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Hands-On Review:Fender® Mustang™ III and IV Modeling Amps


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Analog sound with digital features

By Dave Simons
Harmony Central Contributor

Fender Mustang III and IV Modeling Amps

There are some among us who can get the job done onstage or at home with just one guitar, one amp, and one cable. And if you're locked in to one sound in particular that's just fine. However, in real life things aren't always that one-dimensional—so while your low-watt tube amp might be great at providing nice, natural distortion, if you suddenly need something a little cleaner, you're out of luck. By the same token, a rack full of effects pedals might help diversify your sound, but those little boxes can easily set you back a couple hundred bucks or more.

 

If you'd like to have it all under one roof, you might consider Fender's latest additions to its line of modeling instrument amplifiers—the Mustang III and IV. Appropriate for both traditional and digital types, these new Mustangs combine analog-based amp features with Digital Audio Workstation-style functionality, including 100 different amp-modeling presets (which can be easily tweaked) along with a battery of pro-style effects (including various shades of delay and reverb). You can program and swap virtual amps at will using the amp's onboard controls or through an attached footswitch, while the amp's easy-to-read backlit selection menu makes getting around the dial that much easier.

Overview

With its open back and familiar "Millennium Blackface" styling, the Mustang has the look and feel of a traditional amp. And when it comes to moving air, these amps have the means—in spades; Model IV comes with a full 150 watts of power, tapped to a set of 12" Celestion speakers within a sturdy yet portable enough 47-pound cabinet that makes the most of the modeling menus packed within. Model III sports 100 watts through a single 12" Celestion. Also available are a Model V head and Model V cabinet.

 

Getting up and running with the Mustang is as easy as plugging in a guitar of choice and rolling up the master volume—all other amp controls, such as gain and EQ, remain "inactive" on each preset until adjusted. From there you can start scrolling through the multitude of sampled sounds (with titles ranging from "Purple Fuzz" and "Aussie Rock" to "British Invasion" and even something called "What the #^[!?)", all culled from a dozen classic models made famous by Fender as well as other noted amp makers.

 

There's something here for just about everyone; if you want vintage with power-tube drive, try a 53-year-old Deluxe or Champ; there's a dead-on '65 Deluxe Reverb; or from the same year, a Princeton Reverb and Twin Reverb. Each amp grouping offers various subtle (and, in some instances, not-so-subtle) shifts in tone and coloration, allowing you to get from thrash to chime in no time.

 

Nor do you have to stick with any one pre-adjusted tone setting. The Mustangs come with a set of 37 different effects divided into four groups (stomp, modulation, delay, and reverb). Pressing down on the amp's main control knob brings up a sub-menu that allows you to drill down and fine-tune each selection. Once you've shaped the sound of your favorite models to suit your taste, simply hit "save" and your presets will be instantly "personalized" (all of your adjustments can easily be undone at any time).

Computer and online connections

Particularly handy for live recording or studio applications, the Mustang amps include a USB output jack, enabling you to direct connect to a computer for top-quality, low-latency sound reproduction. Also included is Fender® FUSE™ software, which facilitates virtual parameter control, deep editing, and includes additional effects and unlimited preset storage. The disc also contains Ableton Live Lite Fender edition and AmpliTube Fender LE edition digital-recording packages. You simply have to use this amp with the software, as so many more tonal possibilities open up when you can tweak via the computer screen. Of course you can save, load, and organize all your sonic creations.

 

Additionally, accessing the Fender FUSE online community gives you the option to try out or trade different preset sounds, discuss sound-shaping tools and techniques with fellow Fender users, as well as download firmware updates as they become available. A handy headphone-connecting jack allows you to keep playing without incurring the wrath of nearby loved ones.

Conclusion

While there are those who will always prefer to sculpt their sounds the old-fashioned way, the fact of the matter is that there's more to life than just one tone at a time—and to that end, modeling amps like the Fender Mustang series give you that extra measure of variety, using an enormous array of simulated amp settings and related effects to help you achieve classic-amp sound without classic-amp cost. Like most modeling devices, working with your Mustang may initially require a little trial and error. But with the right guitar-amp combo, a good set of ears, and the aid of the extremely helpful Fender FUSE software, you may never have to trip over another pedalboard again.

Features & Specs


  • Speaker: (Mustang IV) 2-12" Celestion G12P-80, 8-ohm speakers; (Mustang III) 1 Celestion G12T-100 12" speaker
  • Impedance: (Mustang IV) 8 ohms per side; (Mustang III) 8 ohms
  • Output Power: (Mustang IV) 150W (2x75) stereo; (Mustang III) 100W
  • Inputs: 1 - 1/4" Instrument
  • Channels: 1 channel with 100 presets
  • Controls: Gain, Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb, Master; Data Wheel; soft keys for Amp Select, Stomp Edit, Modulation Edit, Delay Edit, Reverb Edit, Utility, Save, Exit, and Tap/Tuner
  • Effects: 12 Amp Models: '57 Deluxe™, '59 Bassman®, '57 Champ®, '65 Deluxe Reverb®, '65 Princeton® Reverb, '65 Twin Reverb®, Super-Sonic™, British '60s, British '70s, British '80s, American '90s, Metal 2000; 7 Stomp Effects: Overdrive, Fixed Wah, Touch Wah, Fuzz, Fuzz Touch Wah, Compressor, Simple Compressor; 11 Modulation Effects: Sine Chorus, Triangle Chorus, Sine Flanger, Triangle Flanger, Vibratone, Vintage Tremolo, Sine Tremolo, Ring Modulator, Step Filter, Phaser, Pitch Shifter; 9 Delay Effects: Mono Delay, Mono Echo Filter, Stereo Echo Filter, Multitap Delay, Ping Pong Delay, Ducking Delay, Reverse Delay, Tape Delay, Stereo Tape Delay; 10 Reverb Effects: Small Hall, Large Hall, Small Room, Large Room, Small Plate, Large Plate, Ambient, Arena, Fender '63 Spring Reverb, Fender '65 Spring Reverb
  • Effects Loop: (Mustang IV) Stereo Series Effects Loop; (Mustang III) Mono Series Effects Loop
  • Auxiliary Input: 1/8"
  • Headphone Jack: 1/8"
  • Line Out: USB port, 1/8" headphone jack doubles as speaker emulated line out
  • Footswitch: (Mustang IV) 4-button footswitch; (Mustang III) 2-button footswitch
  • Covering/Grille Cloth: Black textured "carbon tweed" vinyl covering with silver grille cloth
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