A powerful personal PA with an expandable design.
by Teja Gerken
January 09, 2018
Fishman’s SA330x is the latest version of the acoustic amplification pioneer’s highly acclaimed personal PA system. Developed from the earlier SA220, the system now has more power, new features, and some modular additions, resulting in an expandable design that can be adapted to a variety of sound reinforcement needs. We had a chance to check out the full rig, which includes the SA330x Performance Audio System, SA Sub subwoofer, and SA Expand four-channel mixer. I used a Taylor 712c steel-string guitar with a Fishman Rare Earth Blend pickup (check out our separate demo of this pickup here) as well as a Kenny Hill classical guitar with a Fishman Matrix Infinity pickup.
Designed as a modified line-array speaker, the SA330x includes six 4-inch mid-woofers and one soft dome tweeter. It has 330 watts of bi-amped power, mounts on a standard speaker stand (included), and has a built-in two-channel mixer that allows for stand-alone operation. Each channel has a combined ¼-inch/XLR input; controls for gain, high, mid, and low EQ; a notch filter; and digital reverb. Buttons for pad, phase, low cut, and phantom power complete the channel design. A concise master section includes a master volume, mute button, and controls for an auxiliary input and monitor input (which allows multiple SA330x to be connected to each other). A pair of lights at the top of the control panel also allows for easy visibility in dark settings.
The SA330x is a very capable amplification choice on its own, but performers who need more channels or desire a bit more power and low-end reproduction (when amplifying bass, keyboards, or entire bands, for example) now have the option to expand the setup. Let’s start with the SA Expand mixer: with four channels, the compact unit has the same ¼-inch/XLR inputs and EQ and reverb controls as the SA330x, and adding it provides six channels all together. The SA Expand connects to the SA330x via a standard computer ethernet (Cat5) cable and comes with special clips so you can either mount it to the SA330x’s speaker stand or a mic stand.
The SA Sub is a stand-alone active subwoofer the size of a small combo amp. It connects to the SA330x with an XLR cable and can either be free-standing or serve as a base for the SA330x itself, in which case a special mounting pole replaces the standard speaker stand.
Used by itself, the SA330x is great amplification choice in situations that require more power and coverage than a standard amp can provide. The unit is incredibly fast to set up, and provides rich, full-range sound with an instrument pickup or microphone. I used it to amplify a guitar duet in a church hall with an audience of about 120 people, and the results were excellent, with plenty of headroom and a surprising amount of sound dispersion coming from a single speaker. The unit offers enough power and tonal clarity to amplify a band, and the SA Expand is great option when you need to amplify more than a couple of instruments or an instrument and vocal mic. The SA330x on its own doesn’t lack for bass response, but adding the SA Sub definitely broadened its frequency range. For certain vocals, bass, or playing recorded music through the system, the SA Sub would definitely be a great addition, especially in a large room or at high volumes.
Overall, the SA330x is a clever setup that can adapt to different performance settings, is easy to use, and provides great sound with a small footprint. An optional SA Deluxe Carry Bag can transport the entire system (without subwoofer). Whether you’re a solo performer or are looking to amplify a small acoustic band, this is a worthy system to check out. Fishman.com
SA330x: Personal PA system. 330 watts (bi-amped). Six 4-inch mid-woofer speakers with patented dual gap, high-excursion design and neodymium magnets. One 1-inch neodymium soft dome tweeter (with adjustable level). Two channels with combined ¼-inch/XLR inputs, low, mid, and high EQ. Anti-feedback notch filter. Digital reverb. Master volume. Switchable 48-volt phantom power. Three XLR DI outputs (each channel pre EQ and mix post EQ). ¼-inch and mini-jack aux inputs. Pad, phase, and low-cut buttons. Footswitch jack. XLR sub out. XLR monitor in and out. Ethernet-style (Cat5) accessory port. 19.8 pounds. 41.4 x 5.5 x 6.7 inches. Designed and engineered in the USA, assembled in China. $1,549.95 list/$999.95 street.
SA Sub: Active subwoofer speaker. 300 watts with servo control and dual action limiter. 8-inch high-excursion driver with FEA-optimized motor structure. Two combined ¼-inch/XLR inputs. Two XLR full-range pass-through outputs. Adjustable low-pass filter. Switchable low-frequency expansion. Phase-invert switch. Signal/limit LED. Output ground-lift switch. 27.3 pounds. 14.4 x 10.3 x 19.8 inches. Designed and engineered in the USA, assembled in China. $849.95 list/$549.95 street.
SA Expand: Four-channel mixing board. Four combined ¼-inch/XLR inputs. Switchable 48-volt phantom power. High, mid, and low EQ. 10 dB input pad. Effect send (uses reverb from the SA330x). Aux input. Ethernet-style Cat5 port. 1.05 pounds. 2.2 x 10.7 x 3.4 inches. Designed and engineered in the USA, assembled in China. $327.71 list/$169.95 street.
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