Fender Mustang 1 V2
Reviews

Fender Mustang I V2 Review (2020) – Feature Packed Budget Practice Amp

Are you just starting out on electric guitar? Or are you looking for a great practice amp that can do it all for just over $100? Fender’s Mustang I V2 might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Everyone knows Fender. They’ve been around since the 40’s, and have produced some of the world’s most famous instruments. From their classic guitars to their sought after tube amps, Fender has undoubtedly worked its way into musical history. And with their more recent dabble into modeling amplification in their practice amp line – utilizing their best in class Fender Fuse software – it all just sounds too good to be true.

Fender Mustang I V2 20-Watt 1x8-Inch Combo Electric Guitar Amplifier
  • 20 watts
  • 8” Fender Special Design speaker
  • 17 amp models and 24 onboard presets
  • Reverb, delay/echo, tremolo, phaser and other effects
  • USB connectivity for audio recording output

Who is this for?

The Fender Mustang I v.2 is oriented towards the beginner player looking for a quality 20 watt practice amp. Loaded with 24 factory presets including a wide array of amps and effects, a beginner can easily find a sound to base their personal tone on. It’s incredibly easy to use, and the Fender Fuse software is very easy to work with.

This doesn’t mean that a more experienced player will have no value with this little amp. It can be a great practise tool to have at home while your big heavy tube amp sits at the rehearsal space.


Appearance

First of all, what does it look like? There’s no doubt that this is a Fender amp. It looks to be a combination of a classic Fender Tweed amp and a Fender Silverface amp. To give you an idea:

It weighs around 17lbs. It’s very light and portable and has a nice carrying handle that feels very sturdy. Its dimensions are 7.6” x 15.5” x 14.5”. It’s small and even fits in a suitcase. This makes it easy to carry around.

The main cabinet is made out of plywood, which is much better than MDF. Grill-cloth is made out of the standard fabric Fender uses for all its Silverface amps. The classic chrome Fender-logo is proudly presented on the face. There is a ‘Mustang’ logo on the top of the face, right where the logo on a Tweed amp would be.

The tolex is unfortunately not real and looks to be of some sort of vinyl or plastic. It’s very sturdy though, and small dings won’t even show up.

The knobs look similar to the UFO-shaped knobs found on the Silverface amps. These knobs are sturdy and feel nice to turn. Not too light, not too heavy, just right.

The amp looks great and unique. It obviously resembles some of Fender’s most classic amps, and this is a very creative choice of design. It looks a lot better than other practice amps in this category in my opinion, and it absolutely fits within Fender’s amp catalog.

The newer Fender GT models are sleeker and look more like classic Blackface Fender amps, so that’s cool to see.

Having an amp that looks good can be a great selling point, especially for a beginner who might not really know what they want yet and needs a versatile first amp.


Features

Don’t underestimate it for its size, because the amp is very powerful, even beyond a typical practice amp. It comes with 20 watts of solid state power, which is easily enough for home use, and even mic’d gigs. I know this out of personal experience. My first 3 or 4 gigs I played with just this amp. The amp was obviously mic’d, because 20 watts of solid-state through an 8” speaker is not enough to keep up with a band.

As I said before, you can save 24 individual presets, which will most likely be more than enough. The amp has a dead simple layout: gain, volume, treble, bass, and a master volume. There are also knobs for preset navigation, modulation, and delay/reverb. The amp also comes with a built-in tuner, which is accessed by holding down on the ‘tap’ button.

There’s an input for a single-switch footswitch, which Fender also makes. Also pretty essential with these sorts of practice amps: a headphone jack. With this, you can just plug in headphones and play all night without disturbing the neighbors. It’s also got a line input, so you can play along to songs and backing tracks from your phone or laptop. It, unfortunately, doesn’t support Bluetooth, so you’ll have to use wired headphones and aux-cables.

It has a USB port for using the Fender Fuse software and even recording. The amp also comes with a demo version of Ableton 10 Live to get you started recording your own demos.

