The Best Small Body Acoustic Guitars Under $600 (Parlor and Concert)

Whether you’re looking for an acoustic parlor guitar that’s lightweight and easy to travel with, or just looking for a smaller body acoustic for fingerstyle playing you’ve come to the right place. The acoustic guitars on this list are small, durable, well made guitars that sound great, play great and cost less than $600 – and in many cases, just $300.

Small body guitars are great for fingerpickers in either blues, folk or even jazz styles. Their smaller body usually accentuates the higher end of the sound spectrum, making them “brighter” or more treble dominant. They’re great for keeping on hand around the house to help encourage more regular practice, or for traveling with. Great for songwriting too. What they’re not great for is playing gigs in bands, since they lack the body size to project enough sound to compete. Some can also sound “tinny” when strummed aggressively. Some are better than others in these regards though, as you will see.

These are all steel string small body acoustics (no nylon or classical guitars) made by quality builders. There are a few terms to get through before I give you my picks, so let’s get going…

HPL – High Pressure Laminate

As you look over this list of small body guitars you will notice many use something called HPL for the sides and some for the backs.

What is HPL and why should we care?

HPL is short for High Pressure Laminate. Just like furniture Laminate, HPL is formed by layering multiple, thin pieces together to form one stronger solid piece of wood. HPL is where these layers of wood are combined at higher pressure than normal (or LPL) laminate. The result is a more solid and durable composite wood.

What does all this mean for your guitar?

HPL is cheaper than solid wood, so manufacturers can keep the costs down, but it’s better than LPL, or traditional laminate (sometimes referred to as “plywood”). In short, HPL is a compromise to give you a better sounding, cheaper guitar.

In other words, solid wood is still the best but if you want a small body guitar for less than $1,000 you’ll be getting an HPL body guitar.

Besides the cheapness of HPL, it’s also more resistant to weather and climate changes, which means that your guitar is more resistant to the wood cracking or and won’t go out of tune as easily when the seasons change. It also produces a generally brighter sound that can present itself as a “crispness” and is less prone to become “muddy” sounding.

You’ll find some people love HPL guitars and others despise them and disparaginly call them “plywood guitars.”

For what it’s worth, I’ve been playing guitar for over 12 years and have both a solid wood body and a newer HPL body and I love them both. If anything, I find the HPL to be lighter and brighter and often prefer playing it to my solid wood body. The HPL also requires less adjustment and care when summer turns to winter.

12 vs 14 Fret Models

The next thing you will notice when searching for small body guitars is that they are oftentimes grouped into 14-fret and 12-fret models. This does not mean they have only that many frets, rather it’s the number of frets on the neck from the body to the nut.

So, what does the number of frets that clear the body have to do with anything?

Well, in general 12 fret models traditionally have a wider neck than the 14 fret models. They also typically have a shortened scale length (length from the saddle to the nut), which means less string tension which in turn makes for easier bending of the strings. This is one reason you see a lot of fingerstyle blues players with 12-fret models.

Some people say that this also gives 12-fret guitars a richer and fuller sound. This may be true, but I think the type of wood and the strings you use make more of a difference to the sound than the number of frets clear of the body.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the various aspects of small body guitars, we can on to the list. I’ve broken these down into 3 categories:

  • Parlor guitars
  • 12-fret models
  • 14-fret models

Best Parlor Acoustic Guitars Under $600

Parlor guitars were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century and they derive their name from the fact that they were quite small and typically played in the home parlor. These are about the smallest guitars out there, so they’re extrememly portable, light, great for finger picking but don’t project enough sound to fill a large, busy room. They’re ideal for practice, travel, or recording but not for playing in a gig.

Washburn

R314KK

Recording King R314KKThe R314KK is part of Washburn’s vintage series that attempts to capture the vibe of turn of the century (20th century, that is..) Washburn models. Basically, they’re built to look like 100 year old instruments, but they are made with modern techniques and modern materials and often sound better than the originals.

The R314KK features:

  • Spruce top
  • Trembesi back and sides
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Abalone rosette.
  • Bone nut (for better intonation)
  • 24.75″ scale
  • “Distressed” open-gear tuners (to complete the vintage look)

WP11SNS

Washburn-WP11SENSThe WP11SENS is also based on designs Washburn used over 100 years ago, but this is a mahogany model.

