Artec BCU Test on Active And Passive Stratocaster Pickguard
May 19, 2016
Artec BCU On Board Active controllable parametric EQ
The Artec BCU is an active parametric EQ coupled with a booster. BCU stands for Band Control Unit. It’s a small and cheap active circuit that you can install easily on any electric guitar or bass, owning an active or passive electronic wiring. It changes the natural sound of your pickups and expands the possibility from the tone of single coils to a fat and powerful tone of humbucker pickups.
In the video included in this article, I am testing the Artec BCU on two different pickguards installed on two separate Stratocaster.
I performed The first test on an active pickguard featuring two single coils and one humbucker from EMG. I installed it on my LabStrat before installing it on a custom strat.
The Humbucker is an EMG 81 and I have no info concerning the two single coils. I have them since 1988. They were installed on a custom Godin, and I didn’t like them much. I uninstalled them over 20 years ago, and they were sleeping in a drawer since. The 81 was given to me by a friend and I never used it either.
Finally, I like them pretty much; they sound cool on a strat. There’s a difference of volume between the coils and the humbucker. I’m going to work on that when the pickguard is going to be installed on the right guitar. As of now, the humbucker is much louder. It also has to do with pickups height, but as you can see in the video, the pickguard is not even properly installed.
Back to the Artec BCU
The Artec BCU features are quite simple. To activate the circuit you have to pull the potentiometer. I find this strange. I would have preferred to pull it to shut it off. I think it’s more natural, most of the push-pull pots are wired the other way around. This is not something crucial, and you can get used to it fast.
The knob set on 0, delivers a fat boost on your pickup that sounds like a humbucker. If you drive a single coil with it, you’ll get a driven humbucker sound. If you use it on a humbucker pickup, it will push your pup even more, but the difference in sound is going to be less important.
The knob set on 5, gives a more neutral boost. It shifts the high-midrange slightly and cut some of the low-midrange. Use the potentiometer to fine-tune frequencies.
The knob set on 10, produces a leads bright tone. The low and high frequency are boosted while the midranges are cut in a sort of ‘V’ shaped EQ. It makes your humbuckers sound like a single coil and the single coil even brighter.
I covered every setting multiple time in the video using all combination of pickups on both pickguards. One trick I like on single coil is to use a crunch or distorted sound and to set the Artec BCU on 10. It renders an almost clean sound. Then, rolling the potentiometer toward zero restores the lead sound up to extreme rock distortion when your reach zero. It’s extremely useful. You can set you sound once and for all and balance it manually using just one tone pot. Brilliant.
On humbucker it’s different. The zero setting gives a huge distortion sound. It makes your pickup even fatter. If you roll it up to ten, the V shape EQ soften the lead sound. It can be useful when going from rhythm to solo mode.
I found the Artec BCU more efficient on single coils than humbuckers and on passive pickups than active pickups.
Nevertheless, I like it a lot on the active pick scratch I’m working on right now. I’m going to install it on the second guitar I’m using in this video. Not that I don’t like the result of the Artec BCU on passive pickups. It concerns the overall wiring and the difference with other guitars that I have. It will be more diverse with an active electronic. I already have a passive SSH strat.
Watch the comparison test video
Installing the Artec BCU
It is very easy. The only problem is the battery location. On all my strats featuring active circuits, I routed a battery slot and used a battery case to be able to change them quickly. You can also locate it inside the guitar knowing that an Artec BCU can run more than 4000 hours in continuous use. Just do not forget to unplug the guitar. Otherwise, you’ll empty the battery fast.
AS far as installation goes. You need to replace the mono output jack by a stereo one. Solder the hot and ground as usual. The third leg on the output jack is intended for the battery ground wire. It turns it off when a jack is not inserted. It explains why you have to unplug your guitar when you are not playing, even during breaks at a gig.
The Artec BCU needs four wires to solder
In: Solder the wire from the master volume pot’s output.
Out: Solder a wire to the hot of the output jack, replacing the former one.
Ground: Solder a wire to the back of the master volume pot with all the other grounds.
B+: Solder the + red wire from the battery.
That’s all there is to it. You are ready to rock.
Be cautious that this thing delivers lots of output. Take care of your ears and work on your settings. Your guitar rig is on vitamins with that thing.
Recommended shop to get the Artec BCU
Right now, the Artec BCU is only available at eBay. I’ll update the links if I ever found another place to get it. This is where I bought it myself
Please do not hesitate to give your two cents or ask anything you might want to be clarified. Use the form bellow and I’ll do my best to answer you.
I am Hervé Senni, a pro musician and performer for quite some time.
My main musical instrument is unquestionably the electric guitar. Nevertheless, I also perform bass guitar, mandolin, Ukulele, and invented string instruments. I am also a composer as well as an arranger. Over the years, repairing and trying to further improve electric guitars that a majority of times did not have to be upgraded converted me right into a self-taught luthier.