Review: Fender Newport et Fender Monterey

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Fender, the famous American manufacturer lauded for its guitars and amplifiers has entered the market of Bluetooth home speakers and portable speakers with the release of the Fender Newport and Fender Monterey. But is the Fender brand name enough to guarantee quality sound restitution’

Fender Newport: the portable speaker

Founded in 1946 in Fullerton, California, Fender is synonymous with quality conception, high quality sound and reliability in the world of music. The Fender Newport Bluetooth speaker inherits its look from the amplifiers manufactured by the legendary American brand. The Fender Newport is designed for listening to music wirelessly and without the need for a power block, whether you are at home or on a stroll. Thanks to its rechargeable battery, the speaker offers up to eleven hours of listening far from all sources of power on a single charge. An integrated microphone also allows the user to answer phone calls. From looking at the pictures provided by Fender, we thought that the design of the speaker was rather elegant. After opening the box, our impression was confirmed. The plastic parts are sturdy and the aluminum grill gives the speaker a refined flair. While compact, the Fender Newport is surprisingly heavy, which is actually a good sign. It indicates that the manufacturer didn’t try to save on costs by using cheap materials, components and speaker drivers. This Fender Newport is nice and weighty!

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The Fender Newport portable Bluetooth speaker.

The top panel of the speaker hosts the various controls: metal switch to power the speaker, LED indicator, Bluetooth pairing button, “talk” button, and three witch hat knobs with 1-10 increments. In addition to the standard volume knob, the Fender Newport also features bass and treble controls.

The Fender Newport is fitted with two mid/bass drivers and a tweeter. The only way to know more about the drivers would be to open the speaker. The integrated class D amplifier can deliver up to 30 Watts. The frequency response is not indicated, which worried us at first. The Bluetooth 4.2 controller is compatible with the SBC (universal), AAC (iPhone), and apt-X codecs. A USB port and a 3.5 mm mini-jack stereo input are located at the back of the speaker which allows the user to charge a device and connect a DAP, for example.

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The Fender Newport’s mini-jack line input and the USB port for charging an external device.

Fender Newport: test conditions and listening impressions

We listened to the speaker using an Android smartphone compatible with apt-X transmission (confirmed by the smartphone during our listening session). We listened to MP3 files streamed from Google Play Music, as well as FLAC files stored on our smartphone. We placed the speaker on a desk in a large open-space area, then moved it to our listening room, which benefits from a much better acoustic treatment. We adjusted the tone knobs and quickly found the appropriate settings for both our rooms.

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The Fender Newport’s control panel.

A short sequence of electric guitar at medium volume is played when powering the speaker. This sound cannot be adjusted nor deactivated. This is not a major drawback by any stretch, Fender simply wants to remind the listener that he/she is listening to a speaker designed by a guitar manufacturer. Fair enough. The start-up sound sound actually gives a pretty good idea of the speaker’s sound signature. Responsiveness along with an extended frequency response, everything’s there. We started our listening session with Michael Kinawuka’s Cold Little Heart, which was delivered with a lot of energy throughout the entire sound spectrum. A remarkable performance. The highs are slightly highlighted but are skillfully kept under control and therefore do not negatively impact the restitution. The singer’s voice is clearly separated from the instruments and the drums are restituted with an impressive richness for such a compact speaker (18 x 13 x 8 cm). The Fender Newport speaker is rather directive and it is necessary to place it directly facing the listening area to enjoy its full potential. The manufacturer decided to go against the current trend of ultra-wide sound diffusion for compact connected speakers (which inevitably affects the balance of high frequencies).

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The Fender Newport’s aluminum grill and Fender logo.

Lows: relatively deep, with a slight bump around 70 Hz. An overall solid performance considering the size of the Newport.
Mids: slightly set back but well balanced.
Highs: flattering to the ear, yet nuanced and detailed.

Fender Newport: compared to…

Klipsch The One: also boasting a vintage design, the Klipsch The One can’t hold a candle to the Fender Newport when it comes to bass delivery nor is it as clear in the highs. The Fender speaker wins this round.

Sony SRS-XB41: acoustically speaking, the Sony is a lot less rigorous and becomes short of breath at high volume. The Sony has the advantage when it comes to battery life and waterproof design but the Fender speaker has the upper hand as far as sound restitution goes.

B&W T7: ultra-compact and resistant, the B&W T7 lacks in power when compared to the Fender Newport whose sound signature sounded more elaborate to our ears. The Fender speaker has the advantage over its competitor.

