Most guitar gear is pretty simple: You plug a cable designed in the 1950s into a jack that’s just as old and start playing. The electronics inside the various amps and pedals are where things get interesting, which is why Fender has created the $99 Mustang Micro.
The Mustang Micro is a tiny device that amplifies and models your guitar sounds and adds reverb, fuzz, and vibrato to your private playing. It connects directly to your guitar and has a battery built in that lasts for four hours on one charge.
The device is part of Fender’s Mustang amp line and is designed to match the brand’s black-on-black aesthetics. The $149 Mustang LT25 has 30 sound presets as well as a built-in tuner, but obviously, is larger and more expensive than this little box. The Micro contains just the electronics for Fender’s more expensive amp solutions and requires your own headphones to play.
The device is simple: You plug the quarter-inch jack into your guitar and then connect wired or Bluetooth headphones. There is a large volume dial on the front and four buttons to change the settings. You cycle through the settings with the buttons and each LED color matches a certain amp or effect style. The whole thing is about as big as a pack of gum and charges via USB.
Like most digital amp modelers, this device does well enough for practice and noodling. To be clear you won’t replace a 1970s amp and speaker cabinet with the Micro, but if you squint your ears enough it’s a nice facsimile. I tried to record all of the amp styles and effects by connecting a line out to my DAC and trying to fine-tune the volume, a process that isn’t ideal. You can also connect it to your computer to create a recording interface via USB-C.
For my money, the Mustang Micro would be better if it just had a few amps and effects. The user experience, while clever, is a bit difficult—to really scroll through the amps and effects you have to remove the device, change the settings, and plug it back in. Even a voice prompt—“echo,” “reverb,” or “noise like a bag of hammers falling down the stairs”—would be superior.
The LEDs cycle through multiple colors, from blue to white, and if you don’t have the list at hand you’ll never know what you’re using. Setting everything to blue removes most of the presets but you can quickly get confused as you cycle through similar-looking colors on your way to find a sound that will make you sound like the White Stripes or Led Zep. And good luck recreating your presets later: The Micro turns everything back to blue when you turn it back on.
I did have a lot of fun with this little device. It’s a great practice amp that keeps things quiet, especially if you’re playing a solid body electric guitar and want a little crunch. Again, this is definitely not a concert-quality device and I doubt anyone would mistake it for one. Just understand the Micro’s limitations and you’ll be fine.
The Micro is a nice tool for beginning musicians who don’t want to invest in large amps and speakers. It’s a quick and easy way to try out a number of famous Fender amp styles and effects and it’s completely portable, allowing you to slip it into your case or bag and practice anywhere. It’s a novelty, to be sure, but it’s also very fun and useful, just like a good entry-level guitar effect should be.