Premier Guitar’s Dan Formosa got an early glimpse at Fishman’s new Fluence Electric Guitar pickups. In the new February issue, he tells the story of Fluence pickups and how the it “marks a radical departure from traditional pickup technology.”
In an article entitled "Unwound: Fishman Rethinks the Electric Guitar Pickup," Dan Formosa opens by stating, “We’re accustomed to hearing about 'the next new thing' in pickups every time NAMM season comes around. What the Fishman team has concocted is not a new sound. Quite the opposite: It’s a way to consistently and accurately recreate the sounds of the world’s best pickups.”
“Pickup winding can be something of a black art,” he goes on to state. “No matter the manufacturer or the person doing the winding, one pickup can sound different from the next. Even with consistent production methods, there are such wild card factors as inconsistency in the raw materials used by the manufacturer.”
“The sound coming from a vintage ’54 Stratocaster pickup or a ’57 PAF humbucker can be magical. But according to Larry Fishman, that ‘magic’ is precisely why his company sidestepped electric guitar pickups for its first 34 years: 'Too much voodoo,' he says. Fishman felt he could match the performance of existing electric guitar pickups, but not bring anything new to the party—until now.”
The writer goes on to explain the mission that Fishman undertook over 18 months of R&D. “Understanding what’s unique about Fluence requires an understanding of how traditional pickups work—and don’t work. Like beloved family members, pickups have their faults. But as anyone associated with Fluence will tell you, this is not a story focused on bashing traditional pickups. Rather, it’s a love story about preserving the best qualities of great pickups without their associated problems, and at a reasonable cost.”
“Fluence, however, is based on the notion that coils can be applied rather than wound. Like traces on a circuit board, concentric spirals of 'coil' can be printed. Picture, for example, a racetrack shaped printed circuit board the size of a Stratocaster pickup, with an opening in its center reserved for magnets. One board can hold one spiral, and because it’s printed, each copy is perfectly consistent. The next step involves stacking multiple layers of printed coils and interconnecting them until 'pickup' ability is reached.”
The writer carefully summarizes the benefits of Fluence pickup technology:
“Perfectly consistent and reproducible 'printed' coils. A way to replicate the pull of the magnets based on ideal pickups. Accurate and consistent ways to control frequency response. The ability to choose between multiple pickup profiles.”
“Hum has been eliminated, even from single-coil pickups. The usual method of creating hum-free single-coil pickups—'stacking' two coils—inevitably causes high-end loss. But Fluence can eliminate hum while retaining the original single-coil sound, thanks to filtering and boosting within the preamp.”
But what about the problem with cable capacitance?
Formosa explains, “The instrument cable carries a capacitance—the longer the cable, the higher the capacitance and the greater the high-end loss. That’s not a problem with Fluence, because the pickup connects to a preamp, which acts as a buffer. Tone-wise, what you hear with the volume set to 10 is the same as what you hear when it’s dialed down to 2, only louder. A 10-foot cable sounds identical to a 100-foot cable. Want to use a 100-foot cable with your guitar volume set at 2? No problem.”
The writer concludes, “All members of the Fishman team emphasize that they are not rethinking the way pickups should sound, though they are reimagining the way pickups are manufactured in pursuit of that sound.”
“Our goal,” says Larry Fishman, “is to drive all amplifiers to happiness.”
To read the full story in the February 2014 issue of Premier Guitar, click here.
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