A dual-source setup is extra terrific on one of Fishman’s finest amplification pickup/preamp systems yet.
A terrific-sounding amplification system that is unobtrusive, flexible, and easy to use.
Microphone adjustments can be noisy.
Fishman Matrix Infinity Mic Blend
Ease of Use:
If you’ve played a higher-quality acoustic guitar with a factory-installed pickup recently, there’s a pretty good chance that the transducer was a Fishman Acoustic Matrix. For the past two decades, this undersaddle device has been the most popular acoustic guitar pickup on the market. Guild, Martin, and other makers have relied on its revolutionary design—a single piezo strip, rather than individual crystals for each string—to deliver clarity and a more natural response in their instruments.
This year saw an evolution of the Matrix system and the introduction of the Matrix Infinity VT (undersaddle pickup only) and the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend. In both cases the preamps have been designed and some extent re-voiced with full-frequency modern acoustic amps in mind.
For many players though, the Mic Blend system is the big news. As the name suggests, it combines a mini soundhole microphone and an undersaddle pickup—and I can say without reservation that it’s the best-sounding Fishman package I’ve tried to date.
True to Dread
For testing, Fishman sent the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend installed on a very nice instrument—a recent Martin D-18 that has a commanding personality when played unplugged. (The undersaddle pickup, by the way, is available in wide, narrow, or split saddle configurations to accommodate various saddle sizes on different guitars.)
The D-18 certainly felt heavier than average for having the Fishman electronics onboard. But I really appreciated that the system requires no unsightly modifications to the guitar. The preamp’s 9V battery pack is attached discretely inside the guitar via a Velcro patch, and the tone/volume knobs and blend control sit under the top on opposite sides of the soundhole. The rotating microphone is also installed under the top close to the soundhole where its position can be easily readjusted.
After getting to know the Martin unamplified, I plugged into a Genzler Acoustic Array using the Fishman’s 1/4” endpin jack. I set the tone controls flat on both the amp and the guitar, and the instrument’s blend control to the undersaddle pickup only. Straight away I was impressed by how well the Fishman electronics captured the hearty sound of the D-18. The string-to-string balance was excellent, and there was abundant warmth and detail.
Elasticity in Nature
Between the blend control, the tone knob, and a voicing switch—not to mention the position-adjustable microphone, the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend is impressively flexible in terms of sound shaping. And by adding signal from the microphone, which is a cardioid condenser unit, I lost none of the pickup’s thump and definition but gained a distinct natural ambience.
Microphone orientation alone influenced the tone in interesting ways. It added a rich roundness when pointed toward the guitar’s upper treble bout and a more cutting edge when rotated in the direction of the lower bass bout. It can be a little tricky to change the position of the microphone on the sly though—if I brushed my thumb against it the mic produced a loud “thump” through the amp. Sure you could mute your signal, but then you wouldn’t be able to hear comparative shifts of mic position in real time.
The tone knob enables a very functional midrange scoop, and the voicing switch activates a hint of bass boost. The D-18’s bass was satisfying enough without engaging this control, but it was easy to see how it would be a real asset for a smaller-bodied guitar, like a parlor or even an OM, that could use a little help in the low end.
Though all these sonic options were great, I typically found myself adjusting the system’s blend control for equal parts undersaddle and mic. In the process, I often forgot I was even using amplification. The presentation of the D-18’s natural sound was that vivid. Whether the guitar was strummed or fingerpicked, in standard or open tuning, it sounded and felt remarkably realistic. Not surprisingly, the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend paired well with the amp’s onboard reverb and chorus effects. The system is also all but noiseless and relatively immune to feedback.
At $299 (plus installation if you don’t perform it yourself) Fishman’s Matrix Infinity Mic Blend isn’t the cheapest acoustic amplification solution. But for any player seeking truly natural sound from a steel-string, the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend’s organic and flexible tones—and tone-shaping power—warrants serious consideration.
Watch the Review Demo: