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Fishman Loudbox Mini Acoustic Amp Review

Fishman Loudbox Mini Acoustic Amp Review

The Loudbox Mini provides acoustic volume and tone with portability and low price

Download Example 1
Download Example 2
With Reverb and Chorus
Download Example 3
With Gain
Download Example 4
Drop D with Gain
All clips recorded with a Yamaha Dreadnaught with factory onboard preamp and undersaddle pickup.

When Larry Fishman started

selling acoustic pickups in the

early ’80s, he probably didn’t

imagine that the acoustic

amplification market would

become so big, varied, or

competitive. Yet as the market

has evolved, Fishman has consistently

remained among the

most trusted and successful

companies in the business by

making pickups, preamps, and

acoustic amplifiers that sound

great, are built to last, and fit

players’ needs.

The latest addition to the

company’s Loudbox amplifier

line (which debuted in 1993),

the Loudbox Mini carries on

Fishman traditions of quality,

sonic versatility, and practicality.

Offering 60 watts of power

in a small, super-light, and ultra-affordable

package, the combo

is a breeze to tote in one hand and

powerful enough to fill just about

any smaller gig space.

Rock Solid, Feather Light

Like most of the Fishman amps I’ve played,

the Mini feels stout and appears flawlessly

assembled. You get the feeling you can

throw it in the back seat, take it on the subway—

even strap it to your bike rack if you

needed to—without worrying a lick about

whether or not it will work when you get to

the gig.

The understated little Fishman is also

designed as elegantly as a mid-century hi-fi

system, and its subdued brown-and-tan

motif makes the controls easy to find, reach,

read, and adjust. Each channel has its own

simple control set. The far-left Instrument

channel has a Phase switch, plus Gain, Low,

Mid, High, Reverb, and Chorus knobs. A

simpler set of Gain, Low, High, and Reverb

knobs are on the Mic channel, and a Master

volume sets the amp’s overall level.

The back panel features a D.I. out to feed

the house system or a slave amp, 1/4" and

1/8" auxiliary inputs, and the power switch—all readily accessible without tilting the amp

(or crawling around on hands and knees with

a flashlight or lighter in the middle of a gig).

My only complaint about the design is that

you can’t angle the Mini back any further

(which might be nice for certain monitoring

situations) without placing a book or some

support under the front of the amp. The

speaker baffle has 10 degrees of built-in tilt,

which compensates to some extent. And

given the Mini’s light weight, it’s no problem

to elevate it with a light stool or milk crate.

All things considered, the amp’s portability

and small footprint are a fair trade for

reduced tilt-back capability.

Big Bass for a Little Box

To run the Loudbox Mini through its paces, I

used a Yamaha FG cutaway dreadnought with

a factory-installed undersaddle pickup and preamp,

a Taylor 312ce with a Taylor Expression

System, and a Taylor 712 with a Dean Markley

ProMag soundhole pickup. It was easy to get

a warm and natural sound out of the Mini

straight away with its tone controls set fl at, the

Gain and Master volume about a third of the

way up, and just a smidge of reverb.

The first real surprise came when I turned

up the bass EQ controls on the Taylor 312ce

and the Yamaha. With the low end kicked up

on the guitars, the Mini’s bass response and

character expanded drastically—becoming

rich, colorful, and heavy without dominating

the higher frequencies. Plugging in the Taylor/

ProMag combo and boosting the amp’s

bass control produced a similar, if slightly

woolier version of the same effect. But even

at this low volume, the amp sounded much

bigger and more powerful than its diminutive

dimensions suggest.

Higher volume didn’t diminish the color or

potency of the Mini’s bass sounds. With

the bass control dialed up to 75 percent

of maximum, fingerpicking and flatpicking

arpeggios in DADGAD and C–G–C–G–C–C

tuning coaxed low end that was detailed

and rich in overtones and sustain. Even with

a neighbor’s massive upright bass plugged

in, the Mini held up just fine, kicking out

colorful, well-defined low-end tones without

muddiness or a hint of breakup.

Though the Mini’s bass response was

regularly impressive, the treble response

didn’t always have quite as much bloom or

complexity as they might in a larger, more

powerful amp with increased headroom. Using

a flatpick with both the Yamaha and the

Taylor 312ce sometimes drove the amp toward

fairly compressed territory in the higher

frequencies. But it was easy to dial in a bit

more dimension and life for the trebles with

a touch of reverb. And a slight roll-off of the

bass always seemed to even the compression

effect across the EQ band.

Players given to strumming will find a lot to

like about the Mini. In fact, it often seemed

much more balanced in a strumming, high-volume

environment where the slightly compressed

highs made complex chords a little

airier and better defined. A percussive take

on the Who’s “Overture” from Tommy—which

combines fast, heavy strums, flatpicked runs,

and a delicate arpeggio section—revealed

not only the Mini’s punch and definition when

hit with a Townshendian flurry of strums, but

its dynamic range as well. And the amp went

from a relative roar to a hush without a significant loss of detail or tone.

To test the Mini’s full gigging potential, I

plugged a vocal mic into the Mic channel

and summoned a nicely balanced guitar

and vocal blend—complete with a dollop of

digital reverb for my voice—that would work

well for a small, not-too-loud café or house

concert. I even had some fun cranking the

reverb and chorus on the Instrument channel

and the reverb on the vocal mic to do a

little Neil-Young-via-The-Twilight-Zone set in

my living room. It’s probably not what Larry

Fishman had in mind for the Mini, but the

amp performed gloriously anyway—maintaining

harmonic balance, tonal integrity, and

that impressive bass bloom throughout my

experiments with its digital effects.

The Verdict

If you’re an acoustic player who rarely gigs

out of the comfy confines of a coffeehouse,

small restaurant, or bookstore, the Fishman

Loudbox Mini may be the only amp you

need. It’s surprisingly loud, projects well,

and responds to a dynamic touch at high

or low volume. The amp’s bass response is

exemplary. And though fingerpicking and

flatpicking styles that emphasize single notes

can highlight the amp’s tendency to compress

high frequencies, that same tendency

can work well for strumming and pounding

out complex chords. Whatever your musical

style, the Fishman Loudbox Mini is an exceptional

acoustic amp that sounds bigger,

richer, and more expensive than its size or

price would suggest.

Buy if...
you play small venues and need a high-quality, rich-sounding acoustic amp for a rock-bottom price.
Skip if...
you jam with a loud band or play larger venues where you can’t count on a PA.

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