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HEAVY Gear – Fender FX In Ear Monitors

The Gloom In The Corner – Leaderboard
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FENDER FXA2 & FXA6 IN-EAR MONITORS

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Chris Themelco of Monolith Studios

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Welcome to the second edition of HEAVY Gear. Each month we will review something new in the wonderful world of musical gear and software.
This month we look at the FENDER FXA2 & FXA6 In-Ear Monitors.

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The world of In Ear Monitors is already populated by a vast array of quality brands toting different styles, build qualities and tonal characteristics such as Shure, Audio Technica, Westone, Alien Ears, and much, much more. Now renowned guitar instrument company, Fender is taking a shot at entering the IEM market, and I’ve had a set of the FXA-2 and FXA-6 models to check out for a little while.

The FX series has seven models ranging between $399 and $2499 RRP. Our models today retail at $399 and $799, so let’s see what we get for our dollars. Included with each pair is a soft shell case (which is almost a hard shell), multiple sets of different sized ear buds to suit any and all ear sizes, a cleaning brush, and the detachable swivel cable to connect the units to an audio source.

When first picking up the units, it’s quite apparent that Fender has put some serious time and thought into the build quality of the units. As the description on their website explains, in order to achieve the universal moulds as precise as they required, each set is 3D-printed and hand polished to perfection. That much is very obvious from the finish of the units. The seal between the two halves of the shells is smooth to the touch, and I couldn’t even get my finger nail remotely between the two, showing an extremely tight fit. A few Hex screws keep them together, which allows for maintenance and repair if that should ever be needed: something which other brands have neglected to include in a lot of their models. This would also make it easy to install the drivers for different models as all the shells in the FX series have the same unique shell mould.

Both units are fairly low impedance which means you’ll get some serious volume connecting to consumer grade products like your phone or mp3 player.

The plastic is super rigid, and they feel somewhat weighty giving an air of real sturdiness. After taking them on the road a few times, I even got a little lax in caring for them, letting them get thrown around quite a bit to test their durability and they’ve managed to come out entirely unscathed through the process. Another testament to the foresight in their production is how well these seal in the ear. I went to custom moulded IEMs some years ago after finding that so many consumer models would have a poor seal and came out way too easily while running around on stage yet I found it took a surprising amount of (sometimes comically absurd) movement to dislodge the FX buds from my ears.

After spending quite some time with the FXA-2 model, it definitely feels like the more ‘commercial audio’ unit than the FXA-6. It’s slightly exaggerated and focused in the high mid area, making music quite flattering when listening to commercial mixes. The low end is quite lean but that’s to be expected on a single driver set. While the low end isn’t too apparent, what is there remains quite tight and clear. Fender is definitely avoiding the faux low end that some IEMs have which leaves you with a fairly exaggerated and smeared low spectrum. The top end can get a little brittle but this was something that didn’t feel immediately apparent, and hearing fatigue didn’t kick in for quite a while listening though these which was a pleasant experience. Overall this pair feels like it would be great for a dedicated music listener and also for a touring musician who wanted a lot of clarity when getting a Guitar or Vocal centric mix in their IEMs during a live situation. Incidentally, that’s what our drummer in Orpheus Omega is using them for on tour along with receiving his backing tracks and click tracks too. It stands to reason they would be quite clear over the ambient noise of drums and a stage helped quite well by the noise rejection factor of the bad boys.

 

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The FXA-6, where to start. While sharing the same commendable build quality as the FXA-2 model, these pack a different punch in the sound department thanks to 2 dedicated hybrid drivers for the Highs and Lows. This pair is considerably warmer overall and has a much more present low end. What this translates to is something more akin to a ‘flatter’ or ‘truer’ sound representation overall. These sounded quite a lot like my own custom moulded IEMs which cost me a considerably greater amount than the $799 asking price of the FXA-6s which was both astounding and somewhat depressing. The overall focus feels much more mid centric comparatively with a nice pillowy low end that never felt too exaggerated or bloated. Blasting some Mix references through, these were a pleasure, and I wouldn’t feel too uncomfortable referencing on them if I was doing some audio mixing work on the go. With less exaggeration in the high mid area, they are arguably less ‘exciting’ to listen on than the FXA-2 series which harkens back to my comment regarding a more listener-oriented experience with the FXA-2 and a more ‘pro’ or ‘flat’ experience on the FXA-6. It would be quite manageable to get a very full and clear band mix in these if that’s what the aim was in a gig situation.

Though the price difference between the two is almost double, the quality of sound and build excels in both models in their respective price range. My final thoughts on the two models are extremely positive on all fronts. If you want to try something that’s a little bit different and arguably superior to a lot of what else is comparable on the market, then Fender’s FX range probably has the right IEMs for you and your budget. Whether you’re just a casual music listener who wants a good sounding set of ear buds to take out to the gym, on a walk or wherever else you may please; or you’re a pro touring musician who wants to push their IEM mix to the limits but retains stunning quality night after night after night, then I definitely recommend checking out what Fender has to offer. More competition in the market can only mean more exciting innovations in the future.

 

 

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THE BREAKDOWN:

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EASE OF USE

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DURABILITY

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TONE

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PRICE

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Carl Neumann

Carl is the owner and the director of HEAVY Magazine. Carl is a music journalist and photographer for HEAVY, Rolling Stone, scenestr, Planet Rock and Kerrang!
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