Ron Wickersham and Rick Turner designed low-impedance pickups and electronics with greater bandwidth than the high-impedance pickups typical in electric guitars and basses of the time. To boost the low output of these pickups, Wickersham designed an active onboard preamp. In 1969, the first active electronics designed by Alembic were installed in instruments owned by Phil Lesh, Jack Casady, Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia. These were the first true active electronics to be installed in musical instruments. (UK manufacturer Burns introduced active tone controls on its TR2 bass in the '60s, although without the low impedance pickups essential to modern active electronics.)
Alembic became quite busy installing these new active electronics in players' guitars and basses. Instruments modified with these electronics were also often retrofitted with new necks and hardware. This work led the company to begin producing its own line of instruments, incorporating the improvements the company developed during this period. The first Alembic instrument, serial number 72-01, was a bass made for Jack Casady, then a member of Jefferson Airplane. This bass incorporated a massive electronics suite, with super-filtering capability, and had pickups mounted on brass tubing so that their position could be adjusted.
The first production Alembic instruments were less ornate, and incorporated the PF-5 electronics circuit, later replaced by the PF-6. The pickups were single-coil, with an active hum-cancelling coil mounted between the pickups. This configuration gave the player the fidelity of single-coil pickups without their inherent noise, and is used to this day. The basses and guitars built using this configuration would later become known as the Series I and II, and were available in a variety of scale lengths and body shapes.
Series I 6-String
Series I 12-String