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Author Topic: Fishman SoloAmp micro-review  (Read 7805 times)
wilblee
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« on: April 28, 2009, 01:19:38 AM »

Got me a Fishman SoloAmp and thought I might share a few quick thoughts on this baby.

First off, let me say that I have owned and extensively used a Marshall AS100D, a Roland KC500 (a powerful and great-sounding keyboard amp that works great for AC/EL guitars as well) and a Bose PAS (with two subs). I have also played through the Roland AC-60 and the Fishman Loudbox 100 and Performer. I have also auditioned I-don't-know-how-many Fender, Crate, Ibanez, GB, Trace Elliot, etc. acoustic amps.

The Fishman SoloAmp is, in my humble yet accurate opinion, the finest amp on the planet for the solo artist - bar none. Don't get me wrong. I'm not selling my Bose. It is still the best sounding amp I own and, unlike the SoloAmp, it will effortlessly handle my electric rig and my keyboard rig. But for a guy doing a small to medium sized venue with a mic and a guitar, this thing can't be beat. It sounds spectacular, sets up in no time and can come in on the same trip as your guitar and gig bag. The Bose, in comparison, takes two trips by itself and takes 2 to 3 times as long to set up. As for controls, inputs, outputs, etc. I'll leave that to you to look up on the web. But, did I mention that this thing sounds spectacular? Crisp and clean, without being harsh or strident. While it has nothing like the low end of the Bose with it's two subs or the KC-500 with it's 15 in. driver, it has more than enough oomph to accurately present your guitar and your voice without sounding like anything has been left out. It really is fantastic.

To check out how the amp handles acoustic guitars, I hooked up my LV-09E directly to the 1/4" input on channel 1.  Man, that's a great combo.  I've been a big admirer of the Baggs iMix system ever since I got one and the Fishman SoloAmp, reproduces it beautifully.  In fact, it sounded so good that I forgot to check out other acoustics and just kept playing to keep listening to that gorgeous sound.  Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I pulled out the PV-09E, also with the iMix, my Ovations (equipped with the fantastic VIP and OP-Pro Studio preamps) and even hooked up my Martin CF-1 run through a Line 6 POD X3 Live.  Everything I hooked up to it sounded great.  They all sounded different, which is what you would hope for, as they are all different, but each guitar was presented as well as anything I've heard, and waaay better than most.  In fact, the only amps that I've heard that are as good as the SoloAmp, on acoustic guitar, are the Fishman Loudbox Performer (and Pro) and the fabulous Bose.

To check out vocals I hooked up a mic directly to the XLR input on channel 2.  Vocals were very cleanly and accurately produced.  Ouch! (If you've ever heard me sing, you'll know why)  As a more real-world (for me) test, I hooked the mic up to my Digitech Vocalist Live 4 and ran the line out to the SoloAmp.  The VL4 is an amazing piece of gear and the SoloAmp handled it like an old friend.  I dialed in some harmonies strummed a few chords and got down to some of my solo repertoire.  The SoloAmp responded beautifully.  The guitar, my vocal and the harmonies were all distinct from each other, yet well blended.  Nothing sounded harsh.  Everything was clearly delineated.  It was just the way I like it.  So far, the soloamp was giving my Bose rig some very serious competition, indeed.

To just be over-the-top, and because the SoloAmp had performed so flawlessly up to now, I decided to hook up my electric (Deluxe US Strat and Les Paul through the Line 6 Pod X3 Live) and keyboard (Roland X8) rigs and see just where the SoloAmp's capabilities ended, if they did.  After playing each for a bit, it became clear that the SoloAmp wasn't going to keep up with my 2 sub Bose rig here.  The Bose got the subterranean stuff in a powerful way that the SoloAmp just couldn't keep up with.  I will have to say that the SoloAmp did the right things with that low stuff.  It didn't try to reproduce it and sound crappy.  It just left it alone and made the stuff it could reproduce sound great.  If I had never heard the Bose, I might not realize what I was missing, especially on the electric guitar rig.

