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Fender Tone Master Pro

Amplifier, Cabinet & Effects Modeller By Bob Thomas
Published February 2024

Fender Tone Master Pro

Guitar giants Fender join the modelling pedal party with this powerful and comprehensive floorboard. We put it through its paces...

We’re almost spoiled for choice today when it comes to high‑end amp, speaker and multi‑effects floor units, but until recently Fender had been notable only by their absence from this market. Still, their recent launch of the Tone Master Pro did not exactly take me by surprise: the company’s Tone Master range already put digitally modelled versions of their most popular valve amps into active combo speaker cabinets, and conceptually it was a short leap from there to a standalone modelling device. What they’ve delivered is undoubtedly a very powerful device — there’s an 8‑core processor inside — and as its core technology, hardware and software are new, I would be surprised if Fender aren’t planning to develop this platform for years to come. So, was it worth the wait? When Fender reached out and offered to send me a Tone Master Pro and an accompanying FR‑10 full‑range flat response (FRFR) speaker for evaluation, that’s precisely the question I aimed to answer...

Grand Tour

Presented in a chic black box that would be at home in a Bond Street boutique, the Tone Master Pro (or TM Pro, as I’ll refer to it from here) is a visual delight, with curved ends, understated grey, semi‑sparkle finish, and a rectangular, semi‑transparent panel that occupies the upper 40 percent of its top panel. This panel not only carries the Navigation/Preset View and Master Volume/Mixer View encoders, but also covers and protects the unit’s seven‑inch, high‑resolution colour touchscreen. Below sit 10 footswitches (all bar one of which double as rotary encoders) and two‑row scribble‑strip screens that display their current assignments. Each footswitch sits inside an LED‑illuminated ring, whose colours (which are user‑assignable on all but two) change to denote the current function.

All but one of the 10 footswitches double as rotary encoders, to put lots of control at your fingertips.All but one of the 10 footswitches double as rotary encoders, to put lots of control at your fingertips.

A comprehensive set of inputs and outputs on the rear panel are joined by an LED‑illuminated version of Fender’s traditional red ‘jewel’ power‑on indicator. (Speaking of power‑on, the boot‑up time seemed a tad longer than on some competing devices). The instrument input is an unbalanced quarter‑inch TS jack and this has a switchable ‑6dB pad and three input impedances (1MΩ, 330kΩ, and 22kΩ, with or without 330pF of capacitance), designed to simulate the real‑world input impedances of modelled effects and amplifiers; these can be configured automatically or manually within a preset. A balanced XLR/TRS combi connector caters for microphone and line‑level inputs and can supply 48V phantom power on the XLR. Four send/return loops sit between The input and the input buffer. Loops 1 and 2 are mono and allow the programmed insertion of hardware effects as the first stage of any preset, while loops 3 and 4 can be configured as either separate mono loops or a single stereo loop, and can be inserted into the signal path of any preset at any post‑input buffer point.

Output 1 is a balanced stereo analogue output, and this is paralleled on XLR and quarter‑inch TRS jack connectors. Output 2 is a single pair of unbalanced quarter‑inch jack sockets, and sitting above this are the auxiliary input’s 3.5mm stereo mini‑jack and a quarter‑inch stereo headphone output. Between the latter two sockets sit two miniature buttons, one initiating a factory reset and the other to invoke a firmware update. A Bluetooth input, separate from the aux input, allows the connection of two separate stereo audio streams of, for example, backing tracks that can be routed separately to the unit’s analogue and USB 1 and 2 outputs using the TM Pro’s onboard mixer.

There are inputs for two expression pedals as well as one for a toe switch (or any footswitch). The Mission Engineering SP1‑TMP pedal, developed specifically for the TM Pro, can connect to one expression jack and the toe switch and this allows you, for example, to configure the pedal to control a wah and use the toe switch to turn it off and on. An Amp Control TRS jack socket offers the potential to switch functions on two suitably equipped external amplifiers. Two full‑size MIDI connectors (On and Out/Thru/merge) not only equip the TM Pro to send and receive Program Change and Continuous Controller messages, but also allow the connection of up to four MIDI expression pedals and a toe switch, each of which can be assigned on a preset by preset basis.

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