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Why I'm returning my Fishman Fission - a review in 2 octaves, overdriven

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by HUnt49, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. HUnt49


    Jan 14, 2008
    OK, for those of you wondering about this pedal, here's my thoughts...

    To start with, here's my background: I play every Fri/Sat with a country cover band, in a range of venues from small bars to casinos. We have a female vocalist, male vocalist/acoustic, electric, bass, and drums.

    My gear: Warwick Corvette 5 $$ into a VT deluxe, Carvin Bx500, and Acme B2 (or B1500/B4).

    What I was hoping for from this pedal:

    A useful, musical way to add some heft to the mix when the electric guitar kicks over to lead. An acoustic doesn't fill that hole. I needed the pedal to add a decent lightly overdriven chord that would sit in the mix and add some chunk to the occasional drive chorus. I was hoping the pedal would be very useful on Jason Aldean/Brantley Gilbert type stuff. I also hoped that the clean tone would be usable to allow more use on less-crunchy songs.

    I also needed it to not require extra setup, mixer channels, or other gear to sound decent.

    What I got from this pedal:

    First impression out of the box was good. Very well-built, solid, and smooth pots. Seemed up to the rigors of regular gigging. Plugged in and lost that good impression.


    There's a reason that the online videos only show heavy overdrive tones. The clean is terrible. And a slight twist of the knob brings you into heavier drive than I could use in my setting. The pedal gets very quickly into major crunch – if that works for your genre, you'll be fine, but if you're into subtlety you'll not find it.

    The overdriven tone itself is really poor. I knew this going in, but I didn't think it would be that bad. It was First Act pedal bad. Solid State, Gorilla practice amp bad.

    When run through the Mix out into the bass amp, I was not happy with the separation of the 2 tones – I felt that the crunch wiped out any clean mids/highs, resulting in a driven bass tone along with the effect. That might work for some bands – but for country, I needed clear deep bass with distinct separation. And I didn't care for the drive through the bass amp.

    I then tried 2 other setups using the Effect Out. I tried running the effect only to both my Bogner Alchemist 2x12, and direct to my mixer/pa channel. With both setups, I tried other OD's – 2 Way Huge pedals, a Pork Loin and a Green Rhino.

    The guitar amp got the best results. Running into the Green Rhino to the Alchemist clean channel was the best tone I could wring out. The Pork Loin needed a better clean tone to add the light fuzzy clarity it does well, and at heavier drive got too fuzz-muddy.

    The Green Rhino is a great match for this pedal. It has great tone, but most importantly you can roll off below 100 hz. This carves out space in the drive for the clean bass tone to sit underneath and keep its own sound in the mixture. This is, IMO, as good as you're likely to get for an OD to pair with the Fission. It did occur to me that the thin, buzzy tone that the stock OD has could have been Fishman's attempt at the same effect- a tone that could sit above the bass in a mix.

    The best tone I could come up with, by itself, sounded like a cheap solid state Crate amp. That said, I could see it, used sparingly, sitting in a stage mix without taking up too much sonic space. It won't stand alone and would probably be best covered by another guitar – which defeats the purpose...

    Tonally, this pedal will work if you are in a band using major crunch most of the time. For the right niche, it could be functional but not fantastic.

    I was intrigued by the idea of running the Effect out to an Acoustic Simulator pedal, but didn't have one handy to test – that may just do some good things for the clean tone. Would be worth some exploration.


    This is where the pedal fails the most. There's no good way to use it sparingly. It doesn't kick in and out subtly, and when it is on, it doubles EVERYTHING you play. That's fine if you're playing whole notes or quarters, but if you are playing a moving line through the key, it replicates every little move in Crate-tone powerchords. This doesn't work – especially in country music, with the walking and moving basslines.
    I really could only come up with 2-3 songs, at most, in our 5-hour set that would have a real home for this tone. Another type of band might find more use for it.


    So, in order to get that almost-acceptable tone in a live setting, I would have to bring a guitar amp, a mic for the cab, and another pedalboard, and all of the associated cables. I'd need another channel on the mixer. And I'd have to schlep all of that in addition to my rig. All of that is just not worth it for a few songs.

    And the cost... for those few songs, a Fission + a Green Rhino + an amp & mic, or a modeler to go direct... just too mich. Hire a decent guitarist for a few months instead, and get the better-paying gigs with your full new sound.

    In summary:

    If what you are looking for is a poorly-skilled powerchord-only backup guitarist with a crappy Crate solid-state guitar amp and an uncanny ability to mimic your every single note, regardless of what's best for the song... this is your pedal.

    I really wanted to like this pedal. I even kept it after requesting an RMA return ticket, just to wait a few days and give it another shot. I just couldn't make it be musical. It's a brilliant idea with some fatal flaws, in my opinion.


    Listen up, Fishman. Here's what you need to do this effect right:

    1)A momentary switch to engage when held down, and disengage when released.

    2)A Hold feature: when you hit the initial note in a measure, stomp down and hold and it will maintain that chord while the bass is free to move independently.
    This would be a HUGE leap in usefulness for the pedal. As it stands, there is no way for the bass player to use the pedal in a way that doesn't neglect the bass role – either through lead-guitar-noodling that abdicates the bass role, or through oversimplification of the bass part to humor the pedal effect.

