Comparison: Fender Mustang Amp v1 vs v2

Since I posted Fender Mustang 1 vs 2, a Comparison, Fender has released another version of their popular Mustang series of modeling amps; the v.2.

Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of emails about the differences between the original Fender Mustang (v.1) and the newer v.2 and how they compare. Rather than copy my replies to everyone individually, I figured i would just write a post about it and be done. 😉

Difference between the Fender Mustang v1 and v2

The new v.2 models have gotten minor upgrades to the control panel, but otherwise look very much the same.

The new v.2 models have gotten minor upgrades to the control panel, but otherwise look very much the same.

Here’s a brief overview of what’s new in the Mustang v.2:

The V.2 is physically much the same as the V.1, except the outer covering is now tolex and the control panel has a more “modern” look.

The new Mustang V.2 series includes five new amp models, five new stompboxes, and pitch shifting (only available when you connect your amp to Fender Fuse).

New Amp Models in v.2

The five Amp Models are:

  • Studio Preamp
  • ’57 Twin
  • ’60s Thrift
  • British Watts
  • British Colour

I know the ’57 Twin was/is available as a download from the FUSE community page for the v1 Mustang series, and it was very popular. Fender probably decided to include it in the presets for that reason.

“’60s Thrift” is code for Silvertone amps, “British Watts” is the HiWatt, and “British Colour’ is an Orange amp style.

New Effects in v.2

Five New Stomp Box Effects:

  • Ranger Boost
  • Green Box
  • Orange Box
  • Black Box
  • Big Fuzz

And, like the Mustang V.1, all effects and amp models are tweakable when connected to the FUSE software via USB cable. Unlike the Mustang V.1, some of the new effects require an expression pedal (sold separately) to fully use.

Fender Mustang V.2 Demo

Final thoughts

The Fender Mustang series of amps is easily one of the best on the market. Not everyone will enjoy all the amp or effects presets, but with the Fender FUSE software you can tweak to your heart’s content. I long ago replaced most presets with my own versions and some I downloaded from the Fender community site. I’ve gone through a couple of sets of presets since I got it, and that’s one of the best things about it – whenever I find myself in a rut, or looking for a new sound, I can change my amp to suit my needs.

Fender FUSE is not hard to use (it provides an excellent visual simulation of your sound rig), but if you’re not comfortable with computers it’s probably not a big selling point. But for those who welcome modern technological tools, FUSE is a huge plus. With it, you can tweak just about every aspect of the Mustang.

So, is the Mustang v.2 worth the extra money?

If you’re looking at a Mustang III, IV or V, then the answer is yes. This is due mostly because the v.1 versions of those amps had a bug that is know as “FIZZ” among their grumpy owners. V.2 solves the FIZZ problem.

Note: The Mustang I and II models never had the FIZZ issue, so the only reason to buy a v.2 over a v.1 for those models is for the new effects or amp models.

Eventually, the v.1 versions will all be sold, so you won’t have the option of choosing. But until that happens, you can still snag a v.1 for much less than a v.2, and if you’re not hot for the new effects or amp models and are looking for a Mustang I or II, you can get a sweet deal.

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The 12 Best Low Watt Tube Amps For Under $500.

Low watt tube amps have become a popular niche for players and manufacturers alike. It used to be that tube amps were reserved for the 50 – 100w range, for venues much larger than a bedroom. These tube amps were way too much power for the hobbyist to practice with at home. They were typically too damn big too.

These days, there are a host of lower wattage tube amps on the market, and many for less than $500. Some are decidedly vintage style, while others are classic or modern style. Whatever your personal taste, you should be able to find a low watt tube amp to your liking on this list of the best small tube amps available today.

Low Watt Tube Amps For Under $500

Blackstar amps

Blackstar brings 3 amps to the low watt party: the HT5R, HT1R and the HT1MC.

Blackstar HT5R 5-Watt 1×12 Combo Amp with Reverb

Blackstar-HT5R

The Blackstar HT5R is a 5 Watt, all-tube amp (1 ECC83 (12AX7), and 1 12BH7 tubes) with a single 12-Inch speaker. It’s got 2 channels (clean, and overdrive), 3-Band EQ and reverb. It also has a series effects loop, stereo MP3/Line input, headphone out and comes with a footswitch for switching channels.

Another really cool thing the Blackstar HT-5Rbrings to the party is the ability to model 1×12 or 4×12 in a line out, which is awesome for recording.

The Blackstar HT5R delivers crunch and tube breakup tones that you’d expect from a 100w amp through the use of a 12BH7 dual triode valve in push-pull configuration. The result is a big sound, from a modest, 5-watt amp.

Bottom line: the Blackstar HT5R is a great low watt practice and home studio amp, with killer tube powered metal tone, all for $499.99.

Here’s a great all-around demo

Blackstar HT1R 1×8 Series Combo Amp with Reverb

Blackstar-HT1R

The Blackstar HT1R is the “mini-me” to the Blackstar HT-5R. Instead of a 12″ speaker, the Blackstar HT1R has a single 8″ speaker, and instead of 5w, the Blackstar HT1R is 1w, powered by a single ECC83 (12AX7), and single ECC82 (12AU7) power tubes.

The Blackstar HT1R can also be plugged into an external speaker cab, and can easily drive a 4×12 cabinet. It currently sells for only $329.99.

Here’s a Demo

Blackstar HT Metal Series HT1MC 1W 1×8 Combo w/Reverb

Blackstar-HT-Metal-Series-HT1MC-1W

The Blackstar HT1MC is the low watt Metal brother to the HT1R. It’s also 1w, with a 1×8″ speaker configuration, features reverb, and speaker out emulation. It’s also a true tube amp powered by an ECC83 and ECC82 tube combo.

What sets the Blackstar HT1MC apart from other tube amps on this list however is it’s look. The Blackstar HT1MC is a “stripped-down, tube-driven metal monster” and it looks the part!

Powerful enough for great metal crunch tone, but won’t disturb the peace. The Blackstar HT1MC has excellent clarity even at high gain levels, but can also do rock and blues and sells for $379.77.

Check out the demo (More than just Metal!)

