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Guitar legend Fender launches first in-ear headphone line (and yes, they rock)

Zach Epstein
May 12th, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Fender In-Ear Monitors

My name is Zach and I am a recovering musician. I began playing the guitar at a very young age and took to it immediately. It would remain my instrument of choice over the course of more than decades, in and out of bands, and ultimately as a hobby I still revisit from time to time in order to unwind.

For years I studied everything from classical to rock under well-known musicians, and Fender was always my go-to guitar brand. Sure I went through others here and there, but my first guitar was a Fender Telecaster (OK, it was actually a Telecaster copy by Fernandes since I couldn’t afford a real Telecaster) and my last guitar was a vintage Strat. I even had a Heartfield Elan III at one point, which some electric guitar fans might remember.

So naturally when Fender’s PR firm reached out to let me know that the company was about to announce its first line of in-ear monitors, I had to check them out immediately. And thankfully, Fender’s first foray into headphones does not disappoint.

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Fender on Thursday announced the debut of its first-ever line of in-ear monitors (IEM). For the unanointed, in-ear monitors are traditionally specially tuned in-ear headphones used on stage by musicians. In recent years, however, the term has been expanded a bit to also refer to consumer products.

Many leading companies that have historically stuck to the pro audio space have recently expanded their reach into consumer products in search of growth. Marshall is a perfect example — the company recently moved beyond pro-grade sound systems and into wireless speakers and headphones.

Now Fender becomes the latest brand to follow suit, and its premiere offering is impressive.

Fender has a rich heritage that reaches all the way back to the 1930s. The company first began mass-producing guitars in the early 1950s, and its brand would become one of the most recognizable names in rock. Now, Fender hopes to make a splash in the headphone market, and it’s off to a good start.

The company announced five different in-ear monitor models that range in price from just $99.99 all the way up to $499.99. All models from the entry-level DXA1 to the professional-grade FXA7 feature custom drivers, and the four FX models all feature a killer design that is unmistakably Fender.

I was sent a set of red FXA6 IEMs to test and I had a whole lot of fun testing them. They retail for $399.99 so they’re definitely aimed at audiophiles. I’ve found that among similarly priced IEMs I’ve tested, the FXA6 are very competitive.

The tuning on the FXA6 is impressive and true — think of these IEMs as a fresh start. Instead of artificially over-inflating the bass and trimming other frequencies like some headphones do, these Fender monitors deliver powerful sound that stays as close to the recording as possible. Then, as you play with the equalizer on whatever smartphone or audio player you’re using, you have something of a blank canvas to work with.

Where design is concerned, the FX line looks fantastic. They’re solid but light so as not to cause fatigue, and the detachable braided cable keeps the cord free of tangles. Note that these are purist headphones and they do not have an in-line mic or smartphone controls.

Included with each model is a carrying case, a cleaning tool, a 1/4 inch audio adapter and several different sizes of rubber tips that grip quite well and, in my testing, don’t leak any sound at all.

“Fender Pro IEM’s are a natural brand extension given our long standing relationship with music,” said Fender CMO Evan Jones. “This launch marks a new era of technical innovation while still capturing the craftsmanship, dedication and performance quality that embodies the Fender brand.”

All five new IEM models are available beginning Thursday on Fender’s website.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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