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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fishman Aura® Spectrum DI, ... (Review)

Reviewed By: Jac Harrison
Purchased from: Manufacturer
Street Price: $329.99 USD + Tax 

Fishman is the manufacturer of acoustic guitar amplifiers, pickups, pickup systems, and guitar effects based out of Andover MA. 

This Fishman Aura® Spectrum DI preamp is housed in a professional quality all-metal case, Aura Spectrum DI features a 3-band EQ, one-knob compressor, automatic feedback suppression with up to 3 notches, chromatic tuner, effects loop, plus a high-quality balanced XLR D.I. 

The included Aura Image Gallery software provides access to an ever-expanding list of instruments recorded using world-class studio mics and techniques. 

This review was done over the course of one month and in different locations. As I stated in my review of the Fishman SA220 (read the SA220 review) -- I'm a little nuts and consider myself a guitarist that favors the acoustic side of things so I wanted to really put this pedal to the test. Week one -- I had given this to a friend to use in his studio while recording an acoustic trio; week 2 - 4 I brought this to a few venues in the NJ /NY tri-state area that I knew had a house PA and an acoustic open mic for the sound guy to use instead of his DI box for the ever so talented performers. A total of 34 different musicians and engineers had a chance to use this and this review is based on their opinions and mine. 

Guitars used:

Steel string 
Parkwood PW320M
Martin 000CXE 
Martin DCx1e
Taylor 214CE
Taylor 414 CE
Black Pearl Maple Jumbo
Gibson Hummingbird
Epiphone Dr100  
Ovation Applause 
Ibanez AEG20E 
Alvarez Artist Series AF70
Breedlove American Series 000 
Breedlove Passport 
ESP XToneFender CD-160SE(12 String) Fender Standard Telecoustic
Fender T-Bucket 400 CE 

Godin 5th Avenue Jazz
Kay Archtop

Godin Multiac Grand Concert Duet
Ibanez  GA5TCE
Giannini GWNFLE/7

There were a few others and some were shared. 

Cables used: 
Intex- I supplied the cables.

Reliability & Durability: 
I personally like the Fishman line of products mainly for two reasons: sound and durability.
With the all-metal case and the fact that it fits in the compartment inside my hard-shell
acoustic case, I have complete confidence that this will work every time I plug it in. 

This is really cool. I have played countless shows and open mics and one of my biggest
complaints is the sound quality. After paying for a good quality guitar for the tone woods and
construction, then either writing or learning enough songs to play in front of an audience --
the last thing you want is for your guitar to sound like crap. Up until now we have had 3 
options -- miked run through an amp, or DI into the house system. They will all work and
allow you play your set -- but microphones give your guitar the most natural sound, though
often they cause feedback. What the good people at Fishman have done is create the Aura®
Spectrum DI to solve this problem. 

According to the Fishman website, the Aura Spectrum DI is the complete tone solution for
the acoustic musician featuring award-winning Aura Acoustic Imaging technology that
restores a studio-miked sound to your undersaddle or soundhole pickup. So you may be
asking yourself  "what does that mean?" It means that the engineers at Fishman took every
style of acoustic guitar, made from endless combinations of tone woods, then miked them in
the Fishman studio using only the best microphones in the world, then duplicated the sound
frequencies of every single one and they put it in a little box for us to use. Still confused on
how cool this product is?

Lets say that you have a Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Custom EC. There are 2 ways you can
use the Aura® Spectrum DI. The easiest is by selecting the dreadnought position on the
front of the pedal and then going through the 16 different images via a large, easy to use
rotary dial on the face of the pedal to find the best sound for your guitar. The next is by going
to the Fishman online acoustic imaging gallery and selecting your guitar with the style of mic
you like and saving it to the pedal. 

If your guitar is not in the online acoustic imaging galley -- just know what you have. This
guitar is a dreadnought cutaway with a spruce top and rosewood sides and back. My
Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500 RCE is the same guitar but is not listed in the gallery so I just
selected the closest to what I had and that was the Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Custom EC.
Next I picked my mics and stored them in the "user image" bank. One of the coolest things is
I now have a great selection of top notch microphones ranging from a Neumann u87 to a
Sure SM57 ready to go at any time.

This is by far the best bang for your buck when shopping for your acoustic gear. Everyone
should always have a DI box with them at every gig. My rule of thumb is if the house PA is
good I go through it via DI -- if not I use an amp. For a little more than you would pay for a
good quality DI box you could have The Aura® Spectrum DI. This is a crystal clear DI with a
built in EQ, compressor and chromatic tuner with a large led display. 

The Artist's Opinion: 
Everyone that used it, liked it -- there was no negative feedback, including from a
professional recording engineer that used this while recording an acoustic trio as opposed to
using a traditional microphone setup. 

My advice: 
If you play an acoustic stringed instrument from guitar to ukulele and everything in between this is a must have--I say buy it. 

Andover MA 
Posted 11/2012