Hands-on review: Fender Mustang 1 Amplifier

(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-07-16)

Hands-on review: Fender Mustang 1 Amplifier

Although several generations of guitarists envision tan Tolex, brown grillecloth and all-tube amps when you say "Fender," the company for the past several years has produced a line of modeling amplifiers for guitar. I sat down with the Fender Mustang 1 amplifier this week and was excited to put it through its paces.

The Mustang lineup is all about modeling technology but makes it very easy for the guitarist by providing a user-friendly interface that allows instant gratification and tweaking on the fly. It also doubles as a digital audio interface to record directly into your computer. Let’s check out some of the specs…

The top control panel features: an input jack, footswitch jack, Gain, Volume, Treble, Bass, Master, Preset knob, Modulation knob, Delay/Reverb knob, save button, tap tempo button, exit button, Aux input, Headphone output, USB connector, and power switch. Fender even offers an onboard chromatic tuner!

The Mustang 1 is a 20-watt amplifier sporting an 8-inch Fender Special Design speaker.

Modeling presets include: ’57 Deluxe, ’59 Bassman, ’65 Twn Reverb, British 60’s, British 80’s, American 90’s, Metal 2000, and Super-Sonic.

Dialing in a particular sound is very easy on this amp. I had it in my teaching studio and needed to call up specific sounds for demonstrations and I was surprised at how quickly I achieved a useable sound.

To edit the Modulation and Reverb/Delay effects I simply held the “Exit” button and turned the knobs until I adjusted how “wet” I wanted each effect. That’s it! The Mustang 1 presented me with a lot of options when it came to these effects including: Chorus, Chorus Deep, Flanger, Bias/Sine Tremolo, Optical/Vintage Tremolo, Fast Tremolo, Vibratone Slow, Vibratone Fast, Octaver, Phaser Slow Deep, Phaser Medium, Step Filter, Tape Delay, Stereo Tape Delay, Mono Delay, Ducking Delay, Echo Filter, Small Room Reverb, Plate Reverb, Large Hall Reverb, ’65 Spring Reverb, and ’63 Spring Reverb.

The USB port is another reason this amp gets high marks. In fact, even if you don’t use this amp for anything else but for a connection to your computer, it’s worth the money. Fender offers a high-quality, low-latency audio output to record directly to your computer. I used my Macbook Pro and Garageband to do a little recording and it worked like a charm. Using Fender’s own FUSE software you get on-screen parameter control, which is much more intense than using the amp itself, unlimited preset storage, online preset swapping with the Fender FUSE community, and free Fender artist presets.

I loved using the Aux input for transcribing in my teaching studio. I used the volume control of my smartphone and the master volume on the amp to control the level of the pre-recorded music. I also used this to play backing tracks for students to practice improvising. OK…me too!

This little amp sounds great for what it is. It features a closed back with an 8-inch speaker so I wasn’t expecting much in way of sound but after a few chords I recognized that the combination of the smaller speaker and the closed back was a good thing. It had a tighter bass response than I thought it would that rounded out the overall sound.

I’m also not a big fan of modeling amplifiers so I didn’t expect much in this department either…especially for $100, but I can’t complain with what the Mustang 1 had to offer. It sounded about as good as other modeling amps and it was very easy to change amps on the fly. You can even use a remote footswitch to change amps.

What I really liked in the area of sound is that I can go from Eric Clapton to Synister Gates to Joe Satriani and to Pat Metheny within seconds…absolutely amazing!

The Bottom Line
If you’re a guitar instructor looking for the perfect amp to place in your studio, this is it. You can plug it into your laptop for recording sessions, further editing, and free presets. If you’re a student or just need a small amp to practice with, this is your amp! The versatility and sound is amazing for almost pocket change and you’ll have a plethora of features to work with that will never get boring.

For $99.99 USD, you can’t go wrong at all with purchasing this amp. Fender did a great job of meeting the needs of a large demographic of players with the Mustang series.

To learn more about the Fender Mustang 1 and the rest of the Mustang series amps visit them at: http://www.fender.com

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