Audio

Fender Newport designed to attract guitar brand's diehards

The Fender Newport Bluetooth speaker is modelled after the company's custom 1968 amplifiers, with an appropriately retro, vintage look and volume, treble and bass knobs.
The Fender Newport Bluetooth speaker is modelled after the company's custom 1968 amplifiers, with an appropriately retro, vintage look and volume, treble and bass knobs.PHOTO: FENDER

Legendary guitar and amplifier brand Fender ventured into the portable Bluetooth speaker market this year, releasing two speakers with designs inspired by their guitar amplifiers.

The smaller one, the Newport speaker, is a lighter, more portable option than the more home-suited Monterey speaker.

Both are definitely designed to appeal to guitar geeks.

The Newport speaker is modelled after the company's custom 1968 amplifiers, with an appropriately retro, vintage look.

Turning it on involves flicking an old-school switch, which powers the Newport on with a pleasing guitar arpeggio. Connectivity is either wirelessly through Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX support, or hooked up to your music device via a 3.5mm cable.

Just like a classic amp, the Newport comes with volume, treble and bass knobs, giving some level of equaliser control directly from the speaker.

I took the speaker's neutral performance to be when both the treble and bass knobs are set to five, out of a maximum of 10. At that setting, the Newport displays robust bass performance and generally good, all-purpose sound.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $359

    DIMENSIONS: 18.4 x 7.5 x 13.3cm

    SPEAKERS: Two full-range drivers, one tweeter

    WEIGHT: 1.5kg

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

It felt appropriate to run the speaker through its paces with tracks by artists who swear by Fender guitars and amplifiers, and so I put on some classic rock from bands like Nirvana and Radiohead.

Nirvana's Smells Like Teenage Spirit was appropriately heavy and energetic, with the Newport pumping out a good mix of frenetic, distorted guitar riffs and powerful drums. Meanwhile, the clean guitar lines on Radiohead's classic Street Spirit were clear and balanced, blending well with Thom Yorke's haunting vocals.

The Newport speaker is also a great all-rounder for other genres, not just for rock. But I found it to be a bit lacking when it comes to modern electronic dance music. It puts out a lot of bass and body, but also swallows up the mid-range and treble a fair bit, so songs do not sound as detailed as they should be.

I alleviated that somewhat by turning up the treble knob to near-maximum and lowering the bass down a hair, which yielded slightly better treble performance but not enough to overcome the speaker's natural warmness.

The Newport puts out a lot of power and volume for its size - it is about the size of two hardcover books stacked on top of each other.

It is light and easy to carry around, with a built-in battery that pushes out more than 10 hours of music continuously at moderate volume.

But there is some distortion when cranked up to maximum volume, as well as heavier emphasis on the bass, which tends to swallow the overall sound. Stick to about 80 per cent max volume and the speakers are at a pretty good sweet spot.

The speaker sounds best when it is exactly level with your ears, which makes it great as a bedside speaker.

For all its sound quality and great vintage design, the Newport feels a bit too expensive, unfortunately. The high price point of $359 is hard to swallow for an above-average portable speaker set.

But those who want to buy into Fender's heritage and sound quality, and like speakers that fit their rock-and-roll aesthetic, will no doubt enjoy the tunes the Newport is capable of pushing out.

•Verdict: The Fender Newport speaks to the diehard fan of the famed guitar and amplifier brand, with solid sound, looks and performance befitting its legacy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Fender Newport designed to attract guitar brand's diehards'. Print Edition | Subscribe