Recommendation - Sell who you have to sell, kill what you have to kill and get one of these. For the solo artist with acoustic or jazz guitar, this is the amp to own.  Its combination of fantastic sound, versatile controls, and (thank you, Fishman) portability is dang near intoxicating.  From now on (and I can't think of any higher praise than this), for all my solo acoustic gigs, the Bose is staying home and the SoloAmp is coming with me.  I'm already working on how to get SWMBO to let me get another one (I think it would be killer to take two on stage and run in stereo). If you're performing live solo gigs, you owe it to yourself to get one of these.
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ncognito
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2009, 11:12:38 AM »

Wilblee--

I also recently bought a Fishman Soloamp.  I love it!  I have direct connected my LSV11 with Baggs i-mix, anmd it sounds great, pure; I can't hear any morphing of the beautiful wood tones.  Miced, it sounds great too.  I expected not to be impressed by it when I first saw the magazine adds with the fashionable, cutesy, toothpick girl pulling one along behind her with one hand, but I read some great reviews, and the price made it worth the risk.  It is so simple to pack and unpack.  I'm often intimidated by state of the art technology, but this thing is so remarkeably easy to use, and the manual is this little booklet that anyone could decipher.  I've heard the Bose PS1 at shows a few times, and was very impressed with the sound which sounded excellent no matter where you were in the room.  You mentioned the bass limitations of the Soloamp.  I wonder if some type of bass module could be added to kick the oommpf factor up just a bit?  I let a friend try it, and she loved it.  We miced her voice and plugged her guitar in; it was easy to blend the two.  She owns a Peavy system which she says is awkward, cumbersome, more challanging to use, and though it sounds real nice, it can't compete at all on this level.  I'd love it if someone I knew also had one so I could test the recipricol monitoring feature.  Enjoy. 

            DAVE
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2009, 12:57:39 PM »

Dave you might try something along these lines to kick up the bass response: http://www.orbaudio.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=8

I haven't had the chance to try the Super Eight, but its size and power might be a good combination. I spoke with their tech people and sent them some specs on the Solo Amp and one of their guys called back after researching the Fishman and thought it would pair well. I decided to go with a Bose L1 Model one with a single Bass Module for our Trio. I liked the sound of the guitars and vocals a bit better on the Fishman, but ultimately it just wasn't powerful enough for the trio application.

The Fishman made Bose take notice though because in early May they will be releasing the L1 Compact model priced at $999 usd. It will probably have the Fishman beat on the lows but I bet the Fishman still sounds more natural. If I was playing solo, just me a guitar and mic, the Fishman could not be beat!
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2009, 11:22:17 AM »

Dave you might try something along these lines to kick up the bass response: http://www.orbaudio.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=8

I haven't had the chance to try the Super Eight, but its size and power might be a good combination. I spoke with their tech people and sent them some specs on the Solo Amp and one of their guys called back after researching the Fishman and thought it would pair well. I decided to go with a Bose L1 Model one with a single Bass Module for our Trio. I liked the sound of the guitars and vocals a bit better on the Fishman, but ultimately it just wasn't powerful enough for the trio application.

The Fishman made Bose take notice though because in early May they will be releasing the L1 Compact model priced at $999 usd. It will probably have the Fishman beat on the lows but I bet the Fishman still sounds more natural. If I was playing solo, just me a guitar and mic, the Fishman could not be beat!


GA-ME--

I contacted Fishman tech support through email, and asked if the Orb Audio Super Eight would work well with the SoloAmp.  They responded that it might, but that it is specifically designed for home theater audio, and has other limitations such as phase and crossover issues as well as being 1/4" and not xlr.  They instead suggested the Roland KCW-1 200W powered subwoofer which I'm now looking into.

        DAVE
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2009, 12:02:36 PM »

Dave, I can't say about the compatability of the Orb. Orb thought it would work well, but they are trying to sell their product of course! Orb does have a 30 day no questions money back gaureentee though. The Roland was something I looked at when considering the the SoloAmp, but I eliminated it pretty quickly as it weighs 50 frickin pounds! Double the weight of the weight of the Solo Amp itself. Keep me posted about which way you go. There are lots of decent subs available to choose from.

I'm sitting here trying to pull the trigger on the Bose. I can't decide which unit to go with, Model I or Model II. I went and demoed them a couple of times and I'm at a stand still. We are trying to work out a deal with a local dealer to come and perform a couple of demonstration days with the Bose and the Fishman units to get a few hundred knocked off the pricing. I had a spinal cord injury, and can't move heavy weights, so the individual component weight is very important to me. The other guys in the trio are older and have bad shoulders, backs, etc so we are looking for something to keep playing out fun. I was almost sure about the Model I, but the harmonica player wants to add a porchboard and that makes the Model II more applicable for us. Dang live sound, its too complicated and costly!
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2009, 12:19:30 PM »

Dave, I can't say about the compatability of the Orb. Orb thought it would work well, but they are trying to sell their product of course! Orb does have a 30 day no questions money back gaureentee though. The Roland was something I looked at when considering the the SoloAmp, but I eliminated it pretty quickly as it weighs 50 frickin pounds! Double the weight of the weight of the Solo Amp itself. Keep me posted about which way you go. There are lots of decent subs available to choose from.

