Fishman updates a classic with this full-featured acoustic instrument preamp/DI.
by Teja Gerken
July 20, 2015
Fishman’s acoustic guitar pickups and onboard electronics are ubiquitous, both as factory-installed equipment on new guitars and as a popular aftermarket choice. But the Massachusetts-based company also offers a wide range of other amplification gear, including several stand-alone preamps.
Introduced more than 20 years ago, Fishman’s first preamps were simple metal boxes with a couple of knobs and jacks, designed to improve the performance of the first generation of passive undersaddle pickups. Later, the company came out with its revolutionary line of Blender preamps, which made it easier for musicians to mix two sound sources inside the guitar (usually a pickup and an internal microphone). When Fishman introduced the Pro EQ Platinum in the late ’90s, it created a classic piece of gear that would find its way into the stage setups of countless guitarists looking for a convenient way to combine a preamp, powerful EQ, and DI in one compact, rugged floor unit. Earlier this year, the company announced a successor to the Pro EQ Platinum with a new design and several additional features: the Platinum Pro EQ.
The new Platinum Pro EQ is housed in a silver enclosure similar to Fishman’s Aura pedals and it provides the same preamp/EQ/DI functions as its predecessor, but it received more than a simple cosmetic makeover. The fact that the EQ is now controlled by knobs instead of sliders is one obvious difference, but the unit also includes such new features as a built-in tuner and a footswitchable boost function.
The Platinum Pro EQ is an all-analog, single-channel preamp. Input is via a standard ¼-inch mono jack on the right side of the unit, and it has both ¼-inch and XLR outputs. An input trim control allows matching the unit with an instrument’s output level, and a volume control on the face of the unit is used to select the amount of signal that is sent via the ¼-inch output (the XLR output is unaffected by the volume control). The unit has a five-band EQ section with Low Cut, Bass, Middle, Treble, and Brilliance controls. One of the Platinum Pro EQ’s most powerful features is its Middle control, which uses a tunable design featuring a dedicated Frequency knob that works in tandem with the main Middle dial and allows specific frequencies to be cut or boosted. There’s also a notch filter, a phase control, and a switch for selecting Guitar or Bass mode, a function that changes the actual frequencies controlled by the EQ to optimize them for each instrument. A Compressor control activates a simple auto-leveling circuit.
The new Platinum Pro EQ’s built-in chromatic tuner display simulates an analog needle, and activating its footswitch also mutes the output signal. The boost function can be preset between three and 12 dB and provides an instant gain boost for playing solos, louder passages of a song, etc. Finally, the Platinum Pro EQ features an effect loop accessed via two standard ¼-inch send and returns. The unit can be powered with a nine-volt battery or an optional power adapter.
I tried out the Platinum Pro EQ using a Taylor 310ce guitar with built-in Fishman Prefix electronics (including a Matrix undersaddle pickup), run through a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp. Having frequently used the original Pro EQ Platinum, I found the new unit to be a worthy successor. The EQ section’s new layout made it easier to use, and it sounded very musical; clearly Fishman knows what frequencies are likely to need tweaking with acoustic instruments. The unit’s tuner worked like a charm: it was sensitive enough to respond to soft picking and had no trouble responding to low notes, even when when I tuned my guitar to a low C. I don’t usually use compression, but I was impressed with how well it worked on the Pro EQ Platinum, significantly smoothing out the tone when I was strumming choppy chords. I do wish that Fishman had included an option to make the volume control affect the XLR output, as I’ve been in situations where I’ve wanted to be able to boost or cut PA volume from the stage. But overall, the Platinum Pro EQ, with its small footprint and useful features, is a great addition to the field of multifunction preamp/DI boxes.
SPECS: Acoustic instrument preamp/EQ/DI box/tuner/signal processor. 17-volt, discrete class-A analog circuitry. Controls for input trim, volume, five-band EQ (with tunable mids), notch filter, and compressor. Switches for phase reversal, guitar/bass mode, tuner mode, tuner reference, ground lift, and pre/post XLR EQ. ¼-inch input. ¼-inch and XLR outputs. ¼-inch jacks for effect send and return. Footswitches for tuner and boost functions. Powered by a nine-volt battery or external power supply. Metal and plastic construction. Designed and engineered in the USA, assembled in China. $399 list/$249.95 street. fishman.com.
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