Fishman has been at the forefront of the “plugged” revolution for decades; and now the company has significantly updated the stalwart Acoustic Matrix Infinity Pickup & Preamp System it introduced a quarter century ago. There are now two new options, both consisting of the Matrix undersaddle pickup and Infinity endpin preamp: the Matrix Infinity VT ($159 street) — with its significantly updated preamp optimized for modern acoustic amplification — and the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend system ($299 street), on review here, which also includes a multiposition cardioid condenser mic capsule and other features. It arrived inside a Martin OM-21, which is always nice.
The Matrix Infinity Mic Blend is designed to be super stealthy and features a redesigned, sealed enclosure with fingerwheel tone and volume controls. On my test OM-21, the enclosure was mounted topside of the soundhole, and another, with a blend thumbwheel, was mounted on the bottom side. The mic was affixed to the top, at the lip of soundhole on the bridge side, while the nine-volt battery pack was stashed on the treble side of the back’s upper bout. All together, the system did add weight to the instrument, but as my test proved, it was most certainly worth it.
To begin, I plugged into a Fishman Mini Charge acoustic amplifier and spun the dials to their midpoints. Although the guitar and amp were small, the tone was bountiful, with a warm, open-air quality that not only reflected the Martin’s lovely natural tone, but also enhanced it. The Fishman made a great guitar sound better via super-sensitive dynamic response and sky-high headroom. The tone knob was especially useful at scooping the midrange, and rotating the mic on its swivel produced significant tonal changes: downward for a more hollow sound, or upward to fill up and round out the tone. The “voicing” switch, located between the tone and volume controls, accommodate instruments of different size via a slight bass boost. It all adds up to a lot of flexibility right under your fingers.
I went on to conduct tests through an AER Tommy Emmanuel Signature amp, an L.R. Baggs Synapse Personal P.A., a Tech 21 Acoustic Fly Rig and the house P.A. at a club. The results were consistent: The OM-21 sounded richer than several other larger guitars, and I could almost make it sound as big as a dreadnought — if I felt like it. My old Taylor Grand Auditorium is equipped with a Fishman Prefix blending system that sounds great, but it has an intrusive footprint with lots of controls. The Mic Blend’s product literature is right about all those old-fashioned units being unnecessary with today’s full-range amps and P.A. systems, and truth be told, I tend to leave it set the same way all the time. I wound up using the OM with the Matrix Infinity Mic Blend mostly for open-tuned songs because they sounded so full and clear. Finally, I brought the Fishman-equipped OM-21 to a weekly open-stage gig I run in San Francisco, where I always allow anyone brave enough to come up and use the gear I bring. Every player was stunned by the awesome sound, and feedback was never an issue.
What a joy it is to experience such naturally bold, responsive and harmonically satisfying amplified acoustic tones! I tried every technique — from fingerstyle to aggressive plectrum strumming to percussive slap-and-tap stuff — and the Fishman Matrix Infinity Mic Blend system rang true. This is one of the easiest Editors’ Pick Award decisions I’ve ever made. Try one!
Fishman Matrix Infinity Mic Blend
PRICE $299 (street)
KUDOS Practically perfect amplified acoustic tones. Flexible, yet simple to operate. Neat installation.
CONCERNS Adds significant weight to the instrument.