The amp can model a whopping 17 different amp models including:

  • ‘57 Deluxe – (Fender ‘57 Deluxe)
  • ‘59 Bassman – (Fender ‘59 Bassman)
  • ‘65 Twin Reverb – (Fender ‘65 Twin Reverb) British 60s – (Vox AC30)
  • British 80s – (Marshall JCM800)
  • American 90’s -(Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier) Super-sonic – (Fender Supersonic 22)
  • Metal 2000 – (Peavey 5150)
  • ‘60s Thrift – (Sears 1964 Silvertone) British ‘70s – Marshall 1959SLP Plexi British Color – (Orange Custom Shop) British Watts (HiWatt 100 DR103)
  • ‘57 Champ – (Fender ‘57 Champ)
  • ‘57 Twin – (Fender ‘57 Twin)
  • ‘65 Deluxe Reverb – (Fender 59’ Deluxe Reverb)
  • ‘65 Princeton Reverb (Fender ‘65 Princeton Reverb) Studio Preamp (No amp modeling)

And also a wide array of modulation and reverb/delay effects including:

  • Flanger
  • Chorus
  • Pitch Shifter
  • Compressor
  • Spring Reverb
  • Tape Delay

And on top of that, the Fender Mustang comes with a plethora of high quality pedals built in, like:

  • Overdrive
  • Fuzz Distortion
  • Auto-Wah

This could be confusing or even overwhelming for a beginner, and maybe even a bit too much for a more experienced player. However the wide array of amp models are sure to keep you busy for hours experimenting with different amps, effects, and pedals.

It’s important for an amp to have all the features you desire, and it’s very nice that there’s such a range of options for amp models, effects and such on such a cheap small amp. Most beginners will want to just plug-and-play because of the lack of experience in dialing in tones, so this many options is a major pro of the Fender Mustang.


Controls

As I said, the amp doesn’t come with an overwhelming amount of knobs or switches. The amp is very usable with just the controls on the amp itself, utilizing the Fender Fuse software is absolutely optional (though of course the software does make things easier). The only thing I would say it misses is a ‘mid’ knob, which can be pretty vital for creating a good tone. Luckily though, the amp models come with a pre-set mid-setting, so the British amp models will have plenty of mids, whereas the American ‘90s amp models are fairly scooped.

Presets are easily edited with the knobs on the face of the amp, and then saved with the ‘save’ button on top.

There are 24 fully customisable factory presets that can all be accessed right on the amp. There are three banks of eight presets. You can see which bank you’re on by looking at the colour of the LED light. Green = bank 1, orange = bank 2, and red = bank 3.

The good thing is, with the Fender Fuse software, you can put any preset on any slot regardless of what amp name is next to it on the amp. So it’s completely possible to fill the entire amp with just ‘65 Princeton Reverb presets if you wanted to.

The USB connectivity opens you up to a whole world of tweaking. The USB port plugs straight into your computer, and after downloading the driver and the app, you’re ready to start playing around with the software. The Fender Fuse software is easy to use, with big buttons and eye-catching visuals. The digital amp-face will match its appearance with that of the amp you’re simulating. So the British ‘60s will actually look like a Vox amp, and the American ‘90s will look like a Dual Rectifier.

Easy to use controls are crucial for an amp in this price range. Some of the largest and most expensive amps are known for being kinda hard to work with, but those amps are usually only bought by guitarists who absolutely know what they’re doing.

A beginner doesn’t want a piece of gear with a huge learning curve, as it’ll be discouraging. The Fender Mustang is easy to work with, and with a wide array of amps and effects, easy to get a tone you like.


Performance/Sound

None of this matters if it doesn’t sound great, and unfortunately… that’s where the Fender Mustang’s biggest gripe is.

The tiny 17 lbs plywood body houses an 8″ ‘Special Design’ Fender speaker. The speaker is very dark and muddy, but has a surprising (and overwhelming) amount of bass for such a tiny 8 inch speaker. I had a hard time getting a good sound through the speaker, and found that it didn’t sound much better when it’s mic’d.