It features

  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Pearl dot fingerboard inlays
  • 24.75” scale
  • Natural stain finish
  • Solid cedar top
  • Abalone rosette
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Bone nut
  • Gold open gear tuners

The Mahogany back an sides give it a warmer and more mellow tone than the R314KK.

DEMO:

Tanglewood

TWJP Acoustic Guitar

Tanglewood-Java-TWJP-E

The Java TWJP is a lightweight, at only 3.8 pounds, but don’t let that fool you – it’s got a big sound for a parlor, reminiscent of a small-bodied flattop from the 1930s.

The TWJP is a classic 12-fret parlor design, with a slotted headstock. It’s well suited for fingerpicking, where it sounds tight and focused, but loses its clarity when strummed hard.

Features:

  • Solid cedar top
  • Amara and spalted mango back
  • Amara sides
  • Natural gloss finish
  • Nato neck with sonokeling fretboard
  • 25.5″ scale length
  • Open-back nickel tuners

The Tanglewood Java TWJP is designed in the United Kingdom and made in Indonesia

RECORDING KING

Recording King may sound like a new name to some of you, but they actually got their start in the 1930’s as the Montgomery Ward house brand! The brand was discontinued during WWII and rediscovered in 2007. While they don’t have the kind of name and history of Martin, Taylor, Gibson and others they are a good quality manufacturer at reasonable prices.

RPH-05 DIRTY THIRTIES SOLID TOP SINGLE O

Recording-King-RPH-05First up from Recording King is the RPH-05 – their “Dirty Thirties”, dust-bowl inspired Single O.

The RPH-05 features a solid spruce top (though the back and sides are laminate) and makes a great guitar for singer-song writers or folk players. The vintage 30’s look is complete with aged binding and vintage tuners. It’s like stepping back in time!

Features:

  • Bone nut and saddle (for better intonation)
  • Satin sunburst finish
  • Vintage-inspired tuning keys
  • White Wood laminate back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Nato neck
  • Solid Spruce top
  • 39 x 14 x 4 inches ; 7.5 pounds

At less than $200, the Recording King RPH-05 is a great way to get a vintage vibe and great sound for the budget conscious consumer.

Demo:

BEST SMALL BODY ACOUSTIC GUITARS UNDER $600

With the Parlor style guitars out of the way, we now come to the slightly larger small bodied acoustic guitars – the 12 and 14 fret models.

12 fret acoustic guitar models

RECORDING KING

ROS-06 CLASSIC SERIES 12TH FRET 000

Recording-King-ROS-06

While not as image conscious as the RPH-05, the ROS-06 is built with the same attention to detail. But what the ROS-06 lacks in vibe it makes up for in refined simplicity.

Features:

  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Mahogany Back & Sides
  • Tortoise shell binding
  • Slotted headstock with rosewood overlay
  • Butterbean tuning keys
  • Bone nut and saddle for better intonation
  • 25 1/4 ” scale

The Recording Kind ROS-06 is a classic 12th fret OOO design with a wide, flat neck is great for fingerstyle and delta blues players. It sounds good when strummed also, which makes it a great entry level guitar as well.

DEMO:

14 fret acoustic guitar models

As the name suggests, these models have necks that are joined to the body at the 14th fret.

MARTIN GUITARS

MARTIN LXM

Martin LXM_x_1At less than $300, the Martin LXM (Little Martin) is by far the most affordable Martin models available today.

LXM Features:

  • Spruce HPL Top
  • Herringbone Style Rosette
  • Mahogany HPL back and sides
  • Birch Laminate neck
  • 23” scale length
  • 1-11/16” white corian nut
  • compensated tusq saddle

While the Little Martin is all incredibly cheap for a Martin, it is made entirely of HPL (i.e. no solid top wood). This makes it very light and resistant to changes in climate (which is great for a travel guitar), but it also gives it a brighter sound than it would have if it was made with solid wood. But it is still made to Martin quality and you’d probably have to add a zero to the end of the price tag if it were a solid wood construction.

All in all, it’s great quality for what it is and the price makes it a little easier to take you Martin camping without worry.

