The transition into the digital age has definitely been a bit of a teething period for the humble guitar amp. In an era so obsessed with convenience, spacial optimisation and Bluetooth streamability, how can a product of such high cultural significance translate into this brave new world, especially when said product is by definition cumbersome, heavy and very much wired?
Such has been the predicament facing guitarists and amp manufacturers as the world has become more and more sedentary and as technology has afforded us increased convenience in almost every other facet of modern life.
Perhaps the trickiest part (and where guitarists differ from almost every other group in society) is in our universal willingness to put up with all kinds of archaic inconvenience and discomfort, as long as it means landing the best sound possible. Sound is the ultimate deciding factor, bar none, and while it may be a very noble pursuit, wouldn’t it be great to be able to integrate just some of these little modern conveniences into our daily musical life and not have to pay for it in sound quality?
Enter the Mustang GTX 50, Fenders latest instalment in their line of super intuitive digital amplifiers, designed to make life a little easier for the modern guitar player.
With its ‘Smart’ design cues, phone app remote operability and bespoke Celestion loaded cab, the Mustang GTX 50 is everything you would expect from a futuristic amp release from the world’s most beloved purveyor of classic amplifiers-equal parts forward thinking design nous and tasteful, ‘tried and true’ operability.
One of the first things that jumps out (and one of the most obvious signs that this isn’t your dad’s Fender) is the presence of a large LCD screen on top of what looks to be a classic 1x12 Fender cabinet design, complete with carry handle and silverface era badgework. This screen is your portal into the Mustang GTX’s many, many tonal options and sound shaping capabilities, with 200 onboard presets, all new inbuilt effects and handy global EQ options providing an insane amount of tonal flexibility from the relatively unassuming little amp.
The Fender Tone 3.0 app wirelessly syncs to the Mustang GTX 50, which along with the optional GTX-7 footswitch, allow for seamless remote operation of the amplifiers tonal controls and FX settings. Presets and stomp boxes can also be downloaded from the Fender cloud, meaning you’ll never be short of a new sound to experiment with or a new setting to add to the collection.
This is where the versatility of the Mustang GTX 50 really comes to the fore, with the super flexible 50 watt workhorse being equipped with a whole library of very believable amp and effect simulations, in turn providing an all-purpose solution for the modern guitarist and taking the place of multiple amps and effects units with a minimum amount of hardware.
From Californian clean tones to rekt Russian fuzz and everything in between, the Mustang GTX 50 offers startlingly realistic depictions across the board, with plenty of attention paid to the finer details of what actually goes into a tone, beyond just the broad signifiers.
Every amp simulation on the Mustang GTX 50 feels nuanced and well considered, displaying a maturity in the brands approach to DSP that goes beyond the obvious superficial workflow improvements that come with features like wireless integration and remote operability, and into the realm of legit contender, with enough sonic upside to appease even the most discerning of tone hounds.
The Overdrive and Fuzz tones have a depth and throatiness to them that is rarely encountered in amps of this type, while the Mustang GTX 50 also offers some of the most sonically pleasing high frequency break up of anything I’ve heard in the digital domain (an area which has traditionally been tough for digital amps to replicate.)
Of particular note is how realistic the simulations of Fender’s own classic amps not only sound, but also how they respond to dynamics and touch. The Vibro King and Super Reverb presets in particular have all of that famous Fender compressed slinkiness, while at the same time providing super realistic touch sensitivity-perfect for facilitating the kind of comped, staccato choppiness that has made the brand such a popular choice for rhythm guitarists the world over.
It’s actually uncanny how well they pull this off and is a testament to the kind of R & D Fender have put into this amp release. If you take anything away from this review, it’s that when it comes to accurately simulating classic Fender amps, nobody does Fender better than Fender. It’s a foregone conclusion.
For a brand so firmly etched in guitar lore, it would be easy for Fender to fall back on their reputation and seemingly endless back catalogue of reissue worthy releases, but doing so just wouldn’t be Leo’s style. Not content to rest on their laurels, products like the Mustang GTX 50 show that Fender have an eye firmly fixed on the direction that not only guitar amps, but society in general are heading.
In a world where space and time are at a premium, who wouldn’t want a single, compact workhorse that can competently mimic a room full of classic amps and stompboxes and be controlled remotely from your phone?
I for one, certainly would.
Hits and Misses
Super versatile, crisp modelled tones
Not a lot!