Fishman has been making products for stringed instruments for about 35 years – yep, even pianos… which also have strings, right?! You can find the different types of Fishman pickups in acoustics and electrics, being known in the industry as having the highest fidelity. Fishman unleashed the Fluence line of pickups not long ago, and the concept snapped back the ears of guitarists across music realm. First with the concept… and then with the approach of an active pickup.
Whoa! Hold up there, pilgrim. I can dig what people think of when they think of an active pickup. I’ve been there myself, and with good reason. But… this is Fishman – remember that part a second ago about “highest fidelity”?
The tech behind the concept is a new approach that can deliver a consistent voice from one pickup to the next. Think about that for a second. All the time hunting and picking through the old classic PAFs, trying to pare out the ones that have it from the ones that don’t. Or even with how some modern production pickups can be inconsistent throughout the run, due to running changes. That doesn’t apply to the Fluence. Let’s say you have two guitars, each with a set of Fluence pickups. That one set is the exact same as the other, down to a clinical level. You have the freedom to let the guitar speak for itself when swapping one for another during your gig.
“What about being active?”, you maintain. Like I said, I’m there with you. Some active pickups have really made it hard for a good active pickup to get a break. lol! I can say that the Fluence Classic set has a dimension that sounds like conventional pickups – so we can put that concern to bed. Additionally, the optional Fishman battery pack lasts about 200-250 hours. Even when a light comes on, you still have several hours left… plenty of time to finish a gig. To make it easy, the battery packs are integrated into covers for a LP-style control cavity or a traditional trem spring cavity (see photo below) Both can be charged in short order with a mini USB connection. Or you can always go with the 9V battery method if you prefer.
Of course, you’re wanting to know how they sound. That’s the whole point, right?! The Fluence Classic sound exactly as Fishman advertises… a Classic humbucker set. Dirty amp tones are well under control, with lows that track precisely and singing highs. The neck position even withstood my obstacle course for ferreting out mud and boom. Clean amp tones are under control, without pushing too hard toward breakup, which is a nice thing. And it sounds like a real living, breathing pickup.
Here’s the curve ball… that’s only one of the voicings. Yep. Each pickup has two voicings. You can wire up the included push/pull pot (or pots) or your own switch (or swithes) and effortlessly move between the voicings. The traditional classic bridge Voice 1 alternates to a archetypical hot rodded humbucker Voice 2 that bursts forth with presence and authority – this is my favorite voice of the Classic set for dirty amp tones. The neck position Voice 1 changes to a slightly more airy and chimey Voice 2, allowing for nicer clean options or a little more articulation within dirty tones.
To take it a step further, each humbucker can be wired for what Fishman calls “coil tapping”. In other words, essentially splitting the humbucker to one of the coils. A simple on-on switch can offer access to a single coil. Installing an on-off-on switch allows going from one coil to another within the same pickup. Think about this… that also applies to each of the two voicings per pickup. That’s Voice 1 and Voice 2 (per pickup) and then “tapping” each of those voices.
And that’s how I wired my test guitar: each pickup can go between it’s own voice and be allowed to “tap”, all independent of the other pickup… or I can use the main 3-way toggle to mix any of those different options together. Imagine a session player with that many tones from a single guitar! When it comes to the “coil tap”, I find that while all the options were very workable, the different “tapped” neck tones on a clean amp setting are outstanding for those chimey ringing acoustic-like 80s power ballad vibes.
“What’s up with all that wiring?” you might be asking. Rest easy, gentle readers. If you can swap a pickup, you’ll be golden with installing these. I’ve had my share of wiring… er, um…”hiccups”. haha! Yet I stand here today to confirm that with all the switches and pots and options that I chose to take all the possibilities to the wall, the installation schematics are so well lined-out that even I had this set up and running properly on the first try. lol! So I think most anyone would be just fine. Of course, always take your wiring projects to a local shop if you are not sure.
This is generally where you see specifications about resistance and so on. I’m not so certain any of that would translate in comparison to traditionally engineered pickups. What I can say is that you can see I’m more of a modern hard-rocking sort of player… and I found the Fluence Classic set to hold pace very well. Like I already said, I didn’t hear anything to make me think I was playing an “active” pickup – the dynamics and nuances are all there. I’m looking forward to being able to check out the Fluence Modern Humbucker set!
Check out this video from Fishman of the Classic Humbucker set in a Slash model Les Paul going through multiple styles:
Darth Phineas is a long time music industry insider who provides his readers with unbiased reviews on musical instrument and guitar gear. You can read more of his reviews and check out industry news on his Facebook community Darth Phineas, Twitter or his website is darthphineas.com