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Fishman Rare Earth Pickups
 
We take a look at Fishman’s flagship soundhole pickups.
April 26, 2021
 

Magnetic pickups that mount in an acoustic guitar’s soundhole have been around since the very earliest attempts to amplify the instrument. From the 1950s all the way to the ’70s, simple designs that were basically electric guitar pickups made to fit into a soundhole ruled the field. In the early ’80s, the Sunrise pickup became the favorite of many professional players, and while it was a major step toward a more natural, acoustic sound, it was bulky, heavy, and required an external preamp for optimum sound. So, when Fishman introduced its line of Rare Earth pickups in the late ’90s, acoustic guitarists everywhere took note. Here was a soundhole pickup built from the ground up with clean, transparent acoustic sound in mind. It was about a third of the size of other popular magnetic pickups, and because it included an onboard preamp integrated directly into the pickup, it sounded great without any additional outboard gear. The Rare Earth Mic Blend added a small internal microphone, offering a simple solution to an approach that previously required stereo cables, blender preamps, etc. The Rare Earth line of pickups became a huge success for Fishman, and has remained so to this day. I recently demoed the Rare Earth Mic Blend and Rare Earth PowerTap versions of the design, but since many players don’t require a dual-source setup, I also wanted to highlight the standard Single Coil and Humbucker versions that represent the entry point into the Rare Earth line. For this video, I installed both in my 1994 Taylor 712c and plugged them into a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp. 

The Rare Earth Single Coil and Humbucking pickups share an identical exterior design. Both are housed in a black plastic casing with a screw-operated, cork-padded clamping mechanism. The pickups use powerful neodymium magnets and are pre-voiced for an even balance across the strings—there are no adjustable pole pieces. As active pickups, they’re powered by a pair of 1.5-volt button-style batteries (a replacement with a single 3-volt battery is also possible) which are mounted to the bottom of the pickup, which is also home to an easily accessible volume control. The pickups can be installed in soundholes as small as 3⅝ inches in diameter, and they come with a permanently attached cable that’s long enough to be used by hanging it out of the soundhole and plugged directly into an amp or a DI for a temporary pickup installation. It can also be cut and soldered to the included endpin jack for a more permanent installation. 

Even though I’ve used the Humbucking and Mic Blend versions of the Rare Earth extensively in my own guitar over the years, I hadn’t used the Single Coil since reviewing the pickups when they first came out. I’ve always appreciated the Rare Earth Humbucking (which uses a stacked coil design) as a hassle-free, warm-sounding pickup with a smooth attack, and scrutinizing it in the studio confirmed that impression. But I was surprised by how much I liked the Single Coil. Overall, I found the difference to be not nearly as drastic as I expected (definitely not nearly as pronounced as say, a Fender-style single coil and a Gibson-style humbucker on electric guitars), but the Single Coil had a lovely clarity in both the treble and the bass that gave it a touch more definition. And while the Single Coil did display some of the electronic hum that this pickup type is known for (the humbucker was completely silent), this was completely acceptable, especially considering that I was in a video studio with lights and other equipment that could easily lead to interference. 

Overall, both pickups are excellent choices for players looking for a pro-level soundhole pickup solution, and who either don’t need an additional source or are planning on integrating the pickup in a custom setup. Deciding which one is right for you will depend on your personal taste, and considering the ease of temporary installation, I’d recommend checking them both out for yourself at one of Fishman’s many dealers. 

SPECS:
Rare Earth Single Coil: Active magnetic soundhole pickup with single-coil structure and neodymium magnets. Mechanical, cork-padded clamping mechanism. Includes nine-foot cable with ¼-inch jack. Designed and engineered in the USA, assembled in China. $232.99 list/$149.95 street.

Rare Earth Humbucking: Active magnetic soundhole pickup with stacked-humbucker structure and neodymium magnets. Mechanical, cork-padded clamping mechanism. Includes nine-foot cable with ¼-inch jack. Designed and engineered in the USA, assembled in China. $294.99 list/$189.95 street.

fishman.com.

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    ● 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