Fender Mustang I guitar amp is a modeling amp with 24 presets. Installing the Fender Fuse software is difficult but worthwhile because it allows you to change your preset amps
Growing pains, I say. It will get better, surely. This review will cover the Fender Fuse software package (v126.96.36.199) that is used with Fender Mustang and G-Dec guitar amplifiers. I have installed the Fender Fuse on my PC in order to configure a family friend’s Fender Mustang I. The Mustang is a versatile amp, but came too heavily rock for her tastes. She wanted some acoustic. The Good: After considerable toil I was able to install the software, download different amps to my PC and then store them on the Mustang. The bad: The software install process is overly onerous, required me to download a couple of other Microsoft packages, and is prone to crash. Summary: A very versatile software package and amp, but needs more stability.
Our family friend wanted to learn to play electric guitar and called on me to help out. She wanted to play rock, told the sales people she liked rock, so rock it was. I helped her choose an Epiphone SG and a Fender Mustang I for Christmas. She was ecstatic and her Mom was grateful. After Christmas she came over, I fine tuned her guitar for string height and intonation and explained her amp somewhat. The Mustang is a modeling amp that comes with 24 different present of supposedly famous amps. It is like an electronic keyboard that at a flick of a switch can play trombone or ukelele. The Mustang can morph into a Fender Twin Reverb, amongst many other amps.
Little did I understand that she really did not know what type of music she wanted to play. For an amp I chose the Mustang I for its versatility, 24 preset amp modeling, and ability to connect to a PC and download different amps. A couple of weeks later we receive a frantic call from here: Her amp was echoing too much and she did not know how to turn the echo off. No amount of phone coaching would fix the problem. I came to the conclusion that the Fender Mustang is too complex an amp for her to handle. When she delivered it to me for the second time I was easily able to turn the echo effect off. The next issue was that she had changed her mind and now wanted an acoustic sound from her amp. I hoped that the Fuse software would not let me down.
First off, the enclosed Fuse software CD would not start up. It was a dead piece of plastic. I could play any kind of CD but not read the one from Fender. Ok, I will download it from Fuse.fender.com which happened without issue. The install did not go too well. Firstly the install was extremely slow. Even the verification of the installation software took a long time. Once loaded up it stated I needed to install the Windows Installer 3.1, and then promptly stopped installing. I installed Windows Installer 3.1 from oldapps.com and restarted the Fuse installation, only to find that Fuse required me to install Microsoft’s dotnet framework. This also took a long time, a reboot, and a third attempt at installing Fuse. Now it wanted Microsoft’s Silverlight 4.0, included in the Fuse download thankfully, and I did not need to reboot. Now Fuse will load, show a “Please wait” graphic for 2 seconds and then I get a blank and black screen. Damn.
I search google for the cause of the problem. It turns out that Fuse requires Internet Explorer 7.0 and I only have IE6.0 installed. This is because I do not use IE at all and opt for Firefox or Google Chrome. Using Chrome I tried in vain to upgrade to IE7.0 only to have Microsoft pop up that I need to validate my copy of Windows, which I did two years ago. The Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) plugin would not let install. I researched more on Google and find out that IE7.0 dropped their WGA validation requirement two years ago in 2008, so why am I still being asked for Windows validation? More importantly, why do I even need IE to run Fuse? Is not Fuse it’s own standalone piece of software?
The solution, oddly, was to close Chrome and use Firefox. Using Firefox the IE7.0 upgrade from Microsoft went without an issue. With Firefox there was no mention of WGA validation. I can only hope that today’s Microsoft upgrades do not screw anything else up on my system. Just in case I did add a setpoint before today’s software antics.
The installation attempt number 4 of Fuse, though slow, finished without error. I started up Fuse and waited. It takes Fuse 4 minutes to start. This is the slowest start bootup process I have experienced on any piece of software. Even Windows boots up faster.
Initially Fuse said that I needed to update the firmware on the Mustang I. Fuse displayed a clear message on how to power down and power up the amp a,d this procedure went without issue. The Mustang I’s firmware was quickly updated, and Fuse recognized I had a Mustang I connected. This installation process took over 4 hours.
Initially, Fuse is very confusing. There is no documentation from the online help within the software itself. For the life of me I could not figure out what Fuse wanted to do and how to get amps into Fuse and then into the Mustang I. I finally found the .pdf documentation for Fuse online but after reading it cover to cover this did not help much. I closed down Fuse and went to Youtube, where Damon Chivers from Fender UK, at Nevada Music Uk, gave me an excellent explanation and demo of the Fuse Software. He ran through all the features of Fuse, searched for, downloaded and tested an amp. So that is what Fuse does! There is a community of Fender Fuse users, they upload amps and we can all share. Ok, then.
I start up Fuse and wait 4 minutes. After nosing around Fuse I find that Fuse will crash inadvertently on a regular basis. I need to reboot my PC as well as restart the amp before I reboot. Once I tried to restart the amp when Fuse had come alive again and found one of my amp settings labelled “WHAT THE #^[!?”. At least someone in their software department has a sense of humour. The routine is when Fuse crashes, reboot your amp, then reboot your PC, start Fuse, wait the 4 minutes for it to wake up and then carry on with life.
