Review: Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier

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Review: Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier

Words By Bridgette Baini

Fender Music Australia | | RRP: $219.00

While it may never be the kind of study that receives any kind of legitimate, university funding, I’d be very interested to see the kind of influence that things like the state of the economy and the ever-booming property/rental market have on musicians and their playing habits, particularly at the technical level.

While this may sound like a bit of a long bow to draw, rest assured the proof is all around us, as share houses become more packed and the cost of square meterage is at an all-time high, design considerations like physical footprint, low volume dynamics, direct outs and overall scalability (things that guitarists have historically treated with scant regard) have become extremely important given the current zeitgeist.

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Nowhere is this more evident than in the current glut of affordable, high quality practise amp/modelling pedals with headphone out/micro headphone amplifiers available at the moment, as aimed at providing guitarists with the most organic and flexible small scale options available for practice and recording.

At the very forefront of this movement is Fender’s awesome Mustang amplifier range, with the brand legitimately breaking new ground in the quality of the modelling and IR found on their combo offerings like the GTX 50 and GTX 500.

The new Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier takes this same approach and applies it to an even smaller footprint: the often overlooked world of headphone amplifiers, and the result is some of the most satisfying and housemate/neighbour friendly playing experiences we have found for an amp of this type.

The Mustang Micro provides you with 12 amp models for a wide range of clean and dirty tones, 13 effect models with parameter modify control, and adjustable EQ, Bluetooth audio signal, and onboard DSP. This tiny pocket rocket is obviously a no brainer for anyone studying guitar performance or with a strict practice regime, but its as a low volume songwriting vehicle/ late night idea generator where it really pays dividends.

Its USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery allows for four hours of continuous playing time, making it perfect to fit a few nights of practice, or a day of classes. When you’re practising guitar and especially studying guitar performance, hearing the same riff or lick over and over again can give you fatigue. In fact, it can begin to feel a little bit like torture.

One thing that would hinder me when being restricted to the amplifier situation in any given room, was the unfamiliarity with the settings, the time wasted having to manipulate those settings to accommodate for my sound and then further to that, the fact I’d be jumping from jazz to metal and more. The ease of setup, limited cable requirements and the naturalness of the touch sensitivity makes the Fender Mustang Micro one of the best solutions I’ve found for this kind of daily low volume playing.

It uses impeccable self-contained signal processing to power crisp, clear signals to provide you with some truly impressive modelling, ranging from classics like the ‘65 Twin and ‘65 Deluxe through to more general ‘vibe’ type presets like Studio Preamp, ‘90s American and even a Metal 2000. You can then pair any of these 12 basic sounds with any of the 13 effects provided, including a vast array of reverbs, delays and modulation: Large Hall Reverb, Chorus and Mono Delays, Triangle Flanger and Large Hall Reverb, Tape Delay aVintage Tremolo and even a Sine Chorus.

You’ll be hard pressed to find yourself squirming with any of these settings, especially because you can then use the EQ to fine-tune them even more. Of course, for such a small amp Fender have kept it quite simple so there isn’t infinite tweak-ability of the parameters, but the quality of what is on offer is impressive to say the least.

Just being able to access hyper-accurate approximations of the vintage sounds and effects we know and love, packed into something so portable, is already a cut above so many of the other practise amps out there. I could see this being a perfect little mate to chuck in the guitar case for a tour or interstate trip: you really can just visualise it being a handy little acquisition for a variety of different playing scenarios.

We haven’t even mentioned the Bluetooth compatibility yet and it’s in these slightly more consumer features that the appeal of the Mustang Micro really sells itself. With the Fender Mustang Micro you can sync up any MP3/MP4 playing device straight to the mini amplifier and play along with any tune or instructional video.

Other handy tech fittings are the USB-C which allows you to record out to MAC/PC, update firmware, and recharge the internal battery. If your headphones don’t happen to have Bluetooth, you can still connect wired headphones through the headphone output. The rotating input plug is also a nice touch for compatibility with most guitars and basses: It’s got a ‘no-fuss’ appearance to it with a classic black casing with rounded edges, and has considerate features like colour-coordinated LEDs

The Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amp accommodates so many diverse playing situations and is so incredibly sturdy and compact that it could fit quite easily into any player’s arsenal or cramped living situation. Its ability to provide quality recreations of some of the most coveted (and less than compact) amp setups out there make it a perfect option for anybody looking to play more often and more loudly than their living situation may always allow. After all, with everything turning into apartments and sub-divisions of sub-divisions, us guitarists need to plan ahead!

Check out the Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier on Fender’s website.