Martin 000X1AE

Martin-000X1AE-Review
The Martin 000X1AE is a 14-fret 000 body acoustic-electric guitar with a smaller body design than the traditional Dreadnought, but a surprisingly full sound. Clarity of sound is provided by the solid Sitka spruce top married to the mahogany grained HPL back and sides. The 000X1AE features Fishman electronics, so you’re all set to plug in and play amplified.

The neck is a modified low oval shape and made of Birch laminate, and has a black Richlite fingerboard and 20 frets total. The Martin 000X1AE has a white Corian nut and compensated white Tusq saddle.

RECORDING KING

RO-310 CLASSIC SERIES 000

RO-310-CLASSIC-SERIES-000The recording King RO-310 Classic Series 000 comes in at the top end of this list in terms of price. The RO-310 is a high quality, small body guitar and not just a “take anywhere” kind of guitar.

RO-310 Features:

  • Solid Adirondack Spruce Top
  • Solid Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Scalloped Forward X-Bracing
  • Deluxe Grover Rotomatic Tuners
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • 1-3/4″ bone nut
  • bone saddle
  • Deluxe Grover tuners

The first thing you will likely notice is the use of solid wood for the top, back and sides. No HPL here! Of course, you’ll pay more for the privilege.

The RO-310’s solid Adirondack Spruce top gives it the clarity and projection to cut through the mix in a band setting, but it’s still a small body acoustic with all the portability and play-ability that comes with that style.

TAYLOR GUITARS

Taylor guitars is one of the most active brands in the small body acoustic field. If they didn’t start the small body/parlor guitar revival, they were one of the makers who helped propel the style to the forefront of modern guitar styles with the Taylor Baby. The Big baby and gs-mini followed and they keep getting better. It will be interesting to see where Taylor goes next.

BT2 Baby Taylor

Baby-taylor-BT2

Taylor’s BT2 Baby is a 3/4-size Dreadnought acoustic that helped revitalize the small body acoustic guitar market. Sold a as travel guitar, it’s bigger than most guitars in that category today but still very portable. It’s the perfect size (and price-point) for beginning guitarists of all ages or seasoned players looking for something to take wherever they may go.

The Taylor baby features Layered Sapele back and sides, with mahogany top and neck and ebony fretboard. A Nubone (synthetic bone) nut and saddle and Die cast chrome tuners round out the rest of the package.

Watch the Review

BBT BIG BABY

BBT-Big-Baby-taylor

As the name suggests, the Taylor Big Baby is the “upsized” version of the Baby. The Big Baby is almost a full-size Dreadnought (15/16 scale) that bridges the gap between the Baby and full size Dreadnought. This one features Layered Sapele back and sides with and Ebony fretboard (the same as the Baby) but Sitka Spruce for the top wood. Click the image for more info on the actual size so you can compare it with the Baby.

Watch the Review

GS MINI

taylor-gs-mini-mahogany
Lastly, we come to one of my favorite small body acoustics available today: the Taylor GS-Mini.

The GS-Mini is the next step on the Taylor’s evolution of small body guitars. It’s the newest in their series; after the Big Baby, after the Baby. The Baby and Big Baby guitars are excellent instruments, but a good luthier is always learning new ways to do things and discovering all sorts of enhancements along the way. All that knowledge gleaned from earlier models has been put into practice on the GS-mini. The result is a small body guitar that sounds like a full body Grand Symphony guitar, and is fun as hell to play.

The Taylor GS-Mini features Layered Sapele back and sides, Sapele neck and Ebony fretboard and Nubone Nut & Saddle. It comes in a Mahogany or Sitka Spruce top wood.

Watch the Review

 

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The 8 Best Battery Powered Guitar Amps Today!

Battery powered guitar amplifiers have come a long way. Technology has advanced to the point where you can now get classic Fender or Marshall tones in an amp about the size of a lunch box.

Better still- you can get classic Vox tones with a built-in beatbox for honing your rhythm chops anywhere you go. Or get virtually 11 different amps all in one, small portable battery powered amplifier.

The times, they are a changing but I think these changes are a good thing.

Here are 8 of the best battery powered guitar amplifiers on the market today, from big-name makers.

