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Fender’s New App and Amp Combo Can Get You Playing Like Your Favorite Guitarist

Fender is updating their line of digital Mustang amps with a few new, affordable beginner options today, but it’s their new app that might really pique the interest of anyone who’s said they want to start playing guitar, but have never made the jump. The Fender Tone app has dozens of presets to match the unique sounds of some of the best guitarists in the world — and Fender is working with a lot of them to make sure they get that sound right.

Fender’s new Mustang GT digital amps don’t just give guitar players a sound boost. The amps can process sound, overlaying sound modulations that would otherwise require a lot of hardware — the scads of pedals you might see in front of a guitarist at a rock concert.

Fender is now making it much easier to modulate that sound. The Fender Tone app is one of the simplest apps we’ve ever seen — after connecting it to an amp (using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi), the app just has a huge list of presets to choose from, plus basic gain and volume controls. Want a more bluesy Joe Bonamassa sound? There’s a preset for that! Fender has even roped in presets inspired by electronic music, including a preset based on Grimes.

I got to see a live demo of the amps and the app not too long ago, and it’s pretty incredible how easy and fast the whole process is. Tapping on a new preset changes the sound of the guitar instantly, allowing players to change on the fly.

Despite the simplicity, there are a few other things the app/amp combo can do. Although the main benefit of this system is that a bunch of complicated hardware isn’t necessary, there is a floor unit with buttons that can be assigned to favorite presets, so the guitarist doesn’t need to fiddle with a phone at all. The floor unit is included with the largest amp (the GT 200), but is an extra $80 purchase for the two smaller, cheaper amps in the collection.

The new amps and the app are targeted at novices and first-time learners, but there’s something to like for more experienced players, too. Setlists can be created within the app — if you’re playing a gig, you can program a series of presets for each song that you play, then advance through that setlist using the floor unit. Basic controls like gain and volume are on the amps themselves, too, and the app does make it possible to tie gain to volume, making the guitar sound more crunchy at higher volumes. And, here’s another neat wrinkle — the amps can be used as Bluetooth speakers. For players, this makes it possible to play the actual track as a backing track, with the presets and EQ settings affecting the guitar independent of the track.

There are 115 presets at launch, but Fender plans to keep developing and pushing out presets. A lot of those are going to be created in cooperation with artists. Josh Adam Klinghoffer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Scott Ian of Anthrax have already lent their sounds to the Tone app, and more are in the pipeline. The new presets will be available within the app, but they’ll actually be stored on the amp — if you ever need to clear out room for more presets or just want to make the list more manageable, you can delete any of the presets.

Fender’s new amps include the GT 200 (a 200-watt 2 x 12″ stereo amp) for $600, the GT 100 (a 100-watt 1 x 12″ mono amp) for $400, and the GT 40 (a stereo amp with two 6.5″ woofers) for $250 (the latter of which is small enough to be travel-friendly). They’re all available starting today, and the Fender Tone app is available for both iOS and Android for free — it’s worth noting that the app only works with the new Mustang GT amps.