Superb guitar maker Fender received into the headphones enterprise again in 2016 by buying Aurisonics, a small Tennessee firm manufacturing in-ear screens. Within the time since, the portfolio of Fender earphones has grown to cowl budgets from $99 to $1,799 and tastes as numerous as these of bassheads and treble-favoring audiophile purists. Immediately’s instance is the $1,199.99 Fender Ten 5, which leans away from the bass emphasis of my favourite Fender product up to now, the darkish and rumbling FXA7, and towards a brighter and extra correct sound signature. It’s extra money for a extra exact and punctilious sound that ought to entice the professionals and fanatics whereas nonetheless pleasing informal listeners as effectively.
After a month of testing the Ten 5s, I discover myself shocked by simply how a lot I get pleasure from their sound, even whereas I stay an avowed and unrepentant bass devotee.
I’m effectively conscious that, for most individuals, there aren’t any circumstances by which spending greater than $1,000 on earphones is a justifiable expense. And but, you can say the identical factor about Omega watches, Hermès sweaters, or one among Tesla’s fancier paint choices. In all instances, the individuals who splurge on the additional luxurious do it with the objective of acquiring one thing uncommon, unique, or simply straight-up higher than no matter else is available on the market. How does Fender’s new pair of earphones match into that paradigm?
Effectively, their sound jogs my memory of the $4,000 Focal Utopia. I’ve performed a number of critiques because the Utopia, and I’ve by no means written these phrases earlier than. Fender’s Ten 5s have a degree of element, readability, and naturalness to them that genuinely approaches the standard of Focal’s huge and mighty over-ear headphones.
When listening to the drums in Kenji Kawai’s “Ghosthack” on the unique Ghost within the Shell soundtrack with the Ten 5s, I can virtually visualize how open the participant’s palm is when hitting the drum’s leather-based. On the identical album, there are a few tracks with chants the place the vocals simply claw at my soul. I imply that as a praise. The music has emotive urgency however no sonic harshness. Fender has put the highlight on vocals with out overstepping into the eardrum stabbing that headphones with much less refined, extra shouty treble carry out.
Bjork, the final word genre-straddling artist, additionally sounds superb and fascinating by the Ten 5s. Six minutes into Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” when the track reaches its crescendo and Robert Plant pushes his voice to its limits, I actually really feel his anguish.
As to digging out the best element from a recording, Nero’s My Eyes has some whispering, hissing voices within the background that get veiled or hid on most different headphones, however I hear them on the Utopias and the Ten 5s. These little nuances aren’t strictly important for having fun with the music, however they definitely improve that enjoyment, even when it’s merely by offering the sense that you just’re getting the complete, unadulterated model of the track the artist recorded.
The Ten 5s have a sonic stability that, to my bass-loving ear, sounds treble-forward. They don’t provide a very relaxed hear, they usually don’t maintain again when singers hit the excessive notes of their music. And that’s the purpose of those earphones. There are tons of earbuds, costing a fraction of the value, for if you simply wish to pump background noise into your cranium. The Ten 5s are tuned to make you really feel the music, they usually’re so rattling pure, managed, and emotive, that I can’t assist however be sucked in by their efficiency.
Fender achieves excessive marks with nearly each style of music. The apparent weak spot of the Ten 5s’ sound is bass-heavy hip-hop and electronica. Precisely the music that made me slightly hooked on the Fender FXA7s’ sound in 2016 — Aphex Twin, Booka Shade, Clams On line casino, Contaminated Mushroom, 9 Inch Nails, Two Fingers — simply feels slightly too gentle and ethereal with Fender’s newer and pricier mannequin. No, I’m not about to suggest that you just spend much more cash to have a pair of every Fender mannequin. Simply remember that in case your musical tastes lean towards the extra artificial and darker realms, these are simply not the buds for you. I wish to hear at loud volumes, which is nice with headphones with huge bass, however it’s fatiguing when the treble is the a part of the combo pushed to the foreground.
Fender’s Ten 5s distinguish themselves finest when dealing with acoustic devices and vocals, and the element and airiness of their sound merely comes on the expense of earthshaking bass.
As to the matter of consolation and match, Fender has a singular benefit over everybody else in its thermo-plastic elastomer ideas. These soften with the heat of your ear and develop extra comfy the longer you put on them. In addition they provide an important seal to insulate your music from exterior noise. Fender hasn’t a lot modified the essential exterior shell or the following tips from its earliest fashions, and with good cause. I’d say this design is the closest you’ll get to the match of custom-designed earphones with out truly going to customs.
The one annoyance I’ve with the Ten 5s is their over-ear cable hook. It’s no worse than any others of that sort available on the market, however I’m rising much less tolerant of that design nowadays. Within the age of the featherlight and completely wi-fi AirPods and Galaxy Buds making audio know-how mainly forgettable, I’m shedding my enthusiasm to fiddle with wires, hooks, and seating my earbuds excellent. On a couple of event, I’ve opted to exit with a wi-fi pair of buds as a substitute of the vastly superior Ten 5s simply because I knew my home windows for listening to music and radio could be restricted or interrupted.
Fender ships the Ten 5s with a removable, subtly color-coded, tangle-resistant wire, together with a really heavy obligation and massive carrying case. A kind of inclusions encourages the buds’ moveable use whereas the opposite would possibly assist them survive a pure catastrophe however does nothing to assist me use them on my commute. With their good noise isolation and lightweight weight, I believe the Fender Ten 5s can undoubtedly function an expensive pair of moveable buds.
You’ll wish to have a high-quality DAC to feed these on the transfer, equivalent to on LG’s flagship G and V telephone collection or from the Hidizs Sonata HD dongle. However that’s only for the sake of high quality, the facility necessities of the Ten 5s are minimal. They derive their title from the only 10mm dynamic driver and the 5 balanced armature drivers inside every earbud, which is a number of tiny audio system to assist these earphones get tremendous loud on demand.
The Fender Ten 5s are one of the articulate pairs of earphones I’ve examined. They draw out particulars that the majority different headphones smudge up, and their technical efficiency is tough to fault. However do they make exemplary sonic efficiency extra accessible bodily or extra inexpensive monetarily? It’s exhausting to argue that they do. And for one thing that prices as a lot as they do, Fender’s Ten 5s wanted to have a few of the enchanting sonic high quality that thrilled me with the bassy FXA7s, however that’s precisely the factor I discover them missing.
Pictures by Vlad Savov / The Verge
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