Fishman’s new AFX Mini Acoustic pedals were more than two years in the making, and it seems that a lot of that time was spent thinking about ways acoustic guitarists could optimize their rigs—and how acoustic and electric players’ needs differ.
The four offerings in the series include the Pocket Blender mixer (and more), AcoustiVerb reverb, Broken Record looper and sampler, and Pro EQ Mini preamp with graphic equalizer. Each runs on 9-volt external power and has a handsome design with a painted front panel, brushed aluminum housing, and clearly labeled controls.
What sets the AFX series apart from most effects is that the quarter-inch jacks are TRS (tip/ring/sleeve) stereo, allowing them to route two independent signals. This feature offers more control over the signal path if you use TRS and/or Y cables, but the pedals work perfectly well with mono cables too.
The reverb, EQ, and looper all let you choose between buffered and true bypass, and whether they work on the tip or ring part of the signal path. You can, for example, set up two different spatial effects and toggle between them, separate the guitar’s dry signal from the effect and send each to a different amp, and much more.
Let’s take a brief look at each effect; check out the video for a more in-depth look at some of the features.
Harder to briefly explain than it is to use, this Swiss Army knife can work as a dual level switcher, A/B box, balanced DI, clean boost, and more. There are four faders—two for the tip and two for the ring—each with an A and B mix position accessed by the footswitch.
In mono, you could set two levels, one for rhythm and the other for lead, or plug two guitars into the TRS input using a Y cable and set their relative levels while muting the one you’re not playing. And that’s just in the A/B toggle mode; others include A+B/mute, A+B/A, and A+B/B.
The output scheme makes the Pocket Blender even more powerful. Its ABY jack lets you send the A and B signals to separate amps or effects, while the DI jack uses Fishman’s balanced driver circuit, which can feed a mixer.
Pro EQ Mini
This combination preamp/EQ is designed to act as the front end for a range of different acoustic guitar pickups. Its preamp offers up to 20dB of clean gain, while the trim control lets you match the pedal to your instrument’s electronics. The LED indicates level and helps you optimize gain for your rig. The graphic EQ has five bands: Low Cut (very useful for fighting feedback), Bass, Middle, Treble, and Brilliance. Overall, the Pro EQ’s sound is extremely clean, with frequencies well-tuned for acoustic guitar. Here’s a cool extra: The footswitch toggles between the EQ setting and no EQ, and includes some clever features that, depending how long you hold it, allow you to toggle between mute and bypass, and even reverse the polarity for improved bass response in certain situations.
The 32-bit AcoustiVerb has a big, lush sound and plenty of headroom. Its three modes include Spring, Hall, and Plate; the last was my favorite for acoustic guitar, while Spring really nailed it for electric. Other controls include level (mix), decay time, and tone. The Audio Path switch lets you decide whether the reverb applies to the ring or the tip input/output. Overall, the AcoustiVerb boasts an impressive sound, easy operation, and surprising versatility.
This 32-bit digital looper/sampler has the same signal and bypass switching as the AcoustiVerb. A mini-switch lets you choose between looper and sampler modes. You can play over the loop and add to it by overdubbing, mixing the live sound and loops with the level control. The audio quality is outstanding and there is plenty of recording time. In sampler mode, you can play audio once without looping, like a background track. And the Broken Record lets you transfer to computer via USB—a very useful feature.
The Bottom Line
Fishman’s AFX series is a very impressive set of effects. While clearly designed to work together, the four pedals can fit into any rig. Even in mono mode, they sound good enough to justify their $119 street price each (Pocket Blender is $89.95)—especially considering their advanced signal routing and other intelligent features. fishman.com
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.