This is very common with these smaller practice amps – the same criticism is often levied at the Line 6 Spider range. All the time and effort goes into cramming it full of features to sell it, but not bothering making the speaker actually sound adequate. This is usually the reason why I tell people to save a little longer and buy a Boss Katana 50, seeing as it has a ton of features, and houses a decent 12 inch speaker.

However, putting the speaker off to the side for a moment, let’s focus on the internal sound quality. The Fender Mustang is obviously a solid-state amplifier, so getting that tube response is very difficult. I do have to say that it does it pretty well. It replicates that ‘tube warmth’ of say a 57 Deluxe very well, and is very dynamic.

It does this better on the clean and low-gain amp models I would say. The high-gain amp models such as the Metal 2000 are not very tight and have quite a lot of boomy bass, which is the exact opposite of what you want for a modern overdrive/distortion sound. That, combined with the lack of a ‘mid’ knob kind limits what this amp can really do beyond the factory presets. Some improvements are possible via the Fender Fuse software, but it involves a lot of effort.

Getting a good sound out of an amp is exactly what an amp should do, and if you’re gonna record with the Fender Mustang, I highly recommend using the USB connectivity to the Fender Fuse software or the headphone jack instead of miking it. The sound from either of those is much better than from the irredeemable speaker.


Other amps to consider

Where looking for an affordable practice amp that is versatile and easy to work with.

Boss Katana 50 Mk II

This is a no-brainer. Boss is the daddy when it comes to pedal based effects, and putting them all in a cheap combo was a master stroke.

There is a reason this combo amp has gained a bit of cult-following. Everything from the range of amps, effects and pedals, to the sound is good, and it’s extremely affordable as well. It’s absolutely loud enough to rehearse and gig with (even with a loud metal drummer).

This is the amp that kills all other amps under $300, and if you’re willing to pay extra, there’s no other amp we’d highly recommend.

Orange Micro Terror/Dark Terror

Now, let me start off by saying this amp is not as versatile as the Fender Mustang or the Katana (lacking even basic effects like reverb), but it’s a great practice amp option if you want to start using pedal based effects.

These tiny little tube-driven heads have 20 watts of solid state power, so there is plenty of clean headroom for home use. The only catch is you have to hook it up to a cabinet for it to work.

Luckily, Orange swoops in with a special 1×8” cabinet for $100 that sounds pretty adequate.

But, if you don’t want to use that, we recommend the Harley Benton G112 Vintage cabinet. A very cheap ($130) cabinet with a real Celestion Vintage 30.

Read our full Orange Micro Terror review here.


Fender Champion 50XL

Fender Champion 50XL

You might say it’s a bit strange to include this since it’s also a Fender combo amp, but the Fender Champion 50XL is very similar in a lot of ways, except it has more power (50w solid-state dwarfs the Fender Mustang’s 20 watt output), is transistor powered instead of digital, and has a much better 12 inch speaker.

This is a great option for people who want a better sound and could do with less features. It does have some digital capability, and does have some built in effects, except it’s all on the face of the map instead of in something like the Mustang’s Fender Fuse software.


Summary and Conclusion

The most important aspects of the Fender Mustang 1 V.2.

  • Absolutely looks like a Fender amp
  • Lots of features
  • Wide range of quality amp models and effects
  • Easy controls
  • Lots of tonal options
  • Small and lightweight
  • Fender Fuse Software is easy to use
  • Bad sounding 20 watt speaker, but decent sound using USB connectivity or headphone out.

So, is the Fender Mustang 1 V.2 a good practise amp? Yes. Is it a good amp for anything other than practise? No.

These amps are perfect for beginners who just want to get a decent quality sound out of their electric guitar and want to learn how to work an amp. But once they get more experienced they’re probably wanting to get something of higher quality fairly quickly.

My final verdict is that the Fender Mustang is the best sub- $150 (depending on where you get it) guitar amp you’ll find in a music store. Does that mean it’s great? Unfortunately not.