    A “hold” feature would allow both roles to work independently. It's the only way I can see that the bass can still fill its role, independent of the crunch effect.

    3)Decent clean tone. Not even asking for 'good' here. Just acceptable.

    4)Lose the 4th below. Worthless.

    5)Allow any/all combinations of octave up, 5th, and 2 octave up.

    6)Did I mention a “hold” feature?

    7)100 hz roll-off on the effect, like on the Green Rhino – an adjustable pot. Critical for tone separation.

    8)Oh, and a 'hold' feature.

    So, there you go – mine is off to be returned to Zzounds. Wish I could have loved it.

    For the right band, it could be handy – but it demands a very narrowly-defined sonic niche, it requires too much extraneous gear, and it requires some degree of abdication of the bassist's role.
  2. fasto


    Mar 4, 2007
    Amsterdam, NL
    thx, i just reduced my GAS list & keep my AKAI Unibass ...
  3. GAS killer...

    As a workaround, there are some loopers with momentary switches and then of course you'd need something like the EHX Freeze or one of Z.Cat's pedals with "hold". However, if the tone is bad, particularly clean, then it's a no go.
  4. HUnt49


    Jan 14, 2008
    I guess I shouldn't say the tone is "bad," although the clean tone is IMO...

    The tone is just a very specific niche, and one that needs a mix to blend with.

    I think there are bands with a sound that would lend itself much better to the pedal. For some guys, this will still be a good fit.
  5. HUnt49


    Jan 14, 2008
    Good thought...

    If you don't mind the extra pedal real estate and doing some tap dancing, something like this combined with a decent OD will get you a workable sound. Just more logistics and cost than I care to deal with, myself.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    I'm sure the pedal isn't for every body but you make it seem like it was a waste of time being made.

    That is not my experience at all with this pedal.
  7. Opinions vary, what is yours?

    I still like my Akai Unibass but I would like to give the Fission a go.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.

    I dig it. Of course it's not for every musical situation.
  9. It makes chords - therefore it's clear that walking bass lines might not sound too good...

    A hold button? I'm sorry? Buy a freeze if you want this.

    I don't have the pedal and I'm not related to Fishman in any case but this review is somehow a bit off... I mean, you have mentioned serious problems of the pedal, like the terrible clean tone and the ugly overdrive. But the loud demand for the momentary switch and the hold button make this review ridiculous.
  10. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Yeah, I have to agree--the complaints about what it does poorly are valid, but the complaints that it doesn't do things it wasn't advertised to do need to be separated out.

    Like "here are the things that actually suck about this pedal" and then "here are some features I wish I could find in a pedal like this".

    Although both are perfectly good things to discuss about the pedal in general.
    Driven Crane likes this.
  11. HUnt49


    Jan 14, 2008
    Sure, guys - but the point of the pedal, as marketed, is to allow a "power trio" (as Fishman calls it) to add an extra driven chord, like a rythm guitar.

    You don't think it's hugely pertinent to define how well that works in a real working cover band, aside from tone questions?

    You don't think it's germaine to talk about why this specific use, as the pedal is built, compromises the role of the bass in the group?

    I can't discuss the pedal weaknesses without some valid insights into why those weaknesses make the pedal a miss? Would it be better to just not observe the things that could have been done differently to fill that role in a musically valid way?

    Jaquo - I'm sure there are some good uses for thickening up your own tone - I imagine you are finding some good use for the pedal, as others will too. If I was in a different type of band I'm sure I could find some specific uses, just as you've found.

    Aledeville - ridiculous? So it would be better if I just griped about the tone rather than define what I see that Fishman could do to make this pedal function for the marketed role?

    You missed one of my main points - why, for a pedal that pushes $300, should I need to buy another OD and a freeze, and then try to make it all work?

    If you have the pedal and disagree with me, cool - Jauqo has found good use for it, and others will too. But if you don't... go ahead, order one up, and try to use it in the way I was - which is consistent with its advertised role.

    I bet you'll draw the same conclusions.
  12. You don't get my point. This pedal should make you more guitar like - meaning if you play 8th notes on the open A string through the whole A chord, then you'll have your chord on top. Like a guitar in 95% of all the songs - just playing chords.
    If you now were playing a walking bass line with the major third engaged, you'll have two basslines simultaneously, always the same third between them. Just to mention, there are harmonizers where you'll have to type in the key, that the device knows where to play a major and where to play a minor third.

    I would use a distortion or overdrive to get some space filled when you're playing walking bass lines. This Fishman thing is more for playing simple keynotes.
    AndreasR likes this.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.

    You're right, the pedal works for my uses and I can respect that it's just not the pedal for you.
  14. HUnt49


    Jan 14, 2008
    no, I get yours - you don't get mine.

    I said if I was in a different kind of band - with more straight-8 basslines - it would work better.

    But more importantly - I said that simplifying your bassline to that degree to humor this pedal is giving up your role as a bass player too much.

    The point of my 'hold' suggestion is that it would maintain the chord while you move through it - solving the problem.

