Fishman is the gold standard in acoustic amplification. They outfit high-end acoustic-electric guitars like Taylor with on-board acoustic pickups, and their direct box/effects/EQ pedal lives up to that level of quality. I didn’t have a preamp pedal for years before I bought this unit. I used only my on-board Fishman pre-amp on my Taylor 810ce. That sounds good on its own, but it can’t match the power of a floor pedal.
If you’re a general musician, you’re totally welcome to stay for a great review of this preamp. But I’m coming at this from the perspective of a worship leader/worship musician who plays live most Sundays. The same principles can be applied no matter what type of band you play in.
When I first played the ToneDEQ I couldn’t believe how my guitar sounded. It was like hearing it for the first time. And, my sound guys loved the power it pushed to the board. No more maxing out my little on-board preamp!
The unit is a bit spendy at $300, but it replaces your direct box, chorus pedal, reverb pedal, EQ pedal, compressor, and boost. I even run my electric guitar through it when I’m playing lead.
Here’s what you’ll find on this unit:
- 2 reverbs
- 2 delays
- 2 choruses
- Time/Level control for reverb and delay
- Rate/level control for chorus, flanger and tremolo
- Low cut
- Quarter-inch (instrument cable) input
- Quarter-inch (instrument cable) output
- XLR (mic cable) D.I. output
- 9vdc jack
- Pre/post selector
Here are some shots of the input/output options…
WHY YOUR GUITAR Sound IS IMPORTANT IN WORSHIP LEADING
When you’re playing an acoustic guitar in church (or in any band), it’s easy to get lost in the mix. You have keys, drums, vocals — all in the same range as the guitar. It’s tough to cut through. And tough for your soundman, too.
This unit helps you slice the sound and be heard. That’s important for the congregation, which actually takes cues from your guitar playing. If they can’t hear your guitar, they don’t know if you’re building up again to go to the chorus or backing off to end the song.
Same goes for the band. If your worship team can’t hear your guitar, they can get lost. Personally, I work in a ton of cues with my guitar playing. And it all could be for nothing if I don’t have that extra oomph.
“Even OuT” Your Playing
When you’re leading worship, you’re doing everything from fingerpicking to start a song, to an all-out heavy strum. You want to hit every intensity in your worship set, from nearly silent to all-in.
The compressor on this unit evens out your playing. Light picking is audible and clear. Loud strumming is tamed. You can control the amount of compression. I personally run mine at about 30%, but if you like the super-compressed sound, go for it!
Let Your True Guitar Be Heard (And Stop Breaking Strings)
The ToneDEQ Preamp doesn’t change your guitar into something it’s not with obnoxious effects. Fishman realizes that acoustic guitar players actually like the sound of their guitar, not plugged into anything at all! So, they created a preamp that magnifies what your guitar is already, times ten. This unit is that good.
One side benefit I’ve noticed is that I can’t remember the last time I broke a string in service! Nothing kills a song like a string breaking and the guitar going out of tune. You have to switch guitars or deal with it until the end of the set. Well, again, this unit helps you be heard by others and also by you! If you can hear yourself, you don’t have to strum so dang hard and keep breaking strings.
The only slight downside is that you can choose either reverb or delay for live playing because the same selector switches between them. I leave it on reverb and have a separate delay pedal. You also can’t tap in a tempo for delay, another downside.
A single selector also controls chorus/flanger/tremolo. You can only choose one for your set, unless you can switch to another setting between songs. I would much rather see Fishman separate out these effects, but then you would be looking at 5-6 switches on the pedal instead of 3, which would increase the size and complexity of the unit. Part of the beauty of this is that you can literally grab it, your guitar, and a couple cables and go play a live acoustic worship set or performance. I believe this is the reason Fishman “consolidated” the effects controls on the pedal.
Despite the minimal downsides, I’ve found that reverb and chorus are the only effects I would use in a live worship setting anyway. So, no real loss there.
A couple more things to note: This pedal also does not have a built-in tuner. I love my Boss TU3, so I was actually glad the pedal wasn’t cluttered with a tuner. Also, it does not come with a power cable, so be sure to pick up a Truetone 1 Spot Power Supply.
Why Doesn’t My ToneDEQ Volume Control Work When Using the XLR Output?
It’s kind of strange, but this is a feature, not a bug. (I thought I would include this in the review after a reader was brought it up too.)
According to the manual, “XLR DI Output: This D.I. provides a fixed-level output, unaffected by the volume control.”
This might be because Fishman wants the unit to send a predictable output to the sound board.
If you really want to crank it though, you still can. Use the 1/4 inch output into a separate DI or amp and the volume knob will work again.
Should You Get A Fishman ToneDEQ?
I would buy this unit again after using it for the past year and a half. There are certainly cheaper units out there, but for the acoustic guitar-playing worship musician I sincerely think there’s no better choice.
Want more gear advice? See my mega-post: The Gear I Use For Worship
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