for the Stick, Grand Stick, Ten String Grand, Stick Bass, Stick Guitar and Alto Stick models

Be the First on Your Block®
by Emmett Chapman

We've extensively refined our "PASV-4" Block pickup module and now offer the new aluminum version as our standard Villex unit for all Stick® 8, 10 and 12-string models and tunings. It is identical in perimeter shape and size to our popular ACTV-2 module and they are interchangeable, fitting into the diagonal channel of all models.

The trademark "PASV-4" refers to the four passive, single coil, bar pickups by Villex (whereas the "ACTV-2" Block module has two active EMG "Front Tele" bar pickups with stacked "humbucking" coils). Both systems are wired to cancel hum and buzz. They both produce those laser cutting highs and deep, resonant lows, but the new PASV-4 is louder and more versatile in its operations, whereas the active EMG system captures the classic electric blues guitar sound.

What's New on the Module?
  • A black anodized all aluminum Block, so quiet that the strings need no grounding, as they are completely isolated from the amp and sound system. The very low impedance system preserves the full harmonic spectrum without the metal Block housing absorbing any of the highest frequencies, as is common with conventional shielding.

  • PC boards with soldered controls are inserted into compartments at each interior end of The Block, eliminating most of the wiring and easing modular repairs or replacements.

  • The protruding pickup selector knobs have been moved from the top surface to the sides, enabling easy slide-out of the module without lifting strings. All three control knobs are now placed in-line on each outward side of the Block for simpler operation.

  • More distinctive tonal variations from the center knob on each side, which controls unique "magnetic circuitry" designed by Villex to enhance specific frequencies ranging from very high to low mid registers.

  • A trim pot, located on the melody side between knobs, controls volume of just the bass side in mono mode, allowing precise balance of bass versus melody passive signals. The combined mono signal with the bass side turned down is lower than stereo in overall volume, as would be expected in a passive (non battery powered) system, but is nevertheless clean in sound and high in gain compared to other passive guitar and bass guitar pickups.

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    PASV-4 Components

     1. Bass side volume
     2. Bass side filter (4 tones)
     3. Bass pickup selector (4 positions)
     4. Melody side volume
     5. Melody side filter (4 tones)
     6. Melody pickup selector (4 positions)
     7. Stereo/mono switch
     8. 3-way pickup height/tilt adjustment
     9. Mono mode balance trimpot
    10. 1/4" TRS stereo output jack.
    11. Magnetic damping shim for string balance
    Villex Technology

    The PASV-4 is packed with radically new innovations in the field of guitar pickups and magnetic energy flow - a complete systems technology created by Villen Khanagov, a former aircraft engineer from Russia, who is also a guitarist and pickup designer with his own "Villex" company here in California. He and I have carefully designed and refined this versatile module to capture the distinctive broad frequencies and tapping dynamics of The Stick. We have a long term business agreement to ensure the continuity of our efforts.

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    Inside the PASV-4 (click to enlarge)

    The four compact passive pickups and miniaturized custom electronics produce amazing tonal variations, with switching in all directions (along and across the strings). Without Villex's innovations in controlling and redirecting magnetic energy (enhancing both tone and volume), it would be impossible to achieve such output, clarity and breadth of frequency from any passive pickup!

    The Pickups

    The first level of Villex's innovation is found in the pickups themselves. They are each "tuned" according to their respective position on the instrument relative to bass and melody string groups as well as neck and bridge positions. The coil pairs are reverse wired to cancel hum. A special winding method is used to optimize volume and tone.

    Because of their relatively low magnetism, these pickups sound pure and sweet to the ear, especially at the highest frets on the melody side, no matter how close the pickups are set to the strings ( and close settings are always recommended for greater volume and fuller tone when tapping on strings).

    Another big advantage for Stick players is a special boost in volume under the thinnest gauge outer string on either side (1st and 10th strings on a standard Stick). Also, these pickups are just long enough to provide full coverage for each string group at a perpendicular 90 degree angle across the strings, thus increasing output and efficiency because of their minimum length. Shorter pickups are louder and fuller in tone, all other factors being equal.

    Tiny tripodal height adjustment screws for each pickup allow smooth and convenient settings close to the strings, the third such screw on each pickup controlling "tilt" relative to the parallel plane of the strings - a real advantage in setting up, maintaining and readjusting the instrument.

    The result is the loudest and purest sound I've ever heard from a passive pickup (and I've tested lots). Comparing its output voltage on bass and melody sides with both of my other pickup modules (the standard passive "Stickup" and the active Block), both of which have high outputs to accommodate light touch string tapping, the PASV-4 is at least 4 DBs louder at the neck position (the equivalent pickup location of my other two modules). All other settings being equal, this is more than 1 1/2 times the voltage output to your speakers, which translates into noticeably more volume for both sides.

