Last weekend my dad hosted a small party for his biking friends. They came over, along with their spouses, for Coronas and flank steaks. I was home for the weekend, so my dad tasked me with some grilling responsibilities, but mostly he wanted me to DJ his end-of-the-night game; he had assigned a song for each biker and, while it was playing, the rest of the guests had to guess who the song was about. (“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon played for a biker who was always late, and “Thinkin’ Bout You” by Trisha Yearwood played for a biker whose wife calls him way too often.) We were outside, out of their Sonos system’s range, so I streamed the songs on the Monterey ($350), Fender’s first-ever Bluetooth speaker.
The Monterey and the smaller Newport ($199) are Fender’s first two entries into the Bluetooth speaker game. The Newport is Fender’s portable offering. I didn’t have the chance to play around with it, but Fender claims it has a 12-hour battery life and built-in USB ports to charge your smartphone. The one I tested, the Monterey, is a powered (not portable) Bluetooth speaker that’s designed with the same aesthetic as Fender’s guitar and bass amps: black “Bronco” vinyl covering, silver grille cloth and vintage control knobs. The speaker is primed for hi-fi streaming with aptX and ACC support, and it’s very loud. It has four drivers (two 5.12-inch woofers and two 1-inch tweeters) and pushes out 120 watts of power.
Like its classic look, the Monterey also feels classic because it’s so simple to use, and because of its tactility: It has an on/off switch, a button to toggle between music sources (Bluetooth, aux, RCA), and three knobs to adjust volume, treble and bass. There’s also an EQ preset switch on the back of the speaker, in case you want to adjust the shape of the sound. There’s no built-in wi-fi, which is a bummer, especially when you consider that other powered Bluetooth speakers, like the Bose SoundTouch 20 (also $350), have both. You can daisy chain the Monterey with other speakers if you want, although it doesn’t need it — it’s a speaker that’s loud enough to stand on its own.
The Monterey is a solid powered Bluetooth speaker that has a ton of upsides. It supports hi-fi streaming and you can easily fine tune its sound — you can up the bass with just a turn of a knob. It’s also fairly versatile; you can connect a turntable to it via RCA input. Granted, it is heavy at over ten pounds, and it needs to be connected to a power source to work, so don’t expect to move it around a lot. It’s not the speaker you want for multi-room streaming or surround sound, either.
Basically, you’re buying the Monterey for its look and superb audio and because you don’t need it talk with any other speakers. The $350 price tag isn’t cheap, but it’s also competitive with other home Bluetooth speakers by Bose and Peachtree Audio. For me, the speaker was ideal for a 20-person backyard party (where there were several outdoor outlets available) and blasting Springsteen. Also, it helped land my dad’s punchlines land a little better; shockingly enough, his silly game wasn’t a complete dud.