 

Low watt tube amps by VHT

VHT AV-SP1-6 Special 6 Combo Amplifier

vht_special_6The VHT Special 6 is a 6 watt, 10-inch all tube combo amp built with modders in mind, so if you’re handy with a soldering iron, the sky is the limit!

The out of the box configuration features One 12AX7 Preamp Tube, One 6V6 output tube and special high sensitivity 10″ VHT Special Design speaker. It also includes a footswitchable boost mode and 4, 8, and 16 Ohm speaker out jacks for driving larger cabs.

The VHT Special 6 also features a High/Low power switch that enhances low-volume tones with extra-smooth richness. In low power mode, you can get great distortion with a reasonable volume for home practice, and in high-power mode, it is loud enough to compete with a drummer for practice or small gigs.

The VHT Special 6 is a modders dream that excels at both clean and overdriven tones. The VHT Special 6 sells for just $249.99.

 

Low watt tube amps by Bugera

Bugera V5 Infinium

bugera_v5_infiniumThe Bugera V5 Infinium is a 5w all tube amp for less than $200.

Let that sink in for a moment.

For the price of a really good solid state amp, you can get an all tube amp. But that’s not all.

The Bugera V5 Infinium Class-A amp is driven by a single EL84 tube with a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a specially designed 8″ Turbosound speaker. This is a classic combination for the British crunch and buttery blues tone. Another great feature is the power attenuator, which effectively lets you decrease the headroom and get killer overdrive or distortion at a lower volume. Besides the basic Volume, Tone and Gain controls, the V5 also has a sensitive digital reverb capable of dialing in everything from subtle to downright cavernous.

Where the Bugera V5 Infinium really makes its mark is with it’s Tube Life Multiplier technology. According to Bugera, this tech ensures greater reliability and consistent tone over the lifespan of your tubes by monitoring the performance of each of the amplifier’s output tubes and maintaining them at their ideal operating point for an evenly distributed load. There’s also an LED next to each tube that lets you know when it’s about to die.

All for a startling $199.99!

 

Low watt tube amps by Vox

Vox AC4C1 1×10″ 4 Watt Tube Combo

The Vox AC4C1 is a 4w tube amp, powered by two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp, and a single EL84 in the power amp section. It sports a 10″ Celestion Speaker, and has Gain, Treble, Bass, and Volume controls.

VOX-AC4C1-BL

Like most other amps on this list, the Vox AC4C1 has external Speaker-Output terminals for driving an external speaker cab, though it lacks some of the more modern recording features of the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 5 Combo.

What the Vox AC4C1 does have plenty of is pure, tube driven Vox tone and style. The 10″ speaker gives the Vox AC4C1 a wide, dynamic range and the EL84 gives it classic British crunch. It also has the Top Boost tone, made popular in the VOX AC30.

vox-AC4C1-4W-creamThe Vox AC4C1 is available in 2 styles:

Check out this Demo here:

VOX AC10C1

vox_ac10c1Get cranked up tone without cranking up! The Vox AC10 is a 10 watt combo amp with Two 12AX7 tubes for the preamp and two EL84 tubes for the output. It’s got the classic Vox look and British crunch and chime. The controls include Volume, Grain, Bass, Treble and Reverb. It should be noted that the reverb is digital and very sensitive- great for classic rock to full out surf.

The Vox AC10 comes with a 10 inch Celestion speaker but also features a speaker out jack so you can run it to drive an external cab.

Think of the AC10 as the stripped down little brother to the AC15 – great for small gigs, studio and home playing and sells for $449.99.

 

VOX AC4TVmini 4W Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Vox-AC4TVAs the name suggests, the AC4TVmini is the smallest version of the AC4TV series. Like it’s larger brother, it ‘s powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp section, and a single EL84 in the power section. But the 8″ speaker is swapped out for a smaller still 6.5″ custom Vox speaker.

You’re basically trading some volume and dynamic range for greater portability.

Demo

 

Low watt tube amps by Marshall

Marshall DSL5C 1×10 5w combo

A lot of people don’t get the Marshall DSL5C, especially Marshall fans. They just don’t see the point in low watt amps, and frankly look down on anyone who doesn’t play a 100w Marshall stack. Well, the Marshall DSL5C just isn’t for them. It’s perfect for fans of the Marshall tube tone who just want a rock solid tube amp for practicing or playing the occasional small gig.

The Marshall DSL5C is a versatile amp that truly delivers on Marshall tone – everything from Plexi-style cleans to JCM800 snarl to modern day high gain. It is powered by 3 ECC83 tubes in the pre amp, and a single 12BH7/ECC99 in the power amp section. It features 2 channels: Classic and “ultra gain”. 😀

Marshall-DSL5C

What makes the Marshall DSL5C even better is the power switch. Like the Vox AC4TV, the Marshall DSL5C can run at full wattage (5w) or lower wattage (1w), which means you get all that sweet crunch and tube saturated distortion at volumes low enough to not piss off the neighbors.

The Marshall DSL5C also features a series FX loop, and headphone out, audio in (for mp3 players) and an extension speaker for driving an external speaker cab.

The Marshall DSL5C comes with a footswitch and houses a Celestion Ten 30 10″ speaker. Controls include: volume, gain, presence, bass, middle, treble, deep switch (increases low end frequency), and toneshift (which acts like a mid scoop). $499.99

Demo

 

Low watt tube amps by Epiphone

The Epiphone “1939” Century Amplifier

The  “1939” Century amplifier takes you back to the days when amplifiers were new. Its art Deco inspired look would be at home in Epiphone’s early days in Manhattan, but totally unique nearly 80 years later. You can rest assured that while the sound and look are vintage, the electronics are modern.
epiphone_1939_century_amplifier
The Epiphone 1939 Century amplifier is an 18w, all tube Class A/B combo amp. It’s powered by two 12AX7 and two 6V6 tubes and features a 12″ Electar speaker. Controls are pretty basic with a master volume and master tone, but the master volume has a pull mode for a “boost” effect.

