I’ll admit, Fender is probably not the first name I think of when it comes to PA gear. But in recent years, the venerable brand has been pushing further into both the consumer audio and pro audio markets to supplement its traditional guitar and amp businesses. And, since the company started off in the radio/speaker/amp market, is it really that surprising to see a new line of Fender PA speakers?
Let’s start with the good. The new 12” “Fighter” model does sound pretty impressive, at least at low-to-moderately high volumes. When pushed, and in all fairness I mean really pushed, high-volume applications seemed to start suffering slightly. But really, only slightly. I’m not sure how to quite put my finger on it, since it wasn’t traditional clipping that I’m used to, but the sound seemed a touch ‘lacking’ when cranked to the max. We’ve pushed some comparable speakers recently to their limits with slightly better results in clarity. That’s not to say the Fighter 12’s sounded bad at all — far from it, they’re more than up to the task of 90% of typical applications — we’re merely pointing out that to our ears, we’ve heard a little better at similar price points and enclosure sizes.
Which brings us to the next point – at $349 per speaker, there’s a fair bit of competition out there in the PA field (both new and used). So, to come at a lot of established brands and models, Fender better have something new to bring to the table. And to a certain extent, that’s where the Fighter 12 becomes an interesting option, especially for duos, small combos, DJs and solo singer/songwriters. There’s Bluetooth connectivity, but we’ve seen that in plenty of other speakers. They’re lightweight, but so aren’t a lot of models. They’ve got lots of power, and are easy to use, but again…we’ve seen that. They’ve got standard pole mounts…OK, you get the point.
The one key differentiator that might be the selling point for artists is the multiple inputs and EQ settings for each channel. See, you’ve got three channels to work with and treble/bass/volume dials for each. So, in essence, for small groups and functions, you might be able to get away without the need for a mixer (vocals, acoustic guitar and another line-level input would work well). One less piece of gear to haul to a gig, and run cables to? I’d be willing to be a lot of artists on the house concert scene would dig that. I will say I also appreciate the option to chain the Fighters together and designate if the unit is being used as a full-range speaker or sub. Plus, let’s address the obvious as it relates to the build quality — these might be able to withstand the most abuse out of all of the models we’ve tested out recently. So for the road warriors out there, give ’em a serious look.
In all honesty, we’ve reviewed a lot of PA speakers that do what these do in terms of sound and ease-of-use. Perhaps consumers who don’t know much about the world of pro audio will be drawn to the familiar Fender name, in which case they’ve certainly made an affordable, hella-rugged, easy-to-use product that fulfills a lot of needs. And we do see some differentiation for the Fighter line in the crowded marketplace, which is what Fender will need to compete. So, all in all, good show. With just one or two more interesting features the “other guys” don’t already have, the brand can put their next series over the edge.
Sounds good, rugged build quality, easy to use, good controls, affordable.
Doesn’t really offer a ton of new features, but that’s OK.