I went in to Guitar Center yesterday to test the Fender Mustang amps. I need a lightweight grab and go for jazz gigs, small rehearsals, and similar things. Heard a lot of things, good and bad, about the amps, and thought I'd see for myself. In fairness, I have played a Mustang II before when reviewing a guitar. I called it a "crappy modeling amp" in my review, which brought a lot of guile from other forumites. This is actually what inspired me to take a second look at the series.
First on the docket, I went straight to the Mustang III. Armed with some information from the internet, I ignored the first 88 or so presets and went to the dry, effects-free amp models from 89-100. A lot of really, really good models here. Lots of flavors of overdrive, which I guess I expected, but since I am looking for an amp whose main function will likely be jazz gigs, I was a little disappointed. I was able to clean up many of the models, but as far as sparkly Fender cleans, there was really only one model. I imagine the Fender Fuse software would give me more, and the one really clean model was really good. I was listening particularly for some digital artifacts that I've read from reviews, but I couldn't detect anything.
The dirt models, with the exception of the "Metal" model (fizzville) were really, really good. At least as good as my Tech 21 pedals, which I love. Metal was just not good at all, but I wonder what tweakability might be found in Fuse.
I never did mess with any effects- I tried, but couldn't quickly figure out how to adjust effect parameters. The knobs on the screen seemed to correspond to the physical knobs on the amp, but adjusting the knobs only affected the amp paremeters. I haven't read that it's difficult, so I probably just missed an obvious button.
After playing the Mustang III for a long time, I tried the Mustang I and II. Mustang I would be a really solid practice amp- just not enough volume for anything else. Ditto on Mustang II- it obviously has more headroom, but still not quite gig-worthy volume, even for a jazz amp. Tone was still good on both models, just not enough volume to take to the stage. A little disappointing, honestly, because they had a used Mustang II in at $150, and I was hoping to score a great amp for cheap.
After this, I decided to try a few other small-ish amps in the store. Plugged into the Egnater Tweaker first, partially because it was sitting on the other side of the aisle, and partially because I was strongly considering it before I decided it was out of my price range. Great sound, though. I didn't explore the gain side, but even on cleans, I could not find a bad tone. Despite its flexibility, though, its weight was still too much for the purpose I want, and honestly, I still prefer my Traynor YCV40WR cleans over any of the Egnater cleans.
They had a Line 6 Bogner combo in the used section, so I plugged in there just to see if there was anything to the combination. Ran through the clean settings and didn't hear anything substantially different than any of its Spider amps. Very sterile. Granted, I didn't get it turned up very high, but I don't always get to turn it up very high, and it still needs to sound good.
So after all of that, I ended up walking away ampless (which I honestly expected to unless I really fell in love with the Mustang II). The salesman was able to offer me $20 off the $300 price tag, but I wasn't planning to spend $300 yesterday, so I didn't. In the end, though, the Mustang III is definitely on my radar for the near future, and I emphatically take back my comment about the Mustang series being crappy amps.