Best Fishman Fluence Pickups: Fluence Buyer’s Guide


Fishman Fluence are the new brand on the block when it comes to making guitar pickups. Their new technology, designs and tones have gained them a lot popularity and their pickups are now seen on a variety of high-end guitars. But which Fluence pickups are the best?

In this article, I’ll take you through the range and tell you everything you need to know, including sound examples, so you can decide which Fishman Fluence pickups to get. This article focuses on electric guitar pickups, although Fishman also make pickups for bass and acoustic guitars as well.

At a Glance

Fishman Fluence electric guitar pickups come in humbucker, single coil and P90 types. They specialise in active pickups which have multiple voices to achieve true active tones, as well as more passive and vintage tones which give the player more versatility.

The Fishman Fluence Modern pickups are often considered the best for metal due to their high output and crisp tone with a tight low-end. However, the Fluence Classics also work very well, although they are not quite as crisp when using heavy distortion.

Guitar Center have a huge range of pickups at great prices so make sure you check them out if you’re in the market for some. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s pickup range so you can check for current deals.

Deciding on the Pickup Type

Before we jump into the range, I think it’s important to have a think on your answers to the following questions when on your quest to find the best pickups:

  • Do you want humbuckers, single coils or P90 pickups?
  • What do you want the pickups to look like? E.g. full cased or open coil

You may already be clear on what you want, but if you want some help choosing between the different pickup types, then check out my ultimate guide to pickups to take you through the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Fishman mainly specialise in active humbucker pickups, but what’s unique about their designs, is that they have different “voices” which allow you to achieve a passive tone as well. This is perfect if you want your electric guitar to be as versatile as possible, and it’s the reason I really like the brand.

They also make some single coil and P90 pickups using active technology, as well as some purely passive single coils, so I’ll take you through that range as well later in the article.

Piezo Pickups

Fluence are also known for their piezo electric guitar pickups. Unlike traditional magnetic pickups, they are located in the bridge so you can’t notice them on the guitar’s body. They work by detecting the actual vibration of the strings and sound brighter than magnetic pickups.

Piezo pickups are often used in acoustic guitars, and when used in an electric guitar, simulate that acoustic tone to some degree, although they definitely will not make an electric sound exactly like an acoustic.

Usually the guitar will have normal magnetic pickups, and piezo pickups located in the bridge, and then the guitar will have a switch allowing you to toggle between the two to achieve the different tone types.

Magnet Type

The final thing I wanted to address before I move onto specific pickups in the range, is the type of magnets they use. Fishman Fluence use two types of magnet: alnico and ceramic. Different magnet types produce different tones, and here’s the difference:

  • Alnico: these are made from aluminium, nickel and cobalt (hence the name Al-Ni-Co). These have a large dynamic range and often sound a bit warmer and fuller with more low-end. There are two types of alnico magnets: II and V. Alnico II pickups sound the warmest, whilst alnico V pickups have a higher output and more bass and treble.
  • Ceramic: these have the highest output and more treble to give them a bright and crisp tone. They are commonly used on modern metal guitars as they allow for excellent clarity when using high gain amp settings.

Now that we’ve been through the basics, I’ll go through the Fluence range within each pickup type and identify the differences between the different models.

Humbuckers

The Fishman Fluence humbucker range can be split into two divisions: the standard range and the signature model range. Let’s start with the standard pickups.

Standard Humbucker Range

There are three pickups in the standard humbucker series:

  • Modern
  • Classic
  • Open Core Classic

They each have a different look, tone and features. The Fluence modern come with either alnico or ceramic magnets. Here is a table to summarise each type. Remember to scrolls sideways or turn your phone horizontally if you’re on mobile.

FeatureModern (Ceramic)Modern (Alnico)ClassicOpen Core Classic
DesignFully casedCased, visible polesFully casedOpen core
String Options6, 7, 86, 7, 866, 7, 8
Voices2233
Coil SplitNoNoYesYes
MagnetsCeramicAlnico VAlnico VAlnico V
ColoursBlack plastic/nickel, nickel,
gold, white plastic, brushed stainless
Black plastic/nickel, nickel,
gold, white plastic, brushed stainless
Nickel, black nickel,
gold, brushed stainless
Black, white, zebra
Fishman Fluence Humbuckers Compared

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) to show the three different types.

Fluence Modern

Fluence Classic

Fluence Open Core Classic

Now let’s take a look at each type in more detail.

Fluence Modern

Fluence Modern pickups come with either ceramic or alnico V pickups. Whilst it is possible to put two of the same type in the bridge and neck positions, it is more common to use the alnico V pickup in the neck position for that full and warm tone, and the ceramic pickup in the bridge for a more powerful tone.

