Hey look! A preamp that looks cool, works well and makes sense! Words by Steve Henderson.
Every now and then, a piece of kit comes along that looks fabulous, has loads of buttons, knobs and lights, and claims to solve all your tone issues along with world peace, climate change, and the odd endangered species.
Fishman’s Platinum Pro EQ is such a device, and it may well do all that (except for those last few things). The Pro EQ is an “always on” preamp designed for acoustic guitar, electric bass and acoustic bass (assignable). It has a four-band tone set, a built-in tuner (with various tuning modes available), plus boost and compression functions.
SO! MANY! CHOICES!
For interfacing, it has instrument in and instrument out (both jack sockets), separate effects send and returns sockets (also jacks), an XLR out (assignable pre- or post-EQ, with a ground lift switch), and a nine-volt port or battery option. Best of all, it’s shiny and it has lots of lights!
As for tone shaping, the Pro EQ has Bass, Middle, Treble and Brilliance knobs which are all active (plus/minus 12 decibels; plus/minus seven decibels for the Brilliance circuit). An additional tone shaping feature is the Low Cut circuit: a variable high-pass filter that can eliminate stuff like rumble, subsonics, or any other annoying artefacts in that sub-160 hertz range.
Also, the Middle control has a Frequency knob for zeroing in on a specific midrange band to be scooped or boosted. There’s an overall volume knob, and a very useful and musical compressor to smooth out the spikes, giving the sound a little studio class. Other controls include a bass/guitar mode switch, a phase reversal switch, tuner mode and reference switches, an on/off switch and frequency knob for the Notch circuit (to eliminate feedback), an Input Trim control (to match your guitar’s output), a Boost Level knob, and two footswitches – one for the Boost function and one for the Tuner.
The whole package is finished in brushed aluminium casing with chrome knobs, which looks very professional and would be very easy to find onstage in dim lighting.
Unlike other similar preamps where the knobs are too close to each other, the Pro EQ has been designed to be super user-friendly, with the knobs easy to access and easy to turn without bumping those on either side. And, in operation, they have a solid, positive feel. The switches feel sturdy and confident. The Input Trim is on the side, and the Boost Level knob is right next to it. One wonders why it is side‑mounted with a flush knob when it might need to be accessed during a gig.
LITTLE BY LITTLE
Placing it in between a Maton MSH-210 and Fishman Loudbox Mini, I found that the preamp works exceptionally well, with low noise and powerful tone shaping. The tone controls are interactive, in that their frequencies overlap a little: increase the Bass, and the low end of the Mids rises too. This makes for a smooth and natural EQ curve with no dead spots.
The Notch works well in eliminating feedback, but only one frequency at a time. I like the way the Middle and Frequency knobs can change the nature of the instrument. They are have quite a bit of range, so “little by little” is the rule of thumb.
The Compressor adds some studio slick to a live environment and, while it doesn’t have the controls that a standalone compressor might have, it works well within the Pro EQ’s system. It is a very musical compression, tailored to the acoustic guitarist who wants more control over their sound without having to make a whole lot of decisions.
The Boost function is an ultra clean boost that really enhances the acoustic guitar’s woody qualities. It’s a shame this can’t be on the front panel, because many players would access it numerous times throughout a gig. That’s not necessarily a negative, though – just an observation and personal issue.
Some may not see the value of an effects loop, so look at it as a way of using the XLR DI port with everything you might use. For example, I inserted a chain of pedals comprising a DD-5, a DC-2 and an RV-3 into the loop, then ran a lead from the Pro EQ’s jack out to my Fishman Loudbox Mini and a mic cable from the XLR to the house stage box. It worked like a charm and eliminated the need for another DI.
The Pro EQ’s layout offers a wide variety of tonal options and instrumental applications (it gave my mandolin an extra spark). There are plenty of preamps out there, but this one has been really well thought out, and is stage and studio ready.
The Pro EQ can solve a number of problems for the working muso, and it does it in a straight forward, easy to manage fashion. Fishman have really hit the mark with the Platinum Pro EQ.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Some curious design choices aside, the Fishman Platinum Pro EQ is the perfect tone shaper for the serious acoustic player.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• User-friendly design
• Low noise and powerful tone shaping
• Boost and tuner footswitches
• Single-knob circuit
• Brushed aluminium casing with chrome knobs
• Very powerful
• Easy to operate
• Well built
• I wish the Boost knob was on top
Ph: (02) 9939 1299