Fishman, best known for their range of acoustic pickups, have branched out and delivered a diminutive acoustic amplifier.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini (with Bluetooth) is compact, powerful, and versatile enough to appeal to a variety of gigging acoustic guitar players.
Fishman Loudbox Mini BT - Overview
In recent years, I’ve noticed a huge shift in the gigging landscape. While once most of the gigs I was getting were on electric guitar, these days there’s huge demand for acoustic performance, particularly from solo acts in cafes, restaurants and small bars.
That’s exactly who the Fishman Loudbox Mini is aimed at.
I was getting tired of carrying a full PA, mixer, and accessories to small solo acoustic gigs. For this reason, I checked out the Loudbox Mini, to see if an amplifier could deliver the tone and volume I need for smaller venues.
The first thing any guitar player cares about is how good a piece of gear sounds.
I plugged my Takamine New Yorker straight into the Loudbox to get an idea of the amplifier’s natural sound without any pedals affecting the tone in the mix.
Strumming a big open E chord was immediately satisfying. The tone was bright and clear, with plenty of crisp, frosty high end from the strings. Some acoustic amps can be overly mid-heavy but the Loudbox offers a pleasantly balanced tone.
I tried out a few techniques, including some country-style flatpicking and full-blown strumming, and the Loudbox sounded robust and powerful for both.
Turning up the amplifier simply made it louder, and there was no breakup or preamp fizz from cranking the volume.
Switching to fingerstyle, higher frequencies felt a little squashed. “The Chain” and “Cherry Wine” lacked some high-hertz sparkle. It’s a highly usable sound, but the Loudbox feels better suited to strumming than fingering.
The Loudbox is, as the name implies, rather loud. It’s clearly meant to be used as a plugged-in practice amp for acoustic players, but it offers more than enough volume for a smaller venue.
The Loudbox Mini could easily keep up with a drummer in a rehearsal room, depending on how hard your drummer tends to play.
I would recommend this amplifier for small pub and cafe gigs. It provides more than enough volume for a space that holds up to 100 people, perhaps a little over.
For larger rooms, I’d recommend using the DI out to plug in to a bigger speaker array.
The guitar tone of the Fishman Loudbox Mini is excellent. However, it’s an old axiom of sound mixing that guitars sound best through guitar amps, and voices sound best through a PA.
What I want from this amplifier is to replace the full PA at smaller solo gigs. This is where the XLR microphone input could be very handy, assuming that the guitar amp can offer a workable sound for my vocals.
Often, guitar speakers can be too boomy or distorted for vocals. They tend to be well-suited to the frequency range of guitars, not the human voice.
However, I was impressed by the quality of sound coming from the Loudbox when I tried singing through it. As a baritone, my voice leans towards the low end, so I had to EQ some bass out of the guitar signal and boost the midrange.
However, the blend of the two signals was totally workable, and I could easily take this little amp to a cafe or smaller pub gig instead of a full PA. It required some tweaking of the EQ on both channels, but you need to do that with a regular PA anyway, so the Fishman Loudbox offers a viable option.
The main feature of the Loudbox that I’m interested in is its portability. I’m enamored with the mental image of pulling up to a gig with guitar in one hand and amp in the other, with no need for a trolley or multiple trips to and from the car.
At 21 pounds, or about ten kilos, the Loudbox Mini is a touch heavier than my JBL Eon One Compact, which weighs in at 17 pounds. There is an appreciable weight to the amplifier despite its diminutive profile.
I can’t see myself struggling to carry a 21-pound amp in one hand, but smaller-framed players may not be able to carry this amplifier with ease. The amplifier’s handle is a welcome addition, but without padding it won’t be comfortable in your hand for long.
The amp has a closed back, too, which means you can’t store things like cables in the back for ease of transport. I’m sure the closed back is important for the amp’s tone. Packing 60 watts and a speaker into this tiny enclosure is impressive.
However, I’ve often appreciated the ease of throwing a spare lead into the back of an open-backed combo amp, which is not an option here.
On the other hand, Fishman have made a major design concession to the gigging guitarist.
The Loudbox is, wonderfully, already slanted. When placed on the ground, the Loudbox points slightly upward. Most guitar players will tell you that they prefer placing combo amps on a chair, table, or dedicated amp stand for performing. Otherwise, forward-facing speakers placed on the ground simply spray sound at the audience’s ankles.
The Loudbox Mini faces upwards at an angle. This helps throw the amplifier’s voice further into the room, making it great for gigs and practice alike.
I don’t like using backing tracks live, but often play along to songs I need to learn or to backing tracks while practicing.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini’s Bluetooth capability is intuitive, enabled by a switch near the mic channel, and it connected to my phone quickly enough. The song I decided to play along to (Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen,” in case you were wondering) rang through the speaker, loud and clear.
No more softly playing over my computer speakers or plugging in aux adaptors in the practice room, then!
For many of my gigs, I’ll play background music before and after I play. That’s another area where this Bluetooth connection is hugely welcome: I can just cue a playlist and let it come through the Loudbox when I finish playing.
While Bluetooth isn’t a make-or-break feature for me, the Loudbox’s built-in functionality was useful enough that it feels like a handy addition to an already high-quality amplifier.
The Loudbox Mini comes with built-in reverb and chorus effects. You can run separate reverb effects on the guitar and mic channels, so you can have more or less on one channel than on the other.
The reverb effect is a pretty standard squeaky-clean digital reverb. Nothing to complain about, but nothing remarkable, either.
The chorus effect for the guitar, however, was surprisingly powerful, running the gamut from slight wash and sparkle to full tidal waves of warm, luscious '80s chorus tones. I had tremendous fun playing with the intro to “Purple Rain.”
Built-in amp effects often leave a lot to be desired, and I could see myself using both the Loudbox’s reverb and chorus at a small gig. I do, however, lament the lack of footswitch capability to switch, say, the chorus on or off in a live setting.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini is, overall, an excellent acoustic amplifier perfect for home practice or a small gig.
If you’re playing solo gigs at small bars, coffeehouses, or bookstores, the Fishman may well be the portable amp for you. However, for larger rooms or loud bands, you’ll want something with more power.