An all-in-one PA rig that’s easy to use and ideal for mid-sized venues

Let’s face it. Playing gigs in venues that lack a PA system can be a drag. Hauling in cartloads of gear, setting it all up, dialing in your sound, then tearing it all down at the end of the show is a recipe for burnout. There’s gotta be a better way, right? In fact, there is.

If you play music or DJ in venues like coffee houses and bars, the Fender Passport Event system has got your name all over it. Compact yet powerful, it’s got all the features a small band needs, can be carried in one hand and sets up in seconds.

Looks Can be Deceiving

Don’t be put off by the Event’s compact size and total weight of just 43 lb. The 375W Class D amp housed in the control module drives the two speaker cabinets to serious volumes that’ll easily fill any modestly sized venue with clean and powerful sound that reproduces the entire musical spectrum with accuracy.

Setting up the Event is a snap—it took me longer to get it out of its shipping box than to get the music flowing. The two speaker cabinets instantly detach from the powered mixer by releasing a pair of latches. They can then be aimed for best sound projection. The cabinets have a slight upward tilt and also have pole mounts for use with optional stands. In fact, speaker and mic stands are the only extras you may need, depending on how and where you perform.

Making the Connections

The front panel of the seven-channel mixer is easy to grasp at a glance. All channels have independent volume and two-band EQ controls plus a Reverb knob. A Master Volume knob lets you quickly adjust the system’s overall output. Stereo output meters next to it have green and red LEDs to keep you posted if you get into clipping territory. Channels 1-4 are equipped with XLR inputs for connecting your mics, channel 5 has a ¼” instrument input and channels 6-7 have a left (mono) and right ¼” input for connecting line-level instruments as well as a stereo 1/8” input for connecting MP3 and CD players.

The four mic channels each have a Pad button that reduces input sensitivity by 20dB. All seven channels have signal present/clip LEDs that change from green to yellow when you get within 10dBs of clipping, finally turning red if you overload the channel’s preamp.  If turning down the channel volume and/or backing off the tone controls doesn’t eliminate clipping, engaging the Pad button will do the job. The channel 5 input has a line-level/instrument button that engages a high-impedance preamp when you connect a guitar or bass with passive electronics. For line-level instruments like keyboards, leave the button in its out position.

At the bottom of the control panel are a headphone output with volume control plus mono outputs for connecting a powered external monitor speaker and a powered subwoofer—a great feature for bands and DJs looking for extended bottom end to bolster bass-heavy EDM and hip-hop grooves. Fender offers its very portable PS-512 Subwoofer, but any powered sub will work. When you connect a sub, a high-pass filter splits the output so that bass signals below 120Hz are directed to the sub allowing the Event’s power amp to focus on higher frequencies. Very smart.

Bring on the Band—Wirelessly

If you perform to backing tracks, spin prerecorded music or want to play music during breaks, you can connect a player using the wired inputs mentioned above. But far cooler is the Event’s Bluetooth connectivity. If you’ve got music stored on any device with Bluetooth output—a smartphone, tablet or laptop—you can stream it wirelessly. I pressed the Event’s Pair button and it immediately showed up on my iPad—ready to play my entire MP3 library.

Fender’s been making various Passport systems for a long time now and the Event reflects the line’s evolution with lots of nice touches. Take for example the three-shelf compartment in the back of the mixer unit. It holds the included speaker and mic cables as well as the decent-sounding ball-type dynamic mic that Fender includes.

But How Does it Sound?

In a word, fantastic. The 8” woofers and 1.2” horn-loaded tweeters in each speaker cab reproduce sound smoothly with crisp definition in the upper registers. Mids are well defined and reveal harmonic complexity when sources such as electronic keyboards are played. The bottom end is solid and punchy. Vocals and speech are reproduced with fine articulation and intelligibility.  Whether you’re delivering a talk or singing a heartfelt ballad, the Event picks up every nuance. I fed it a variety of sources—an acoustic-electric guitar both plugged in and miked, a sax, a flute, and a digital piano—all with sterling results. The channel EQs and reverb are easy to dial in for optimal sound in just about any setting.

With the Event, Fender’s come up with a self-contained system that’ll get your show rockin’ while relieving you of the drudgery involved in hauling and setting up conventional PAs. Well done!