Price paid: $ 99
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 8
My guitar has P90 pickups that can be pretty noisy. Although my computer allowed me to access the amp's powerful noise gate, I still had to insert a noise reduction pedal at the front of my chain to enable the use of a compressor, so the built-in gate is of little use to me. I knew a bit about different Fender amp sounds already, but one great thing about the Mustang is that it taught me more. Although it only made me more sure of something I already knew (that the '65 Twin Reverb sound is the one I want), I think this amp would be very useful for a beginner who hadn't quite figured out what they want yet. This amp can probably make thousands of different sounds in combination with a computer and the internet, and the ones it comes stock-programmed with are already many more than I need. If distortion is your thing, you can take your pick, as well as whatever delay/reverb, modulation or other effects you want to program in. This versatility is impressive, but I quickly narrowed it down to 5 presets that I actually use (all the same amp & settings with different effects), and these will become less as I add more pedals to my chain.
Overall Impression — 7
Whatever style you play, this amp will work for your practice and jamming sessions. I have played about 20 years, and use a great guitar, a long pedal chain with a unity gain buffer at the front for clarity of signal. The Mustang I would be an easy amp to steal or lose due to its small size and light weight. It would also be easy to replace: I could do it in less than a month. I love that it lets me pick the sound I want, but as I said above, a thousand features are silly when you need a computer to access more than 30. Greater ability to adjust effects parameters would be better, and a more informative set of instructions would also.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I was expecting to have to ask other musicians to play quieter or to have to mike the speaker to a PA in order to be heard at jamming volumes, but I was wrong. Despite its mere 20 watts, drummers have been unable to drown it out at Jam sessions. Still, I don't think this is anywhere near a gigging amp. It might SERVE as a backup itself, if miked. But it is light to carry around and seems like it might be a bit fragile.
Features — 7
I had just gotten back into electric guitar after playing acoustic for about 15 years, and I didn't have an amp. My problem was twofold: the Fender Twin Reverb I want costs more than I have saved up, and an 80 or 85 watt amp is unnecessary for home practice in proximity to a spouse with sensitive ears. Enter the Mustang I. I chose this little 20-watt number over the Frontman specifically for its ability to imitate the sound of a '65 Twin Reverb, not for its versatility in imitating other amps, but it also imitates several other amp models at any settings and effects combinations you want. You will really need to hook it up to a computer (yes, it has a USB port) to make use of the full range of features: some are just not accessible by the knobs on the amp, including the mid range tone knob. Some of the effects and so forth you can program in are very good, others not so much compared with, say, GarageBand; for example, the envelope filter sucks. The whole thing is very tweakable from your computer (it even has a noise gate). There is a small AUX in port and a small PHONES out port. It comes with 24 stock presets and an array of effetcs, however sweeping the effects parameters is not easy without a computer and you really can't do it on the fly. The result is that I never use the delay settings at all, for example, as I like to sweep delay parameters frequently when I use it at all. In short, I think that this many features are not much use without making them easier to access than this. Still, they're very cool features. There's also a tuner built in. You are supposed to be able to download other users' presets too, but I have not been able to figure out how to do that; not that it matters, because I already knew the sound I wanted when I bought it, and all these thousands of possible presets are of little use to me.