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Fender Tone Master Pro review

It’s been three months since Fender announced their first foray into floor unit amp modelers and multi-effects, the Tone Master Pro. Fender would have very big shoes to fill if it wanted to shake up the mature amp modeling market, filled with products at a multitude of price points. With over 100 amps and effects, loads of inputs and outputs for guitar and vocal processing, and a premium price tag to go with it, is the Tone Master Pro poised to dominate the market for the discerning guitarist?

Fender Tone Master Pro Design
Fender Tone Master Pro review
Fender Tone Master Pro
With over 100 amps and effects, is the Tone Master Pro poised to dominate the market for the discerning guitarist?
Design
9
Features
9
Sound
8.5
Value
7.5
Pros
Ease of use
Accurate Fender amp models
Intuitive desktop app
Cons
Expensive
Less amps and effects than other modelers
8.5

Design

Tone Master Pro has been thoughtfully designed to put everything a guitarist needs front and center, with a clear focus on simplicity. At just under 9 pounds, it feels solidly built and ready to transport, but you’ll need a decently sized bag to accommodate the depth of the design. While some may find it large, it utilizes the space by filling the rear of the unit with a plethora of inputs and outputs. Notable features include separate inputs for a guitar and a mic, so they can be independently processed. Four effects loops are alongside a stereo XLR or 1/4 inch main output with ground lift. There’s a convenient aux in for music or other jam tracks, and a headphone output for practicing when plugging into larger speakers isn’t necessary. 

Fender Tone Master Pro Design

Fender has nailed the user experience with Tone Master Pro. There’s ten foot switch encoders that have a responsive “click” as you step to activate, and have an impressive amount of control for adjusting parameters on amps and effects by rotating the switch with your hand. Each has a light surrounding it that can illuminate a variety of colors to indicate their current state. They’re spaced in a way that feels breathable and easy to control. Scribble strips live above each foot switch, which clearly label the switch or encoder so you instantly know what you’re adjusting and its current value.

In the default “Preset” view, the foot switches are logically laid out with a bank up and down on the far left for navigating pages of presets, a switch between a stomp box style “foot switch” mode and looper control, and a tap tempo on the bottom right that flashes with the current BPM. A small annoyance is how bright the lights are around each foot switch, particularly that the light flashing for the tap tempo seems blindingly bright, I’d love control over specifically the brightness of the foot switch lights to make the unit a bit more discreet.

Features

When you power on Tone Master Pro, you’ll be drawn in to the impressive seven inch full color touch-screen, designed to show each amp and effect as if the physical unit was there. This familiar visual for working with stomp-box effects in particular makes dialing in a sound very simple. Guitarists coming from physical amp heads and pedalboard stomp boxes will see familiar amp and effect names, and controls that match what they may see on their own pedalboards. Customizing your sounds and creating presets is intuitive, with simple drag and drop to reorder pieces of your signal chain. I love how simple it is to assign the foot switches to essentially any parameter you’d like and keep it assigned with a preset. That being said, I spent more time than I’d like digging into the Footswitch Assign menu, selecting the right switch and parameter and carefully dialing in the value I wanted and ensuring I had the right on/off state, and repeating this process for each foot switch until I was satisfied. You’ll want to budget plenty of time to lock in a setup that’s memorable when you move between presets.

Fender Tone Master Pro Back

Tone Master Pro features over 100 amps and effects, of course including their well known classic Fender amps like the ’65 Deluxe Reverb, the ’59 Bassman, Blues Junior and more. Fender has also included models of other well known amps from a variety of genres and eras. I’ve found the “UK 30 Brilliant” to be a lovely take on Vox AC30 with Top Boost, for example. High gain amps are also here, like the British 800 (Marshall JCM800), Marksman CH2 (Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+), and Double Wreck (Mesa Dual Rectifier). The Tone Master Pro also includes the first officially licensed EVH 5150 III model.

One of my favorite features is the Pro Control app for Mac or PC. I often find myself dialing in a guitar tone while working at a computer listening to music or rehearsing, and leaning over constantly to tweak settings is exhausting. The Pro Control app puts the touchscreen interface on your computer’s display, which I find great for adjusting many parameters quickly. The Fender Cloud is also accessible in Pro Control, where users can upload and download presets created by other users. You can also audition presets that look appealing and adjust the preset directly on the Tone Master Pro before saving. We’ll have to see if sharing presets becomes a popular movement, like we see in other amp modeling communities like with Line 6’s Helix.