Where things get a bit more unique is with the inputs. There are three of them – bright, normal and dark. There is also an extension speaker out jack and internal bias adjustment for tweaking the response of the 6V6 power tubes. $373.14

 

Low watt tube amps by Fender

Fender Super Champ X2 15w 1×10

And finally, we come to the Fender Super Champ X2 15w 1×10″ combo. At first glance, the Fender Super Champ X2 appears to be a more traditional amp with its black vinyl covering and silver grille cloth front. Although it doesn’t look as boutique as the Ramparte and Excelsior or as spacy as the Vaporizer, it’s not as traditional as it looks either.

fender-super-champ-x2-angled

The Super Champ X2 is a 15w, low watt tube amp with a Fender Special 10 inch speaker, but it also blends the digital amp modeling (“voicings”) and effects found on Fender’s popular Mustang series of amplifiers.

The Super Champ X2 is a modern modeling amp in a traditional package that gives you the warmth of an all tube amp with the flexibility of more modern solid state amps.

The Super Champ X2 is powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a pair of 6V6 tubes in the power section.

$379.99

Demo:

Low watt tube amps by Laney

Laney Cub 8 5w tube amp

laney_cub_8_5w
The first offering from Laney amps on this list is the Cub 8, a 5w class A combo amp with a focus on tone and simplicity in a small package.

The Cub 8 features an 8″ Celestion speaker, Hi & LO input (clean & overdrive) and a tone and volume knob. It’s powered by a single ECC83 pre amp tube and a single 6V6GT tube in the power section.

The Laney Cub 8 is a great low watt amp perfect for practice or home recording and really captures the classic fender tweed-like tone.

The Cub 8 is a great little tube amp for only $199.95

Laney Cub 10 10w tube amp

Next of from Laney Amplifiers is the middle child of the Cub series, the Laney Cub 10.
laney_cub_10
The cub 10 is a 10w, class A/B amp with a 10″ Celestion speaker, two E CC83 pre amp tubes and two 6V6GT output tubes. The controls and inputs are identical to the Cub 8.

Where the Cub 10 differs from its little brother is in the sound and power consumption. Being class A/B, it’s a bit more efficient than the Cub 8 and doesn’t run quite as hot. The larger speaker and double tube compliment give the Cub 10 a bigger mid-range sound. Since the natural range of the guitar is the mid-range, this is perfect for guitarists who want to cut through the mix in a band or recording setting.

The Laney Cub 10 is a nice, low watt package for expressive mid-range clean tone to Zeppelin like gain and vintage tone for only $249.95.

Laney Cub 12 15w tube amp

laney_cub_12Lastly, we have the big brother: the Laney Cub 12 – a 15w all tube class A/B amplifier, with three ECC83 tubes in the pre amp and two EL84s in the power amp stage. This gives the Cub 12 a much bigger voice than the Cub 8 and 10. And if 12″ of Celestion isn’t enough for you, there’s also an external speaker out jack.

In addition, the Cub 12 also features reverb (digital), tone and volume (as with the Cubs 8 and 10) and bass, middle treble EQ and gain control. The Cub 12 also has an FX loop.

Instead of a Hi/LO input, the Laney Cub 12 has a 15w and <1w input. Jack into the 15w input and you get the full throated roar, jack into the <1w and you get a more manageable volume for practice, with substantially less headroom. This means that you can get those dreamy, creamy British overdrive tones that EL84s are known for at a much lower volume. The Cub 12 sells for $399.00.

 

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Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 – 20 Watt Amplifier, a New Kind of Modeling Amp

There are modeling amps, and then there is the Peavey Vypyr VIP. Where most modeling amps model, well, different amplifiers, the Peavey Vypyr VIP models different kinds of amplifiers.

Consider one of my favorite modeling amps on the market today: the Fender Mustang series. These amps are hands down the most versatile modeling amps I’ve seen – for guitar.

And here’s what sets the Peavey Vypyr VIP apart from other modeling amps.

The Mustang (and other modeling amps) let you switch from playing say, a Vox AC30 to a Vintage Marshall stack to a Fender Twin Reverb and many others, but the Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 20W Amplifier lets you switch from a guitar amp to a bass amp to an acoustic amp!

The Peavey Vypyr VIP models different amps as well (just like a traditional modeling amp) but works with bass, acoustic and electric guitar. What’s more – the Peavey Vypyr VIP lets you mimic a variety of different instruments with your guitar.

For example, you can plug in your trusty axe flip a few switches and viola, you’re playing an electric violin! How cool is that?

Peavey Vypyr VIP DetailsPeavey-Vypyr-VIP-1-20w

The Peavey Vypyr VIP has the following features:

  • 20 Watts
  • Acoustic guitar simulation
  • Bass guitar Simulation
  • Acoustically ported semi-closed back
  • Patented TransTube technology
  • Acoustic guitar simulation
  • Bass guitar Simulation
  • Acoustically ported semi-closed back
  • Patented TransTube® technology
  • 16 Presets
  • Specially voiced 8″ modeling speaker
  • 25 amp accessible effects
  • 36 on board amp models
  • 6 bass amp models
  • 6 acoustic amp models
  • On-board looper activated with optional Sanpera™ I or II
  • WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) controls
  • Amp accessible real time dual parameter controls
  • Amp accessible global reverb and delay
  • Tap Tempo
  • Bi-directional USB Data Midi Audio record out
  • Aux/MP3/CD input
  • Studio quality headphone out
  • Up to 4 effects simultaneously
  • Enhanced chromatic tuner

The “VIP” in Peavey Vypyr VIP stand for Variable Instrument Performance , and Peavey is touting it as:

The world’s first amp that contains Bass guitar, Acoustic guitar and Electric guitar amplifier models.

The Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 20W Amplifier is powered by Peavey’s powerful 32-bit, floating point SHARC processors and utilizes their patented Transtube® analog circuitry to provide authentic sound for their vintage amp models.

The Peavey Vypyr VIP also provides a bi-directional USB data and audio port for an easy way to record, and or connect to our VYPYR software and store presets, get lessons, and practice to backing tracks while connected to your computer.

It’s all WYSIWYG, baby.

If all of the above seems like a lot of details and impossible to use without a computer science degree, it isn’t it.

The Peavey Vypyr VIP uses WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) controls, so all effects, amp models and parameter controls can be accessed via the amp itself. This lets you see and adjust the control position quickly with no guessing where the control is supposed to be, or having to manually move it to where it should be preset to preset.