    From there it gets louder yet by dialing in some of the "fatter" tone variations separately on bass and melody sides. Also, the unique technology of these pickups provides unlimited headroom with no distortion from the coils regardless of how much energy is applied to the strings. The very broad range of frequencies, from 30 Hertz to 17K Hertz, is so well proportioned that a relatively flat EQ can be set everywhere else in the sound system.

    Pickup Selection (4 positions: bridge, both out-of-phase, both in-phase, neck)

    The second level of Villex innovation is found in the electronic and magnetic rotary switches, pots, and "black box" circuitry. There is a panel of three control knobs on each outward side of the module, one panel for melody strings and one for bass. The first pair of opposing knobs, closest to the frets, are rotary switches to select from four pickup positions. Bridge and neck pickups (at corresponding positions 1 and 4) have their own distinctive tone as with guitars and bass guitars, the bridge position bringing in the sharper electric sound of the upper harmonics present near the bridge, and the neck position bringing in a mellower blend of harmonics closer to the fundamental of the note.

    These pickup selectors also have two interior positions (positions 2 and 3) for distinctive variations of the double pickup sound. Position 2 selects a more familiar throaty, phase-shifted sound with reinforced fundamentals (the lows) and "hollowed out" highs. Position 3 reverse wires the pickup pair, canceling some of the fundamental frequencies but reinforcing selective mids and highs, thereby producing a talking sound that will "cut through" your music with the same apparent volume as that of the other three positions, and with a striking nasal quality and prominent upper harmonics.

    An Upper Octave

    In this reversed phased, double pickup mode, the upper octave harmonic becomes more pronounced as you move up the fretboard, regardless of the string's pitch or gauge. At the high frets, there's a distinct frequency doubling effect! As you move up in pitch on the fretboard, there is an increasing focus on the higher octave that is related to the distance separating the pair of pickups subtracted from the total vibrating length of the string as that vibrating length decreases at the higher frets (quite a mouthful). Also quite a playing sensation and sonic experience, and great for lead lines, expanding the Stick's sonic register!

    Tone Controls (The Beef)

    The second pair of opposing knobs are rotary switches to modify the tone in various delicious ways. Each rotary switch has four positions including a "bypass" which lets all the balanced high frequencies through. This bypass position #1 produces what I call the "generic" sound of the pickup, that is, its own transparent sound, the inherent sound of its own technology, and is powerful, clear and musically rich. Each successive click of the rotary switch focuses and amplifies different frequencies, starting with high mids at position two, mid mids at position 3, and low mids at position 4. Each successive position also adds a bit more overall volume to the signal, "beefing it up", so to speak.

    The third pair of knobs operate volume pots. Unlike typical passive volume controls which can alter the basic tone when turned down, this control interacts with the internal magnetic system to preserve highs at lower volume settings.

    Mono Mode

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    Trim pot adjusts mono balance
    (click to enlarge)

    Switching to the mono mode, the two pickup selector switches still operate separately for melody and bass sides, but the melody side's volume knob and rotary tone switch now act as master controls for both sides. The signals are combined in mono and sent to the melody output (ring of the stereo plug). For example, in mono mode you could select the neck pickup for the melody strings and both bridge and neck pickups in reinforced phase for the bass strings, with the melody's rotary switch for tone set at the 3rd position operating on both sides to lend a sharp "R" kind of sound to all the strings. In stereo mode you could add the bass rotary switch into this mix, setting it to "bypass", for example - a nice "orchestration" of the total Stick sound, by the way.

    Another stereo combination I recommend is the melody side with pickup selector at 3rd position and tone selector at 3rd position for a "beefed up", phase cancelled, nasal kind of lead voice, and the bass side with pickup selector at 4th position and tone selector at 2nd position for a sharp, growling and authoritative bass voice.

    This module is very powerful but very quiet, with cross-talk between string groups also brought down to a minimum. All components are properly and thoroughly grounded, even at the output jack, so as not to pop when you plug your Stick into a live sound system. The PASV-4 performs best when plugged into standard high impedance guitar and bass guitar equipment, including all off-the-shelf amplifiers, preamps, effects and multi-effects boxes. It also brings out the best sound and performance from high-end amplifiers and equipment - a real advantage.

    The Bottom Line

    We offer the PASV-4 as an option on all new Stick models and as a retrofit to older instruments. Retrofitting is simpler if your Stick is already equipped with the ACTV-2 Block, in which case only two new location holes must be drilled in the existing diagonal channel of your instrument. You can then interchange your Block modules as you wish, using either pair of fastener holes drilled in the channel.

    Those Sticks with standard "Stickup" modules of earlier design must in addition have the pickup channel widened to accommodate the larger "Block" shape and size. By now, such Block retrofits into older instruments has become routine work.

    See the price list for PASV-4 modules on new instruments and as a retrofit on older Sticks.

    I usually recommend some reworking and re-setup of your Stick if you return it for any retrofit, and I itemize suggested jobs and prices, the total for such extra work typically ranging from $200 to $400. Your Stick would then play, sound and feel like one from our newest production.

    Copyright © 2016 Stick Enterprises, Inc.