When you think of a Fender amp what sort of tone comes to mind? Back in the day there were usually two possible answers to that question. One Fender amp sound is the old school “Tweed” sound. Think old Rolling Stones or maybe the Black Crows. Another Fender sound is the “Blackface” tone. This is the clean, mid scooped tone of the mid sixties Fender amps that had the controls moved to the front in a black panel. Think surfing, Dick Dale type stuff. Later Fender came out with Blues Junior and the hugely popular Hot Rod series that had their own tones. These days you don’t need to choose just one sound and you don’t even need to pay that much for a bunch of sounds and a boat load of effects with Fender’s Mustang amps.
The Fender Mustang 1 and 2
The Mustang line of amps start with the Fender Mustang I a 20 watt combo packing a 8 inch Fender Special Design speaker.
The Fender Mustang II has a 40 watt output section going through a bigger 12 inch speaker. Other than the wattage and the speaker size the two models are the same.
The control panel features a Treble knob to control the high frequencies and a bass knob to control the lows. Unfortunately there is no Middle knob for control over the mid scoop. There are three volume controls (more on that later) and two knobs to control the vast array of effects. Fender also squeezed in a tuner (handy!) and USB jack to interface the amp with Fender’s Fuse or other audio software.
At first glance there appears to be an extra volume control. There are knobs for Gain, Volume and a Master Volume. In a tube amp you would have Gain knob or a Volume but not both. In the case of the Mustang the Gain controls the amount of overdrive and the Volume acts as a Master Volume for that preset. The Master on the Mustang is an overall volume control for the amplifier that doesn’t effect the overdrive characteristics like a Master Volume on a tube amp. I’m a tube amp guy, what can I say…
Two Effect Knobs
There are two more knobs called MOD and DLY/REV. The MOD knob controls modulation effects such as tremolo, chorus and flanger while the DLY/REV controls delay and reverb effects. Really getting the most out of these high quality effects might require consulting the manual and some hands on experience as Fender has jammed a ton of functionality into two knobs. However, these are great sounding effects that can greatly enhance the tone and feel of the amp.
Finally there is a knob to select the amp preset. The preset selection is made up of eight amp models, each with three presets for a total of 24 presets in all. These presets offer up a good range of tones and there is likely something here that will appeal to every guitar player.
Here’s a run down of the eight basic amp models:
- 57 Deluxe Based on: 1957 Fender
Deluxe also know as the 5E3. Good for:
Blues and Rock
- 59 Bassman Based on: 1959 Fender
Bassman also know as the 5F6A. Good for:
Blues and Rock
- 65 Twin Reverb Based on: 1965
Fender Twin Reverb. This model is representative of
the mid sixties Fender “Blackface” tone. Good
for: Blues, Rock, Jazz and Country
- British 60’s Based on: Vox
AC15/AC30. Good for: Rock, Pop and
- British 80’s Based on: Higher gain
Marshall amps such as the JCM800. Good for:
Rock, 80’s Hair Band
- American 90’s Based on: High gain
American amps such as the SLO or Boogie. Good
for: Rock, Metal
- Metal 2000 Based on:The name says
it all. Good for: Modern Metal
- Super-Sonic Based on: Fender’s
Super Sonic. Good for: Rock
Fender also includes it’s Fuse software with the Mustang. This allows more detailed tuning of the Mustang’s amp models and effects by connecting the Mustang to a Mac or PC using the USB connector. This greatly expands the range of tones the Mustang is capable of and is a nice feature if you want a more elaborate interface than the collection of knobs and buttons on the amp itself.
So the Mustang I&II pack a lot of features that look good on paper but that’s not why a person buys an amplifier. How does a modeling amp from Fender, a company that just about invented the tube guitar amp, sound? It actually sounds really good! The Mustang amps have some of the best emulations of tube amps you will hear in a product anywhere close to their price range. The tones from the amp models are full, complex and seem to have a great feel, very close to their tube packing counter parts. The Mustang II is especially nice with it’s bigger speaker. The other great thing about the Mustang is it lets your guitar sound like your guitar, a strat sounds like a strat and Les Paul sounds like a Les Paul.
Here is a video that demos the amp’s versatility and how to set it up:
I think my main gripe with the Mustang is, since there is so much crammed in, sometimes it’s difficult to get to all it’s features. The two knobs for the effects are a little fussy to work with but probably after enough time I would likely get the hang of it.
The Mustang I&II are great amps for the beginning to intermediate guitarist or the more experienced guitar player who needs a small practice amp that is not going to wake the neighbors. Unlike tube amps, modeling amplifiers don’t need to be turned up a lot to reach their sweet spot. The Mustang can also be used with headphones and with the Aux input, you can play along with your favorite tunes. Right out of the box the Mustang offers up great sounds. Whether you prefer classic tube tones of the 50’s or modern metal mayhem this amp has you covered. Throw in the editing capabilities of the Fuse software and the huge collection of effects this amp clearly has something for everyone.