Guitar Gear Review: Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Set

You guys (hopefully) remember my review of the Fishman Fluence Classic Humbucker Set from a while back.  As a quick reminder, one of the more versatile benefits of the Fishman Fluence pickups is that each pickup has more than one voice.  Using the included push/pull pots or your own toggle switches, you can quickly alternate between Voice 1 and Voice 2 of a pickup.

For this, I tested in the same guitar used for the Fluence Classic set.  The configuration allows for most any possible switching option available from the Fluence humbucker sets.  And just for grins… for you, my loyal readers… I even timed how long it took to swap out a full set.  With the guitar unstrung, with the Fluence Classic set still in the pickup rings and in the guitar… it took just under 13 minutes to install the Fluence Modern set in the rings and back in the guitar.  Factor in how it is necessary to break out the soldering iron if you want the “coil tapping” options.  And I did have to take a second to refer to the Install Guide to see what the extra pair of pins are for.  Check it out, you can bridge those pins for a 6dB lower gain setting.  You know you’re in for a ride when you have that option right up front!  But come on… less than 13 minutes ain’t nothing to sneeze at.  I’m checking out the 6-string version, although you can get them for 7 and 8-string guitars.  If they’d only make them in Steve Vai green for my Ibby Universe… lol!

Alrighty then, on to the really fun stuff.

The Fluence Modern set already is a super versatile pair of humbuckers before even getting into the plethora of switching options.  As packaged, the garden variety Fluence Modern set has a Modern Alnico and a Modern Ceramic.  You can get them individually as well, for those that have single hum or triple hum or so on.  I went with the very cool looking Brushed Stainless finish – they also come in black, nickel, and gold.  It’s generally suggested that the ceramic lands in the bridge and the alnico gets planted in the neck.  But we’re guitar players, aren’t we?  We are designed to buck convention, and you can bet your bottom dollar that’s what I did.  Not only did I swap them, I ordered a second set so that I could also go full ceramic and full alnico (I think there’s a Tropic Thunder joke waiting to be had).  But first, how does each one sound…

Fluence Modern Humbucker 8-string Black
Fluence Modern Humbucker 8-string Black

The Fluence Modern Ceramic is entirely capable of delivering your hard rock, metal, progressive rock/metal needs… as well as bringing the brutalz.  Very focused lows, a snarling attitude in the mids, and precise highs that deliver presence without the icepick.  That’s Voice 1.  In Voice 2, you get a very groovy distortion-class tone that is a little beefier and ready to put the beatdown on your pappy’s old school distortion-class pickup.  The most noticeable difference to me comes with the riffing.  Voice 1 is going to be ideal for players with a need for supertight focused, precise rhythm style.  Voice 2 has a bit of the thunderous punch that is perfect for the 80s style chugging root note riffmeisters.

Remember in the Fluence Classic Set how we covered the coil-splitting option that Fishman calls “coil tapping”?  Yep, same feature here.  When split, the Fluence Modern Ceramic has a fun dichotomy of being a bit like what you’d expect and a little bit not like what you’d expect.  Both in helpful ways.  It still has that ceramic vibe, but it’s not as tinny and shrill as a lot of high powered ceramic split humbuckers.

The Fluence Modern Alnico is great for all the same musical styles, but the slightly more organic nature of the alnico opens it up for great usage in blues rock, old school metal, and dare I even suggest punk rock.  Plenty of character and attitude.  Voice 1 has a rich, full, dynamic character.  Voice 2 is a little more focused and a little smidge of clean to ensure you’d better be playing at your best.  When “coil tapping” on a clean amp setting, the Modern Alnico pickup delivers bliss within both Voices.  Not kidding.  Very nice.  But you are splitting a humbucker, so you super high-gain monsters might could run the risk of a bit of traditional split-hum noise… which I consider a neat trait for an active pickup to display passive characteristics down to the smallest details.  I’ve asked about possible parallel wiring options, as I think that’d also be awesome.

You’ve been wondering about mixing them up for all ceramic or all alnico?  Let’s rock on down that road.

An all ceramic rig is not for players with heart conditions or otherwise under the care of a physician.  I may have to repaint the walls in the practice room.  Don’t ask.  A full set of Fluence Modern Ceramic humbuckers in your guitar will hit your amp like it called them fat in high school before driving off in a Ferrari with the amp’s girl.  And her twin sister.

Universal Rechargeable Battery Pack
Universal Rechargeable Battery Pack

Looking to all alnico set up… I think it’s my personal favorite configuration of the Fluence Modern options.  In straight out Voice 1, it’s all there in both positions for all your needs from a dirty amp setting.  You know, it’s one thing to get a tight and clearly focused neck tone with a ceramic.  Doing so with an alnico is a unique feat.  Regular readers know I’m a stickler for a neck position option that keeps the lows together.  And where many alnico-based pickups in the neck can get boomy or muddy or flabby, the Fluence Modern Alnico humbucker tested very well.  Mixing the different “coil tapped” options between the various positions and different voicings and any clean-sounding amp need was exceeded.  From lush and full to crystalline clear and chimey sparkle.

I still think it’s cool that even though there are so many options, you can also find what works for you and wire it up to be your 1-stop option via the simplest control setups you might want.  And it’s probably a good thing that a battery lasts so long, as I keep forgetting that I’m dealing with active pickups.  Speaking of that, what if you don’t use a trem spring cover (like me!) or don’t have a LP cavity cover on your weapon of choice?  They have a cool Universal Rechargeable Battery Pack that also has the LED indicator and recharges with a mini-USB.  I use the expensive commercial grade 9v batteries, so any rechargeable battery pack would pay for itself pretty quick.

Have a bit of fun while you check out Ken Sui and Buz McGrath show you what the 7-string Fluence Modern Humbucker can do:

The Fluence line has been very cool to check out.  I’m looking forward to the Signature Series Devin Townsend Set!

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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