Coil Guitars–active cables for electric guitars

Project ManagerBruce L. JacobPrincipal InvestigatorPatrick O’Shea, UMD
Location:  College Park, Maryland – Prince George’s County;  Project Start Date:  2/1/2010

Business Description
Founded in 2006 by an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Maryland, Coil Guitars’ mission is to design high-fidelity audio circuits for electric guitars and basses that enable a maximum degree of tone shaping with a minimum number of controls. Since 2009, Coil has been an industrial partner of the University of Maryland, helping fund a collaborative audio-electronics research project at the university, involving undergraduates in audio systems research and donating equipment for an electric-guitar design course.

Challenge
Coil was developing “active cable” technology, which involves embedding a preamplifier and a battery into the cable that connects an electric guitar to an amplifier. The cable would allow a guitarist to get premium sound out of a mid- to low-range amplifier. The challenge was to make circuits small enough for the cable and still produce terrific sound.

MIPS Role
UMD researchers worked hard to develop the active cable technology, but in the end were not satisfied with the sound quality. The MIPS project helped the company determine its future product emphasis.

Results
Coil released a line of five guitars, selling nearly every one they manufactured. The company also released a line of electronics, including three different pickup switches with optional volume adjustment technologies.

Bruce Jacob, founder of Coil Guitars and professor, department of electrical and computer engineering, University of Maryland.

Interesting Facts
Five students joined Coil from a course Jacob taught, Electric Guitar Design (ENEE 159b): Justin Ahmanson and Tim Babich, now both alumni, now graduate student Joseph Gross and undergraduates Franklin DeHart and Christopher Monaghan, all from the department of electrical and computer engineering. Together they developed patent-pending electronics to give them all of the sounds they wanted from a guitar. Jacob incorporated them into the guitars he designed.

MIPS-Related Quote
“The MIPS research helped us clarify our product focus. We realized that we should be focusing on and licensing the electronics. To that end, we are working to get the circuitry patented.”
–Bruce Jacob, founder, Coil

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