Fender, a legendary brand that is synonymous with great guitars and gorgeous amplifiers has entered the earphones market in 2016 through the acquisition of Aurisonics, a Nashville-based boutique American manufacturer which specializes in making custom-fit and universal-fit In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) for serious audiophiles and professional musicians in 2015.
Last year, Fender announced two new models, the CXA1 and the FXA9 Pro; the former targeted at consumers looking to enhance their audio experience at an affordable price, and the latter, is the brand’s new flagship targeting audiophiles and musicians seeking a premium IEM experience. Today, we will be looking at the FXA9 Pro.
Designed and assembled in Nashville, Tennessee which is also known as Music City, USA. The FXA9 Pro is meticulously constructed and hand-painted by the company’s top staffs, a process so complex that there to a daily production limit to ensure that every FXA9 is meticulously made to the company’s exacting standards for the flagship while proudly displaying the iconic ‘F’ on their sides.
The FXA9 Pro features a proprietary HEXAD balanced armature array technology which is a six-driver BA system with three independent sound bores in each 24k gold-plated nozzle separating the low, mid and high frequencies which are said to be tuned to work in perfect harmony using Fender’s exclusive tuning methodology. The HEXAD balanced armature array is housed in a 3D-printed housing based on the company’s Digital Hybrid Technology where literally thousands of ears were scanned in order to discover a custom-molded-like fit which Fender claims to fit for 95% of people. The housing is also designed to create a coupling effect between the drivers and the housing for enhanced bass and reduced ambient interference.
The meticulously made monitors are paired with a detachable triple silver-plated low-oxygen copper cable, Fender has claimed that the low-impedance MMCXi cables reduces signal loss and minimized stereo crosstalk by eliminating bifurcation. Each MMCX connector has a red or blue dot to signify whether it’s for the right or left side allowing easy match those up with the corresponding monitors. The integrated wire features a memory jack which allows one to perfectly shape it over the top of the ear, I for one is not a fan of this implementation as it affects the comfort level.
A good fit is always one of the most fundamental components to ensure good sound. The patent-pending secure-fit tips which come in 4 sizes; S, M, M+, and L is said to provide excellent noise isolation to the wearer, reducing ambient noise by up to 22dB. Fender has shared that the patent-pending tips will actually expand in the ear as they respond to naturally occurring body heat, ensuring a secure seal. During the review process with intensive use in the Porta-Fi Experience Lab as well as onboard public transportation, the FXA9 Pro is certainly comfortable and does a fantastic job in the area of noise isolation. I for one is happy that size M+ was offered as it was a perfect fit for me who is someone in between M and L.
Before I start sharing about the sound quality, the FXA9 Pro is not a set of In-Ear Monitors which you can enjoy if you plug them into the headphone jack of your smartphone, the output from the smartphone would not be sufficient for you to truly hear what they are capable of. If you would still like to plug it into the smartphone, we would recommend a portable headphone amplifier like the Aune B1s. For those of you who would prefer a single unit, we would recommend pairing with a DAP like the Astell&Kern AK70 MKII.
When we put “At Zanarkand / To Zanarkand” (FLAC 24-bit/48kHz) from the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster OST through the FXA9 Pro, the quality of the piano shines with a great rendition of the emotion that was intended.
Listening to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” (DSD 2.8MHz), the FXA9 renders every detail from the quick tempo to every element of its frequency range the track is famous for. However, the track also exhibits a key weakness in the FXA9 Pro, one in the area of coherence, it is not able to align the frequencies together, making it difficult for you to enjoy tracks like “The Way You Make Me Feel” where one can’t help but tap into the shuffling kind of rhythm. At the low-end, the FXA9 Pro sounds a bit boosted, however it does provide a great resolution of bass frequencies with a great definition that allows it to render layers of low-end frequencies.
The FXA9 Pro is an exceptional pair of In-Ear Monitors when it comes to details and dynamism, providing an energetic rendering, no matter what you put through them. However, at this price range. The FXA9 Pro struggles to hold its place in the areas of coherence, transparency, and accuracy.
- Meticulously designed
- Great layered bass
- Lack of coherence
- Lacking in transparency and accuracy
This review unit is provided by Tat Chuan Acoustic.
- Source: Astell&Kern A&ultima SP1000
- Transducer unit: HEXAD balanced armature array
- Frequency response: 12Hz-22kHz
- Impedance: 21 ohm +/- 10% @ 1kHz
- Cable: Triple silver-plated low-oxygen copper cable
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Website: www.fender.com
- Price: USD 1,299 (SGD 1,999)
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