Since the introduction of the Cyber-Twin some years ago, Fender has augmented its famous amps with an entire line of digitally enhanced amps, most recently the Mustang lineup that includes amp modeling and built-in effects chains with user-storable presets. The Mustang Floor, Fender's first standalone digital multi-effects processor, takes the brain of a Mustang III/IV/V amp and puts it into a portable and easy-to-use floor unit combining amp modeling and a full effects chain with expression control, USB interfacing, and more. This guitar-centric issue of Recording was about halfway done when the Mustang Floor was released, and a production unit arrived just a few days before we went to press, allowing us a quick listening test.
The Mustang Floor is a large pedalboard in a sturdy metal chassis with a large backlit LCD protected by kick rails and a relatively simple control layout. It has five LED-lit footswitches that can either select Presets in Banks of five (20 Banks, 100 Presets in all) or turn individual effects in the chain on and off. A second rank of footswitches offers Tap tempo/Tuner access, Bank or Preset Up/Down, and selection of Preset or FX Select Mode. A large, smooth expression pedal has a toe-switch to choose between volume or effect control; you can assign one parameter per Preset to the pedal if desired, and use it as a MIDI controller (MIDI is also used for remote patch changes and effect control).
Programming is done with a single large push/turn encoder and a simple set of menu buttons. Anyone who's ever seen a Mustang amp will recognize the controls, as the Mustang Floor has the same guts and feature set as the Mustang III, IV, or V amp... minus the amp, of course.
The rear panel offers 1/4" jacks for Input, Insert Send and Return, Unbalanced Out L and R, and an Expression pedal or multibutton footswitch. There are also XLR outs, Headphone and Aux Input 3.5mm (mini) jacks, a USB port, MIDI In and Out, a Ground Lift switch, a Level pot, and a switch and jack for the linelump power supply.
Effects structure and programming
The Mustang Floor's signal path includes amp modeling (12 models, a selection of famous Fender designs and a few "British" and other types, plus the neutral "Studio Preamp"), an insert send/return for external effects, and four internal effects blocks, called Stomp, Mod, Delay, and Reverb. Each effects block offers up to 11 different effect types and can be individually enabled or disabled in real time; you can dial in settings in Edit mode, where parameters are represented by virtual dials on the LCD.
The Mustang Floor also communicates via USB with Fender's free FUSE software for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.5+, which lets you customize effects routings, edit otherwise inaccessible parameters, organize and store an infinite number of presets, share your sounds with others online, and download free presets created by Fender's staff and artist endorsers. The USB connection also provides a stereo audio interface for recording your guitar, and Ableton Live Lite 8 is included free as a starter DAW.
Even before we plugged in the Mustang Floor, we remarked on its solid build and smooth and light control feel (a huge relief-why do so many pedal makers think a toe-switch needs to be leaned on with all your weight plus someone else's?). Then we started playing through the sounds, and were mightily impressed indeed.
Allen commented on the dynamic sensitivity of the sounds he was playing, how the amp models responded in a realistic way to light vs. heavy picking. There aren't a lot of "special effects" Presets on the Mustang Floor... while the ring modulator and step filter let you get crazy if you want, the vast majority of the sounds are solid bread-and-butter tones suitable for rock, pop, country, jazz, rockabilly, and metal, and there are very few if any clinkers.
We're not going to stand on a soapbox and say the Mustang Floor will perfectly emulate a genuine vintage Twin Reverb or Princeton, but if you wish you could afford a collection of over a half-dozen Fender amps and have been looking for a studio-friendly recording interface for your guitar, the Mustang Floor could well kill both those birds with one stone.
We recommend you take it out for a spin, if possible while working with the FUSE software so you can see the full extent of what it can do, and judge for yourself. Our initial impressions have been highly favorable, and we predict this box will win over a lot of players in small studios or who already have amps they love.
Price: $299.99 MAP
More from: Fender, www.fender.com/mustang