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May 2014
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Fishman Loudbox Artist Acoustic Amp Review

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Fishman Loudbox Artist Acoustic Amp Review

Fishman has a way putting out handy and cool acoustic amps like clockwork. The Loudbox amps are among the handiest of the whole Fishman family—small, light, easy to use, great sounding, and yes, sometimes pretty loud.

The Artist is the newest incarnation of the Loudbox. At 25.5 pounds, 13.5" inches high, 15.5" wide, and 11.5 " deep, it’s compact and easy on the back like the rest of the Loudbox family, but with more power and a few extra features that make it remarkably versatile–but, it still made me giggle when I loaded it in the trunk.

Feature Packed Goodness
At 120 bi-amped watts, the Loudbox Artist has oomph enough for a coffeehouse or a small-to-medium sized room. There are two identical channels, each with a 10dB pad and clip indicator, which is useful if your high-output pickup is hitting the amp too hard. The clip light is actually in the center of the pad button, so it’s easy to find no matter what the lighting situation. In addition to gain, anti-feedback tools, and a 3-band EQ, there is an effect section that includes two reverbs, delay, echo, two choruses, flanger, and slap echo. Immediately to the right of the effect selection knobs are controls for Time and Depth. The effect level controls are immediately to the left of the selectors.

At the right of the front panel, there’s an Auxiliary level, a Master volume control, and a headphone jack. At the bottom right are three small controls that pack a big punch: Channel Mute, Tweeter level, and 24V Phantom power switch.

The back panel has the On/Off switch and power cord input, a foot pedal input, both 1/4" and 1/8" Aux ins (handy), a post-EQ Mix DI out, and each channel has independent effects send/returns and pre-EQ DI outs.

The driver section is a single 8" paper cone acoustic suspension woofer, and a 1" cloth dome tweeter with a neodymium magnet. And the Tweeter Level control provides up to a 6dB cut to the tweeter volume that gives you more power to fine-tune and mix high-end tones into the overall tone of the amp.

The feedback controls are simple and effective. There’s a low-frequency feedback knob that you can sweep until feedback is eliminated, and a Phase switch that can also be engaged. Although the manual doesn’t specifically suggest it, I found that cutting the tweeter level back by about 2dB really helped bust high ringing feedback.

Verb, Slap, and Flange Me
The Loudbox Artist’s effects are digital, and sound quite similar to Fishman’s acoustic effects pedals, which are exceptionally clean and more or less free of coloration. There are two banks of effects. Effect Bank A contains two reverbs, a delay, and an echo, and immediately to the right is a Time control which can be used to lengthen or shorten the decay. Effect bank B has two choruses, a flanger and a slap echo, and immediately to the right is a Depth control, which can summon everything from a tempered swell or pure undersea warble, depending on what you’re looking for.

The reverbs are clean and useful. Reverb 1 seems a little warmer, while Reverb 2 seems brighter, without being brittle. They’re both very natural and can be truly lovely. The delay is very effective at low levels for sweetening up the tone, or you can go totally nuts and use the footswitch to introduce the effect in dramatic passages. Effect bank B is home to Chorus 1, which like the Reverb is warmer, while its Chorus 2 counterpart is brighter. I really like the Flanger, too–it adds a lot of dimension to the sound.

I barely had to tweak the tone controls to get a gorgeous natural sound and added a little of Reverb 1 for some extra dimension.

Perhaps the only complaint I have about the effects is that there is no way to independently control the banks when they’re both engaged. The Effect Level control is only for Effect A. The Depth control can be used to reduce the intensity of Effect B, but the ability to more actively mix the effects would be great.

Loudbox Alive!
I took this to a gig where I performed both solo and as part of a duo. In the solo context I barely had to tweak the tone controls to get a gorgeous natural sound and added a little of Reverb 1 for some extra dimension. The clarity of the amp is exceptional, even when I used the effects more aggressively.

It also proved super versatile. And during the duo performance, we ran two vocal mics into the front, and used the Auxiliary input for my guitar pickup, with a Baggs ParAcoustic DI as a pre-amp. It worked phenomenally well. Presto change-o—a two-channel amp becomes a three-channel amp.

The Verdict
For a small-to-medium room where people shut up and listen, the Loudbox Artist is fantastic amp. As a DI out to a house sound system it works spectacularly as well, because it’s a great stage monitor. If you love portability, can use a little extra power and useful built-in effects, and like the versatility the Loudbox Artist is a great place to start your amp search—it’s good enough that it might just end there too.

Watch our video review:

Buy if...
you need a small, powerful, versatile amp for a passel of small-to-medium size gigs.

Skip if...
you have no need for, or are not comfortable using, digital effects.

Rating...

Street $500 - Fishman Transducers, Inc. - fishman.com

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