Both pickups have two voices:

  • Voice 1: modern active (for that high output and crispness)
  • Voice 2: passive (for a more vintage and rounded tone)

Fluence modern pickups are the best choice for modern metal due to their high output active tones which provide plenty of power and clarity when using high gain.

Fluence Classic

Fluence Classic pickups come voiced specifically for the neck and bridge pickup, and are often purchased as a set. Both the neck and bridge pickups have 3 unique voices, one of which is the coil split option:

Neck Voices:

  • Vintage PAF
  • Clear and airy
  • Single coil

Bridge Voices:

  • Vintage PAF
  • Hot Rod
  • Single coil

Fluence classic pickups use alnico V magnets to produce a full tone with an excellent dynamic range, making them very versatile and suitable for a wide range of music styles. However, the Fluence moderns are usually chosen for modern metal due to their high output and crisper tones.

Fluence Classic pickups sound a bit more shimmery when using clean tones than Fluence Moderns. When using distortion, you can tell that the Moderns have more punch and clarity. The other difference is that the Moderns come in 6, 7 and 8 string versions and the Classics only come in a 6 string version.

Check out this video comparing the Fishman Fluence Modern and Fluence Classic pickups.

Fluence Classic Open Core

Like with the Fluence Classics, the Open Core Classics also have three voices and a specific design for the neck and bridge pickup. However, the Open Core Classics have 6, 7 and 8 string versions, whilst the Fluence Classics only have a 6 string version. The tone of the Classic and Open Core Classic is very similar.

The Open Core series work best for players who still want a vintage look to their guitar. The cased design of the Fluence Classics makes them look like active pickups, whereas you could easily mistake the Open Core Classic design as passive pickups, despite the fact they still are active.

Signature Series

Fishman Fluence make quite a few different signature models of the active humbucker:

  • Javier Reyes
  • Will Adler
  • Killswitch Engage
  • Tosin Abasi
  • Devin Townsend
  • Stephen Carpenter
  • Keith Merrow

Each of these types has a different look, voicing and magnets. Some are also available in 7 and 8 string versions. Here is a table to summarise the differences (remember to scroll or turn sideways if you’re on mobile).

PickupsVoicesCoil SplitMagnetsDesignStrings
Killswitch Engage3YesAlnico V/ CeramicFully Cased6
Tosin Abasi3YesAlnico V/ CeramicFully Cased6,7,8
Javier Reyes3YesAlnico VOpen Coil6,7,8
Will Adler2NoAlnico V/ CeramicCased, Visible Magnets6
Devin Townsend2NoCeramicCased, Visible Magnets6
Stephen Carpenter2NoAlnico V/ CeramicFully Cased7,8
Keith Merrow3YesAlnico VOpen Coil6,7,8
Fishman Fluence signature humbucker pickups compared.

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) to show the different designs.

Keith Merrow

Tosin Abasi (8 string)

Javier Reyes

Devin Townsend

Stephen Carpenter

Killswitch Engage

Will Adler

Here’s a brief outline of the tones and how they differ:

  • Javier Reyes: these have a more passive tone with a wide dynamic range and warmer tone than most Fluence pickups. They have a lot of presence and low end but without sounding muddy.
  • Will Adler: this signature set uses the Fluence Classic neck pickup and a ceramic bridge pickup. This provides excellent dynamic range on the guitar with smooth neck tones and blistering bridge tones.
  • Killswitch Engage: the ceramic bridge pickup offers high gain and crisp active tones with a very tight low-end (even compared to the Fluence Moderns), whilst the neck alnico V pickup offers a warmer passive tone, giving the guitar tonnes of versatility.
  • Tosin Abasi: these pickups have a boosted low-mid range to produce a fatter tone perfect for lead playing using voice 1, whilst voice 2 has a dynamic passive tone. The ceramic bridge and alnico V neck also provide further contrast.
  • Devin Townsend: this set was designed to offer two very diverse sounds. Voice 1 offers a heavy metal tone, whilst voice two offers a low-gain passive single coil tone.
  • Stephen Carpenter: this set is available in 7 and 8 string options. Voice 1 sounds similar to the Modern Fluence pickups and voice 2 has more gain and sounds hotter.
  • Keith Merrow: this set uses a Classic Open Core pickup and a custom bridge pickup which have a more vintage and passive tone.

Here’s which pickups suit different styles in my opinion.

