Tom’s Rating (3.5 / 5)
I picked up my Fender Mustang III about three and a half years ago. I’ve been playing Fender amps for a while and I like the sound, especially when playing a Strat. I had been using a 40 watt Fender but I needed something louder for jam sessions. With the Mustang III I liked the idea that I could get a wide array of sounds from the built in amp modeling and effects in addition to getting the extra watts.
Overall I enjoyed using this amp… but it has a fatal flaw.
In terms of volume I had no issues. It’s a solid state but with 100 watts I could easily get it loud enough in a jam session without having to push it.
My basic setup with the amp model and effects presets was a clean, dirty then overdriven sound in positions 1, 2 and 3. Following that I had some variations on the dirty and overdriven sounds. A cleaner, crunchy tone for AC/DC, some heavy reverb for Van Halen. The rest of the positions were a free for all. Some downloaded presets, some ambient sounding presets, some octave and pitch shifting presets. Some were pretty cool, others I never really used. In general I got some great sounds from the amp.
The built in tuner was great. It would mute the amp while you tuned to the lights on the foot switch. It could also be activated via foot switch. I purchased the separate 4 button foot switch (it came with a 2 button) and it gave a lot of control though it took a bit to wrap your head around the controls.
You might notice that I write all this in past tense. This is because I really never us this amp anymore. For a 2 main reasons. Reason 1 is that I picked up a new amp. Reason 2 is the fatal flaw. Managing the presets.
To manage the different presets on the amp you can either control them with an LCD screen on the amp itself or you can a USB cable and connect the amp to a computer where you manage the tones with Fender’s Fuse software. Managing the tones directly on the amp is tedious. Given that you can have 100 tones it’s just really not practical to set every one via the amp. It’s good for adjustments but to set everything up you really need to do that with a computer.
Herein lies the main problem. The only way to manage the tones on a computer is with Fender’s Fuse app. Fender’s Fuse app is awful. It’s clunky, it’s ugly, it’s not intuitive at all and it requires you to download Microsoft’s Silverlight. That’s right, Silverlight, which is basically a poor attempt at copying Adobe Flash.
A bad start and then you realize you can’t reposition your tones by dragging and dropping them. You literally have to go in and reset every tone manually. Want tone 50 to be in between tone 2 and 3? Good luck. You have to set tone 50 to be tone 3 and then reset tones 3 to 49 manually to be one position higher. How do you not have such a critical function?
I call this the fatal flaw because setting the tones is really what this amp is about. The process is so bad it ruins the main feature of this amp. I very quickly got tired of mucking around the Fuse app. I eventually just settled on the sounds I had and never bothered to make any changes after a while.
I feel like this issue could have been avoided with a little more forethought. Perhaps it’s that that Fender is not a software company at heart and didn’t think it through or underestimated the importance of the interface. It’s like they got all this cool modeling stuff into the amp, put in the built in LCD and then realized that, while it’s useful, it’s not really practical. By the time they got around to integrating a hookup for the computer making an app the internal software was already too far down the road to make a proper API to work with an app.
Making a proper API for the internal software is what I believe they should have done. The software in the amp itself should have been written such that anyone could make an app that could manage it. Fender only needed to work on the built in LCD and provide API documentation on its website for the public.
They could have hired an outside vender that makes great native apps to build a first version so there was something available at the product’s release but then let anyone else build something better if they wanted to. Heck, just open source the initial app and pop it on GitHub. There would be an incentive for developers to make better apps in that they could charge users. Maybe Fender gets a cut for licensing or something. In the long run Fender would benefit in that there’s some great software to use along with the amp without them having to manage development aside from the amp internals.
We’ll see what happens down the road. Maybe someone will take this project on and things will change. In the meantime my Mustang is slowly collecting dust in the corner. It’s a shame.
One More Thing
They should have added a switch so you toggle between the modeling and just using a good, standard, basic sound with only the knobs.