Bruce Jacob is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland. He’s also a frustrated guitar player. Frustrated because, rather than have dozens of guitars to get the sounds he wants, he wants one guitar that produces many sounds.
Jacob, 43, started his musical education at 4 years old. After purchasing his first new guitar in 20 years, and finding the number of sounds it could produce were even more limited than the ones from his youth, he went to work with some of his students to invent an electric guitar that could dial in many different sounds on the fly. His creation is the Coil guitar, which marries a circuit board with the pickups. Changing the wiring of the pickups alters the guitar’s sound. Coil’s circuit board allows players to adjust the sound by configuring the pickups. By altering circuits, his guitars are capable of many different sounds.
According to Jacobs, “I wanted every possible sound a guitar could give me. Usually, people rip open their guitars and rewire them to get precisely the sound they want. I wanted to do it without rewiring anything and come up with the perfect guitar and sell it to everybody.”
So how does this differ from amplifiers or pedals that change a guitar’s sound? Jacob says, “Normally when people want lots of sounds, they buy amps or distortion units. Here’s an analogy: A guitar gives you colors you can mess with. Amplifiers, without modifying the guitar, give you different brush strokes. We went back to the beginning and changed the colors a guitar produces. We’re trying to give people a gigantic palette.”
Jacob’s guitar can quickly produce more than 50 sounds, and he says he has only begun to tap its full potential, both in sound and marketing.
Jacob’s has invested more than $100,000 of his personal treasure into his company, Coil LLC. The company also studies audio electronics development at the university through a $135,000 Maryland Industrial Partnerships grant. His labors have produced guitars with options that range from the basic five-way seven-sound switch to the advanced combination of three-way and five-way switches to make 15 of 22 possible tones available.