Guitar Pickup Review

Fishman Fluence Classic Humbucker Set

Fishman has been making products for stringed instruments for about 35 years – yep, even pianos… which also have strings, right?!  You can find the different types of Fishman pickups in acoustics and electrics, being known in the industry as having the highest fidelity.  Fishman unleashed the Fluence line of pickups not long ago, and the concept snapped back the ears of guitarists across music realm.  First with the concept… and then with the approach of an active pickup.

Whoa!  Hold up there, pilgrim.  I can dig what people think of when they think of an active pickup.  I’ve been there myself, and with good reason.  But… this is Fishman – remember that part a second ago about “highest fidelity”?

Fluence Classic Humbucker Neck
Fluence Classic Humbucker Neck

The tech behind the concept is a new approach that can deliver a consistent voice from one pickup to the next.  Think about that for a second.  All the time hunting and picking through the old classic PAFs, trying to pare out the ones that have it from the ones that don’t.  Or even with how some modern production pickups can be inconsistent throughout the run, due to running changes.  That doesn’t apply to the Fluence.  Let’s say you have two guitars, each with a set of Fluence pickups.  That one set is the exact same as the other, down to a clinical level.  You have the freedom to let the guitar speak for itself when swapping one for another during your gig.

“What about being active?”

Like I said, I’m there with you.  Some active pickups have really made it hard for a good active pickup to get a break.  lol!  I can say that the Fluence Classic set has a dimension that sounds like conventional pickups – so we can put that concern to bed.  Additionally, the optional Fishman battery pack lasts about 200-250 hours.  Even when a light comes on, you still have several hours left… plenty of time to finish a gig.  To make it easy, the battery packs are integrated into covers for a LP-style control cavity or a traditional trem spring cavity (see photo below)  Both can be charged in short order with a mini USB connection.  Or you can always go with the 9V battery method if you prefer.

Fluence Classic Humbucker Bridge
Fluence Classic Humbucker Bridge

Of course, you’re wanting to know how they sound.  That’s the whole point, right?!  The Fluence Classic sound exactly as Fishman advertises… a Classic humbucker set.  Dirty amp tones are well under control, with lows that track precisely and singing highs.  The neck position even withstood my obstacle course for ferreting out mud and boom.  Clean amp tones are under control, without pushing too hard toward breakup, which is a nice thing.  And it sounds like a real living, breathing pickup.

Rechargeable Battery Pack for Strat
Rechargeable Battery Pack for Strat
Here’s the curve ball…

That’s only one of the voicings.  Yep.  Each pickup has two voicings.  You can wire up the included push/pull pot (or pots) or your own switch (or switches) and effortlessly move between the voicings.  The traditional classic bridge Voice 1 alternates to a archetypical hot rod humbucker Voice 2 that bursts forth with presence and authority – this is my favorite voice of the Fluence Classic set for dirty amp tones.  The neck position Voice 1 changes to a slightly more airy and chimey Voice 2, allowing for nicer clean options or a little more articulation within dirty tones.

To take it a step further, each humbucker can be wired for what Fishman calls “coil tapping”.  In other words, essentially splitting the humbucker to one of the coils.  A simple on-on switch can offer access to a single coil.  Installing an on-off-on switch allows going from one coil to another within the same pickup.  Think about this… that also applies to each of the two voicings per pickup.  That’s Voice 1 and Voice 2 (per pickup) and then “tapping” each of those voices.

And that’s how I wired my test guitar: each pickup can go between it’s own voice and be allowed to “tap”, all independent of the other pickup… or I can use the main 3-way toggle to mix any of those different options together.  Imagine a session player with that many tones from a single guitar!  When it comes to the “coil tap”, I find that while all the options were very workable, the different “tapped” neck tones on a clean amp setting are outstanding for those chimey ringing acoustic-like 80s power ballad vibes.

“What’s up with all that wiring?”

Rest easy, gentle readers.  If you can swap a pickup, you’ll be golden with installing these.  I’ve had my share of wiring… er, um…”hiccups”.  haha!  Yet I stand here today to confirm that with all the switches and pots and options that I chose to take all the possibilities to the wall, the installation schematics are so well lined-out that even I had this set up and running properly on the first try.  lol!  So I think most anyone would be just fine.  Of course, always take your wiring projects to a local shop if you are not sure.

This is generally where you see specifications about resistance and so on.  I’m not so certain any of that would translate in comparison to traditionally engineered pickups.  What I can say is that you can see I’m more of a modern hard-rocking sort of player… and I found the Fluence Classic set to hold pace very well.  Like I already said, I didn’t hear anything to make me think I was playing an “active” pickup – the dynamics and nuances are all there.  I’m looking forward to being able to check out the Fluence Modern Humbucker set!


Check out this official video the Fluence Classic Humbucker set in a Slash model Les Paul going through multiple styles:

Fishman Fluence Classic Humbucking Pickups w/ Ken Susi

Here is a NAMM Demo by Timo Somers of Delain, Vengeance, and Quest:

NAMM 2016 – Timo Somers – Fishman Fluence Classic Demo

Since my original coverage of this set, Fishman has added a Voice 3 Single Coil. You can read a little more about Voice 3 in my article on the Open Core Classic set. Here is an overview of all Voices:

Classic Humbucker Bridge Voicings
1 Vintage PAF: The ideal, calibrated vintage PAF bridge humbucker tone at the perfect output level.
2 Classic Hot Rod: The quintessential hot rodded bridge humbucker tone without all the baggage.
3 Slightly Overwound Single Coil: Muscular, beefy, “overwound” tone without losing the highs or the “strattiness” we all love.

Classic Humbucker Neck Voicings
1 Vintage PAF: The ideal, elusive vintage PAF neck humbucker tone with the dynamics and output level you want.
2 Clear, airy chime: A Fluence-exclusive neck tone, with unreal highs, vocal midrange, and tight lows.
3 Clear, Vintage Single Coil: Vintage tone, clear and present, seamlessly fused with a sweet warmth.


The Fluence Classic humbucker set is going to be good for blues, country, jazz, funk, classic rock, pop, heavy rock, garage, punk, alternative, and metal. Available finishes include Nickel, Black Nickel, Gold, and my personal favorite… Brushed Stainless.

For reference, this Fishman Fluence Classic humbucker 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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