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Fender Newport: conclusion

What we liked:

  • The tonal balance
  • The meticulous restitution
  • The speaker’s look
  • The construction quality
  • The compatibility with the apt-X codec

We would have liked:

  • A carrying handle?

The Fender Newport won us over instantly with its cheerful and expressive restitution. Even at high volume, the speaker stays coherent and balanced. An up-close listening experience ensures a splendid sound resolution, while the tone balance stays absolutely delightful at midrange. Fender went for a no-frills design (WiFi, tactile controls, etc.) and produced a gorgeous speaker offering a serious and captivating sound. Hat’s off.

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The Fender Monterey and the compact Fender Newport.

Fender Monterey: presentation

The Fender Monterey Bluetooth speaker is the Newport’s big sister. Both share the same DNA, but the Monterey is much bigger (33 x 24 x 13 cm) and is not equipped with a battery. The Monterey is a home speaker. Its class D amplifier rated at 120 W drives two mid-bass drivers and two tweeters. Here again, the size of the drivers and the type of enclosure was not specified by Fender, but what really matters is the speaker’s performance, right? The Bluetooth controller is SBC, AAC and apt-X compatible. The volume and tone can be adjusted via the control knobs located on the top of the speaker and the loudness mode (considerable reinforcement of the lows) may be activated using a switch situated on the back of the speaker. In addition to the mini-jack 3.5 mm line input, the Fender Monterey speaker also features a RCA stereo line input. The last feature which sets the Monterey and the Newport apart is the presence of a manual source selector on the Monterey.

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Tolex finish for the Fender Monterey and plastic for the Fender Newport. The structure of both speakers is reinforced with wood.

Fender Monterey: listening impressions

Same listening conditions for the Fender Monterey Bluetooth speaker: we used a smartphone to listen to MP3 and FLAC files via Bluetooth apt-X transmission in two different listening rooms.

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The smartphone we used for the test confirmed that the apt-X codec was activated with the Fender speakers.

With the loudness mode deactivated, the Fender Monterey’s sound signature is a bit drier than that of the Newport. The mids are brought to the fore and are delivered with precision and energy. The highs are detailed (probably the same tweeter) but do not not color the overall listening experience quite as much (even at high volume). The output level is impressive and the Fender Monterey has no problem reaching a high sound level. This Fender speaker is definitely powerful. When the loudness mode is activated, the experience become more physical. It benefits from a generous extension in the lower end of the sound spectrum and its EQ is clearly rock-oriented. The Fender Monterey is the type of speaker which has no trouble delivering music during a party, and was clearly made to deliver sound at high volume.

Lows: commanding, with more impact than depth when the loudness mode is deactivated. Luxuriant and demonstrative when the loudness mode is activated.
Mids: convincing textures, great transient response, it rocks!
Highs: silky and slightly set back compared to the mids.

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The Shape selector located at the back of the Fender Monterey lets the user activate or deactivate the loudness mode.

Fender Monterey compared to:

Klipsch The Three: although the sound signature of the two speakers is comparable, the Klipsch fails to reach the Fender’s high sound output without losing its composure, the low register loses its fullness and the highs become aggressive. The Fender stands above its competitor.

Marshall Woburn: while the Marshall Woburn and the Fender Monterey look slightly similar and are both apt-X compatible, their sound signatures are different. The Marshall Woburn delivers a tremendous amount of energy in the high-bass which results in a restricted extension in the lows. The frequency bump in the high-mids also makes it less subtle than the Fender speaker. The Fender Monterey wins this round.

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Conclusion

What we liked:

  • The power and the composure at high volume
  • The design
  • The construction quality
  • The compatibility with the apt-X codec

We would have liked:

  • Nothing comes to mind.

Pairing big drivers with a powerful amplifier is not enough to make a great wireless speaker. Fender understood this and worked meticulously on the response curve of the Fender Monterey to ensure an enjoyable listening experience regardless of the conditions. The Monterey also benefits from a strong personality and the energy it displays in the mids results in a unique sound signature.

In the end, although the two speakers were obviously designed for different types of applications, the compact Fender Newport is the one that really won us over. We just weren’t expecting such an enjoyable and accomplished sound signature.

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The Fender Newport Bluetooth speaker is a real feat in acoustic design.

1 COMMENT

  1. These Fender speakers look great, but I was wondering if it was worth spending a such great amount of money in a Bluetooth speaker? Apart from the design, what make these speakers different from, say, the JBL Flip series of speakers?

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