Fender Monterey review

As one of the first Bluetooth speakers to come from Fender, the Monterey is the larger counterpart to the Newport (Read our review of the Fender Newport). Like its brethren, it looks every bit like a guitar amp with a design that looks right at home on stage. You’d expect to see something like this at a rock concert, but it’s designed for personal use at home.

It’s big and heavy; don’t look for an easy way to lug this one around. There’s no carrying handle on the speaker, something we figured we’d miss. But, once in place, with a record player, we found its permanent home. This is a set it and forget it kind of experience.

While it does have a traditional guitar amplifier design, it is also feels entirely new and modern. It is actually unlike anything else on the market. The cloth grille and faux leather stand out and fit nicely with today’s other speakers.

There are three modes of audio input: RCA, Bluetooth, and 3.5mm auxiliary. The power cord is the big standard AC plug that you might see with a computer or monitor. There are no USB ports for charging up; this does not have an internal battery. The Fender Newport, for its part, offers the ability to charge a phone on the go.

Features

  • 120-watt Bluetooth® speaker
  • Quad-driver system: two woofers, two tweeters
  • 33-foot+ Bluetooth range; mic with echo cancellation
  • 3.5mm auxiliary input jack
  • RCA connectors for preamp-equipped turntables

The Fender Monterey is a fun speaker to touch and run your fingers over, adjusting volume, bass, and treble channels our wannabe rock star. The power light, and its switch, are a very cool touch that aren’t necessary at all, however we loved them.

Turn the speaker on and you are greeted with guitar noises and notifications. They’re gentle and “country” like and alert you much like any other Bluetooth speaker. Toggling modes is as simple as pressing one of two tiny square buttons. The other button is used for pairing over Bluetooth.

This speaker wants to be looked at just as much as it wants to be heard. If you want a conversation piece or something that changes up a room’s decor, start here. And why not? it truly does resemble a 1968 amplifier.

As for sound, well, we were equally impressed. We found that in an office suite environment we didn’t want to push it beyond a level 3 of 10. In down time, and when others have left for the day, we enjoyed getting into 6 or 7 but never felt the need to go louder.

We also like being able to adjust the bass and treble levels. Using the familiar mushroom cap knobs, it’s a matter of dialing in from 1-10. It’s also worth noting that there’s a toggle on the back that enables and disables these equalizer settings. Should you have an audio source with its own settings, you can turn the Fender’s off and on based on your inputs.

Were the speaker more portable we could very well see us taking it to parties or setting it up for a day in the back yard. And, even though there’s no handle, we will likely do that when the weather breaks again. Overall, given the lengthy RCA inputs and 3.5mm cord, this is the sort of setup that you’ll want to keep pretty permanent.

The wooden speaker enclosure gives your music an excellent, warm, sound. Whether it was rock, electronic, or spoken word, the Monterey delivers a natural sound, both with and without equalizer settings.

Conclusion

At $350 the Fender Monterey prices itself out of range for casual users or those who looking for a decent Bluetooth experience. There are plenty of less expensive models that deliver a similar sound and which might also offer internal batteries or water resistance. But, music aficionados, or Fender brand enthusiasts will love the speaker.

For the money you get a speaker that has a great level of attention and love put into it. The Monterey is solid all the way through, with fine craftsmanship that results in a superior sound.

We love the multiple inputs and have come to set up our office around the speaker. The turntable has been moved to a more central location and we’re only too happy to bring the vinyl to work. We’ve come to listen to a wide variety of music, from an also wide selection of sources.

Is it worth the full $350 price? For most people this will be a hard one to say yes. Get it close to $300 and it’s a totally different ballgame. We have recommended this one to everyone we’ve encountered and left the decision up to them. But, even in cases where we know that they’ll turn up their nose at the cost, we’re still eager to let them listen — and drool.