Rant on Photon Marketing

...on "The Speed of Light..."

"Instead of antiquated magnetic pickups...the patented PHOTON pickup.....converts the string's frequency...faster than the blink of an eye."

Well I should hope so, the human eye blinks quite slowly actually. 


As an engineer, the marketing of the Photon always bothered me. The "speed of light" of this beast only applied for the short distance between the LED and photodetector. A magnetic or piezo-electric pickup has MORE than enough bandwidth to capture the fundamental frequency and several harmonics of guitar strings so the speed issue of audio-to-MIDI conversion is not in the pickup. It's limited by the cycle time of guitar notes and the fact that you pretty much have to measure at least a few cycles of signal before you determine the frequency and output the MIDI NOTE ON command. Who cares about 186,000 miles per second when a low E has a period of 12ms?

And MIDI doesn't work at the speed of light. Each byte takes 320us to transmit (including the start and stop bits) and a NOTE ON command including the velocity byte [1] is three bytes long so that's 960us plus processing time at the other end before the note sounds.

This isn't to say that an optical pickup is a bad idea for this application (ignoring the critical alignment issues) but trying to imply that it will generates MIDI notes faster than anything else out there is just plain wrong.

I'm not against accurate marketing to help sell a product but this is just bulls***. I did read that for an accurate reproduction of a string you should take measurements on two axis and that makes sense. And there is crosstalk in hex pickups that affects signal to noise. But MIDI conversion isn't about faithfully reproducing the sound of the string but determining its fundamental frequency.

Thanks for letting me rant.....