Fen­der Mon­terey

FOR Evoca­tive looks; sturdy build; im­pres­sive tonal­ity; loud AGAINST Lack of sonic co­he­sion; bulky

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Any­one with even a pass­ing interest in what still gets called rock ’n’ roll can­not fail to be fa­mil­iar with the Fen­der brand. Few are the gui­tar he­roes who haven’t at some point sported a Fen­der Stra­to­caster or Tele­caster. Few are the big bands that haven’t taken to the stage in front of a wall of Fen­der am­pli­fi­ca­tion. As brands go, Fen­der is one of the mu­sic world’s more evoca­tive.

Fen­der has no real pedi­gree where do­mes­tic equip­ment is con­cerned. Mind you, nei­ther did Mar­shall (an equally iconic brand in gui­tar am­pli­fi­ca­tion), but that didn’t stop it from launch­ing a range of con­sumer-fo­cused prod­ucts, of ad­mit­tedly vari­able qual­ity. Fen­der quite ob­vi­ously fan­cies a piece of the ac­tion – which brings us to this, the Mon­terey Blue­tooth speaker.

Whose side are you on?

Styled on Fen­der’s clas­sic gui­tar-amp range, we reckon it will split cus­tomers into two camps. The first is Guitarists, who will see the Mon­terey’s looks as a triv­i­al­i­sa­tion of their art and craft. The sec­ond is The Rest Of Us, who will be thrilled at how much like a lit­tle Fen­der gui­tar amp the Mon­terey looks.

Not that it’s lit­tle by the stan­dards of Blue­tooth speak­ers. The Mon­terey weighs in at around 7kg, and at 25cm tall it cuts quite an im­pos­ing fig­ure. It’s main­spow­ered only, so no pre­tence that the Mon­terey is a go-any­where por­ta­ble de­vice. It’s a hefty thing, wrapped in leatherette and with a tex­tured grille, just like the com­pany’s gui­tar amps.

Authen­tic look

The pro de­sign cues keep com­ing – the top panel has three of the clas­sic ’witch-hat’ ro­tary knobs for vol­ume, tre­ble and bass con­trol and a hugely sat­is­fy­ing tog­gle switch to turn power on and off. It’s the type of switch you can au­then­ti­cally throw.

The panel also fea­tures a blue ‘amp jewel’ light in­di­ca­tor of power sta­tus, a 3.5mm ana­logue in­put, a source se­lec­tor and a but­ton for Blue­tooth pair­ing – the Mon­terey fea­tures aptx Blue­tooth ca­pa­bil­ity. Around the back there’s a socket for ket­tle-lead mains power and a pair of RCA in­puts.

Un­der the skin, the Mon­terey fea­tures a claimed 120W of am­pli­fi­ca­tion, pow­er­ing two 12.5cm woofers and two 25mm tweet­ers.

When switched on, and when wire­less pair­ing is achieved, the Mon­terey gives a lit­tle gui­tar-strum of ac­knowl­edge­ment – a pleas­ing, if slightly cheesy, touch.

We get un­der­way with a Tidal-vi­ai­phone-7 file of Flamin’ Groovies’ Shake Some Ac­tion and the Fen­der im­me­di­ately re­veals it­self as an up-and-at-‘em lis­ten. Drums punch pur­pose­fully, bass gui­tar is deep and tex­tured, and vo­cals are in­sis­tent. There’s de­cent de­tail re­trieval on dis­play, too, with back­ground mara­cas given just as much at­ten­tion as the echo around the edge of vo­cal har­monies.

Through­out, the Mon­terey motors along at a clip, as if it’s in a race with it­self to get to the end of the song. It’s an as­sertive pre­sen­ta­tion but not overly aggressive – the over­all tonal bal­ance is warm.

In­for­ma­tive pre­sen­ta­tion

It’s not mind­lessly at­tack­ing, though. Ease back with a lis­ten to Rumer’s take on P.F. Sloan and the Fen­der does good, in­for­ma­tive work with her im­pec­ca­ble vo­cal while the dis­tant pedal steel gui­tar shines be­nignly in the back­ground.

What the Mon­terey can­not man­age is tim­ing. Whether handed a rig­or­ous test like Thun­der­cat’s fran­tic Uh Uh or an easier ex­am­i­na­tion such as Byetone’s Plas­tic Star, it can't get dif­fer­ing el­e­ments of a record­ing on to nod­ding terms – let alone in­te­grate them into a co­her­ent whole. Con­se­quently tricky rhythms never quite flow and bass sounds dis­rupt rather than dic­tate tempi.

In many ways the Mon­terey is a like­able de­vice. It looks – to us, at least – bril­liant, it’s ca­pa­ble of un­likely feats of vol­ume and its tone is friendly. That may be enough for some, but we can't over­look its in­abil­ity to time with skill. For us, it makes the Fen­der a di­vert­ing al­ter­na­tive to the best Blue­tooth speak­ers around but not a serious ri­val.

It might not be por­ta­ble, but the Mon­terey’s specs and pro looks count in its favour

The gui­tar-amp look ex­tends right down to the ro­tary con­trols and on/off switch

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