Marshall MS-4 Micro Stack Amp Review

The Marshall MS-4 Micro stack is what it sounds like – a miniaturized Marshall Stack.

Marshall-MS-4-Micro-Stack-Amp

It’s a 1w battery powered guitar amplifier featuring 2 independent speaker cabs – each with a single 3″ speaker – and an amp head with Gain, Volume and Tone controls. The Marshall MS-4 Micro stack is small and stands only 9 3/4″ tall.

The amp is switchable between Clean and Overdrive modes, and the single Tone control lets you adjust the balance between bass and treble. The Marshall MS-4 Is a playable little amp that is well suited for classic rock and blues, but not jazz or metal.

The Marshall MS-4 Micro stack is powered by a single 9v battery or optional AC power adapter and sells for about $60.

read more for a full review and demo of the Marshall MS-4 Micro stack.

Marshall MS-2

What a great time we live in!

Marshall-MS-2-Mini-Amp

Modern technology has now made it possible to grab the Marshall MS-2 Mini Amp and take that Marshall tone with you – anywhere.

The Marshall MS-2 Mini Amp has that classic Marshall look and crunch, with surprisingly loud volume for such a little thing. it’s just 5-3/4″ high and even includes a belt clip!

It features controls for overdrive, tone, and volume and is powered by one 9V battery.

The Marshall MS-2 Mini Amp is a 1w battery powered amp that makes a great and fun gift or a truly portable practice amp, and sells for around $45

Demo

Fender Mini Tone-Master

Last up on the mini Fender hit parade is the Fender Mini Tone-Master Amp. This is a miniaturized version of the classic Tone-Master. As with all amps mini, the Mini Tone-Master provides pretty nice tone – considering its tiny size.

Fender-Mini-Tone-Master

Fender does another exceptional job of keeping true to the authentic Fender details here – cab corners, retro grille cloth, and vintage white control knobs.

The Fender Mini Tone-Master Amp is a small 1w battery powered amplifier that features two 2″ speakers, Gain, Volume, Tone and Power controls. It runs on a single 9V battery (included), or AC adapter and measures 6-1/2″ W x 6-1/8″ H x 2-1/4″ D

Unlike the Fender ’57 mini, the Fender Mini Tone-Master Amp is all plastic, but lightweight and small. It sells for $29.99.

Clean DEMO:

Distortion DEMO:

Fender ’57 Mini

Fender-Mini-57-Twin

The Fender Mini ’57 Twin Amp is for all the Fender Tweed fans out there. This is quite simply a battery powered, highly portable version of the original.

Measuring at just 2.8″ x 9″ x 8″ and weighing less than 2 lbs, this is a ’57 Twin for your desk or to just grab and go practice anytime!

The Fender Mini ’57 Twin Amp completely captures the vintage 50’s look from its miniature chicken head knobs, down to its tweed covering and brown grille.

It’s a bit more sturdy than many other battery powered guitar amplifiers out there, since the Fender Mini ’57 Twin is made of real wood and not plastic.

Beyond the vintage look, it’s a rocking little amp too. The Fender Mini ’57 Twin is a small 1w battery powered guitar amplifier with twin 2″ speakers, Built-in distortion, Power, volume, and tone controls. It runs on a single 9V battery or power adapter.

The Fender Mini ’57 Twin Amp sells for about $43, and would make a nice addition to a game room, or office or bedroom.

read more for a full review and demo of the Fender Mini ’57 Twin Amp.

Fender Mini Deluxe

fender-min-deluxe-amp

The Fender Mini Deluxe looks exactly like a shrunken Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. It even includes identical “dogbone” handle, chrome control plate, mini chicken-head knobs. It’s a 1w, battery powered guitar amplifier with a single 2″ speaker. The Fender Mini Deluxe runs on one 9v battery, and includes headphone out, Volume, Tone and Drive controls.

The Fender Mini Deluxe measures at 5.8″ x 6.2″ x 2.8″ and weighs in at just over 1 lb. It’s highly portable, and great for practice anywhere.

The Fender Mini Deluxe sells for around $35.

read more for a full review and demo of the Fender Mini Deluxe.

VOX Mini3 G2 Modeling Guitar Amplifier Review

The VOX MINI3 G2 is quite possibly the ultimate portable modeling amp.

