The headphone market seems to be a never-ending parade of celebrity headphones and speaker manufacturers trying their hand at headphones. Now it's Fender's turn. Obviously the company is best known for its iconic guitars and basses, but Fender just introduced a line of five in-ear monitors, ranging from the $99 DXA1 to the $499 FXA7. I opted for two middle-of-the-line models, the FXA2 ($199), and FXA5 ($299).
Most celebrity-branded headphones have a generic look, feel and sound, but Fender acquiredto create the Fender line. Dale Lott, the original Aurisonics founder, made outstanding in-ears in the past, and the company is still producing quality headphones. The new Fender in-ears are designed and hand-built in Nashville.
The headphones feature 3D-printed earpieces and detachable cables with MMCXi silver-plated connectors -- so if you ever have a problem with the cable, you can get a new one from Fender.
The FXA2 earpieces sport a single 9.25mm dynamic driver, the headphone is available in blue or black metallic finishes. The FXA5 uses two balanced armature drivers, and it's available in the same silver and black finishes. Both models' cables are designed to loop up and over your ears.
Right away the FXA5 proved itself a contender. It's a lively sounding headphone, dynamics are strong, bass is really deep and tuneful, and the treble is clear. All of that was evident with lossless files streamed from Tidal on my . I listened at home and played downloaded tracks on the noisy New York subway, and the FXA5 consistently impressed. Then I pitted the superb against the FXA5 and found clear transparency gains with the FXA5. The Reference 6i is no slouch, but the FXA5's bass, mids and treble are clearer. It's a much better headphone.
With Radiohead's new album, "A Moon Shaped Pool," the FXA2 had a thicker and heavier sound than the FXA5. Some listeners might prefer that, but it's not for me and I wasted no time returning to the FXA5. It was nice to have the clarity back.
I also preferred the FXA5's sound over one of my reference $299 in-ears, the Cardas A8. The A8 sounds sweeter and more mellow -- that's fine, but the FXA5 eked out more resolution without turning hard or aggressively bright.
Fender's off to a good start with these headphones. I wonder what it'll do next.