In 1965, Bob Dylan dismayed fans at the Newport Folk Festival by doing something decidedly un-folksy – pulling out an electric guitar and rocking. His fans, expecting one of the acoustic performances on which Dylan had build his reputation, booed and hollered in protest. While there’s some debate over whether the fans actually booed him for “going electric,” or rather if they booed because the sound system was allegedly terrible, is still debated half a century later, but regardless of the motivation, the incident has become legendary in rock-and-roll history.
The guitar that Dylan played in that infamous performance was a 1964 Fender Stratocaster, which was auctioned off in 2013 for $965,000. 51 years after their technology caused an uproar in Newport, Fender is still causing technological ripples with the introduction of their new Fender Pro In-Ear Monitors. While the company has been manufacturing speakers and sound systems for years, this is the first time they’ve developed any kind of headphone or in-ear device, and they certainly didn’t go into it lightly.
A lot of research went into the development of the IEMs; Fender states that they scanned thousands of people’s ears to design a nearly universal fit; while they’re not custom-fitted, they will allegedly fit 95% of people comfortably thanks to their 3D printed fabrication.
“3D printing allows us to create precise curves and a more ergonomic shape, more closely fitting the natural contours of the ear for improved comfort and isolation,” the company states. “This technology also enables precise orientation of the custom-designed drivers, eliminating the need for a crossover.”
Fender’s IEMs were designed to provide the absolute best sound quality possible; their carefully fabricated drivers are optimized for their 3D printed housing and designed to direct sound into the ear canal with much less distortion than other ear buds and headphones. In addition, their secure fit effectively blocks outside noise, according to several reviews, making them ideal for onstage musicians – or the average teenager who wants to pretend her family isn’t in the car with her.
Fender is known for being a supplier to professional musicians and performers, and while their IEMs are no exception, they have stated that they are meant for both pros and average listeners. The price range is very consumer-friendly, starting at $99.99 for the basic DXA1 ear buds and ranging to $499.99 for the FXA7, which promises “premium concert hall-quality sound.”
“Fender Pro In-Ear Monitors offer something for everyone at different price points, transforming the listening experience for performing musicians, audiophiles and serious music lovers, alike,” said Jim Ninesling, VP of Fender Amplifiers and Pro Audio. “These products represent years of development and showcase Fender’s commitment to quality, innovation and best-in-class design.”
This is, in fact, Fender’s first product designed for a general consumer market, after 70-something years of serving the music industry. Have they sold out? Thrown in their rock-and-roll cred? Will there be backlash?! Probably not. Fender’s Pro In-Ear Monitors are designed and hand-assembled at home in their Nashville workshop; one of the reasons the company is so well-loved is because of their dedication to careful, quality, personal craftsmanship, and that doesn’t appear to be changing. No mass-manufacturing or outsourcing here – just some new 3D printers.
Again, there are a lot of reviews already out on the Internet, and the ones I’ve seen have been universally positive, raving about the sound quality the IEMs deliver. While any good music snob knows that everything sounds better on vinyl, this new bit of tech seems to be offering some serious competition. Is a device that you could use? Discuss further over in the 3D Printed Ear Monitors by Fender forum thread at 3DPB.com.