Conclusion

The Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 20W Amplifier is not just an awesome practice amp, it’s well suited to recording as well. With the ability to handle – and model – a variety of instruments, it really opens up the creative possibilities for the amateur and hobbyist. It’s also a great amp for anyone who plays multiple instruments in a band. Say you play electric guitar and bass in your band, you’d have only one amp (HINT: the Peavey Vypyr VIP) to bring to practice for both instruments.

Here’s a demo (click this link if the video below doesn’t play):

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4 Retro Style Small Portable Battery Powered Amps for Under $50.

Here are 4 small retro style portable battery powered amps for under $50 – perfect for the traveling hobbyist!

These amps are as beautiful to look at as they are to hear, and they are perfect for hobbyists on a business trip. Lightweight and compact, they pack enough power to practice and they won’t disturb the guy in the next room over during your hotel stay.

These little champs can be good for backstage tune-ups as well.

The retro style also earns these little guys a spot of prominence in your home too – they’re just great decor!

Danelectro Hodad DH-1 Mini Amp

First up is the Danelectro Hodad DH-1, battery powered mini amp. This little guy (it ways about a pound and a half) has a classic ’60s tone and the style to match.

This amp is TINY. It measures in at 6″ x 5.5″ x 3.1″, and comes in a two tone brown and cream color scheme.

Danelectro-Hodad-DH-1

The Danelectro Hodad Amp has twin 2″ speakers, echo effect and vintage tremolo, with adjustable speed. You can also get a Mini pedal for additional effects, and you can use an AC adaptor since it chews through a 9 volt battery with ease.

The slapback echo and tremolo make the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 well suited to retro country, twang, and rockabilly styles and can be a ton of fun.

In case you’re staying in a hotel and are truly paranoid about waking anyone, it has a headphone out jack, so you can keep your picking and grinning all to yourself.

Don’t expect a big sound from this little guy, but he does deliver some excellent tone.

The MSRP is $59, but Amazon both sells the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 for less than $50. Here’s a demo of the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 in action:

Danelectro Hodad II DH-2

Up next is the Danelectro Hodad II DH-2, or the “mini-me” to the Hodad DH-1.

This little guy (and I do mean LITTLE) is more of a micro amp than a mini amp. Think alarm clock instead of lunchbox.

At 5 3/4″ x 3″ x 5 1/4″ and about 1lbs, this amp definitely fits the portability criteria. It’s also battery powered, running on – you guessed it – one 9v battery, but you can buy the Danelectro DA-1 9-Volt Power Adaptor (sold separately) to get a power boost.

Danelectro-Hodad-II-DH-2

Despite its tiny size, the Hodad II DH-2 packs a bigger punch than you might think. It features twin ceramic 2″ round 4 Ohm speakers, and cranks a full watt when powered by battery. The power adapter brings this up to 1.5 w.

The Hodad II DH-2 sports a cool modern-vintage style coming in aqua-cream two tone color scheme.

In keeping with its micro design, the control set is minimal: Tone (EQ control), Gain, and Off-On / Volume. There’s also a headphone out jack, which can be used as a line-out to a recording device.

It may not seem like much, but for less than $30 it really is a good buy. And you don’t get much more portable!

 

Danelectro Honeytone N-10

The Danelectro Honeytone N-10 is the last Danelectro offering in this mini amp roundup. The Honeytone N-10 is plugged as the “little hot rod” of portable, battery powered amps and sports a retro style and vintage tone.

This amp measures 5.6″ x 5.8″ x 3″ and weighs in at 1 lbs. This is the only amp in this list with a belt clip – how’s that for portable?!

It comes in 3 variations:

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Aqua $19.95 from Amazon

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Burgundy $23.44 at Amazon

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Black $19.95 at Amazon

Guitar Center also has the Danelectro Honeytone N-10 available in yellow and Danelectro Honeytone N-10 Guitar Mini Amp Burgundy.

Danelectro Honeytone N-10 also comes with a genuine leather handle and headphone jack. The controls are simple and straight forward: Volume, Tone, and Overdrive.

The Honeytone N-10 is a 1w amp and has a single 3 inch, 8 Ohm speaker, but you can get some very nice tones.

It does chew through batteries fairly quickly though, so you’d probably want to buy the Danelectro DA-1 AC adapter, and save the battery for when there’s no power option.

On a side note, if you’re into the DIY thing and modifying your amps, you should check out the Danelectro Honeytone Repair & Modifications page. It’s very extensive.

Here’s a demo:

Vox AC1 RhythmVOX

The Vox AC1 is easily the most expensive amp on this list. It lists for $85, but usually sells for closer to $50. As I write this, Amazon has a deal for the Vox AC1RV 1-Watt 2×3 Guitar Combo Amplifier for $44.99. Guitar Center also carries the Vox Ac1 Rhythmvox

But enough about price, here’s why it’s more than the other portable, battery powered amps on this list…

The AC1 RhythmVOX features gain, tone and volume controls, twin 3″ speakers, is battery powered with optional power cord.

There’s an overdrive switch to toggle between high gain sound, or clean.

What really makes the AC1 RhythmVOX stand out from the portable amp pack is its rhythm section. The AC1 RhythmVOX comes with 66 different rhythm patterns to play along with.

The AC1 is a great stand alone practice amp, and rhythm box.

Here’s how the rhythm feature breaks down:

10 rhythm patterns – 8 beat, 16 beat, blues, funk reggae and more complex beats with multi-measure drum backing -66 patterns in total.

Each rhythm pattern has serious sound quality and presence, providing realistic drum backing.

Tempo and volume of each pattern is easily controllable.

The rhythm patterns are a great way to keep your playing in time, and also helpful for developing your own licks and riffs. The tempo ranges from 40bpm all the way up to 240bpm.

There is also a Aux-in jack for plugging in a CD or MP3 player, a headphone jack and a dedicated E-string tuner.

This is also the only battery powered amp on the list that runs on 6 AA batteries instead of a single 9v. I’m not sure if that’s more convenient or not, but you can always get the AC adapter and skip the batteries.

The dimensions are 7″ x 2 1/2″ x 5″ and it weighs about 1 lb.

Here’s a demo:

Final thoughts on portable battery powered amps

It’s important to check your expectations here. Most of the amps in this list only have a 2-3 inch speaker, and about a watt of power. They’re small and there isn’t a lot of headroom, so cranking the overdrive and the volume to 10 with quickly produce some crappy sound.

