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Fishman Blackstack
 
A great passive soundhole pickup.
June 28, 2021
 

Though rooted in the fundamental pickup technology that has propelled electric guitars for decades, magnetic pickups that mount in an acoustic steel-string guitar’s soundhole have become increasingly sophisticated. Attempting to create the most full-range and accurate sound, manufacturers often rely on active electronics, built-in microphones, onboard controls, and other features, and for many guitarists, these developments have become the key to their onstage sound. But there are also players who want a simple, high-quality solution, don’t want to deal with onboard batteries, and would rather not worry whether everything is dialed in properly when they plug in for a gig. With this in mind, Fishman created its Blackstack pickup. Having recently checked out Fishman’s Neo-D and Rare Earth pickups, I concluded my exploration of the company’s soundhole pickup options by installing the Blackstack in my 1994 Taylor 712c and checking it out through a Fishman Loudbox Mini in the Peghead Nation video studio. 

The Blackstack has a stacked humbucker design and is the largest of Fishman’s soundhole pickups. It mounts with the familiar, screw-operated clamping mechanism, and because of its weight, Fishman recommends removing the pickups if a guitar is shipped or checked with an airline. Fortunately, this is made easy with the most elegant solution for an integrated plug for the pickup’s cable that I’ve seen. A TA4 mini-XLR connector provides a solid and secure connection. The Blackstack ships with a five-foot cable that can either be left hanging out of the soundhole for temporary installations or be cut to length for a permanent installation using the included endpin jack. While the Blackstack doesn’t have any onboard controls or additional features, it is the only Fishman soundhole pickup to include adjustable pole pieces. This allows the pickup to be fine-tuned for different strings or playing styles, as each string’s output can be adjusted by raising or lowering the pole pieces with an included hex wrench. 

Like most soundhole pickups, installation of the Blackstack is accomplished in a matter of minutes, and unless the guitar’s endpin hole needs to be enlarged to accommodate the jack, installation can be done without involving a luthier or tech. Plugging straight into the Loudbox Mini, I was impressed by the pickup’s output level, which, while not as hot as the active Rare Earth pickups, was significantly stronger than that of the passive Neo-D. Fishman describes the Blackstack as having “the vintage sound of a humbucking magnetic pickup” and indeed, its sonic character leans more toward that of an electric guitar than the Rare Earth does. While reproducing an acoustic instrument’s sound with the highest degree of accuracy is important to many acoustic guitarists, sometimes a more raw and assertive sound is desired, especially when playing with a loud band or when modifying the sound with pedals. In these settings, the Blackstack is likely to stand out, as it has a high feedback threshold and an uncomplicated sound that, while not as “acoustic” as some, works well without requiring any EQ or further processing. Given these qualities, I was curious how the Blackstack would sound through an electric guitar amp, so I brought along my Fender Pro Jr. to find out. Plugging acoustic pickups into tube amps can often be a frustrating experience, as the more high-fidelity quality that results in great acoustic tone can lead to harsh trebles and unpleasant overall sound when played through an amp that’s not as full-range as an acoustic amp or a PA. But the Blackstack offered a really cool sound through the Fender! It was definitely not natural in a “just like my guitar, only louder” way, but it occupied a sonic space between a typical electric and an acoustic guitar that would be a great foundation for further tonal shaping with effects. And, as any road warrior knows, sometimes you show up for a gig and an electric guitar amp is all there is, and in those in-the-trenches situations, I’d be happy to have a Blackstack in my guitar.

Overall, the Blackstack rounds out Fishman’s soundhole-pickup options with a high-end solution for players who want an uncomplicated sound, especially in loud settings and when mixing acoustic and electric guitars. 

SPECS:
Passive magnetic soundhole pickup with stacked-humbucker design. Mechanical, cork-padded clamping mechanism. Includes five foot cable with ¼-inch jack and TA4 mini-XLR connector. Made in USA. $249.95 street. fishman.com.

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© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com
 
 
    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com