Fender FR12 cabinet review – making FRFR cabs socially acceptable
Fender’s first full-range cab is more affordable and better looking than its rivals – is this the new benchmark for FRFR cabinets?
The launch of the Tone Master Pro multi-effects unit rather overshadowed that it wasn’t all Fender launched that day – to go with the TM the brand also launched its first ever pair of FRFR (full-range, flat-response) cabinets – the Tone Master FR-12 and FR-10 active cabs, with 12-inch and 10-inch speakers respectively.
Both of the these cabinets feature 1,000-watts solid-state power amps, and we have the FR-12 in for review alongside our Tone Master Pro – other than the speaker size, it’s identical in spec to the 10-inch version.
Our first impression upon plugging in the FR12 is exactly as it is meant to be: boring. Okay, that’s maybe unfair, but it doesn’t have any exciting sonic tricks up its sleeve. If it did, well, it wouldn’t be doing its job – the point of an FRFR cab is to provide as uncoloured a sound as is humanly possible and leave the tone to whatever you happen to be plugging it into.
What it does have in spades is looks. Now, that in itself might seem to be a bit of a misnomer given that the FR12 looks exactly like the most ubiquitous bit of backline on the planet: a Fender combo, tilt-back legs and all. But that’s the point.
In what is an undeniably a smart move on Fender’s part, the timeless black-panel look of the FR12 injects some guitarist-friendly mojo into the bland and uninspiring universe of active full-range speakers. It’ll stand out amongst a stage full of monitor wedges, which is more than could be said for a lot of FRFRs – and will blend seamlessly into the background if it’s on stage with a bunch of ‘real’ combo amps – for those who are maybe a bit wary about modellers because of how ‘weird’ it looks on stage without any amps behind you, that’s big.
In terms of ins and outs, the FR12 has a combo quarter-inch and XLR input for use with basically any source, and an XLR output to use it while still providing the front-of-house a signal. Top panel controls are a three-band EQ, a volume control, and a ‘Cut’ knob – effectively a presence control to roll off high-end fizz. All of these controls work as you’d expect.
Given it’s cheaper – and frankly a lot prettier – than most of its direct competitors, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s embraced by users of any and all kinds of modelling gear. For our purposes, it does an excellent job of taking the sounds from the mono output on the back of the Tone Master Pro and filling the room with them, working just as well at late-night practice volume as it does at ‘a sound engineer has moved at an appreciable percentage of the speed of light to tell you to turn down’ volume.