  • Best for High Output Modern Metal: Killswitch Engage and Stephen Carpenter
  • Most Versatile: Devin Townsend and Will Adler
  • Best for Lead: Tosin Abasi and Stephen Carpenter
  • Most Vintage and Passive: Javier Reyes and Keith Merrow

Which Humbucker is Best?

Before we move onto to the single coil and P90 pickups in the Fluence range, I wanted to finish with a summary of which pickups sound best for different styles of music.

For modern high output tones which are suited to metal, the Fluence Modern and Killswitch Engage pickups are most suitable. The main difference is that the Killswitch Engage pickups have a tighter low-end compared to the Moderns which have a fuller tone with more bass.

For the most passive vintage tone, the Fishman Classic/ Open Core Classic, and the Javier Reyes and Keith Merrow Options work best. All these options have 3 voices and a coil split function. The Fluence Classic/ Open Core and Keith Merrow options have better battery life.

For the most versatility, the Fishman Classic/ Open Core pickups and the Devin Townsend and Will Adler signature models are the most suitable. The Devin Townsend signature pickups produce two very distinct tones, whilst the Will Adler and Fishman Classics are less diverse but still offer excellent versatility.

Check out my article on Fishman Fluence vs EMG pickups if you’ve still not made you’re mind up on which brand to go for!

P90 and Single Coils

Whilst Fishman Fluence specialise mainly in humbuckers, they have also released some great options for those looking to get some P90 and Single Coils with a less aggressive tone, but far less hum and feedback than you’d typically associate with these pickup types.

There are three main magnetic pickups in this category:

  • Active Single Coils
  • Passive Single Coils
  • Active Greg Koch Gristle-Tone P90s

All these pickups use alnico V magnets for a balanced tone with a large dynamic range. The single coils have two voices, whilst the P90 has 3 voices. Here’s a quick summary of each type.

  • Fluence Single Width Pickups: these are single coils available in passive or active versions, and black and white colour options. They are commonly used for Stratocasters and are designed for the HSH, HSS and HS pickup configurations to produce a very versatile configuration. You can purchase them as single pickups, a set, or in a loaded pickguard.
  • Greg Koch Gristle-Tone P90s: this is an active P90 pickup with 3 voices: underwound, fat overwound and clear single coil. They are available in neck and bridge pickup versions, and come in black or cream. You can purchase the pickups individually, as a set, or with as a set specifically for Telecasters with the controls.

Here are some images to show the different pickup options (all link to Amazon).

Fluence Single Width Set

Fluence Loaded Pickguard

Greg Koch P90 Set for Teles

Here is a video demonstrating the single coil pickups so you can hear them in action.

Here is a video so you can hear the Fluence P90 pickups in action.

Piezo Pickups

Fishman Fluence offer a range of piezo pickups known as the Powerbridge models.

These allow you to achieve a more acoustic sounding tone on your electric guitar, and since they are mounted in the bridge, you can also use regular magnetic pickups in the usual positions to achieve classic electric tones as well. You can then simply switch between activating the piezo or the magnetic pickups.

There are several Powerbridge models available which are designed specifically for either the Stratocaster, Telecaster or Les Paul

  • For Stratocasters: VS-50P (2-stud Strat bridge), VMV (6-screw vintage style), TSV (2-stud bridge for Fender American Standard version).
  • For Telecasters: ATS (for modern American Standard Telecasters), VT (for vintage-style Telecasters).
  • For Les Pauls: Tune-O-Matic Powerbridge.

Frequently Asked Questions

To wrap up the article, I wanted to address some common questions players have about Fluence pickups.

Are Fishman Fluence pickups high output?

Fishman Fluence pickups are high output. For example, the Fishman Modern Ceramic pickup has an output of 720Hz with voice 1 and 1.8kHz for voice 2. The high output of Fluence pickups makes them well suited to heavy music styles such as modern metal.

Does Fishman Fluence make passive pickups?

Fishman Fluence specialise in active pickups with multiple voices, one which has an active tone, and the other which has a more passive tone. Fishman Fluence do not currently make truly passive humbuckers and P90 pickups, but they do make a passive single coil pickup.

Are Fishman Fluence pickups good for metal?

Fishman Fluence pickups work very well for metal due to their high output and crisp tones. This allows you to achieve good note separation and clarity, even when using a lot of distortion. The Fishman Fluence Modern pickups are commonly used for metal.

How do you install Fishman Fluence pickups?

Here is a video from Fluence showing how to install their pickups.

Guitar Center have a huge range of pickups at great prices so make sure you check them out if you’re in the market for some. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s pickup range so you can check for current deals.

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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