Fender Tone Master Pro Close Up

The rear of the unit also includes a USB input for updates and computer connectivity. This allows for using Tone Master Pro as an audio interface for recording into a Mac or PC. Three months into the release of Tone Master Pro, Fender has released one firmware update, correcting a handful of annoying bugs and adjusting touch screen performance (very appreciated when you just slightly miss the “save” button when leaning over). With the issues addressed, now we wait and see if Fender intends to introduce additional amp models or effects in updates, something that Line 6 Helix users have come to love over the years.

Puzzlingly, Tone Master Pro doesn’t include anything targeted towards bass players. There’s no reason you couldn’t plug in a bass anyway, but with Fender highlighting their attention to detail in amp modeling, I’d like to see the inclusion of a few bass amp models and presets. The effects work well enough, but I hope we see this change with a future update.

Sound

Fender fans can rejoice – Tone Master Pro is loaded with the classics that made Fender amps a studio and stage workhorse. I’m particularly fond of the Deluxe Reverb with a touch of vibrato and the reverb setting turned up midway (you may not need an additional reverb stomp box with how good the amp reverb sounds!). There’s not much to say about these, because they’re quite accurate. I played a Deluxe Reverb back to back with the Tone Master Pro model, and while I needed to adjust my tone controls slightly to match, it was pretty close without much fuss.

Fender Tone Master Pro Software

While there’s high gain options included in Tone Master Pro, I wouldn’t say they’re as accurate to their label as the Fender amp models. As amps move toward higher gain, I notice the drive doesn’t have the same bite as I’d expect if I were using a real Marshall or Bogner. Having used Marshall JCM800s over the years, I’m used to the warm yet piercing attack you get when cranking the gain and presence on your head unit, and while Tone Master Pro “British 800” has a full and warm low end, there’s some clarity that is missing from their rendition. When choosing an amp head, you’ll get a paired cabinet to go with it, but I’ve found some interesting results combining unexpected heads and cabs (maybe a way to set your tone apart from any other user!).

A small but mighty feature to expand your reverbs is support for importing your own Impulse Responses (IR) through Pro Control, which can join your signal chain like any other block. While the included reverb and delay options are plentiful, this flexibility opens up many more options.

Conclusions

Competition in the amp modeling space is fierce, and Fender introducing Tone Master Pro at $1699 makes it clear they believe the amp and effect emulations will deliver a complete solution for guitarists. In terms of build quality, you get what you pay for here, I think it will be difficult to do damage to a well built unit like this. Don’t forget you’ll likely want to add a expression pedal, and the Mission Engineering SP1-TMP is a separate purchase designed specifically for Tone Master Pro at $175.

So, who is this product for? While I love what Fender has done to create a well-rounded and feature packed floor unit, it will be a hard sell to convince users of competing floor units to switch to Tone Master Pro. Line 6 Helix has been on the market for many years and has a large user-driven community, with the company continuing to provide updates. Fractal has had plenty of success with the FM9, and NeuralDSP and Kemper enjoy the benefits of including amp capturing or “profiling” features to bring a guitarist’s personal rig into their product. All this to say that convincing those already loyal to a product to switch to Tone Master Pro will be difficult. For those that are always searching for their perfect guitar tone, Fender’s best bet is selling them on the Fender original amp models, as they truly sound authentic to the real hardware.

There’s a world of guitarists who love their original Fender amps and boutique effects who likely have shunned away the idea of modeling their sounds. With a tried and true name like Fender entering the market, I think we’ll see these guitarists give Tone Master Pro a try, and they may be pleasantly surprised by how familiar the experience feels to their classic gear. With a smaller collection of amps than some modelers on the market, we’ll have to see if a “quality over quantity” approach works for those that give Tone Master Pro a try.

Christian de Looper

Christian de Looper was born in Canberra Australia, and since then has lived in Europe and now lives in sunny California. When he's not tinkering with the latest music gear, Christian is devouring news on new consumer technology.

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