Fender made a big splash two years ago with the introduction of their professional line of in-ear monitors. Ideal for singers, drummers and other on-stage musicians, they were praised for their clear output and ergonomic fit. Now, Fender has set their sights on the casual music fan with PureSonic. A new line of earphones, PureSonic takes some features and design elements from the pro line, but features Bluetooth connectivity in some models and comes in at a more affordable price point for the user to whom music is more of an entertainment medium than a career. With three variations available — PureSonic Wireless, Wireless Premium and Wired — there’s a set of Fender PureSonic earbuds for any listener.
We talked with Richard McDonald, chief product strategist, and Cliff Chen, director of electronics product development from Fender, on PureSonic, what it means for Fender, and what we can expect from this line in the future. Read on to learn more!
zZounds: Tell me about how the idea for Fender to start making earphones came to be.
Richard McDonald, Chief Product Strategist: At Fender, our driving motivation comes from interaction with our customers. They include beginning players and music enthusiasts to the world’s most prolific artists. The message was “you guys have so much to do with the sound on stage and in the studio — apply that expertise to lifestyle products.”
zZ: Entering an entirely new line of products like you’ve done with in-ear monitors is no small feat. This must have been a really great fit for Fender to extend into. Tell us about the process and the group of people who are now a part of the Fender family.
RM: We started with Fender Premium Audio currently used by Volkswagen. Based on the program’s success we began looking at other areas. For Fender, it makes sense to start on stage. We found an innovative team in Nashville and started designing world-class in-ear monitors. The innovation coming from our Nashville Audio Custom Shop informs our consumer products.
zZ: Where are you headed next with the in-ear monitor and earphones lines?
RM: Our Nashville audio team has some really cool products on the horizon. We are still learning, so we will take the lessons learned and apply them to our new products. We have a diverse global customer base with unique needs. Our Custom Pro IEMs have a meaningful following in Asia with audiophiles. We have artists, sound engineers and people just looking for an upgraded audio experience.
zZ: What technology from the existing IEM line is driving the PureSonic earphones?
Cliff Chen, Director, Product Development – Electronics: PureSonic uses the same earbud housing design from the IEM line — the ergonomics make them lightweight and comfortable. PureSonic also uses the same drivers from the IEM to give superior audio quality that Fender is known for.
zZ: Tell us about aptX technology. Do you see further opportunities in the traditional Fender line to adopt this in product connectivity? Wireless? Pedals, etc?
CC: Audio over Bluetooth is compressed and details in tracks are lost. aptX technology restores some of the lost audio data to be close to CD quality. Traditional Fender products that don’t use Bluetooth do not have this type of problem, hence aptX would not be required to improve the audio quality.
zZ: Your in-ears are noticeably larger than typical models out there. Tell us how this design informs both sonics and style.
RM: The IEM shape was derived from literally thousands of CT scans of the ear from people of various ages, nationalities and both male and female. This resulted in the best overall fit for most people. Although the earphones seem large, they fit very well when you roll them into your ear correctly. They almost appear to be custom fit on most people because of this. Another thing is this extra room allows us to put a hybrid engine inside which gives us an unforgettable, amazing, pure, sonic signature.
zZ: Obviously, the goal for on-stage in-ears is durability and volume, but will PureSonic aim for clarity as well? Do you have plans to release more “treated” models, like extended bass, for example?
CC: The PureSonic line is tuned to have a more complete listening experience. You will hear a clear mid-frequency band and pristine high-frequency band. The bass level is tuned based on the internal driver design to deliver the dynamic bass response. We’re always looking at new opportunities to introduce solutions for music lovers.
zZ: When you think of reaching a broader community of potential customers, for combined usage with music and taking/making phone calls, what is your vision for the Fender brand to fit into that?
RM: It’s important to consider the breadth of our audio business and the unique customer needs globally. There are high-end audiophiles that don’t think twice about spending a thousand dollars on a pair of IEMs to enhance their audio listening experience; this same customer may have a separate cable for telephony or several “special use” earbuds [or] headphones. On the other hand, you have customers that just want a great pair of Bluetooth earbuds with telephony, so our $79 PureSonic may be the perfect solution.