Fishman Fluence: The guitar pickup reinvented?
By Paul Ridden
February 10, 2014
Fishman says that its new pickup range is the first truly new electric pickup system design for over 80 years. Its Fluence technology is claimed to deliver the kind of pure, consistent tone and responsive playing dynamics that today's musicians demand, while also offering multiple voices. Additionally, since the single coil and humbucking units are of a similar shape and size to traditional wound pickups, you can leave the carpentry tools on the bench and just drop in the Fluence pickups in existing slots.
Passive pickup manufacture usually involves folks winding one long strip of copper wire thousands of times around a bobbin, and then placing a magnet or magnets in the middle. A vibrating string excites the pickup magnet, inducing a current through the coil and the signal is then routed to an amplifier. For tone junkies, though, the process is far from perfect.
Slight (or even huge) differences can creep in during manufacture, caused by anything from who is doing the winding (in hand-wired setups) to variations in material (on automated production lines). Hum to single coil pickups like those found on Fender Strats can cause players to jump over to the humbucking Les Paul camp at Gibson, but even humbuckers can bring some unwanted noise or flavor to the signal. Then there's the problem of top end output degradation due to capacitance issues associated with long cables.
The preamp, filtering and EQ of active pickups can solve some of these issues, but others spring up in their stead (such as having to make sure you have a spare good battery in the gig bag, together with the higher cost of purchase).
Fishman stresses that its Fluence pickups aren't about messing with the great tone of vintage favorites, but changing the way pickups are made. At the heart of the new pickups is the Fluence Core – two 48-layer boards, each interconnected layer packing printed mini coils and a spacer inbetween. True Multi-Voice electronics allows for the creation of the kind of classic colors and timbres you've come to expect from great guitar pickups, but without any of the annoying problems.
Each Fluence pickup can be wired up to toggle between different voices via a push/pull pot, or set to a favorite. Players can select a hum-free vintage 50 single coil tone, for example, and then switch to a fat, overwound Texas Strat sound, but without sacrificing any high end presence. The instrument's volume knob can be rolled back, and guitarists can still look forward to the same high end response and fidelity they'd get at full whack.
The Fluence pickups are initially being offered in three varieties, and in a choice of finishes. More variations will follow later in the year. There's a single width version suitable for Strat-like guitars, and sporting Alnico IV rod magnets. A classic humbucker model comes in neck and bridge configurations, both making use of an Alnico V bar magnet with poles. The former offers vintage PAF or the exclusive Fluence "clear, airy chime" tone, while the latter comes with a calibrated vintage PAF or Hotrod bridge voice.
Modern humbuckers come in Alnico or Ceramic flavors and can be mounted in either neck or bridge positions. One uses an Alnico V bar magnet with blades and offers active metal and crisp, clean voices. The other boasts a Ceramic VIII bar magnet circuit with blades and active metal and organic, high output passive attack voices.
The Fluence pickups are powered pickups, which can run on a standard 9 V battery like, say, your EMG active pickups. Or you can opt for the Fluence battery packs, which feature thin, flat Li-ion cells designed to replace the existing back covers of a guitar. They're claimed good for 200 hours or more of use between charges, and there's no need to access the belly of the beast to juice up the battery pack. A USB charging cable can be plugged into the port on the cover.
The company has not yet announced pricing, but we can reveal that the Strat-friendly single width pickup will be the first off the production line during Q2.
Larry Fishman outlines his company's new pickups in the video below.
Product page: Fishman Fluence