VOX_MINI3_G2_ivory

The VOX MINI3 G2, Ivory

It’s powerful and portable enough for street performances or picnics with the family or wherever.

Unlike some other battery powered amps, the VOX MINI3 G2 is not a toy. It’s a serious modeling amp based on the VOX Valvetronix family of amps and includes a new Bassilator circuit that provides richer low-end frequencies, which is great high-gain players looking for a deep metal tone.

The VOX MINI3 G2 features 8 editable effects, 11 amp models and a direct line connection for ultimate clean tone, or portable PA!

The VOX MINI3 G2 runs on 6-AA batteries or AC adapter, weighs 6.6 lbs (3 kg) and measures10.32″ (262mm) x 6.85″ (174 mm) x 8.78″ (223mm).

read more for a full review and demo of the VOX MINI3 G2 .

Vox AC1 RhythmVOX Portable Practice Amp Review

Vox-AC1-RhythmVOX

The AC1 RhythmVOX is not just a great portable practice amp, but it’s a rhythm box too. The RhythmVOX features 66 Rhythm/Song Patterns for rhythm practice and experimentation. From straight forward metronome to song accompaniment with a host of song style beats, the AC1 RhythmVOX is a box of fun.

The quality of the beat patterns is excellent and the tempo and volume of each can be controlled in an intuitive way, so you can quickly dial in the settings you want.

Features include gain, tone, and volume controls, headphone jack, Aux In jack – to jam along with your CD or MP3 player and a pair of 3″ speakers.

Coming in at about the size of a lunchbox (7″W x 2-1/2″D x 5″H) and weighing about 1 lb, the Vox AC1 RhythmVOX is a truly portable battery powered amp, but also runs on AC adapter.

read more for a full review and demo of the AC1 RhythmVOX.

Orange Micro Crush

orange-micro-crush-amp

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 a 3w battery powered amp from famed Orange Amplifiers. With a single 4″ speaker, overdrive channel, and tone control, this little guy can rock!

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 is all Orange, from the woven grill to rubber footstools and trademark Orange finish. it’s also wood, and not plastic.

The CR3 has a chromatic tuner, headphone jack and runs on a single 9v battery 9or AC adapter).

It may be small, but the Orange Micro Crush CR3 is all Orange and it’s a little beast.

read more for a full review and demo of the Orange Micro Crush amp.

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Cigar Box Amplifiers, by C. G. Gitty.

Cigar box amplifiers not only go great with cigar box guitars, they also add to your decor. They’re stylish – and functional – conversation pieces.

Cigar box amps look great in the dinning room, kitchen or living room.

This is especially important to guys like me, because sometimes I just want to plug my guitar in and play, but don’t feel like lugging my amp downstairs (and then back upstairs) and I have trouble getting my wife to feel jazzed about having a more traditional looking amp sitting in the dinning room when company is over.

Not these little guys though. They’re just funky enough to be decorative, and functional enough to be enjoyed when the company departs for the evening. 🙂

Pre-made Cigar Box Amps

These cigar box amps are not only affordable, but they’re great little amps are hand-crafted in the U.S.A. in C. B. Gitty‘s workshop in the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

C. B. Gitty Cigar Box Amplifier: Oliva V Series

C. B. Gitty’s Oliva V Series Cigar Box Amplifiers are “production models”, designed to be mass produced. But while these are not individually unique, they are signed by C. B. Gitty himself, which is a nice touch.

c-b-gitty-cigar-box-amplifier-oliva-v-series

C. B. Gitty selects the best cigar boxes as his amp cases, and then turns them into stylish and functional works of art. The Oliva 5 Series is comprised of a distinctive all-wood dark finish Oliva Series V cigar box with gold Swirl Speaker Cover with gold screen beneath. The hardware consists of a gold On/Off/Volume Knob, gold input jack and brass carrying handle.

The battery tray holder is eternally accessible, and all 8 corners are embellished with solid shiny brass box trunk corners.

For those who aren’t scared of a soldering iron, the amp board also provides connection points for an output jack and headphones jack as well!

