Review: Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge Acoustic Amp

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Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge

Acoustic performers have come to rely on Fishman products to faithfully reproduce and reinforce great, natural sound of wood and strings. With the Loudbox Mini Charge, Fishman is offering a truly portable acoustic amp with their popular preamp and tone control designs that will give acoustic players enough volume to be noticed. Plus, there are some additional features that make this amp a real asset for acoustic performers who take to the stage.

I put the Loudbox Mini Charge through its paces in my home studio to get a feel for just how much ‘loud’ I could count on for performing. Then, I compared it to some other amps its size. In both cases, I was impressed. Not only did the amp sound great with acoustic instruments and stage piano sounds, but it lived up to its name providing more than enough volume for acoustic performances. If this amp isn’t loud enough for you, you need a full PA!

In my studio, I simulated a performance situation using both the instrument channel (quarter-inch input) and mic channel (XLR). While some acoustic amps provide input selection and combination XLR/quarter inch connectors, for most performing situations, this amp’s dedicated channels would work well. Plus, the dedicated instrument channel provides important additional features for instrumentalists, like a phase button that can help with feedback on stage and a chorus effect. A good sounding reverb is available on both channels. Another nice feature is a master volume control that provides convenient overall volume control. For rehearsal, playing break music, or working with tracks, the amp has Bluetooth wireless connectivity and a rear panel aux input.

The Loudbox Mini Charge packs 60 watts into a tight, solidly constructed package that weighs just a fraction over 21 pounds and an optional carry bag makes it easy to transport. While it looks like it might, the cabinet construction does not support a full tilt-back position, but the smart design does put the 6.5” woofer and 1” soft dome tweeter up at a 10-degree angle. That’s handy to keep the sound clean and off floor. It is also easy enough, with such a small footprint, to put this amp up on a box or table top. The cabinet does have four very responsible rubber feet that protect and isolate it nicely from the floor or table.

I played both acoustic guitar and stage piano through the instrument channel and both sounded amazingly real–really good for an amp of any size, let alone something as portable as the Loudbox Mini Charge. There was plenty of bottom end with low, mid, and high tone controls set flat and plenty more available. Similarly, vocals sounded very responsible for such a small box and the reverb (available on both channels) was very realistic.

Since the rechargeable battery and power management circuitry are important features for this portable amp, I decided to put them to the test. The manufacturer claims that the battery circuitry is “specifically designed to maximize output levels and playing time”. Right out of the box, with only 30 minutes or so of charging, I unplugged the amp to see how it would do. There was no difference in sound quality with the unit running on battery power and I was able to complete several hours of rehearsal (with stage piano and voice) without putting the plug back in the wall. Indicator lights on the front panel indicate battery operation, low battery, and charging status. The manufacturer advertises up to 12 hours of performance at ‘average volume’. I suspect that ‘average volume’ could be different for each player, but based on my experience you could easily cover a few hours of a typical indoor gig at moderate volume without a problem. One thing to note is that, for optimal battery power, the Loudbox Mini Charge takes 10 hours to fully charge.

One of the more valuable pages in the little booklet the comes with the Loudbox Mini Charge suggests some basic tone settings for low, medium, and high volume operation. While this is basic stuff that applies to all amps, in the set-up before a gig, it is something that musicians sometimes fail to consider when moving from one space to another. For those who take the time to look at the manual, this will help the amp and those using it to sound their best.

Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge (rear view)

For performers who need to take their acoustic sound to a bigger stage, the Loudbox Mini Charge provides a post-EQ DI output (XLR) on the back that lets you take advantage of the Fishman preamp, effects, and makes this amp a great monitor on stage.

Street Price: $499 (optional carry bag $99)

Features:

Rechargeable battery power
Bluetooth® 4.0 Connectivity
Dedicated Instrument and Mic Channels with Input Gain Controls
Mix D.I. output
Digital Reverb & Chorus
1/8” Auxiliary Input
Balanced XLR D.I. output
Lightweight & Portable

 

 

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