Fender vs. Ibanez, a tale of customer service

I’m a fan of affordable equipment. I’m also a fan of quality and I want to share with you a story about customer service.

A few years back, I bought a Fender Mustang GT40 desktop amplifier after watching Nick Reinhart demo the thing on the Fender YouTube channel.

It’s got some really cool amp + effects modeling built in, and I was particularly fond of the USB connectivity to my computer. This became my main studio amp, which I used frequently. I became quite attached to it, mainly because of the USB connectivity and the clean pre-amp setting. It’s absurdly lightweight, sounds good, and has an app that lets one make signal chains from an iPhone. I bought one for my daughter, and my bandmate bought the newer 100 watt model on my recommendation.

Last year, the female USB connector broke – it simply came out of the back of the amp. It had just been sitting on my desk – it has never left the house.

Fender doesn’t service their own amps unless they are under warranty. I called all the local repair places in Baltimore that I could find, and no one will touch this amp.

I asked Fender if I could just buy the USB connecter to fix it myself. Here’s what Caesar A. Tapia (Gear Advisor, Fender Musical Instruments, AZ) had to say:

The part you are looking for is not offered on the consumer end.

You would have to go to an Authorized Service Center for a direct replacement and installation.

You do have Warranty coverage for 2 years from the date of purchase on new amps. The process is fairly simple, You’re welcome to bring your amp to a Authorized Service Center with your purchased receipt to have it evaluated under warranty.

None of the Fender service centers are close, and I didn’t have a working car. In fact, one of them is in a guy’s house, which is cool, I guess? My warranty expired a few years ago, anyway. If your Fender Mustang or Rumble amp is older than 2 years and it breaks, apparently you are out of luck.

I managed to take the amp into a repair placed recommended on the Fender website. The tech explained to me that when one of these break (under warranty), Fender usually instructs them to pull the amp’s board out, snap it in half, and pitch it. Fender then sends another one. The are made in China and very cheap. This explains why “The part you are looking for is not offered on the consumer end.” It’s not the micro USB enclosure that I needed, but rather an entire new board. The tech also said this policy also extends to the Fender Rumble amps.

Fender no longer makes the parts needed for my amp.

These are disposable amps. I’m stunned.

By comparison…

Around the same time, I picked up a Chase Bliss Blooper pedal on It was listed as new. When the pedal arrived, I noticed one of the knobs was missing the micro-screw that keeps the knob attached to the pedal. I emailed Chase Bliss, and they immediately sent me a couple of new knobs, free of charge, no questions asked. The knobs seem to contain more metal and engineering than the tiny female connector I need to repair my warranty-less Fender Mustang GT40 amp. Or, so I thought. Aside from this excellent customer service, I will say that I love Chase Bliss’ pedals. I own several, and haven’t exhausted their possibilities.

A bit later, I bought an Ibanez AF55TF Tobacco Flat Hollow Body Electric Guitar on Reverb. It played like a dream out of the box. I removed the protective foam padding from under the bridge, and ran into some trouble with the intonation. I wrote to Ibanez for help. They sent me a manual, and after a follow-up email, an engineer patiently wrote a very detailed explanation on how to set up the bridge myself. Fantastic! Above and beyond, as usual. Thank you, Ibanez!!!

Okay, back to the Mustang GT40.

Here’s another drag about the snap-n-pitch method. The Mustang allows it’s operator to create and save amp/effect combos, which can be recalled in the amp at another time. I’m guessing those would be lost to the owner, once the old board is “snapped and pitched,” unless they happened to be shared on the Fender website, which is something I am not interested in doing. But, you’d need to be aware of this before servicing the amp. FYI.

I was happy to pay for parts and labor, but that is no longer an option, as the tech can’t get the part(s). I was also told I’d be better off just buying another Mustang – it would cost about the same.

Okay, so what if I was willing to buy another Fender garbage amp? I will admit I considered it. I reasoned the newer models would probably be better – more solidly built, with more features and better performance. Yet, after reviewing the newer versions of the Mustang at Guitar Center, I see they don’t have the same presents – they are dumbed down.

Maybe Line6 is the way to go?

And here’s something else that really bothers me. I’ve gotten used to consumer grade products having a very limited life. DVD/BlueRay players don’t last. Apple wants us to buy new iPhones and iPads every few years, because they are a hardware company. Major household appliances tend to expire within 10 years. Running shoes don’t last, and shoe makers discontinue popular and well-loved models annually. I’m sure you can add your own examples to this list.

Musicians get attached to their gear. Vintage amps and guitars are sought after, and good gear can become integral to a musician/producer’s sound. For myself, I find something that works, and I stick with it. I’m stunned that I got suckered into buying cheaply made, disposable garbage by two brands that I trusted (Reinhart & Fender).

In conclusion, I’m very disappointed in the quality of this amp. I think I do understand Fender’s seeming lack of interest in helping me – the business model of this amplifier seems to follow other consumer grade disposable devices, and customer service isn’t built into that model.

I miss being able to use the amp. It was lovely while it lasted. Whomp whomp, lesson learned. I will never buy a new piece of Fender gear again. I’m not going to punish myself by saying I will boycott Fender stuff completely. I’ll just find stuff in secondary markets.