Fender’s latest foray into amp modelling is their most accurate and player-friendly yet. By Peter Hodgson
I’ll admit to having a little bit of a brain jam over the fact that Fender offers a very traditional, longstanding guitar model called the Mustang, as well as a very modern digital modelling amp of the same name. But the Mustang guitar has its roots in Fender’s early student guitars, and the amp line has a bit of the same ‘make it easy for everyone’ spirit. So, in another way, it totally makes sense. The 40-watt GT 40 is the most student-y of these amps, owing to its tiny size and dual 6.5” speakers. It’s designed to be the perfect tabletop workstation for learning and recording. This series also includes the Mustang GT 100 with a single 12” Celestion speaker, and the Mustang GT 200 with two custom Celestion speakers.
SPOLIT FOR CHOICE
The Mustang features 21 different classic amp models, based on legendary Fenders like the ’59 Bassman, ’65 Twin, Princeton and Deluxe, right on up to high-gain and metal-voiced models like the Metal 2000 (based on the EVH 5150III) and ‘90s American (based on the Mesa Dual Rectifier). There’s even one of my favourite Fender amps, the Super-Sonic, which offers some intriguing cascading gain opportunities. There are also over 45 different effects covering all of the expected categories, including delays, reverbs, chorus, specific overdrives and distortions based on classics like the Ibanez Tube Screamer and MXR Distortion+, and even a Ranger Boost based on the Dallas Range Master treble booster – a key ingredient in early metal tones.
Although there are only a few onboard controls, Fender has made it easy to go into deep editing via Bluetooth and the exclusive Fender Tone app. It’s also equipped with WiFi, so you can download artist presets and software updates and connect with other players. The control panel has knobs for Gain, Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb and Master, and there’s a display window for instant readout of preset contents and parameters, plus buttons for wading your way through menus. There’s also a USB output for recording, a quarter-inch stereo headphone jack, aux input, digital chromatic tuner and a ‘setlist’ feature.
Both the GT 100 and 200 have stereo XLR line outs, and they each also add a stereo effects loop with independent left and right send and return jacks (note: in the case of the single-speaker GT 100, you’ll need to use the line outs, USB recording out or headphone jack in order to hear your effects in stereo).
Fender has also developed new algorithms, taking advantage of technological leaps to implement even higher fidelity and more realistic response than the original Mustang amps could muster, along with more flexibility in the signal path so you can move effects anywhere in the signal chain. The holy grail of amp modelling is the ability to have the amp really clean up when you lighten up your pick attack, or for more gain to be produced when you really dig in – both have been very specific goals of Fender’s latest Mustang R&D.
SAME SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
The optional MGT-4 footswitch gives you four special Mustang GT modes: Quick Access, Presets, Effects and Looper. On first glance, it looks like a pretty complicated footswitch, with multiple labels in order to allow the switches to multitask, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. There’s also an optional EXP-1 Expression Pedal, which gives you the option to control the master volume or any number of amp and effect parameters from the obvious – like wah – to the really out-there.
On the surface, these two amps have a lot of similarities. After all, they both have the same preamps and general brains. You’ll find the same sounds in each, and if you’re using either one through headphones or with their USB recording outputs, you won’t notice a difference with the other. Where the difference comes in is in how the speakers interpret those preamps. The GT 40 sounds naturally smaller and thinner, although it’s still impressively full-range for such a small amplifier. Some will even prefer how its warm mids brighten up some of the darker, heavier voicings and lend authenticity to the ‘small amp’ sounds.
The GT 100 is a beefier-sounding affair, and definitely has a ‘real amp’ feel in every way apart from its physical weight. There’s a real growl to the harmonic overtones and a punch to the attack, and it sounds better the louder you crank it (just make sure to apologise to your neighbours). The editing process can get a bit intense on either amp, but you don’t need to dive too far to find great sounds: if you never go further than simply scrolling from factory preset to factory preset and saving little changes, you’ll be good.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The GT 40 is a really great desktop amp for a guitar-friendly office, a study or music room at home, guitar teachers, university students who can’t take a full stack with them, or touring bands who would like something reliable and sonically flexible to warm up with in the dressing room. The GT 100 takes those same sounds and recasts them as bigger, bolder, punchier and, most importantly, louder, so it’s a great choice for cover bands, home recordists, original bands whose material covers a lot of ground, or simply those who like to have a lot of different sounds at their disposal to handle whatever might come up.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• 21 amp models
• Over 45 effects
• Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities
• USB out
• App integration
• Plenty of sounds
• True amp-like feel
• Handy tech integration
• Potentially complex editing
• No FX loop in the GT 40
Ph: (02) 9666 5077