Gear Review: Fender’s Fortis F-10BT is a Sturdy and Excellent Performer

When I gig as a solo acoustic blues guitarist and vocalist, I usually take a small amp. But there are some instances, like when I play for crowds of more than 100 people, when the amp doesn’t quite cut it. Because of this I became intrigued with the idea of using powered speakers, instead of an amp, in situations where I need enough volume to fill up the space.

When I gig as a solo acoustic blues guitarist and vocalist, I usually take a small amp. But there are some instances, like when I play for crowds of more than 100 people, when the amp doesn’t quite cut it. Because of this I became intrigued with the idea of using powered speakers, instead of an amp, in situations where I need enough volume to fill up the space.

In a lucky coincidence, I received Fender’s new Fortis F-10BT for review and put it to its paces, both in my studio and at a local gig. This 10-inch 1,300-watt powered speaker is not only plenty loud, but it sounds great and is quite portable. And, at under five hundred bucks, it won’t break the bank.

Straightforward and Sturdy

A powered speaker is not only, uh, powerful, it can be used in a number of different acoustic guitar-related scenarios. You can simply plug straight in and play, though with limited control over your equalization. To work around that problem, you can use a DI box or preamp with EQ control in between your guitar and the speaker. For the ultimate flexibility, you can use a powered speaker in conjunction with a multi-channel mixer, allowing you to bring microphones, guitars, or other instruments—not to mention separate volume and EQ controls—into the equation.

As far as powered speakers go, the Fortis F-10BT (the BT stands for Bluetooth) is a pretty modest package. It’s the little brother to the Fender’s F-12BT and F-15BT, in case you haven’t guessed, having 12- and 15-inch speakers, respectively. The F-10BT’s two-way speaker system consists of a 10-inch cone paired with a one-inch compression driver. Used alone or as part of a larger system, the F-10BT is a good match for small- to medium-sized rooms.

The Fortis has a sturdy look, with its metal grille and black-painted nine-ply wooden cabinet. The unit’s pentagonal shape means that it can be used as a monitor when angled up, or as a conventional speaker, with pole mounts that can be placed on a stand. On the Fortis’s back panel are one mic/line input and a dedicated Bluetooth channel, which also has a stereo mini jack, should you want to hardwire your connection.

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Beer Garden Blues

At home, I plugged my Waterloo WL-14 (outfitted with an LR Baggs Session VTC undersaddle pickup) into an LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI, into the mic/line channel of the Fortis. A pair of three-way switches gave me some control over the EQ: one for the higher/treble with flat/mid/high selections and another for the lower-end frequencies: sub/flat/boost.

The sub option cuts out much of the bass frequencies and redirects to a subwoofer if you have that as part of your system, which I didn’t. I kept everything flat and used the DI to make EQ adjustments. The quality was clear and crisp, better than a lot of the small acoustic amps I’ve tried.

In preparation for a gig at a beer garden, I packed a couple of guitars—my Martin OM-28V with Fishman Ellipse Matrix Blend pickup and my National Style O with Highlander Biscuit pickup—as well as the Fortis and an MXR M300 digital reverb pedal.  I arrived at the venue before the soundman. The Fortis was easy to set up on my own, and it sat right behind me so I could easily make adjustments on the fly.

I planned to use the Fortis as an amp/monitor, so I fed it into the house sound system. Sending a feed from the extension speaker output to the PA was a snap. The Fortis’s sound was crisp, clear, and warm, and the soundman, who had now arrived, agreed.

The Fortis has a small drawback—it only has one instrument input. But because I was playing solo guitar at the beer-garden gig, I was fine with the Fortis as is. And if I wanted to add a microphone or other guitars into the mix, all I would need is a small mixer. Luckily, there are several good ones on the market for under $100, like Mackie’s Mix5 or Mix8.

I didn’t have the opportunity to try the Fortis’s Bluetooth functionality, but this would no doubt be a great option if I were to play with backing tracks from an iPad or any other Bluetooth-enabled playback device.

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The Fender Fortis F-10BT is a sturdy and excellent performer in a live setting. It’s making me rethink my rig for small- to medium-size venues, as the sound quality is a big improvement over my small amplifier setup—inspiring me to play my best. 


Fender Fortis F-10BT

Features 10″ Woofer and 1″ titanium compression driver; 1,300-watt peak output; Bluetooth functionality; 90° x 35° coverage pattern; separate EQ settings for high- and low-frequency drivers; XLR/instrument input; 3.5mm stereo aux input

Dimensions 11.5″ x 11.75″ x 20.5″; 30.5 lb.

Price: $549.99 list/$449.99 street

Made in China, fender.com

See it on Amazon.


This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Pete Madsen
Pete Madsen

Pete Madsen is an acoustic blues, ragtime and slide guitarist from the San Francisco Bay Area. He's the author of Play the Blues Like..., an essential guide for playing fingerstyle blues in open tunings.

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