These aren’t going to compete with a 10 or 15 watt 1×10″ amp. I can’t believe I have to say that, but a lot of people miss that point and quickly complain that the amp sounds “tinny” or breaks up badly, but those are the people who crank everything to 11.

Just find that sweet spot in the middle and you’ll do alright.

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Fender Mustang 1 vs 2, a Comparison.

Fender Mustang 1 vs. 2. It’s a question many guitar players may ask themselves when they’re looking for a new modeling amp. Digital modeling amps dominate the market for guitar amps under $200. Some of the best sellers in this price range are the Fender Mustang series of amps, specifically the Fender Mustang 1 and 2.

Both have the exceptional cleans that Fender amps are renowned for, and both are loaded with a ton of features, effects and amplifier models to play with.

In fact, the Mustang 1 and Mustang 2 are really very similar. Here’s a comparison between the two models to help decide which one fits you best.

Fender Mustang 1 vs Mustang 2 comparison

Fender Mustang 1 vs 2: physical dimension/construction.

The Fender Mustang 1 fits the standard practice amp mold with 20w and 1-8” speaker. It’s measures at 7.6″ x 15.5″ x 14.5″ and weighs 17 lbs. It’s big enough for decent volume, yet small enough to be portable.

The Mustang 2 is the big brother by comparison. It features 40w and 1-12” speaker, measures 8.7″ x 18.25″ x 17.25″ and weighs 24 lbs. The Mustang 2 is still pretty easy to get from point A to point B, but has a bit more rounded sound and larger headroom.

Both the Mustang 1 and 2 sport the Fender Carbon Tweed Textured Vinyl with Silver Grille Cloth cover.

Fender Mustang 1 vs 2: features.

This comparison is really easy – both the Mustang 1 and Mustang 2 have identical feature sets.

Both the Mustang 1 and Mustang 2 have the following features:

  • One standard guitar input
  • One foot switch input
  • 1/8” Stereo Input Jack
  • Speaker Emulated USB Output;
  • 1/8” Headphone Jack Doubles as Speaker Emulated Line Out
  • One Channel with 24 Presets
  • Amp modeling
  • Distortion
  • Chromatic tuner
  • Additional effects including fuzz, pitch shifter and touch wah, with even more available through Fender FUSE.

Both the Mustang 1 and Mustang 2 come with the following software:

  • Fender® FUSE™
  • Ableton® Live Lite 8 Fender Edition studio-quality recording software compatible with Mustang USB recording output
  • AmpliTube® Fender LE software with free Fender® FUSE™ editor/librarian software for Mac and PC.

Fender Mustang 1 vs 2: controls.

Besides the basic gain, volume, treble and bass controls, both amp models feature include knobs for amp model selection, modulation selection, and delay/reverb selection. There’s also a tap temp button for various delay settings and buttons for saving your on-board edits.

Fender Mustang 1 vs 2: effects.

The Fender Mustang 1 and Fender Mustang 2 provide a total of 24 effects available in 2 categories:

  1. The 12 modulation effects include chorus and deep chorus,flanger, 3 kinds of tremolo , vibratone (fast and slow),octaver, phaser and step filter.
  2. The 12 delay and reverb effects include 3 tape delays (150ms/1 repeat, 300ms/3 repeats, 700ms/4 repeats), 5 kinds of reverb (small room, plate, large hall, ’63 and ’65 spring), tape delay room, tape delay large hall, ducking delay small hall, and echo filter.

Fender Mustang 1 vs 2: modeling

Both the Mustang I and Mustang II are modeling amps, which let you choose between 8 different amplifier presets out of the box, and four additional models with the Fender FUSE software.

The amp models available include Metal 2000,Super Sonic™,American 90’s,British 80’s (A.K.A.: Marshall),British 60’s (A.K.A.: Vox),’65 Twin Reverb®,’59 Bassman®, and the ’57 Deluxe™.

Fender Mustang 1 vs 2: price

Mustang 1 MSRP: $159

Fender Mustang 2

The Fender Mustang

As I write this, Guitar Center has the Fender Mustang I 20W 1X8 Guitar Combo Amp Black for $95, and Amazon is selling them for $109 (with extended warranty).

Mustang 2 MSRP: $269.99

Note: While the Mustang 2 has an MSRP over $200, it is easy to find for under (very close to) $200.
At the time of this review, Guitar Center was selling a Fender Mustang II 40W 1X12 Guitar Combo Amp Black for $199 and Amazon carried it for $199 also.

Who’s better, who’s best?

Which amp is best or better is a matter of personal taste and use, but here are some things to consider when choosing between the two.

The Mustang II is bigger.

Since the Fender Mustang II is a bit larger than the Mustang I, it would be a bit bulkier to transport. It’s also a bit louder than the Mustang 1. Because of this, the Mustang 2 may not make as good a choice for solo practice amp, especially if you play in a small room or apartment.

Volume for home practice and live gigs.

With minimal tweaking and the use of the FUSE software, both these amps can kick some serious ass. Volume is not a problem unless you’re looking to do some serious gigs. If that’s the case, then you may want to look at the Fender Mustang III or IV. The Mustang II is loud enough for small gigs, and you might be able to get away with mic’ing up the Mustang I.
The Mustang 2 has a larger speaker and more power, which gives it a rounder, more balanced sound but it may be overkill in small settings.

Solo practice or band practice?

If you’re going to be playing in a band and are looking for a good practice amp that won’t break your back or your budget in the process, the Fender Mustang 2 is a solid choice. However, if you’re looking for a versatile and affordable amp for solo practice, the Mustang 1 is a most excellent choice.

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Comparison: Fender Mustang 1 vs Peavey Vypyr 15.

Fender Mustang 1 vs. Peavey Vypyr 15 – which is the better modeling amp? They are so similar that it may be difficult to choose.

If you’re looking for a new modeling amp and have a budget of $100 you’ve probably asked yourself this question. It’s easy to see why – two of the best selling modeling practice amps at this price point are the Fender Mustang I and the Peavey Vypyr 15. As I write this, each retails for $99 new, and has loads of features. In fact at first glance, they are so similar that it may be difficult to choose one over the other.

