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Fender Tone Master Pro Review – Amp and Effect Modelling at its Finest

14/05/2024

Can virtual recreations ever beat the real thing? Fender – arguably the king of tube tones – have thrown their hat into the ring of high-end floor modellers. Presenting the Tone Master Pro, a premium floor modeller that’s stuffed to the gills with features and versatility.

Now that it’s had time to settle into the guitar world, I’m taking a look to decide if it’s truly a floor unit title contender. Does it do enough to convince guitarists to ditch the traditional and embrace the digital? Find out in my Fender Tone Master Pro review – is it truly the multi-FX to rule them all?

In a hurry? Here’s the verdict

The Fender Tone Master Pro is a marvel of modern amp simulation, delivering astonishingly authentic tones and an array of effects that cater to every style. Here’s a quick rundown of what makes it stand out and a few areas where it could improve:

ProsCons
Utterly authentic Fender amp tonesPremium price point can put it out of reach
Staggering range of effectsDebatable accuracy for amps outside the Fender and EVH catalogue
Comprehensive connectivityNo built-in expression pedal

Fender Tone Master Pro review

Initial thoughts

Fender Tone Master ProRight out of the box, the Fender Tone Master Pro impresses with its robust yet elegant build. Even the box has an immaculate design – putting me in mind of fruit-emblazoned high-end tech products.

The lack of a built-in expression pedal contributes to its compact design, making it a seamless fit for both home practice and studio setups.

A quick glance at the rear reveals an array of connectivity options – MIDI, stereo line in/out, and USB – catering to the needs of the most intricate performance or recording setups. Upon powering up, you’re greeted by a bright, easy-to-read interface.

There’s no need to wade through complex menus; you’re thrust directly into a generous selection of default presets to get you started immediately.

Editing and creating new presets is straightforward, requiring just a few taps on the touchscreen or Fender’s companion app. Adjusting parameters or amp settings is effortlessly managed by twisting the tactile footswitches, which offer a satisfying response not always found in similar devices.

In terms of weight, the unit feels substantial yet manageable, akin to a typical pedalboard, weighing in at approximately 4kg. which makes it quite portable in a carry bag.

The aesthetics are also quite apparent once it’s set up and plugged in. The hallmark Fender amp script adorns the front, while the iconic red power light illuminates the back – smart touches that help this premium bit of kit feel, well, premium!


Top and back panels

At the heart of the Fender Tone Master Pro’s design lies a blend of thoughtful engineering and functionality. The top panel is dominated by a super-clear 7-inch LCD screen, large enough to easily monitor your current patch settings from a standing position and bright enough for visibility in dimly lit environments.

Flanking the display are two easily accessible knobs, styled after the knurled controls of a Telecaster, paying homage to Fender’s rich heritage. These knobs serve dual functions, controlling preset selection and master volume; both can be pressed to toggle between Gig View and the internal mixer, respectively.

This straightforward layout will be greatly appreciated by both home enthusiasts and performing artists, simplifying preset navigation and parameter adjustments on the fly.

Turning to the back panel, users are met with a comprehensive array of connectivity options. This includes MIDI interfaces, stereo line in/out, multiple FX loops, USB ports, expression pedal inputs, amp control jacks, a toe switch, auxiliary input, headphone output, and even micro-SD card compatibility. High-grade stereo XLR outputs are also provided for those who prefer a professional-grade signal path.

In addition, stereo XLR out offers a high-grade signal path for those who prefer it. The placement of these ports is meticulously planned to ensure easy access while keeping cable clutter to a minimum, supporting a clean and organized workspace whether in the studio or on stage.

Back of the Fender Tone Master Pro


A very extensive modelling rig

Amps and effects arsenal

The Tone Master Pro comes equipped with an extensive arsenal of amp and effect models to sate any player’s sonic appetite. With over 100 meticulously crafted models to choose from, there’s no shortage of tones for you to explore, ranging from the lush reverbs of classic Fender amps to the hot ‘n’ heavy roars of British stacks.

As you might expect, the catalogue includes much of Fender’s own gear (and their Tone Master amp series) in addition to famous and popular items from other brands.

Key amongst this extensive selection is the first officially licensed capture of the EVH 5150 III Stealth model, promising authentic and colossal tones, as well as the raw response which makes it so sought after by the metal community.

Fender’s method for capturing these amps is secretive but assured to be comprehensive and exceptionally detailed. One thing is for certain though, and that’s Fender’s premier position as one of the world’s leading amp manufacturers.

