Fishman Fluence Keith Merrow Pickup Set

The Fishman Fluence Custom Series Keith Merrow Pickup Set kinda sorta comes with a certain level of expectation. For the sake of full disclosure, I’d not know a Keith Merrow tune if I heard one. But Keith is staple in the guitar pickup community, including advisory-level input with another pickup company. During that time, Keith had some input in the voicing of some pickups known more for a particular sub-culture of the metal genre.

If you’re expecting the Fluence Merrow set to sound like that, there might be some pleasant disappointment. But let’s get to that in a second.

Fishman Fluence Keith Merrow Open Core
Fishman Fluence Keith Merrow Open Core

Let’s start off with a couple of the tweaks in the Fluence design. First up is the Open Core appearance. That means this pickup looks like a passive humbucker. Merrow is reported to have put his foot down on this feature, and I think he deserves a lot of credit. The short version is that the Fluence humbuckers had become known for looking like the active products offered by other companies. That carries preconceived notions that can startle the easily-spooked guitar player community. Anyone willing to bet that more Fluence would be sold if the Open Core look were rolled out to the other models?

Secondly, there’s a new variation on the wiring harness. It’s called Voice 3, but it’s essential a Single Coil option. If you remember my articles on the Classic and the Modern sets, you have to run your own wire to a solder pad on the bottom of the PCB for a “Coil Tap” option. This newer arrangement really makes it all easier and allows for a cleaner install. It’s also something that’d be cool to roll out to the older model in future releases – I’m looking at you, Will Adler set! LOL!

Installation

For this install, I’m going with a very trusty 90s ESP M-II Deluxe. The M-II is a 2-hum alder body, maple neck, rosewood board, 24-frets, German Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system. Tuning is E standard with 09-42 strings. The harness is 99% Fishman, with the exception of the 3-way switch and a few wires. This is a 6-string guitar.

How do they sound?!?

The Merrow neck is the Fluence Classic neck humbucker. Voice 1 is like a vintage PAF neck tone. And Voice 2 is slightly more precise and defined. Then Voice 3 is that single coil tone. If you’ve been following the Fluence line at all, you’re familiar with the Classic neck and you don’t want me to waste your time. LOL!

What you’re here for is the Merrow bridge humbucker. Fishman markets the bridge Voice 1 as medium output and the Voice 2 and low output. The whitecoats in Fishman labs might have ways to measure those outputs. But I’m here to tell ya that you’re not going to have to worry about a weak or wimpy vibe. I’m totally getting the punch and crunch and power and sustain on my regular dirty channel, with no need to dial in the “Jose mod”. Not saying they are not medium and low output. Just saying it is a voice that hits your ears with more than that suggests.

Keith Merrow
Keith Merrow
Voicings

Voice 1 for the bridge is not really what you’d expect if you follow what Merrow was using previously. The dry, flat, congested, itchy tone is left behind. It’s superseded with a character that far more transient with responsiveness to spare. In Fluence fashion, you get lots of headroom that translates into the dynamics you want to accentuate the nuances in your playing style. There is precision and focus without being sterile and brittle. The mids have a bit of a snarl going on. Highs are snappy.

Voice 2 is like there’s a bit of sag dialed in to pump in a little more presence across the bandwidth. This tone might fall under what some might think of as vintage-hot. Some of the marketing suggests you can get a little ‘brown’ with the Merrow bridge Voice 2. The deal is that ‘brown’ has come to cover so many different things over the past 40 years. I’ve laid hands on the majority of the ‘brown’ pickups out there. And there is just no way to win with the aficionados of that tonal goal.

So… check out a clip from Keith’s Instagram of Voice 2 to let your ears do the talking:

 

A post shared by Keith Merrow (@keithmerrow) on

Both Voice 1 and Voice 2 work out really well on a clean amp tone. Slightly full, but not so pushy that it invites nasty break up. Voice 3 on the Merrow bridge is clean and glassy and sparkly. All in the way that you expect a single coil to be.

Demo
Fishman Keith Merrow Custom Series Pickups

Here is Keith talking a little more about the Fluence set:

Fishman Keith Merrow Custom Series Pickup Interview
Specs

The Fluence tech is not measurable by DC resistance, as in the same way as traditions pickups. So here are the specs that Fishman does provide for this set:

Keith Merrow Bridge
Peak Freq – V1: 2.6 kHz, V2: 4.5 kHz, V3: 5 kHz
Magnet Material – Alnico 5
Magnetic Circuit – Bar magnets w/ blades
Output Impedance – 2 k
Current Draw – 2.1 mA
Battery – 9V or option rechargeable battery pack

Keith Merrow Neck
Peak Freq – V1: 2.25 kHz, V2: 1.6 kHz, V3: 4.5 kHz
Magnet Material – Alnico 5
Magnetic Circuit – Bar magnets w/ blades
Output Impedance – 2 k
Current Draw – 2.7 mA
Battery – 9V or option rechargeable battery pack

The Keith Merrow Fluence humbuckers are going to be good for hard rock, shred, prog and tech metal, thrash, punk, hardcore, djent, nu-metal, garage, punk, grunce, heavy rock, and extreme metal styles.

In Conclusion

Coming around to what people think of the Fluence line, I can say that I’m enjoying the tone I’m hearing from the Keith Merrow set. This set sits in the mix really well. It’s also super versatile, which is key. And thankfully, it’s not just a rehash of what is already going on elsewhere. I’ve checked out 5 sets of Fluence, with another set on the way. This Merrow set is in a tie with the Will Adler set for my favorites so far. I can say that I’d like to see the 7-string Merrow set available in the “Vai green” that would match up in my Ibby Universe!

For reference, this Fishman Fluence Single Width for Strat set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller.  Real cabs in use are Marshall 1960BMojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.

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