I know I’m late to the party, but sometimes the product comes out and you think: that’s… the future. Or that’s the way to do it, or that’s something I wanted when I was a kid or something along those lines. You can find tons of sound examples and everything else on YouTube, so I wanted to share more like the history of my relationships with practice amps, so you would understand where I’m coming from, and share my opinion on this piece of gear and why I love it, and yes, I do love it. And no, it's not an ad.
I’m an extremely lazy person, probably the laziest guy in the world, so I always find the best solution to practice the guitar silently. And when it comes to silent practice, I have probably 15 years of experience because I almost always practice at night and usually on an electric guitar without even plugging it in. You simply have to if you have a job, and family, and small flat, and don’t have a house. And especially since I’m naturally a very shy person and as you can see, I don’t want to show my face, I don't want to bring attention, and I don’t want to disturb people around me too much with loud guitar, and my neighbors also.
The idea of portable practice or practice without an amplifier is not something new to me, I remember when I was a kid learning to play, it was in the mid-2000s I used to plug my electric guitar and even my acoustic guitar with a really bad sounding pickup into this mid-90s Sony Hi-Fi music center thing via some crazy wires and adapters, and then I tried to hook it all up into my computer, and it was always too complicated and required a lot of wires, sound cards, adapters, soldering, and heartbreak. The sound was always as bad as it could get and not convenient at all. But at least it was a sound and something I can record and listen back to.
I remember the time when I used to hook up my guitar into this ancient Zoom H4 field recorder, which feels like a piece of vintage gear now, but it was a lot of fun. Because it runs from the batteries so you can play anywhere. And I played it everywhere. I played it when traveling, even once was playing it in a closed planetarium at night here in Saint Petersburg. The downside was, of course, if I wanted to play to the backing track, that would mean wires, wires, and more wires. And as I lazy person, I hate wires. I even hate the wires that you use to tie your shoes.
But anyway, the years went by and I tried many amps, always wanted an amp with a phone out. And regular amp was out of the question, again, because I’m always practicing at night. And amplifiers were always too bulky to me. Say I want to practice in the kitchen. Or wherever, in another room. And that means bringing the amp and all the wires with you, so it’s a genuine nightmare. And I never got an amp that would sound great, be portable enough, and be convenient enough. Because you need to plug in a guitar, plug in headphones, plugin auxiliary jack to play backing tracks, also plugin the amp into the wall to power it.
I tried early modeling amps, early software amps. If there was something new silent guitar practice-related, I was there. Early modulating amps were awful, sounded nothing like a real amp, not even close, sort of like when mp3 came out, it was a disaster at the beginning, but now this technology is so advanced that even Mark Knopfler himself went on tour with two Kemper modeling amps. The move nobody expected and made a lot of fans angry. But that’s the future, folks. I think Mark would be amazed to see something like this little practice amp in the 70s.
So I think you understand why I just always practice with an electric guitar unplugged. Because it’s too much hassle to do anything else. And in fact, even professional musicians do that. I was surprised when in an interview, Mark Knopfler’s guitar player, Richard Bennett, said that he also practices at home unplugged. I believe a lot of people do that. Not everybody has their own studio to play and something like that.
And it all changed because of this. It’s not the first time headphone guitar amplifiers are available, but I think it’s the first time when it’s done right. I often thought about what I would want from a thing like this: I want a rechargeable battery because I don’t want to mess up with alkaline batteries and whatnot. I want to be able to hook it up to the computer to listen to the backing tracks, and not through some auxiliary inputs because it is a real pain, maybe a recording option, but that's not the point. And of course, I wanted it to sound good.
And Fender delivered actually way more than I ever wanted. I don’t want to control the amp with an app because too much control and presets confuse me, again, I’m a lazy, lazy man. And here it’s the simplest control scheme save for maybe just a straight plug-and-play solution with no buttons, no nothing. Instead, Fender came up with this brilliant idea with coloured presets, that will upset colour-blind people, but hey, that’s life. You can't please everybody.
I just bought a brand new Yamaha THR-10II the other day and that’s a completely different story. I hated this thing right from the start, because I had major trouble figuring out how to get Bluetooth working there, and it was so bad that I honestly think it’s easier to use the old method of running everything through the wire. So this is another thing where Mustang Micro excels, they did the Bluetooth situation right. It just works!
And so, people wanted to know what I think about this, and I think it’s a genuinely great product that happens to be exactly what I wanted, and I’m happy that it finally arrived and from a brand with such a legendary history. I also love their new Acoustasonic line of guitars, but unfortunately, I can’t afford this instrument, or more like can’t justify having it since I’m not a professional musician and don’t want to have expensive gear just for the sake of it. If you’re on the verge of trying this amp, I think it’s not even a question. For 100 bucks, it’s a no-brainer. Try it and I think you’ll love it.
It’s the first time in 7 years when a piece of musical gear really blew me away and made me happy, the last time was when I bought my Zoom H6 audio interface and it exceeded all my expectations and was and still able to do more than I ever wanted. And yes, I'm still using this H6 since 2014. I think this says it all. It’s amazing. It makes me practice more, and I think this is the main goal with amps like that, and it completes the goal 100%.
What I absolutely love is convenience, sound, it remembers all the settings, can do everything you need, it even remembers the last device you connected via Bluetooth, so I just plug it in my guitar, turn it on, and it’s automatically connected to my laptop. This is ridiculous!
Downsides are minimal, and I feel really bad complaining about 100 dollars amp, but to do some nitpicking I’d say Mustang has a pretty severe noise gate meaning it blocks the sound completely when you don’t touch the strings, presumably to make it feel noiseless, but it sounds strange. Nothing wrong with some usual amp noise in the back. And I got used to that quickly and it’s not a problem at all when you play against something.
What I think would be cool, is I always wanted a more simple and plug-and-play looper solution. Because it's always a pedal, two cables, and this amp actually works with a traditional looper pedal. But my dream is, Fender, if you're listening, please, make a Bluetooth looper pedal for this practice amp. Just imagine this, it's all digital anyway, you hit the button on the floor and it records a loop, and then play over it. I think this could work, it absolutely could work. So let's hope.
And my ultimate silent practice machine now looks like this: a 100 dollar Squier Mini Strat guitar (because I bought it used), a 100 dollars headphone Mustang Micro modeling practice amp, a TC Electronic clip-on tuner, and some good headphones. That’s the future, truly a 2021 practice setup, and that’s that I’d kill to get something like this when I was a kid, but I guess, it's time to be a kid again, thanks to Fender. You guys rock.