This access to original units and design documentation has given them a leg up over their competitors when it comes to the superb Fender amp models – an opinion shared widely by many who have tried the Tone Master Pro.

Stereo Looper

Then there’s the looper – a stereo looper at that! It’s easy to access with a dedicated footswitch that you hold to access the mode.

It’s deceptively powerful, with a record/overdub button allowing you to create as many layers as you wish, a play/stop switch to activate your recordings on command, and “undo” for when your latest layer didn’t quite hit the mark.

One thing that looper fans will really appreciate is the easily accessible loop volume controls that help smooth out live performance. Need to unleash a solo? Quickly lower the loop volume with a few taps, or if you’re changing instruments/adjusting things on-stage, boost the loop volume to bring that backing to the fore.

What about the other stuff?

The emulations of other brands have received mixed reviews. You’ll find big hitters like Vox, Marshall, Mesa Boogie and Bogner amongst the library of models (all identifiable by their heavy resemblances on the screen), but here’s where it gets quite subjective as to their quality.

Personally, I found each model to be lifelike and authentic, with responses and characters true to the amps they were replicating. When used in the presets sculpted to recreate a particular artist’s or song’s tone, they more than did the job.

Beyond amp models, the Tone Master Pro boasts a collection of 6,000 Fender-captured impulse responses. These IRs offer hyper-realistic simulations of various cabinet and microphone setups, significantly enhancing the spatial dimension of the unit’s sound. This extensive library ranges from small combo amps to large stack configurations, all recorded with cutting-edge equipment to faithfully capture the essence of each setup.


Sound

Fender Tone Master Pro screenThe essence of any modeller lies in its sound. With the Tone Master Pro’s vast catalogue of amp and effect models coupled with an extensive array of impulse responses, crafting your ideal tone for live performances, rehearsals, or recordings becomes a seamlessly personalised experience.

Fender’s Amps

The Tone Master Pro excels particularly with Fender models, replicating units like the ’65 Deluxe Reverb and ’65 Twin Reverb with astonishing lifelike detail and response. Even the most discerning ears might struggle to distinguish these from their original counterparts in a blind test.

It’s plausible that no one could tell the difference if it was played through a live PA at a gig. The modeller captures the dynamic and tonal response of these amps vividly, reflecting the subtle nuances that manifest through your pick attack and pedal choices.

How about the others?

The fidelity extends to emulations of other brands, though with slightly variable results. While I didn’t perform an A/B test with every piece of gear the modeller recreates, my assessments are based on recordings and prior experiences. General playthroughs of the available models usually felt incredibly true to life.

The licensed EVH 5150, which technically falls under Fender’s umbrella, is depicted with remarkable precision. A recent update has finely tuned the red, green, and blue channels, delivering everything from crushing high-gain metal tones to gnarly lead sounds with authentic grit and punch.

Models like Vox’s AC30, Marshall’s Super Lead Plexi, and Roland’s JC-120 are also impressively rendered, each maintaining the feedback, response, and distinctive push that characterise their original sounds.

Effects and impulse responses

Beyond amps, the Tone Master Pro boasts over 200 effects, from ethereal reverbs to slicing delays, all engineered with the same attention to detail. The integration of these effects with the amp models is seamless, enhancing rather than overshadowing the core guitar tones.

Adding further depth, the unit includes an impressive collection of 6,000 Fender-captured impulse responses. These IRs provide hyper-realistic simulations of various cabinet and microphone setups, vastly enhancing the spatial dimension of the sound. This extensive library allows you to experiment with configurations ranging from intimate studio settings to large venue setups, all recorded with state-of-the-art equipment.

Subjectivity in sound

It’s crucial to acknowledge the subjectivity inherent in sound modelling. Some musicians might scrutinise every minor detail, while others appreciate having a broad array of nearly accurate sounds at their disposal. Given the premium pricing of the Tone Master Pro, one might expect nothing less than top-tier emulations, and in my experience, it delivers just that.

However, as I will discuss later, there are additional aspects brought to the table by the Tone Master Pro that may diminish the focus on absolute modelling accuracy, at least from my perspective.


Connectivity

No matter how elaborate or basic your setup is, the Tone Master Pro’s comprehensive connectivity options are sure to accommodate. The extent of I/O options is nothing short of impressive, with enough to cover both live and studio use easily.