Here’s a guide to help highlight the specific strengths and weaknesses of each and help you decide which is best for you.

Features Overview

fender-mustang-i-practice-amp

The Mustang I has 24 total amp presets. They consist of 8 different amp models, each with 3 different effects and mod settings. Each of these presets allows for custom effects and reverb/delay settings as well as EQ volume and gain control.

The Vypyr 15 also provides 24 total presets, modeling 12 popular amps in both clean and distorted channels. There’s also 11 editable post amp rack effects with parameter control.

Both support headphone out, and MP3/CD/Aux input. Both also feature a single 8″ speaker, a tap tempo switch, and peavey-vypyr-15 practice ampUSB port for high speed recording.

The Peavey Vypyr 15 features Peavey’s patented TransTube technology which provides “true analog distortion”. This is meant to simulate tube sound and response in a solid state amp.

The Mustang I features Fender FUSE software that allows for tweaking the living hell out of the amp and the Mustang’s modeling of a vintage tube amp is very close to 100% accurate.

Now with the basics out of the way, let’s dig into the details.

 

Control Panel and Interface

The Mustang I has 5 knobs:

  • Gain
  • Treble
  • Bass
  • Volume (of the amp being modeled)
  • Master Volume
  • Amp Preset Selector
  • Effects
  • Reverb/delay

Even though there is no knob for Middle EQ, the Mustang I is so customizable that you will rarely miss it.

While the Mustang I does not have a separate channel for clean and dirty, you can use any of the presets to store a clean preset and another to store a dirty preset.

The Vypyr 15 has 9 knobs:

  • Stompboxes
  • Amp Preset Selector
  • Effects
  • Pre-Gain
  • Low EQ
  • Mid EQ
  • High EQ
  • Post Gain
  • Master Volume

The Peavey Vypyr 15 is a bit more customizable through the front knobs, but the Fender Mustang I provides much greater customization through it’s software package. More on that later.

Fender Mustang 1 vs Peavey Vypyr 15 – Which is a better 1st amp?

Neither the Fender Mustang I or the Peavey Vypyr 15 really makes a good choice for your first amp if you’re just starting out learning the guitar. This has more to do with modeling amps in general, than either of these specific amps.

If you’re looking for the best amp for beginning guitar players, look at straight, traditional amps and skip the modeling. You can always get an effects pedal to add on later, once you’ve become a better player.

If, however, you already know how to play acoustic guitar and are looking for a great 1st amp to branch out into electric guitar playing or you’re looking to get into a more sound variation with a modeling amp, then the Mustang I is the best choice in my opinion. It’s also a great choice for a practice amp or if you’re looking for an amp to play while song writing.

However, if you’re only interest is Metal or you wouldn’t use the Fender FUSE software and you’re looking for a rock solid modeling amp for Metal that will suit your needs out of the box with no additional effort beyond the occasional turn of a knob, then stop reading right now – the Peavey Vypyr 15 is for you.

Vypyr vs Mustang (general)

Some Peavey Vypyr 15 owners have complained about a lack of “clean distortion” and muddy clean tones. This sort of criticism is limited with the Fender Mustang because you can overcome almost any such problem with the FUSE software.

In my opinion, the Mustang I has better tones – overdrive and clean – and playing dynamics than the Peavey Vypyr 15, which makes the Mustang a much more flexible amp. And that’s before you factor in the FUSE software!

I believe that Fender has raised the bar on modeling amps, while maintaining their fabled Fender cleans. The Vypyr 15, however, missed the mark on delivering a good clean tone.

Still, many Vypyr owners swear by them, but most tend to be heavily into metal. The Peavey Vypyr 15 is a great amp for playing metal or hard rock but if you even think you want to play other styles, then the Mustang I is the better choice.

Fender FUSE

What really puts the Mustang ahead of the Vypyr is the software package that it comes with. The Mustang comes with Ableton Live and IK Amplitude, but what truly makes it rock your way is FUSE. FUSE is where the Mustang series amps leave the competition in the dust.

What you can’t edit and tweak with the top panel control knobs on the amp itself, you can edit to your liking with the FUSE software package, then save it straight to a preset on the amp.

Along with the ability to fully customize your amp’s sound, FUSE also enables you to download presets from the fender site and owner’s forum. There are hundreds of community created and supported presets for a variety of popular bands and musical styles.

FUSE gives you – the owner – full control over how your amp sounds, but it also keeps it fresh: Stuck in a rut? Feel like you just keep playing in the same style? Just download a preset that’s out of your comfort range and experiment with something new. Don’t like it? No worries, just overwrite it with another one, or go back to the factory presets. It’s this ability that makes the Fender Mustang the amp that keeps on giving.

FUSE opens up a world of possibilities and puts you in control of virtually every aspect of the amp.

Fender Mustang 1 vs Peavey Vypyr 15 – Conclusion

Some have said the Peavey Vypyr 15 is a waste of money and you shouldn’t look at anything less than the Vypyr 30. The Vypyr 30 though is about twice the price of the Vypyr 15, so in my opinion if that’s even an option than you should really be comparing the Vypyr 30 and Mustang II amps.

Personally, I think if you need to spend an extra $100 to get “anything resembling good tone”, then you’re probably looking at the wrong product. I say this because the Fender Mustang I truly does deliver good tone at the same price point as the Vypyr 15.

Others have been critical of the speaker choice for the Vypyr 15, saying that 8 inches is too small. This of course depends on what you plan on using the amp for. I’d say it’s definitely too small for performing a gig, but it’s plenty big for practicing at home or in an apartment. The Mustang I has the same speaker size, but few owners complain about it’s volume. I suspect this is because Vypyr 15 owners tend to be looking for a louder sound, while Mustang I owners are looking for better tone and more versatility.

The Peavey Vypyr 15 is a solid amp for metal and hard rock right out of the box, but the cleans are not as good as the Fender’s Mustang I and it lacks the versatility of the Mustang. If you have no desire to play blues, jazz or classic rock then the Vypyr 15 is a good choice. If you’re looking for maximum versatility and excellent tone, then the Fender Mustang I is the choice for you.

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Why the Fender Mustang I is the Best Practice Modeling Amp for Under $100.

