Fender Mustang I Review

Not to be confused with Fender’s most popular line of short-scale guitars (you’d think they’d be able to pick another animal, maybe even another type of horse), the Mustang series is Fender’s most recent line of amplifiers.

I recently bought the smallest in the line (not including the Mustang Mini) as a practice amp since I’d concluded that my flat in Bristol was just too quiet, and I didn’t want to have to excavate my 500W mongrel from its cubby hole at the Uni every time I wanted to go louder than my acoustic. I’d researched for a good while, since I’m rather thrifty when it comes to things like this, and had not seen a bad word anywhere on the internet about this Mustang 1.

So I tried it out at the DV store across the road, testing with a Strat for a realistic comparison (since I’m well used to the quack-like tones of that guitar), and was instantly impressed by the clarity and the quality of the presets it offered. I cycled through the settings like an enthusiastic child able to open all his Christmas presents in rapid succession, before gleefully throwing my money at the assistant and sauntering out smugly with it under my arm. For £100 it was an absolute steal.

Look at this little guy!

My Roland Cube 60 back home is technically three times more powerful than the 20W Mustang, but I’ve never liked its tone. It’s not bad when gigging in small venues (though it struggles with my bass, which seems to destroy all but the most muscular of amps), but it’s just too much of a brute for bedroom playing. And there are so many knobs and switches that I can’t be bothered to sit nudging them with a toothpick to get the exact sound I want from it.

I’m a big fan of the Mustang’s simplicity. The standard EQ knobs, volume and preset selector are all it needs. And a USB output so I can do all the fancy tweaking on the computer, where I can download more effects, is a nice touch. It just seems to do everything very well, especially the ’65 Twin Reverb setting, which is a tone I adore but am very fussy about. My Cube for instance doesn’t come close. There is no distortion at the higher volumes, minimal buzz from my Strat’s single coil pickups, and the tones hold their shape at lower volumes, when controlled from both the amp and the guitar itself.

It’s impressively loud for a 20W, and has a decent low end despite it having an 8″ speaker. Using a bass through it is a futile effort, but that’s not what it was designed for. Physics just won’t allow a bass guitar to work with one 8″ speaker. It’s given my Strat a new lease of life, which is funny, because I was pondering buying a new guitar recently after playing my Strat through headphones was leaving me feeling cold towards the instrument. Potentially, I’ve saved myself many hundreds of pounds with this little amp.

I would heartily recommend it. But it depends on what kind of player you are. If you’re a kid just starting out with a cheap guitar pack from Argos then you will probably be fine with that little 15W hairdryer from Argos, until that moment when you realise that adding distortion isn’t meant to make your amp buzz along the floor. If you’re a serious musician or a metalhead you’re more likely going to be looking for a 2×10″ 100W+ amp as a minimum. For a fairly experienced casual player who wants an amp for around the home, I can think of nothing better. It has a great tone, style, build quality and price – and I can’t see a thing wrong with it.

And to the neighbours on the other side of my bedroom wall, I’m sorry. In fact, I’m not sorry. This is payback for all the peculiar sexual acts (involving what sound like power tools in some instances) you make me listen to against my will.

Top marks for this lad.

3 Comments

  1. Rob Briggs May 1, 2012 11:39 am  Reply

    I agree with the comment above!

  2. Vincenzo May 12, 2013 6:11 pm  Reply

    Hi, great review! I am interested in buying this Amp.
    Do you think it can be used in a small gig with drums and singer?

    • jh May 15, 2013 9:58 pm  Reply

      I’d say that this amp wasn’t particularly suited for gigging! I bought it primarily as a versatile bedroom practice amp, and for that purpose it is perfect. You may well find that it lacks the power to cut through drums and a powerful vocalist.

      The Mustang 1 is the bottom of the Fender Mustang line in terms of power, being only 20W. The 40W Mustang 2 is a not much more expensive upgrade!

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