Field Test: Fishman SA33x Combo+ Performance Audio System

Fishman’s SA220 performance System has a great reputation among solo performers and small groups, and the new SA300x Performance Combo+ System on review here addresses user needs for greater low-end support as well as expanded input options.
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Fishman’s SA220 performance System has a great reputation among solo performers and small groups, and the new SA300x Performance Combo+ System on review here addresses user needs for greater low-end support as well as expanded input options. The SA330x Combo+ System consists of three primary pieces, all of which must be purchased separately: The SA300x unit itself, the SA Sub subwoofer, and the SA Expand 4-channel mixer (which ups the overall channel input count to six). The main component is a 330-watt, full-dispersion line array system with six 4" mid/woofers and a 1" neodymium soft-dome liquid-cooled tweeter. It has two combo ¼"/XLR inputs, and its controls include channel Gain, EQ (Low/Mid/High), four reverb options with Level controls, and anti-feedback EQ notching. The SA Sub packs its own 300-watt power stage, 8" speaker, and selectable crossover. It also has an optional pole mount for the aforementioned line array and add-on mixer.

The SA330x Combo+ System consists of the main SA300x unit (left), SA Sub subwoofer, and SA Expand 4-channel mixer.

I was very interested to check out the SA330x Combo+ on a live gig, as I’ve had quite a lot of experience with its older sibling, the SA220, using it with violins, guitars (acoustic and electric), and vocals in a variety of live settings. On some gigs, the bands I’ve played with have had as many as three SA220s running at the same time, and they have always delivered the goods on stage.

I tested the full SA330x Combo+ rig in a medium-sized outdoor environment with violin, two guitars, keys, and vocals, as well as bass and drums (which were not run into the Fishman), and was very happy with the results. The SA330x Combo+ offers clear, studio monitor-type sound that allowed everyone in the venue to hear the band clearly without blowing away the front row. The players were also better able to hear each other without having to crank up their individual amps. Vocal mic feedback was quickly addressed with the effective feedback notch controls, and it was easy to make individual instrument level and EQ adjustments on the fly. However, between the small control labels and the non-lighted pushbuttons, it can be hard to see the status of some functions in low light.

The SA330x’s carry bag handles only the line-array unit and does not offer any place for the mounting hardware. Secondly, it’s a small issue, but Fishman opted to use a flat-ribbon CAT5 cable (more commonly found in data network applications) to connect and phantom power the expansion mixer. It’s an entirely acceptable technical solution for this application, but if the cable ever gets lost (imagine, musicians ever losing cables!) it might be difficult to quickly find a replacement. (Fishman says that flat-ribbon Cat-5 cable can be found at most any electronics store or online. Ethernet cables can also be purchased at variable lengths—up to 30-plus feet—and perform without any signal degradation.)

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Thanks to its highly useful updates, Fishman’s new SA330x Combo+ is definitely an advancement over the venerable SA220. The low-end enhancing subwoofer and 4-channel mixer are welcome additions that further the system’s ability to deliver what it promises: clear, well-dispersed sound that can handle a full band. Factor in the attractive price of the complete package (a little over $1,700 street) and the SA330x combo+ is well worth considering if you’re in the market for a compact P.A. system.

SPECIFICATIONS

SA330X COMBO+

CONTACT fishman.com
PRICE SA330x, $999 street; SA Sub, $549 street; SA Expand mixer, $169 street
INTERFACE (SA 330x) 2 mic/instrument channels with XLR/TRS combo inputs. 3-band EQ and phantom power available on each input channel. Balanced XLR DI outputs for input channels and main mix. Footswitch input for controlling Channel Mute and Reverb Mute (footswitch not included). Phase and Notch filters. Aux stereo input.
POWER 330 watts; SA Sub 300 watts
SPEAKERS 7-driver line array (SA330x). SA Sub has one 8" speaker
EXTRAS Mounting poles/hardware, deluxe carrying case and mounting hardware.
WEIGHT 50 lbs. SA330x: 20 lbs, SA Subwoofer: 30 lbs
BUILT Designed in the U.S., assembled in China
KUDOS Clear Fishman sound in a highly portable and modular package.
CONCERNS Carry bag has no space for stands and cables.

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