Looking for the best practice amp for under $100 can be a confusing experience. Guitar Center alone carries over 100 such amps for less than $100. It’s easy to see why choosing which guitar amplifier is the best for your money can be difficult.

I realize $100 may not seem like a lot to some people, and in the world of guitar amplifiers it really isn’t that much. But for the aspiring guitarist just starting out or the hobbyist, 100 bucks can be a good chunk of change.

Many practice amps in the under $100 range are frankly not worth the money. The Fender Mustang I is the exception. In fact, I think it is hands down the best modeling amp for under $100. Here’s why.

Basic features

The Mustang I practice amp is a 20w combo modeling amp with a 1 x 8″ speaker configuration. It’s plenty loud for a practice amp, but sounds sweet with the volume down low too. It also has a headphone jack, so you won’t wake the neighbors / wife / kids etc…

Features include:

  • Line in (for CD or mp3 player)
  • Input for foot switch
  • Headphone/line out
  • USB connection port

Controls for:

  • Gain
  • Volume
  • Treble
  • Bass
  • Master
  • Preset Select
  • Modulation Select
  • Delay/Reverb Select
  • Save Button
  • Tap Tempo Button

Modeling amps are all about effects and modeling different amp configurations, so it’s not surprising that one of the major aspects that differentiate one amp from another is what presets are available on the amp.

The Mustang I amp features a total of 24 different presets, in 3 colored groups – green, amber and red. Each group has 8 presets, labeled A, B, C, D, E, F, G, #. The factory presets follow a steady progression from vintage ’57 Tweed Deluxe to increasingly heavier sounds up to more modern, metal based amps (think Mesa Boogie and Diesel).

The range of these stock presets is enough to provide hours of enjoyment, playing in a range of styles from early Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly to Hendrix and Deep Purple to Ozzy and Metallica. It also does a good job of jazz and blues, and you can always dial back the effects to get those renowned Fender cleans.

Not satisfied with the preset? Think the sound is close, but not quite right?

No problem. The Mustang features knobs to control the Gain, Treble, Bass, Volume (of the amp being modeled), Master Volume, Effects, and Reverb/delay.

Still not totally happy with the mix?

No problem. The Fender FUSE software opens the door to complete customization of sound.

Fender FUSE

Perhaps the one feature more than any other that sets the Mustang I above other modeling amps is the Fender FUSE software.

FUSE allows you to edit and tweak all the settings of an amp that are available through the top panel knobs and dozens more that aren’t. FUSE lets you to add and configure effects modeling (stompbox and rack mount) to the base amp preset. It enables you to tweak the EQ settings and effects settings and save them to the amp using one of the colored presets. It even lets you choose and configure different cabinets to model.

You can hear the changes you make in FUSE immediately on your amp, so you can fine tune all the various aspects to get the sound right with your guitar. Once you like what you hear, you just select a preset to save it to and you’re free to rock out without your computer.

FUSE doesn’t stop there though. There’s a whole FUSE community on the Fender forums where owners share their favorite presets for others to download and try. There is a multitude of different presets available for modeling various styles, bands and amp brands.

From Jazz to Blues to Rock to Metal, capturing the sound of AC/DC, Zeppelin, Clapton, ZZ Top, GNR, Metallica, Hendrix or .. frankly whatever guitarist you want is a snap with FUSE.

Once you’ve downloaded your favorite preset or built your sound rig from scratch, you save it to one of the 24 amp preset slots. After that, switching from Angus Young’s acidic rock tones to Clapton’s vintage blues is as easy as turning the knob.

Although the Mustang’s modeling of a vintage tube amp may not be 100% accurate in all cases, it’s close enough so that most people will be hard pressed to tell the difference. And those who can will likely not being playing a solid state, modeling amp to begin with. 😉

FUSE let’s you backup your current amp presets at anytime so you are free to customize and tweak, secure in the knowledge of that backup safety net. Totally hosed your preset? Can’t stand the settings on your amp anymore? no problem, just restore the backup and that ugly episode never happened.

FUSE gives the Mustang owner the keys to the kingdom in terms of controlling their amp. It gives you full control of the modeling and sound, and it keeps things fresh and exciting. That’s also what makes this a great amp for the hobbyist. If you find yourself stuck in a certain style of play, just fire up FUSE and give your amp a makeover, or download a new community preset. It’s amazing what a change in sound will do to your playing style.

It is because of FUSE that I believe the Fender Mustang series of amps is perhaps the most versatile modeling amp on the market today.

Effects

The Mustang controls let you choose from a variety of different effects using the 2 knobs on the top: Mod and Delay/Reverb.

That’s the basic way to flavor your sound with a touch of effect, but the FUSE software really blows the doors open on adding effects.

Here’s how the virtual effects work on FUSE:

You can chain up to 4 different effect types together to sculpt the sound you want.

The 4 effect types are:

  • Stomp
  • Mod
  • Delay
  • Reverb

So, you can create an amp preset with 1 stomp, 1 mod, 1 delay and 1 reverb effect all linked together. Furthermore, each effect setting is fully configurable – just like a real effects pedal, or rack effect.

Here’s a further breakdown of the effects:

  • Stomp effects.
  • Overdrive
  • Fixed Wah
  • Touch Wah
  • Fuzz
  • Fuzz Touch Wah
  • Compressor
  • Simple Compressor

Mod effects.

  • Sine Chorus
  • Triangle Chorus
  • Sine Flanger
  • Triangle Flanger
  • Vibratone
  • Vintage Tremolo
  • Sine Tremolo
  • Ring Modulator
  • Step Filter
  • Phaser
  • Pitch Shifter

Delay effects.

  • Mono Delay
  • Mono Echo Filter
  • Stereo Echo Filter
  • Multitap Delay
  • Ping Pong Delay
  • Ducking Delay
  • Reverse Delay
  • Tape Delay
  • Stereo Tape Delay

Reverb effects.

  • Small Hall
  • Large Hall
  • Small Room
  • Large Room
  • Small Plate
  • Large Plate
  • Ambient
  • Arena
  • Fender ’63 Spring Reverb
  • Fender ’65 Spring Reverb

To be honest, adding the virtual effects to the amp modeling via FUSE is not as flexible as a standard stompbox because that effect is then on the preset always, whereas if you use a pedal effect you can easily toggle it on and off. But the Fender Mustang, as with many modeling amps, isn’t meant to replace pedal effects completely. Besides, you can always create a stripped down amp model and attach your stompbox as you would with a non-modeling amp.

