Reviewed: Fender Mustang GT40 & GT100 guitar amplifiers

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Reviewed: Fender Mustang GT40 & GT100 guitar amplifiers

Fender Mustang GT.jpg
Words by Aaron Streatfeild

Fender Music Australia | | RRP: GT40 $499.00 GT100 $799.00

Redesigned and revamped, the new Mustang range of solid state amps come to the table with tech-savy amplifiers produced for the modern age. As with its predecessors, the Mustang GT series is loaded with a wide selection of amp models, effects and tone presets. The major difference this time round is the addition of Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities.

Mustang GT40

From white goods to home audio – you’ll struggle to find any technology today lacking in connectivity, whether it’s for remote access, updates or cooking a steak from the comfort of a lounge and with the tap of a screen. So it’s no surprise that Fender has applied this technology to its latest amplifier range.

Is this a marketing ploy or a handy innovation? In the case of the Mustang GT40 it’s contextual. Due to its quaint size, it would be safe to assume that the target demographic are bedroom players; an all-in-one gadget for both home recording and rehearsal. But with Bluetooth streaming capabilities, it’s also a wireless speaker.

The GT40 handles streamed music to an acceptable standard, but a lack of EQ and setting customisation renders it a mere consolation prize. Even the volume is limited to adjustment via your connected device – whether it’s a smart phone or computer – making the amp’s volume knobs moot in this case.

The WiFi aspect however, is a better attribute, providing product updates, additional presets and access to an online community. With the exceptions of Fractal Audio Systems’ Axe-FX and other high-end simulators, the road of amp simulation is a rocky one. Granted, the years have been kind to more entry-level tech, with more realistic sims and better products on offer.

As an amp simulator, the GT40 is versatile and its arsenal plentiful. Classic Fender amp models like the ’65 Twin, Princeton and Deluxe are characteristically acute, and resemble the warmth, sparkle and shine of the originals. The GT40 doesn’t fall into the trap of ‘jack of all trades; master of none’ and most, if not all amp models are detailed and realistic replications. Justice would be served if utilised for home recording.

The long list of effects are of great resource, however some of the overdrive and distortion stomboxes take away from the great sound of the amp models, often muddying their clarity and tone. You can’t win them all, and most of the time the presets save the day – offering a happy medium and customisation.

With all of its bells and whistles jam-packed into such a small amp, operating the GT40 is easy and self-evident. A minute after switching on the amp I was able to dial in a tone, spread on some effects, and the riffs were wailing in no time. It’s a simple and easily maneuvered interface.

With a sleek build and cosmetically appealing appearance, the GT40 is an ideal home studio amp. The two 20-watt speakers pack more than enough punch for home use and maintain a clear, articulate tone at low volumes. Even apartment dwellers will get a kick out of the headphone jack’s clarity and response; little is lost from the amp models characteristics when switching over to headphones.

Mustang GT100

Bigger, stronger and able to get into clubs, the GT100 is Fender’s shot at a solid state, designed with the stage in mind. It will likely still gauge the interest of the bedroom user demographic, those particularly after more watts and headroom, but its functionality is intent on the stage. Unlike the GT40, it includes all the regular amp dials: gain, volume, standard EQ pots as well as reverb. It’s clearly designed with the live player in mind.

Clean, round tones shine bright and with noticeable characteristics of either of the 27 amp models. All compliments go to the ‘special designed’ Celestion 12-inch speaker for these attributes, it does its best to serve – the classic Fender amps in particular – justice.

However, not even the Celestion can save the unpleasant breakup of some of the overdrive and distortion stompboxes, particularly at higher gain; it muddles the crisp jangle of the detailed amp models. A saving grace is its response to real life stompboxes, which compliments and blends well with clean amp models.

If low gain saturation is your thing, then the GT100 will be your amp and pedal board in one. Light, even for its size, and with sturdy Soft-Touch Flip Handle, it’ll save your back the trouble and your boot the space.

The GT100 has plenty of punch, but lacks tight bass response. This may be because of its open-back design, or lone speaker. Rhythm players reliant on a strong bottom-end or seeking punchy palm-muted chug tone will be disappointed by this shortcoming, but courtesy of outputs – both 1/4inch and XLR – a solid front-of-house could be a solution.

Lead players, however, will revel in its smooth mids, transparent highs and sturdy selection of onboard effects. The reverbs in particular are far from imitation, and the on-board customisation allows for quick and easy tweaks. Sadly it doesn’t come with a footswitch, which makes cycling through presets and effects a breeze, especially onstage.