I'm sitting here trying to pull the trigger on the Bose. I can't decide which unit to go with, Model I or Model II. I went and demoed them a couple of times and I'm at a stand still. We are trying to work out a deal with a local dealer to come and perform a couple of demonstration days with the Bose and the Fishman units to get a few hundred knocked off the pricing. I had a spinal cord injury, and can't move heavy weights, so the individual component weight is very important to me. The other guys in the trio are older and have bad shoulders, backs, etc so we are looking for something to keep playing out fun. I was almost sure about the Model I, but the harmonica player wants to add a porchboard and that makes the Model II more applicable for us. Dang live sound, its too complicated and costly!


So, if you go Bose, will each of you in the trio have your own system, or will you all hook into one?  One thing about the SoloAmp that's nice is you can monitor back and forth if you have two units (this may only work with two musicians?); I don't know how that would work if you had three SoloAmps.  The number of inputs, or lack thereof could be a problem.  I'm curious about this new more portable/affordable Bose system due out soon.

         DAVE
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2009, 01:12:40 PM »

Dave, we will all three go into one unit. Later, if needed, we might add a second bass module when John adds his porchboard. The Bose L1 Compact model looks neat, but I would go for the Fishman over that for solo guitar and vocals. That Fishman sounded the best to me when I was just playin with guiytar and singing. It really is a good sounding amp with the best portability out there.
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wilblee
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« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2009, 05:11:27 PM »

GA-ME, some thoughts on the Model I vs the Model II Bose.  The Bose Model II is a heck of a lot easier to move than the Model I, but more expensive.  The base unit on the Model I is a significant lift to the injured (I know, that's what I have).  The base unit on the Model II (we use these at church) is lighter and has a smaller footprint, and you can tuck the sub(s) in tight against it.  Also the Model II's speakers are revamped and have a slightly wider dispersion than the Model I.  Also the Model I has no built in effects.  The Model II, by the time you get the Tonematch engine, is more significantly expensive than the Model I.

Having said all that.  If I was buying today I would buy the Model II, BUT, as I already own a Model I, I find the small differences in sound and functionality between the two models are way more than outweighed by the difference between the average sales price of a used Model I and a new Model II.  Also since I play through effects boxes, the lack of onboard effects on the Model I are inconsequential to me.
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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2009, 06:23:54 PM »

Wilble, thanks for the info. I have played through both the Model I and II and in store demo type playing I didn't notice much difference in sound or dispersion between them. I think, however, the II offers much more possability for dialing things in just so..........The ten pound difference between the base units and the improved portability are making lean towards the Model II.  The $1000 price difference is tough to swallow though. I'll probably make my decision by the weekend.
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flatlander
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2009, 03:43:47 AM »



 The number of inputs, or lack thereof could be a problem. 
That unit and the Bose look great and I'm sure they sound great from hearing people talk. I looked at fishman and Bose very hard before buying something different a year ago or so. What I don't get is why so very few people make that type of set-up that has
more channels. Just by myself I may want 3, but I also wanted something that another could play thru as well at same time.
 So I have a small box with 400 watts, good speakers and what I wanted.  3 mic/inst channels, 2 more duel input inst only channels,
another duel  input line channel, with eq like the others. XLR line out, sub woofer out, a nice set of built in effects, and an aux send and return effects loop. So it's truely like a PA with all the ins and out you need and easily expandable.
 I do look some day to get s/w and maybe a tower but it sounds great and  bassey as is.

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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2009, 11:27:33 AM »

Flatlander--

What is that sound cube called?  It has alot of inputs effects and bass, but what does it weigh, and how difficult is it to move around?

         DAVE
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2009, 11:57:19 AM »

http://www.bobbrozman.com/ra400.html

It's fore sure heavier @ 46 lb's but small. A little dolly works easily if you need.  It sounds great. I don't understand why these others don't have at least an option for 4 channels anyway.
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flatlander
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2009, 12:01:34 PM »

If you look at Patricks u-tuber, You can see part of it in background and how small it is. Not small sound though.

http://www.larriveeforum.com/smf/index.php?topic=26717.0
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wilblee
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« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2009, 02:38:34 PM »

It's fore sure heavier @ 46 lb's but small. A little dolly works easily if you need.  It sounds great. I don't understand why these others don't have at least an option for 4 channels anyway.

