Hands-On Review:Fender® Mustang® I & II

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High speed, amped-up, and loud


By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central


Fender Mustang I II


Fender continues its successful push into the arena of affordable modeling  amps spearheaded by the G-DEC series. Now, with the Mustang  I and II, Fender brings modeling technology to its most budget-conscious  level yet. Mustang I and II feature a straightforward approach: modeled amp  sounds coupled with great effects and virtually unlimited editing and storage  potential through computer hookup.


The Mustang series currently offers two models. Mustang  I is the smaller, lower-wattage version with an 8" speaker and 20 watts of  power. It's very light weight, and is the perfect amplifier for personal playing  in a bedroom, teaching one-on-one, or for playing duets with another guitar  player. Mustang  II features 40 watts of power and a 12" speaker. It is lighter than most  other 40-watt combos you'll encounter and will hold its own in an ensemble and  on gigs. Beyond power output, speaker size, and, of course, their physical  dimensions, the two amps are identical in every other respect.

Touring the front panel

Mustang  I and II may be based on modeling technology, but their front panel welcomes  you with the familiar controls of a good old analog combo amp. Starting at the  left side, there are two input jacks, one for the guitar and one for the  optional footswitch (used for a versatile channel-switching function, described  later). A set of five knobs follows: Gain (for varying the preamp overdrive  ratio), Volume (for setting the overall level of each individual preset), Treble  (for dialing in high-frequency content), Bass (low-frequency control), and  Master, which varies the overall loudness of the amp regardless of the preset.  Of these five rotary knobs, the settings for four of them (except the Master,  which acts as a global control) can be saved as part of a preset.


The next section consists of the eight LEDs and corresponding labels  identifying the amp type, plus the selector knob that allows you to dial through  the presets. Above are the Save and Exit switches that you use for saving any  edits you make. Once you dial up a preset, adjusting any of the front-panel  controls causes the Save switch to turn red, indicating you've made a change  somewhere. Cool! Following the Preset knob are the Modulation and Delay/Reverb  selectors, respectively. There are 12 Modulation effects, including tremolo,  Vibratone, flanger, chorus, etc., and 12 Delay/Reverb effects onboard.


Above the Delay/Reverb knob is the Tap tempo switch that lights up in sync  with the current tempo. If you hold down the Tap switch, you activate the tuner.  At the far right of the panel is an aux in jack (for plugging in your media  player), a headphone out jack, the USB port (for computer hookup), and the power  switch.

Presets galore

The heart of the Mustang's  operation is the selection of modeled amp types. Twenty-four onboard presets are  distributed as eight selectable places, or slots, each with three "states"  (variations on the amp's tone) differentiated by the LED's color (amber, green,  red). Though you can load any sound into the amp (discussed below), Fender  initially assigns the following models to the eight slots: '57 Deluxe, '59  Bassman, '65 Twin Reverb, British '60s, British '80s, American '90s,  Super-Sonic, and Metal 2000. It's intuitive and easy to dial up any amp type and  any state in an instant. Once I got the knob scheme down, I was able to switch  between any two desired selections—such as '65 Twin Reverb green to American  '90s red—in less than one second (I timed it). For those of you who want to  switch presets in less than a second and without taking your hands off the  guitar, Fender offers an optional footswitch, to which you can assign any two  presets. Assigning the sounds is a breeze, and there's even a two-color status  LED on the front panel to tell you which sound you're on.

Fender® FUSE™

Fender's new software application, called Fender® FUSE™, works in conjunction  with the Mustang I and II to give them much more versatility with respect to preset  creation, storage, and deep editing. Load up the software into your PC or Mac,  connect the amp to the computer via the supplied USB cable and voilà! You now  have two-way communication between the computer and the amp. Fender FUSE's  interface is gorgeous, giving you colorful and realistically rendered front  panels of the classic and modern amps, stompboxes, and studio effects it's  modeling. But more than that, it allows you to access parameters not available  on the front panel. For example, in the effects section, you can access the  Stereo Tape Delay's advanced parameters like Delay Time, Feedback, Flutter, and  Separation. There is much more including additional amp models (Fender '57 Champ  and '65 Princeton, to name just two) and effects, including Pitch Shifter and  Touch Wah—along with their computer-editable parameters.


In addition to giving you deep access to parameters not available on the  front panel, Fender FUSE acts as a preset Librarian, allowing you a virtually  unlimited number of your own setups that you can recall and load into the amp.  Using Fender FUSE allows you to load any 24 sounds you want into the amp. This  way, you can customize your Mustang by, say, style, creating an amp that's all blues, all metal, all rock—or  whatever. While we're on the subject of computers, it must be mentioned that the  Mustangs ship with two additional software packages: Ableton 8 Live Lite Fender  edition for multitrack recording and IK Multimedia AmpliTube Fender for even  more software-based amp and effects simulation. If you use these applications,  you'll appreciate that the amp's USB jack works as a high-quality recording  output (cable included).


My favorite aspect of the Mustang  I and II was the fact that I could look at the front panel, turn one knob,  and get 99.99% of my sound right then—from acoustic to vintage blues to  21st-century metal, all with one knob. A tweak of the Gain and tone controls, a  little effect mixing, and I was there completely in under 30 seconds. Factor  that in with the deep-editing capabilities that Fender FUSE provides and you  have not just a great personal amp for instant, on-the-fly modeled sounds, but a  serious tone-shaping tool—one that you can really dig into to craft complete and  ideal setups of your tonal creations.

The Fender  Mustang I and II give you great modeled amps and effects out of the box,  plus the opportunity to go deep using Fender's included Fender FUSE  editing/librarian software. Order today from Musician's Friend and get our  45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.