Whether you’re just learning or are an established musician, audio amplification and monitoring is pretty much a requirement. I am by no means an established musician and still in the learning stages of playing guitar. While I do have a Fender amp to hook up to my guitar, there are times when it’s later at night — or my playing is just gawd awful — that being able to experience amplified sound and monitoring without disrupting the household would be nice. Our Fender MXA2 review takes a look at a bundle from the company that includes their FXA2 in-ear monitors as well as a PreSonus HP2 personal amplifier. While it’s meant more for studio and live performance use, it does seem like it’d be suitable for our type of situation as well.
The Fender MXA2 bundle has the following features and specifications:
- Fender FXA2
- Custom 9.25mm precision rare-earth drivers with Groove-tuned™ port
- Universal fit wears like a custom monitor, providing cushion-like comfort
- 6Hz-23kHz frequency response for lifelike sound reproduction
- 112dB @1mW sensitivity for distortion-free audio
- Noise Reduction: NRR 22db
- Input Impedance: 16 ohm +/- 10% @ 1kHz
- Cable Ends: Detachable MMCX Cable
- PreSonus HP2 personal amplifier
- 9V Battery or DC-powered, stereo headphone amplifier
- Inputs: 2 female XLR connectors, Output: stereo, 1/8″ phone connector
- Volume and Pan control knobs, Stereo/Mono operation switch
- Battery-health LED indicators
- Includes belt clip, microphone stand mount socket, 2m cable
- Perfect for driving wired in-ear monitors (IEMs), as well as headphones
- Connector Type: XLR, Female
- Max. Input Level: +4 dBV <0.01% THD+N, unity gain
- Input Impedance: 15 kΩ
- Limit Input Level: +5 dBm
- Headphone Outputs
- Connector Type: 1/8” TRS stereo, Female
- Max. Output Power: 50 mW / channel, <0.01% THD+N, 20Ω load
- Frequency Response: 30 Hz – 20 kHz, ±2 dB
- Headphone Impedance: Working Range >12Ω
- Battery Power: 9V
- External Adapter: Type 9 VDC, 40 mA, center pin negative
What’s in the box
- Fender FXA2
- Fender FXA2 in-ear monitors
- 4x ear tip sizes
- Carrying case
- MMCX Cable port cleaning tool
- Quickstart Guide
- PreSonus HP2
- PreSonus HP2 Personal Amplifier
- Stereo input cable
- Power supply with multiple plug type ends
- 3/8″ to 5/8″ microphone stand adapter
- Instruction Manual
Fender FXA2 In-ear Monitors
The Fender FXA2 look like your fairly standard in-ear monitors (IEMs). The earbuds are marked with a red dot for right ear and blue dot for left ear. They are shaped to fit snugly inside your ear and come with four sizes of ear tips for the best fit. Black in colour with the Fender logo printed across them, the earbuds connect to the wires by way of a detachable MMCX cable. The cable also features the red and blue dot so you know which earbud to connect it to for proper sound.
The MMCX cable itself is comprised of a twisted wire design and each end features a wrapped portion making it easier to bend and shape behind your ears. Just above where the cables meet is a small plastic slider for shortening the length of each cable. Finally, the end of Fender FXA2 In-ear Monitors ends in your 3.5mm jack.
For those unfamiliar with IEMs, they are meant to be worn with the cable going behind your neck with the cord travelling down your back and then to one side depending on what you have them connected to. There are a number of reasons for this and in the case of guitar playing keeps the cord out of the way of your actual guitar playing. You can also wear them in front of you but I found them less comfortable as the cables wrap around the back of your ear and then towards the front.
The FXA2 seemed a bit finicky to get in properly each time I used them and aren’t exactly conducive to those who wear glasses. Once they were in, however, they were pretty snug and comfortable aside from around the arms of my glasses. It wasn’t the end of the world, but was definitely a minor annoyance that I’m sure holds true for most IEMs.
The included carry case is relatively hard shelled and has an inner mesh pouch for storing your extra ear tips and the cleaning tool.
PreSonus HP2 Personal Amplifier
The PreSonus HP2 Personal Amplifier is, of course, the star of the bundle. Rectangular in shape, the personal amplifier isn’t overly heavy and features a pretty sturdy clip on the back of it. This clip is suitable for both belts or guitar straps and once attached is held in place pretty tight. The clip is removable and can be replaced with an included mic stand adapter. Underneath the clip is the battery compartment should you choose to use the amplifier with a 9V battery instead of plugging it in. The front of the amplifier has the PreSonus logo as well as small text indicating what each port, knob, or button on the top and bottom of the device is used for.
On the top of the amp you’ll find the stereo/mono button, pan knob, volume knob, 3.5mm headphone jack, and power/battery indicator lights. The bottom of the amp is where the power button, 0V DC power jack, and 5-pin input connector are located.
Ease of Use
We’ve already covered using the FXA2 IEMs, pretty standard fare when it comes to earbuds. Setting up the HP2 Headphone Amplifier is easy as well. After inserting a battery or plugging it in, connect one end of the stereo input cable into the amplifier and one of the two other ends into your guitar. Plug the FXA2 headphones — or any other headphones with a 3.5mm audio jack for that matter — into the other end of the amplifier and turn it on.
After you’ve turned it on, make sure the unit is in mono mode (unless you’ve connected the other end of the stereo input cable to another guitar, or a stereo source), set the volume to about halfway, turn the pan knob all the way to the left and strum on your guitar strings. If you don’t hear anything through both earbuds, turn the pan knob all the way to the right and you should then hear your guitar through both buds.
Once connected, the FXA2 IEMs combined with the HP2 Headphone Amplifier work great. There were no issues with hearing the sounds of the guitar playing through the IEMs and the volume and sound was consistent throughout playing without any cutting out. I did find that, while loud, they probably could have used a bit of a volume boost.
When used with a battery, the combination allows you a bit of movement or even playing outdoors where you don’t have access to a plugin. When used plugged in, you still have a fair bit of movement depending on how long your power cable is and if you’ve got the amplifier clipped in or attached to a mic stand or sitting on a table.
With IEMs and a personal amplifier, the sound quality has to be top notch and the FXA2/HP2 combination sounded great and was definitely well balanced. Lower tones and high tones both came across at an equal volume level and all notes and chords were crisp and clear. As mentioned above, I did find that the volume could perhaps have been a bit louder, but with the noise cancellation I was also unable to hear anything else going on in the room while I was strumming away.
I also tested the FXA2 as standalone earbuds and they were outstanding sounding with all types of music played. Like the usage with the HP2, bass, mids, and highs were well balanced and rich and there was no need for enabling the equalizer on my device.
The PreSonus HP2 Personal Amplifier can be used plugged in or with a 9V battery. The company claims up to 7 hours of battery life when used this way. We played for about 4 hours without any sign of the low battery indicator turning on. Depending on where you plan on using it, 7 hours should be good for the most part and you can always bring along an extra battery. That being said, given technology in this day and age, it would have been nice to see a rechargeable battery solution used here, especially considering the amount of space available inside of the amplifier.
With the Fender FXA2 IEMs selling for $199.99USD and the PreSonus HP2 Personal Amplifier retailing at $109.95, you’re saving about $10 by buying the bundle for its suggested $299.99 retail price. While it’s a decent value, you would think that bundling them together would give you more of a break. If you keep your eyes open, you could potentially get these two items for cheaper separately.
While the Fender MXA2 bundle with the FXA2 IEMs and PreSonus HP2 Personal Amplifier are intended for studio and live performance use, they also work great for practicing guitar or other instruments without disturbing others around you.