What is it?
Once upon a time, the Mustang designation signified a budget student model from Fender but a line was well and truly drawn in the sand when the Big F bestowed the title on its next-gen digital modelling amplifiers, circa 2010.
A 21st century amp series for the 21st century player, the Mustang comes in various shapes and various sizes, with each passing release deepening the digital feature set and being one step close to making tech-forward amplifiers that could be used in a variety of situations. Appropriately, the price point remains student-friendly.
Heck, not only they are cheaper than your average valve amp, they do more. The question is always, ‘How well do they do the things they do?’
The answer in 2020 and in amps such as the GTX100 is that they are doing these things very well indeed, and a decade of development and tweaking is getting the digital amplifier closer to the naturalistic response of the valve amplifier.
But we’ll get to that when talking tones. Let’s look at the features first. There are a lot of them, and yet you would not know it to look at the control panel.
Left to right it runs gain, volume, treble, middle, bass, reverb, master volume, with an LED display, three-buttons and a dial to access presets and effects and amp modelling parameters.
Beside that, a quartet of buttons lets you save down presets, effects settings, with the Tap button doubling as tap tempo for time-based effects and for activating the onboard tuner.
The front panel also houses an auxiliary mini-jack input for playing along with a backing track and a headphones mini-jack out for silent practice. On the rear you’ll find an input for the GTX-7 button footswitch, which ships with the amp, stereo XLR and line outputs, plus a stereo effects loop.
Altogether there are 40 amp models – including Fender's much-loved Blues Jr and Vibro King, the EVH 5150, Marshalls, Bogners etc – and 73 effects, including some new additions such as models of classic overdrive, fuzz, delay and pitch shifter pedals. Thirty-three speaker cabinet emulations are onboard, ideal for direct recording via the micro USB connection.
The Fender TONE 3.0 iOS/Android amp allows you to source tones online and download presets via Bluetooth onto the amp. You can also stream audio via Bluetooth, making the GTX100 an excellent practice tool.
All that’s left is for the custom-designed 12” Celestion speaker to make the noise... But all this modelling technology, does it sound realistic?
Performance and verdict
Real? That's a question of how you define it. But there's no question that the digital modelling technology deployed by Fender in the GTX100 does a remarkable job of recreating the touch-sensitivity that you get from a tube amp.
To step back a little, the GTX100 compares favourably to many of its rivals in the digital modelling amp space. The build quality, the custom-voiced Celestion with its tonal neutrality, it all creates a platform for this digital tone-shaping to excel. There's nothing sterile about the GTX100.
The tones are varied. You can dial in a crystal clean tone, pure cut glass, or heat it up a little for a different response. But no matter where you set it, the outcome is musical, it's useful, and you might just want to click save on it and store it to a preset.
Having the GTX-7 footswitch included is a clever move. There's nothing worse than shelling out for an amplifier and then having to head back to your retailer of choice to pick up the footswitch that will let you access all the amp's features on the fly and in the moment, which is when you need them.
Indeed, having this could do away with the need for a pedalboard. The Mustang GTX100 could handle small gigs and wouldn't let you down in terms of its tones and their authenticity – or more to the point, their charm and musicality.
• Blackstar Silverline Deluxe
The Silverline Series offers incredible value and exquisite digital tones and functionality. Looking for a state-of-the-art digital head for stage or studio? This is a no-brainer.
• Boss Katana 100/212 Combo
The Katana range is a great choice for beginners and experienced players alike, especially old-school valve amp diehards waiting for a reliable, practical and above all affordable digital alternative to the glass bottle.
But clean tones are one thing. The real test is with the overdrive, and how the amplifier handles gain and tones at the edge of breakup, and the GTX100 does a remarkable job with its response and harmonic range.
In some settings it'd take the most exacting of Blade Runners to parse its frequency response and deliberate on whether it were a replicant or not.
That's just the sound of digital getting closer, and with its advance comes a convenience that means more time spent playing.
The onboard effects are excellent, with reverbs and delays adding depth and space, and the amp models are convincing enough. The big risk is option paralysis is the risk here, especially when you access the online libraries via the app. But that we can't help you with.
MusicRadar verdict: A smart compact modelling combo that apes the Blues Jr, Vibro King and more, the Fender Mustang GTX100 is a amp with an inspiring range of functions and an excellent lineup of tones for home recording, practice or the stage.
The web says
"It seems odd to say this about something capable of blasting out 100 watts, but the Mustang GTX100 really is a fine little bedroom amp."
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Digital modelling combo
- OUTPUT: 100W
- DIMENSIONS: 18" (457mm) H x 21" (533mm) D x 10" (254 cm)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 9.88/22
- LOUDSPEAKER: 1×12 Celestion G12FSD-100
- CHANNELS: 200 user presets, 40 amp models, 73 effects, 33 speaker cabinet emulations
- CONTROLS: Gain, bass, mid, treble, master volume, reverb, preset select, menu, effects select, bank, tap tempo/tuner
- FOOTSWITCH: GTX-7 Footswitch included
- ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Stereo XLR out, stereo line out, FX loop, aux in, headphones out, micro USB, Fender TONE app iOS/Android, Bluetooth audio streaming
- CONTACT: Fender