    If you want to use it as a tone tool, it opens some interesting doors and many will find good uses.

    If you want something that wears two hats, and wears them well, it doesn't live up to the marketing.

    Like I said, before you explain the pedal to me... try one. Order one and try it in a band setting for the role I'm describing.
    mj_ likes this.
  15. from my experience, ill say this:

    for certain genres/situations, this pedal is a godsend. in my band, it IS the band.

    while you're suggested improvements would be nice for a "deluxe" model, we (my band) like it just as it is.

    yes, the overdrive circuit DOES suck. we run it into a marshall combo we had laying around. little 1x12 AVT. drive channel. EQ it to work out the fact that its actually a heavily pitch shifted bass, a little chorus to make it subltle, and boom. it doesnt have to be all that loud. just enough to fill space. i EQed it to the practice room, not to sound good on its own. the actually bass track is extremely overdriven 100% of the time. so they tend to play nice. the normal bass is nastier than the fission after being reamped.

    4th below setting is entirely useless. and it sounds like butt if its not run through separate amps. i dont see this being a huge issue. if you are trying to replace another guitarist, then trying to replace his gear is a silly idea. a small guitar amp, another mic, not a stretch.

    playing country pop, sure, i cant see it being useful. playing hardcore with a single guitarist, it is paramount. often times when the single guitar has some sort of melody work to do in a chorus, the rhythm guitar is absent. cue the fission. the simple pound away bass part just became 2 people. instant thickness. does that sacrifice the bassline? yea sometimes. but often times the rhythm guitar is playing something that moves anyway, so the bass gets to be good.

    so power trio? no idea. country band? i can see that not working. hardcore band? totally works. dont be so quick to damn its existence. with a few other pedals, you could make it work as you want it to. an EQ, an EHX freeze, a nice guitar combo amp, a momentary signal switch, and you'd be in heaven.

    and a clean tone? this makes power chords for a rhythm guitar out of your bass. you're asking a lot for something asinine. who plays clean power chords?
  16. HUnt49


    Jan 14, 2008
    Thanks for your experience, sonic - it's good to get the perspective of someone using it successfully to wear two hats.

    Sounds to me like you have just the niche for the pedal - lots of drive, straighter basslines, and a real need for the fill-in. Your sound doesn't require clean bass underneath.

    I think our conclusions are much the same- you have the sound eq'd to sit in the mix, not loudly but blending in. That was my thought as well for successful use.

    The idea of an AVT is a good one - a small guitar amp to help out the sound. I just didn't want to haul extra gear 2 nights a week!

    Just to be clear -- I don't damn its existence. As I said, there are specific sonic niches and uses for which it is well suited:

    "I could see it, used sparingly, sitting in a stage mix without taking up too much sonic space. It won't stand alone and would probably be best covered by another guitar...

    Tonally, this pedal will work if you are in a band using major crunch most of the time. For the right niche, it could be functional but not fantastic."

    "For the right band, it could be handy – but it demands a very narrowly-defined sonic niche, it requires too much extraneous gear, and it requires some degree of abdication of the bassist's role."

    That last part is for my application - clearly it fits better for yours.

    If I didn't really like what this pedal has the potential to be, I'd never take the time to write my thoughts down - I'd just return it. I love what this pedal could be... just would like to have it work up to its very exciting potential.

    And as for cleans - I wasn't looking for truly clean power chords, but a clean tone that would work with light overdrive, not only a wall of crunch.
    mj_ likes this.
  17. basswaggz


    Oct 28, 2009
    I've never tried this pedal so I really have no clue what it sounds like. As far as the actually Brantley Gilbert bass tones are concerned, album cuts are a '63 Jazz through an Avalon U5 and a vintage Ampeg Flip Top cranked to the point of getting a tube overdrive sound straight out of the amp. Live, gonna sound crazy, Peavey Void, Trace-Elliot 1200watt head with 4x10 and 1x15 cabs, Avalon U5, Bass Big Muff and a Boss Octave pedal. May help, may not. I'm assuming you only have one electric guitar player and are trying to fill in space.
  18. Marihino


    Mar 25, 2010

    No, the pedal doesn't fail here. It was specifically designed to do exactly that. Did you expect it to make conscious, musical, tasteful choices what to play and when, like a good guitarist would?
  19. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Having owned a Unibass, I probably had more logical expectations for the the Fisson than the OP. I have no expectation that any octave up feature is going to sound like an actual guitar, and I expect that it will need distortion. I expect any digital distortion to sound, well, digital. Like many, I run mine out through a separate amp and it sounds decent. I use it for what these types of things are generally used for: subtle filling out of the sonic space. If you're playing country and don't need a heavy distorted sound, then you certainly picked the wrong pedal, and all of the video review should have told you that in the first place.
    Driven Crane likes this.
  20. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    FYI, everyone, GC has these on sale for $199 right now instead of the normal $279, AND there's an internet coupon for $30 if you use it by the 18th on their website. That prices it at $169, which might improve its value-for-the-money consideration. Ordered mine yesterday. A little trepidatious (is that a word?) after the mixed reviews, so we'll see...

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