I think most people will agree though that the multitude of effects available on this amp is quite generous for the $99 price.

Software

The Mustang also comes with Ableton Live and IK Amplitude software programs. These are studio software for recording, mixing and arranging music. You can add drums or stings to the background of your recording. You can even alter the tone of your guitar sound – yet again – with Amplitube.

Demo

Check out this most excellent demo of the Fender Mustang I:

Summary

If you’re just starting out learning to play guitar, you probably want to skip modeling amps entirely, and get a very good, very basic guitar amplifier.

But once you’ve mastered the basics and you’re looking to take your playing to the next level, take a look at the Mustang I. The possibilities open to the guitarist with this package are astounding, and all for just $99!

 

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Amps, Effects and Modeling – oh my!

Every guitarist reaches a point in his playing life when he begins to come across terms like “Combo Amp”, “Rack mount”, “Stompbox” and the like. This may happen early in his guitar journey, or much later – particularly if he has played acoustic for many years before venturing into the realm of the electric.

That was me. I played acoustic guitar for over 10 years before I ever picked up an electric. I never paid much attention to terms like “amp head” and “rack mount”. But after receiving my first electric guitar for Christmas one year, I quickly found myself immersed in a world of terminology completely foreign to my otherwise knowledgeable self.

Today, I am going to provide some detail on these terms. (since I was unable to find any decent info on the Internet that wasn’t loaded with too much info).

E n j o y.

What is a Amp Head?

An amp head (sometimes referred to as simply a “head”) is the base amplifier. In it’s simplest definition, the head is the box that receives the signal from the electric guitar, and routes it out to the speaker(s), P.A. system or headphones.

The 50w Marshall JVM205H Guitar Amplifier Head.

It may be solid state (i.e. using integrated circuits and a digital processor to carry the electronic signal) or tube (i.e. Using Vacuum tubes to carry the signal). Tube amps are also sometimes referred to as valve amps.

It is called the head because it historically sits on the top, or at the head, of a speaker stack or cabinet.

The amp head is usually rated by power consumption, ex.: 15w or 30w, meaning it consumes 15 or 30 watts of power while in use. The higher the wattage, the more muscle. Amps today range anywhere from less than 1w to over 400w.

A final word of caution on amplifier wattage: more watts does not always mean louder sound. It’s only a measure of potential power, the ultimate sound quality and decibel level is also a factor of the input and the speaker(s).

What is a Combo Amp?

So, if the amp head is the amplifier itself, what is a combo amp?

The Fender '65 Twin Reverb combo amp

Put simply, a combo amp is both the amplifier and the speakers in a single unit. Combo amps are ideal for learning to play and for practicing, whether solo or in a band. Everything you need to produce sound (outside of the actual instrument) is in a single, self contained unit.

Combo Amps vs. Amp Heads

So which is better, an amp head or a combo amp?

That depends on your desired use. Each has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

Amplifier heads are typically better amplifiers than combo amps. This is because you’re paying top dollar for just the head. Many combo amps have very good amp heads and good speakers, but generally speaking you get a better amplifier for your money when you buy an amp head.

Combos are ideal for practice and learning, but the speaker(s) in a combo amp cannot compete with stand alone cabinets for concerts or live shows.

Most hobbyists will do just fine with a combo amp, while most professionals favor the stand alone amp head with speaker cabinet set up.

What are Effects?

OK, with me so far?

Good.

Now that we know what gets the sound from the electric guitar out through the speakers we can turn our attention to sound effects.

There’s no definitive list of effects, but the most common types include:

  • distortion
  • modulation
  • dynamics
  • filter
  • time-based
  • pitch/frequency
  • feedback/sustain

Much of a guitarist’s sound is the result of their choice of effects.

Effects should be viewed as an added layer of sound put on top of the base sound from the guitar. It’s for this reason that the most important aspect of an amp is it’s ability to deliver good, clean tone without any (unintended) distortion or sound degradation. After all, if you start with a muddy sound, you’re only going to end up with a muddy sound at the heart of whatever effect you’re applying.

Effects can be applied to that sound a number of ways. Here are the 3 most common.

Stompboxes

A Stompbox is an effects pedal, designed to lay on the floor and be turned on or off by the player stomping it with his foot. The stompbox may have 1 or more effects, and a multitude of controls affecting volume, signal, etc..

The Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal.

The instrument cable is connected from the guitar to the stompbox, and another cable is connected from the stompbox to the amplifier. Sometimes, multiple stompboxes may be chained together, creating a more complex sound as the signal is modified by each box on its way to the amp.

Common pedal effects include:

  • compression
  • wah
  • overdrive
  • chorus
  • flanger
  • phase shifter
  • delay
  • echo
  • reverb

Rackmounts

Lexicon MX400 Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Effects Processor

Rackmounts get their name from the fact that they are larger than stompboxes and require that they be mounted in a rack, like the kind used in telecommunications and networking.

Rackmounts are larger and usually offer more control over the signal, making for a more complex sound. Since they are not as easily toggled on/off as stompboxes, rackmounts are favored in recording studios or sometimes used in live sound mixing, whereas the stompbox is used by the guitarist at home and on stage.

Some of this separation has disappeared as modern rackmounts can now be controlled by foot switches, much like a stompbox. However, they are still less portable than their stompbox cousins.

Modeling Amps

Fender Mustang III modeling amp

Lastly, some amplifiers provide sound effect features on-board, eliminating the need for the stompbox or rackmount. These are usually called “Modeling amps” as they model the stompbox or rackmount capabilities.

Some newer amps take modeling to a new level, modeling other amplifiers themselves. These amplifier modeling amps make it possible to emulate vintage amps that are often too expensive for the beginner, which makes them great amps for the hobbyist.

Conclusion

The world of electric guitar is much broader than that of the acoustic, at least in terms of gear and equipment available. But that’s part of the allure. After all, who doesn’t love to roll up their sleeves and play around with a different sound now and then?

It may seem like a lot of info, but it can open up whole new worlds of sound to explore.

Happy exploring!

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