A high-impedance instrument input pairs with a balanced XLR input to suit your preferences.

Central to its design are versatile dual-purpose ports: a 1/4-inch instrument input, an Amphenol combined 1/4-inch/XLR mic/line input, and extensive output options including stereo XLR and 1/4-inch outputs for both line and balanced connections.

Basically, it covers any situation you might find yourself in – from a dead simple mono connection to your favourite combo amp to the most complex on-stage rigs. Speaking of complex, four integrated FX loops allow for highly sophisticated processing paths, meaning you can get as granular as you please for your favourite effects.

Moreover, the unit includes USB-C for direct computer connection, facilitating easy recording and firmware updates. For further external control, there are inputs for expression pedals and a MIDI In and Out/Thru, expanding its utility for sophisticated rig configurations.

Finally, there’s a 1/4” headphone out and aux-in to service at-home practice or studio recording – both pretty standard yet appreciated features.

Fender Tone Master Pro connectivity options


Tone Master Pro Control app

Any good floor modeller worth its salt comes with a companion app, and the Tone Master Pro doesn’t disappoint. Like other multi-FX units, it can be far easier for many players to create, download, and share patches through desktop computer software than on the unit itself.

It’s a breeze to download and is compatible with various Mac OS and Windows systems. With the app, you can delve into deep editing of presets. It provides a user-friendly interface that simplifies the creation of new tones and the modification of existing ones.

Whether tweaking the fine details of an amp’s gain settings or adjusting the parameters of complex effect chains, the app makes these tasks straightforward and accessible.

Create with the community

On top of editing your presets, the Control app makes it easy to upload your own creations or download those of others. You can even audition the patches created by others before downloading them properly, offering an easy way to sample the countless custom settings served by the community.

Aside from new patches, the Control app lets you load your own IRs to the unit – it’s as simple as dragging and dropping files!

And of course, there’s the ongoing support from Fender that adds more features, models, and tweaks as time goes on. They’ve already updated the firmware to enhance the Tone Master Pro’s feature set, and you can expect more in the future.

Who is the Fender Tone Master Pro suited to?

Fender Tone Master pro controlsThe million-dollar question: who is this top-tier modeller aimed at? Its hefty price tag might put it beyond the reach of many musicians. That’s somewhat of a shame as I found the user interface and overall ease of use to be significantly better than many competitors.

It serves as an excellent gateway into the world of digital modelling and expansive multi-FX setups for those yet to make the leap.

Here lies the crux – it’s a phenomenal piece of equipment that introduces the uninitiated to modelling systems in a familiar way. Its bright, easy-to-read LCD screen eliminates any fuss with obscure icons; everything is presented in a straightforward, intuitive layout.

Moreover, the multi-purpose footswitches double as physical knobs, allowing for tactile adjustments of settings and parameters, which brings the tangible feel of a traditional pedalboard into the digital realm.

If you’re looking for something incredibly powerful, capable of accurately replicating all the essential “can’t live without” guitar gear, and also user-friendly – then the Tone Master Pro is definitely calling your name.

FAQs

Does the Fender Tone Master Pro have a looper?

The Fender Tone Master Pro includes a built-in stereo looper with up to 60 seconds of loop time, ideal for creating layered soundscapes during live performances or practice sessions.


What is the Tone Master Pro?

The Fender Tone Master Pro is a state-of-the-art digital modelling amplifier equipped with extensive amp and effects models, designed for both live performance and studio use.


How do I update the Fender Tone Master Pro?

To update the Fender Tone Master Pro, connect it to your computer via USB, download the latest firmware from the Fender website, and follow the on-screen instructions in the Tone Master Pro Control app.

Final thoughts

In a crowded sea of modellers and multi-FX, Fender’s Tone Master Pro is one of the most powerful yet simple to use. It’s also by far the best-looking! With a sleek exterior and Fender embellishments, it’d sit nicely in a home studio or practice room without looking like an awkward, boxy piece of gear.

The asking price can’t be ignored as it does place it towards the pinnacle of modellers, but if you’re after a no-nonsense, easy-to-use simulator that has all your favourite sounds and artist profiles under one roof, the Tone Master Pro is hard to beat!

 

Content Writer (Guitars)

Mark has been a guitar aficionado for around twenty years. A lover of all things 6-string, he spends his days putting pen-to-paper about all manner of interesting instruments. From entry level Squiers to the most coveted Custom Shop desires, Mark's written about them.

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