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.
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
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
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
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.
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.