C. B. Gitty’s Oliva V Series Cigar Box Amplifier features:

  • 2.5-watt amplifier
  • all-wood cigar box
  • beautiful gold hardware
  • External mount 9V battery tray
  • panel-mount volume/on/off knob
  • Decorative gold speaker grill and screen

The heart of the Oliva V Series cigar box amps is an Artec SDA-T 2.5W amp board, powered by a 9V battery. The amplifier has a standard 1/4″ mono guitar cord input, and features a single 3.5″ 1W speaker.

It also has a red LED power indicator, so you don’t accidentally drain the battery.

These little amps put out a very respectable sound, and in our opinion are much superior to the smaller half-watt and one-watt amps!

The Oliva 5 Series cigar box amps measure: 5.75″ wide x 6.75″ high x 4″ deep.

C. B. Gitty Cigar Box Amplifier: Armed & Dangerous Macanudo

c-b-gitty-cigar-box-amplifier-armed--dangerous-macanudo

The C. B. Gitty Armed & Dangerous Macanudo Cigar Box Amplifier is also a “production” line cigar box amp, like the Series 5 Oliva and not a “one-off” amp.

But just like the Oliva, each of these production models is designed and signed by C. B. Gitty himself.

Where the Armed & Dangerous Macanudo differs from the Series 5 Oliva is it’s body. the Armed & Dangerous Macanudo cigar box amps are made from a distinctive paper-covered Macanudo Hyde Park cigar box, and feature a cool “Armed and Dangerous” multicolor chrome speaker cover over a red steel mesh. The hardware consists of a tone/gain control, black On/Off/Volume and Tone Knobs, externally accessible battery tray holder, and beautiful shiny nickel box corners with a matching nickel carrying handle.

The Armed & Dangerous Macanudo also features protective rubber feet, and connection points on the amp board for an output jack and headphones jack as well!

The C. B. Gitty Armed & Dangerous Macanudo Cigar Box Amplifier:

  • Nice loud 2.5-watt amplifier
  • Distinctive paper-covered cigar box
  • External mount 9V battery tray
  • Panel-mount volume/on/off knob
  • Decorative gold speaker grill and screen

Like the Series 5 Oliva, the Armed & Dangerous Macanudo is built around an Artec SDA-T 2.5W amp board, powered by a 9V battery.

The Armed & Dangerous Macanudo cigar box amps also accept a standard 1/4″ mono guitar cord as input, and output is through a 3.5″ 1W speaker. A red LED power indicator is included to help prevent accidental battery drain.

The Armed & Dangerous Macanudo measures: 7.25″ wide x 6″ high x 2 7/8″ deep.

Cigar Box DIY Kits

For the more adventurous DIY-er, C. B. Gitty even makes a Cigar Box Amplifier Kit with Oliva G Cigar Box, Hardware and How-To Guide!

cigar-box-amplifier-kit-with-oliva-g-cigar-box

This is a complete cigar box amp kit, and includes all of the parts needed to build your own 2.5-watt Series G Oliva cigar box amplifier!

The body is a beautiful all-wood Oliva G cigar box, and all the decorative shiny nickel box corners (with matching screws) to help dress it up are included in the kit. The heart of this amp kit is a 2.5 watt amp board, which really puts out some nice sound considering its size and input power.

This cigar box amplifier kit also includes a four-page how-to sheet that shows wiring diagrams and covers some key points about wiring and assembly.

Skills required to assemble this kit:

  • basic soldering skills,
  • ability to read simple wiring diagrams

This cigar box amps contains the following parts:

  • 3.5″ 1-Watt Ferrite Magnet Speaker with wire screen and mounting bolts/nuts
  • 8pc. Nickel-Plated Box Corners with Mounting Screws
  • 9V Metal Battery Holder Clip with mounting screws
  • 2 feet each Red and Black 24-gauge Hookup Wire
  • 9V Battery Connector
  • 4pc. Rubber Self-Adhesive Non-Skid Pads
  • “Top Hat” Potentiometer Knob
  • ¼” Long-Shaft Mono Input Jack
  • Red LED (Power Indicator) with Plastic Mounting Bezel
  • 2.5-Watt Artec Amp Board
  • Oliva Series G All-Wood Cigar Box

The amp board also has an onboard Tone Trim Pot, adjustable with a Philips screwdriver , which allows for fine-tuning the tone from “clean” to “crunchy”.

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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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