The Bose has 4 channels of input.  The Fishman has 4 as well.  I only mentioned 1 & 2 in my review because, for me, that's a typical setup.  I can get even more using my small mixer and I'll still be way under 46 lbs.  The whole point of the Fishman is that you get the tasty, tasty sound, raised up high enough to hear, in an uber-portable format (its case is its dolly).  As for the bass, don't get too worked up about my comments on the bass in my review.  The only time you're gonna notice any lack is with a keyboard or a bass guitar (or an electric guitar with a low end octaver effect).  You ain't ever gonna hit the Fishman's bass limit with your acoustic or voice.
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« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2009, 10:59:40 PM »

The Bose has 4 channels of input.  The Fishman has 4 as well.  I only mentioned 1 & 2 in my review because, for me, that's a typical setup.  I can get even more using my small mixer and I'll still be way under 46 lbs.  The whole point of the Fishman is that you get the tasty, tasty sound, raised up high enough to hear, in an uber-portable format (its case is its dolly).  As for the bass, don't get too worked up about my comments on the bass in my review.  The only time you're gonna notice any lack is with a keyboard or a bass guitar (or an electric guitar with a low end octaver effect).  You ain't ever gonna hit the Fishman's bass limit with your acoustic or voice.

Correct me if I'm wrong, which I hope not as hard as I looked at these things last year. The Fishman solo has 2 channels
each of which will take a mic OR inst. 2 mics max. The bose has 2 chans unless you pay another $500.00 for another box. I can't remember how many XLR's that would allow. Both systems sound great. The Bose has/had reports of getting flakey with software. Maybe that's been corrected. It wasn't the sound to me but the limited amount of channels, and they are not alone. A lot of acoustic amps that sound good also have a vocal chan but only 1. If the Bose or Fishman stuff would of had more chans available and with xlr's I'm sure I would have got one. Certainly not a slam to thier sound at all. I myself just needed more chans. I'm not talking about duel
input chans, but channels with true seperate control of gain, eq and volume.
ps. I just looked at Fishman solo on thier page and still only see 2 chans. The guy talking says it has 2 chans that will take a mic OR inst.
Am I missing something? Is there an add on unit for it like Bose to get a couple more chans?
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wilblee
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« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2009, 12:53:16 PM »

The Bose Model I has 4 channels built into the base unit.  Channels 3 and 4, however,  are 1/4" only.  You are correct that the Fishman only has two channels with both 1/4" and XLR inputs, full eq, etc..  Like the Bose it's other two channels are 1/4" only.
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« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2009, 01:15:14 PM »

Personally, for a solo acoustic guitarist and singer, that frickin Fishman CAN NOT BE BEAT! It really sounds good. Playing through that thing might be the only time I have ever liked the sound of my singing voice!

The Bose LI Model II has only a single input, unless you add a Tone Engine ($500usd extra), in which case, you get five inputs/channels. Each of those channels can be processed fully independently with all the various effects the engine has and the "House" sound can then be independently assigned its own reverb/delay etc as a group mixed processing deal. The flakey software reviews seemed to stop after Bose released the software patch update but I think I'd still carry a small mixer with me if I end up with that system.

The Tone Engine really isn't that expensive if you look at the processing features it has and start looking at the coast of something like an upper end Pod 6 type multi effects processor for guitars.
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flatlander
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« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2009, 05:31:24 PM »

Yea the Fishman sounds great. I'd like to get one of those sound dispersion(?) tower speakers, whatever thier called, that  work independently as in I could add it to my set up. Wonder if that's possible with any similar speaker?
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« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2009, 08:15:29 PM »

Flatlander, you can run into the Fishmanand then daisy chain that to the set-up you have. That would probably be killer for most venues. Bose is also releasing the Model I Compact i a week or so. The Fishman made them take notice and tey are sellin the new model at $999. I haven't tried it yet but I think it will be hard to beat the fishman in that range. I think we are going to go with the Bose LI Model II and a single bass module for now. Its just hard to pull that trigger at the price with so many things coing out right now!
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« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2009, 09:16:01 PM »

Yes, so a couple of thoughts though. So with Bose new release it and Fishman will both be the same price right? 999.00 Which one sounds better. Which is sturdier. How much of the sound is result of speaker vs. mixer signal chain. My set up sounds great. Just like the have sound spread out more sometimes. The bose would be more compact wouldn't it. What ever I get I want to last a long time. I'm not playing that much now, I probably will off and on over the years. I just want something good to always be there. The main componants, speakers, monitors and amps lasted 20 years!  But those big JBL cabinets are a bit much anymore especially if I'm playing small places like I do more of now.
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