It was quickly becoming clear why IE7.0 is required: The Fuse interface IS a web browser that both connects to the Internet as well as the Mustang amp. Impressive, I thought. As Damon had shown me I searched for clean amps, and a small list of interesting amps came up. I could also search by genre, number of reviews, ratings, title, etc, except that most of the search methods gave an error from Fender’s web site. Improvement is required here. Either remove the non-functional search methods or fix the underlying issues. I opted for search by title, tag or title because the rest do not work. Once I selected a clean amp to download, I was told by Fuse that I needed to upgrade to Flash Player 10.1, but before I tried to do anything else, Fuse crashed yet again.
I know there is a community of Fuse users out there that have uploaded their amp settings, or what Fuse calls “presets”. Upon searching on Google I found the same download tool I saw in the Fuse software. Using Firefox, I was able to search for, find and download different amps, all without Firefox crashing. As well I did not need Flash Player 10.1 to download amps. Alas, Fuse is very new, not even six months old, so there are not a huge install base of amps. Still, I found and downloaded 7 acoustic amps that I liked. Do yourself a big favour and use Firefox to download amps to your PC, and avoid using Fuse to download amps. Fuse seems Ok for installing the preset to your amp, but is unstable for searching and downloading amps. Fuse is a very unstable web browser that will definitely disappoint.
Start up Fuse, turn on your amp, wait the required 4 minutes, hit “Media Library”, then “Add to Library”, then tell Fuse to read in your previously downloaded amp. The amp loads and you can immediately try it out with your guitar and the Mustang. Different amps are similar to fonts in word processing in that you download them and then load them into your font software for use on your computer. Once in your media library, to save the amp to one of your 24 presets, right click on the amp where there will be an option to save. You will need to scroll through the orange/green/red settings 1 through 8.
From the Main Menu, hit Utilities, then backup, in order to backup your amp settings. With all the delays in getting Fuse to start and the regular software crashing I am still unsure how reliable it is. I cannot even launch Fuse when my Firefox browser is running, because it simply will not load.
Once you have downloaded your desired amps, they will be at different volume settings. This throws off many people, including myself. Once you switch to a different amp, no matter what the knobs say, the amp presets will override it. If the volume is too loud in a preset, you will need to change the amp’s physical volume knob to where you like it, and then hit the amp’s save button twice. This new setting will be saved and reflected back in Fuse. Alternately you can change the software volume setting in Fuse, which is then reflected back in your amp’s volume, but the physical volume knob setting will not change. This is important. Flick to a different amp and then flick back, and your amp will have changed, irregardless of the physical knob settings.
I have only been playing with this amp for a day. My impression is that the amp comes biased towards distortion. Installing the Fuse software is difficult and may be impossible if you are not competent using and installing PC software. The Fuse software is large, slow and prone to crash, so save your work often. Still, to be able to change your amp from a rock amp to an acoustic amp is pretty nice. The result is that after all the difficulties, Fender has allowed me to get together with a community of others in order to exchange amp settings. The software does work, and the results are excellent. Just be prepared for a fight.
When, not if, my family friend again changes her mind and wants to play more rock, Fuse will be ready to help me. Factory presets can be restored. New rock amps can be downloaded and tried, Different types of amp settings from other music genres can be tried just for fun and experimentation. I hope that Fender will spend more effort to make this Fuse amp software much more stable. IMHO building a stand alone user application based on IE is sheer software suicide.
Addendum: Jan 25 2011 After using it for a couple of hours today Fuse seems stable and did not crash once. I did not download any amps from the internet, nor did I transfer any new amps to the Mustang. I merely tweaked the volume controls, saved the settings to Fuse, which were then reflected in the Mustang.
It is a lot of fun to play around with various amp settings. You have a wide assortment o (predominantly) Fender amps, effects pedals, and rack mounted effects, many more than the average player could ever attain. From looking at other amp settings you can also learn what you could do to improve the sound of your amp. A recurring and nagging question I ask myself is if the modeling on the Mustang sounds as good as the real thing?
Addendum 2011 Jan 25, afternoon: After using Fuse to tweak amp settings for a couple of hours, NOT downloading amps, NOT transferring amps to the Mustang, NOT doing anything stupid silly, like purposely trying to kill it, I was showing my daughter the nice guitar tuner in Fuse. It is large and impressive. We always have our guitars in tune and use Seiko and Korg guitar tuners. She quickly noted that the tuner on Fuse said that her guitar always “in tune” guitar was out of tune, which was impossible to her. Once tuned up according to Fuse, we checked it with the Seiko tuner. Note to all: The Fuse/Mustang tuner is consistently out of whack by -20 on their scale, with no way of calibrating the tuner. People of the world, do not rely on the Mustang/Fuse tuner or you will be out of tune with others. Then, the Fuse software acted like it was giving me the finger and promptly crashed. Or was it giving me the moon? How’s that for attitude?