In our latest Geek Beat Music Review, I take a look at the Triple Play Wireless MIDI Synth Controller from Fishman. It’s a bolt-on option for adding synth for your guitar. Using the computer and virtual instruments, you can make your guitar sound like anything you want. However, does it live up to the promise? In my opinion, it does and through the course of this review I’ll tell you why.
Before getting into the meat of things I have a confession to make. I was very reluctant to do this review. Not because the Triple Play looked like a bad product, but MIDI synth is outside my scope, both in skill set and musical preference. In short, I thought it warranted a much better musician than I am. Once I got it, I felt overwhelmed because I didn’t understand it. It took me a couple weeks to understand that I was making things much harder on myself than I had to. That opened my eyes to what Triple Play really was, a way to make MIDI a lot more accessible, powerful, and plain easy to use. That goes for the guitarist like me who has very little Midi experience, like me, all the way up to those making complex arrangements using patches.
Installing the Triple Play is a breeze. There are a couple options for that. The easiest option in my option, is the mounting brackets. It goes between your strap button and the guitar’s body. For those wondering if it interferes with strap locks, it doesn’t. I use Dunlops and they lock perfectly. The back of the bracket has a soft cork material so as not to damage your guitar. A mounting plate with a sticky adhesive is then applied on top of the strap bracket. The triple play controller then connect magnetically to the mounting plate. Its a very secure connection that won’t fall off on stage. Connecting the pickup is a similar process. You stick one of 4 plastic pickup mounts between your bridge pickup and the bridge itself. If using a Tune-o-matic style bridge, there is a metal mounting bracket that mounts to the bridge posts. You need to measure your string height and take off the bridge; it’s a great way to mount it. Whatever way you mount the Triple Play, it’s non destructive and you don’t have to be a luthier to install it. That alone should make it a good choice for someone wanting to add MIDI to their guitar. With just the included hardware, you could also, in theory, use the Triple Play on more than one guitar. If the mount is already there, it’d only take a couple of seconds to transplant.
Fishman includes a huge array of software with the Triple Play. You get IK Multimedia’s Simple Tank XT, Native Instrument’s Komplete Elements, Notation Progression, PreSonus Studio One Artist 2. All in all, that software package would cost $230 if you were to buy those programs seperately. Among those are a bunch of virtual instruments in Simple Tank XT and Komplete Elements, a Digital Audio Workstation in Studio One Artist, and music writing software in Progression. Progression deals in both standard notation and tablature and will translate between the two. For guitarists who didn’t come up through the classic ranks, this is much appreciated.
Most of these apps will come together as plug-ins in Fishman’s own Triple Play App. It makes it easy to add up to 4 virtual instruments and a guitar rig for the guitar’s magnetic pickups. Each of these have volume fader controls as well as a master control. You can easily map out splits on the fretboard which also doubles as a tab readout of what you played. A center display in the software will show you either a levels meter or a tuner. The later is accurate and easy to use. From this interface you can run songs and patches into the Triple Play for live use. The songs you can import from Progression. You can also add physical controls like a MIDI pedalboard. The software covers all the bases, but allows you to up your game if you need more.
The Triple Play Controller
The Triple Play Controller itself has a very simple design. It consists of a volume knob, a 3-way switch between guitar, synth, and a mix of the two, and a 4-way directional button. You use these to control the software on stage. Up top is the power selector and the pairing button. It pairs to your computer through a USB dongle. That’s literally everything there is to it. Using the Triple Play is honestly that simple.
I am not a complex guitarist at all. I’m no Joe Satriani on the fretboard and I’m certainly not the kind of composer that Derek Song is. If I was, this would be a much longer review. The beauty of Triple Play is that you don’t have to be. Whether you’re a high-end musician or a guitarist simply wanting to add a piano, organ, or violin piece to a song, Triple Play has something for you. And it’s all very usable on stage.
You can mix your guitar with Triple Play one of two ways. For the first way, you can connect your guitar via a USB interface. You can then setup a virtual rig within amp modeling software and bring that preset into the Triple Play app. Using this method, you’ll have full control over the mix of guitar and synth modes. The second way won’t give you the 3-way selection switch, but in a way it’s the more interesting of the two. You can use Triple Play alongside of your physical guitar setup. Triple Play’s wireless has no perceptible latency. Using Triple Play and the Blues Organ Preset, I played the main riff to Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin'” where the rhythm guitar and organ parts largely mirror each other. It sounded fantastic and realistic enough to be used on stage. This held true with multiple virtual instruments. The fact that a wireless digital signal can keep up with an traditional analog guitar rig is mind blowing. It shows how far this technology has come. Fishman’s engineers deserve a TON of praise.
As for battery life, I’ll routinely forget to turn the controller off after playing. Not because I’m testing it, I just forget to turn it off. I do the same with 1/4″ cables and my pedals. I’d say Fishman’s 20-hour battery life is not only accurate, but might be a bit conservative. If you do need to recharge, you can hook it up to your computer or just use your cell phone charger. In my opinion, going with the lithium ion battery creates a controller that has better battery life and is thinner than it would have been using AAAs. And let’s face it, finding a USB cable these days is much easier than remember where you put the box of batteries.
Pricing and Availability
The Fishman Triple Synth pickup and controller costs roughly $399 at retail. It may be more or less depending on where you shop. It can be found at any of the major music chains, Amazon, or your local Fishman dealer. $400 may not be cheap, but it’s less than what it’d take your luthier to install a traditional synth pickup, controller, and a battery box. Plus it’s wireless and you don’t have to give up one or more of your guitar’s control pots. You wouldn’t get the software either.
If you’re a guitarist looking to get into MIDI Synth, the Fishman Triple Play is definitely worth a look. It’s easy to use, easy to install, non-destructive to your guitar, and a comes with a great starter software package. It also has a device that has something for everyone whether you’re composing complex synth arrangements or just need a spot virtual instrument that doesn’t warrant having an additional band member. It’s completely wireless, but almost completely devoid of any lag. I was extremely reluctant to do this review, but I’m glad I did. Larry Fishman should be very proud of his team for the Triple Play.
- Great Sound
- No Lag Wireless
- Easy to Use
- Easy to install
- Non-Destructive Installation
- Included software package has everything you need to get started with the Triple Play
- Has its own battery with long life
- Expensive at $400
- Glue on Pickup Mount doesn’t stick