for installation on acoustic guitars.
Soon we will have arranged production of the housings and eliminated all of the gremlins in the switching system. I hope to give you a better idea of the finished product in a week or so when the CNC-ed aluminium housing arrives,
Watch this space…
First of all my apologies for lack of updates. There have been a number of difficult problems to solve most of which have been extremely dull but necessary to overcome. I shan't bore you with too much technical detail. Suffice to say that working with technology not usually associated with guitar pickups has thrown up its own set of problems. These have largely revolved around quality, reliability, functionality, repairability and size. However I'm pleased to say that we have navigated a way though and the latest iterations are proving extremely positive.
Let's look at some of the prototype boards.
The switches and coils are all on one board, known as a rigid-flex PCB. This sort of technology is more often found inside DSLR cameras and smart phones than guitar pickups. This arrangement came with some issues. One that was of particular concern, in simple terms, was the thickness of the signal carrying tracks within the circuit board. There is a complex weave of wires inside that green sandwich and it was a tricky balancing act to for the cabling to work as it should, whilst being contained within such a small space.
Now for the major design change update. We have decided to divide the board in two. One board for coils; one for switches. The modular approach has advantages in that during manufacture if there was a fault with one of the coils, the whole assembly would have to be thrown out. With this new approach, wastage is far lower. It also means that, should it be necessary, repairs are possible. With the original Submarine it was nigh on impossible to replace a faulty switch or faulty coil without destroying the rest of the innards. This aspect did not please me at all. This slightly more modular design solves that problem.
After many trials and tribulations in balancing tone, signal to noise ratio, reliability, size and cost we think we've come up with the best design solution. For those of you hoping for a full hexaphonic breakout system in the future, I'm happy to report that this idea is alive and well. More info soon.
So, "when do I get my hands on mine?" I hear you ask. As you have probably guessed we are behind schedule. Only once we have finalised the design of the PCBs can we push go for the manufacture all the other parts. We are now looking at a September shipping date. I'm so sorry that it has taken so much more time than originally anticipated. I know many of you have gigs, tours and recording projects that you were hoping to use the Submarine with. I can only apologise - I hope that I haven't put you in too tricky a situation. If you really are up s*** creek without a paddle please let me know and we'll work out a solution together.
Thank you for your patience. I really appreciate your support!
All the best,
I've just made some quick renders of the new design. These are to show you the location of the switches and how the shape differs from the original design. I've tried to keep as true to the original as possible whilst still incorporating the switches. Not an easy task.
Each small black switch corresponds to one of the six strings. Each switch has three positions allow the user to route each string to one of two outputs with the middle position as off.
The adjustment screws allow for height adjustment on an electric guitar and act as a clamping mechanism on an acoustic guitar.
The profile of the Submarine Pro is thin enough to fit nearly all acoustic or electric guitars.
I recently dropped my phone. The screen shattered. A familiar story to many people. So frustrating especially when in can cost a fair bit to have the screen replaced. I looked into the DIY approach and came across a great site called ifixit. A great site for people who aren't afraid of taking things apart. They've got really good step by step repair instructions (often with videos) for everything from phones to lawnmowers.
The reason I mention it is that I was intrigued by some of the connectors used inside the phone. They are so amazingly small with many many pins. I wondered if it might be possible to use them inside the Submarine Pro.
Let's just get some context for why this could be a good idea. Leaving the nano sized phone components aside for a minute let's look at small scale multicore parts.
This is the kind of connector that we would use. It's £16. In bulk the price might come down to £10. But you'll need three or four other similar connectors to make up the assembly and break out box. Then someone has to solder all the pins - a very time consuming endeavor. You can see how expensive this could become very quickly.
One reason this connectors are so expensive is that they are very rarely used. The nano connectors used in mobile phones might be as less than a penny each. Ubiquitous and cheap as chips! They can also be robotically soldered.
One of the tests will be to see if a hexaphonic breakout cable is possible. This would give users who wanted control of each individual string the ability to route these however they would wish. This would be a strictly custom job but could be carried out by any mobile phone repair shop. Much easier to find than a guitar tech!
Let me be clear: this is little more than an idea at the moment. It will require rigorous testing. But I have a feeling there is a real chance to open up the Submarine Pro to people who want to have that extra functionality at no extra cost to the average user. Quite what the end result will look like at this stage is anyone's guess !