Monday, March 14, 2011

Gig Your Rig: Fender Passport Pro 500 Review

Fender's original Passport Deluxe PD-500 PA System

FENDER Passport® Deluxe PD-500
A lot of singer - songwriters have depended on the Fender Passport for small to medium sized gigs.  They really were a step up, allowing you to travel with a compact PA System that easily fits in the backseat of your car.  At about 53 lbs, the Fender Passport Deluxe PD-500  is considered light to have your 8 channel mixer, speakers, mics and cables all included in the weight. They work fairly well for vocals and drum / bass machines.  I still prefer a dedicated tube amp for the guitar but in a pinch you can plug an acoustic right in. Phantom power allows you to use more sensitive condenser mics but the Deluxe PD-500 came with two well made Fender dynamic mics.  Sounds pretty cool, right?

Fender Passport® 500 PRO Replaces the Deluxe PD-500
So when Fender came out with their series "upgrade", the Passport Pro, I was very interested in the next generation's innovations.  One thing is the weight.  The Passport Pro 500 is nearly 9 lbs lighter than the Deluxe PD-500 but there's a partial reason for that.  Fender touts the Passport Pro 500 as the "top of the line" in this series.  We beg to differ.  One issue is that you get LESS by way of accessories and quite a bit so.  The original PD-500 Deluxe came with two very solid Fender dynamic mics, cables, clips and cases.  These essentials are NOT included with the new Passport Pro 500.  So you are going to have to go out and buy mics and cables before you can gig this rig.  That would also bring up the weight!

The New Fender Passport Pro 500 is 9 lbs lighter
Another issue we found with the new Passport is that it only offers reverb in the FX department.  The previous Passport gave you a full array of rather professional plates including Hall, Room, Delay, Reverb and more.  The older Passport also came with high quality Celestion Speakers and heavy duty Speakon Cables.  Fender says the speakers are still made by Celestion.  No go on the Speakon Cables however.  The ones you get now are very thin in comparison and do not lock as the Speakons.

The "redone" Passport Pro 500 has a port that lets you record your performance with CD quality (.wav) straight to a USB flash drive, CD-quality .wav and mp3 file playback.  Passport's are adequate enough for live performances but I don't know too many artists wanting to record with it.  Most musicians just want to get in, set up and play with something that is reliable and rugged.  I've found Passports in general to be just that.  The new Passport has 10" Woofer, 1.2" Horn Loaded Tweeter.  The older Passport Deluxe PD-500 has Two 8" woofers and one titanium compression driver and horn per cabinet PLUS Neo-Precision neodymium speakers designed by Celestion.  Feedback Killer was also installed on the older higher end Passport series.

The Wrap:
As a musician, you have to determine what is really important to you and your audience.  While the new Fender Pro 500 is about $400 cheaper than the previous model, you will still need to purchase mics, cables, etc. before you can take it on the road.  While most musicians use a Passport for vocals, the loss of all but reverb for effects is not a good trade off.  Without multi effects you could end up sounding like you are singing through a PA system.  I'm sorry to see the older Passport Deluxe PD-500 go but was glad to have it repaired rather than replaced with the newer model.  All in all, not a good call on this one, Fender.
Once again "Old School Must Rule" but the old Fender Passport goes the way of the dinosaur.

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