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This article was originally published in issue #45
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Fishman's Fluence pickups have been a revelation to many since their launch. Now Fishman has joined forces with one of today's most interesting players, Devin Townsend, to produce a signature set. Is this even more reason to get excited about Fluence? Sam Bell checks them out.
Devin Townsend is perhaps one of modern Metal's most important artists, spanning many sub-genera’s such as Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock, Electronic and Ambient. He is a very respected composer and producer who uses huge guitar layers in his production to create truly epic soundscapes in his music. Whilst he is a multi-instrumentalist, the guitar is his tool of choice for writing and performing. Naturally Devin utilises lots of cutting edge technology in his studio and live work so who better than Fishman to support his creative visions with a set of signature pickups that really do it all plus more!
First, in case you're wondering about the guitar in our video, it's a Fret-King Corona, a very fine guitar in its own right and a fitting test bed for the Fishman Fluence pickups that were fitted to it for our review. It shouldn't be too hard to work out which other guitars you can extrapolate my findings too – and there are quite a few.
So, on to the pickups. The Fishman Fluence pickup series represents a new step forward in guitar pickup technology, each pickup in the series is capable of two separate voices (or sounds if you will). This is down to their unique Fluence technology - ‘The Fluence Core’. As we have reviewed Fishman Fluence pickups before (Tom Quayle reviewed them in GI 31) and they have been widely written and talked about since the launch, I won't go into the theory behind them too deeply, other than to say they do represent a genuinely new way of designing and making pickups. Really what they are is a very clever adaptation of printed circuit technology, which has allowed Fishman to almost print coils onto a circuit board with a great deal of accuracy. Among other things, this means that all Fluence pickups have a great deal of consistency.
These two ceramic humbucking pickups are powered so they are active, however they do not sound like the active pickups we've come to know from other manufacturers, these still maintain dynamic and versatile response for all kinds of playing situations, a quality which some players say they find normal active pickups lack – though it is, let it be said, a very subjective area. In terms of powering them, Fishman has made it possible to either go old school with the use of a 9 volt battery, or alternatively to charge them via USB. Our test Fret-King had a really cool back plate/recharge pack which featured an integrated battery life light to let me know when the volts were running low, plus a mobile phone style input for a USB charger. The charger pack can last up to 110 hours which is a lot of plugged in playing time and it's super handy not to have to buy batteries!
With all of this said, what makes Devin’s signature pickups unique? Well Mr Townsend uses lots of different sounds from crushing Metal distortion to super clean ambient sounds with modulation…the pickups he uses must be able to do all of these things at the flick of a switch and that is exactly what we can do with his signature set. He has set out to create a Fluence pickup set with two voices for each pickup (like the rest of the Fluence range) however with totally different personalities. The goal being to be able to blend two totally opposite sides of the sonic spectrum into one quality pickup set.
To get a real sense of how these work, be sure to check out the accompanying video to hear them in action! Voice 1 is full Metal humbucking mode, using the pole pieces for more dynamic range. This voice with a high gain sound makes low chugging riffs, pinch harmonics and legato techniques pop out the guitar with ease all whilst sounding monstrous! Voice 2 is more of a low gain, single coil vibe with full authenticity. He mentions that this voice is designed to hit the front end of an amp or a compressor just right so he can get a nice volume drop from the guitar for clean sounds.
I think it’s important to mention that if you buy the signature set you get all the same components that are needed to get exactly what Devin has in his guitars. There is a push-pull voice selector that can be installed in either the tone or volume pot position and even an option to choose single or double coil/humbucking modes.
So who are these pickups for? Well, of course, avid fans of Devin Townsend’s work will be very interested in trying these out. But beyond that I think he has really created something versatile and unique in giving access to such extreme sonic palettes in this particular pickup set. It will really appeal to modern progressive Metal musicians for sure, but I think they will have a winder appeal than that as they will also work well for artists who use a lot of processing on their sounds, who will enjoy the versatility of this particular Fluence set. If you are looking to get more tones and more extreme polar opposite sounds from your guitar, check these out If you can.