Recently I modified a toy instrument – a My Music Maker Keyboard – and added 1/8″ (3.5mm) and 1/4″ line out jacks to support playing through external speakers/headphones/amps as well as connectivity to other hardware such as a computer.
One of the things I want to do is record my keyboard directly into audio editing software on my laptop, whether by straight connection or through an amp, without using my laptop’s built-in microphone or needing to set one up nearby to do the recording.
After a lot of trial and error, I got my keyboard recording into Audacity and Ableton Live 10 Lite through my Fender Mustang III V.2 guitar amplifier. I was quite surprised to find out that it is possible to send audio out of the amp via USB connection which I originally (and mistakenly) assumed was solely for uploading and editing sound effect presets.
To be frank, there are far better ways to set up recording into a computer but if you are limited to doing so via USB like I was at the time or you just want to be able to, this post is for you.
Affiliate link disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I am able to earn from qualifying purchases made through Amazon product links. However, I will be using non-affiliate links when mentioning items in the main content of this post because those links are just for informational purposes. At the end I have a dedicated section listing the same items, with my affiliate links. It is up to you whether you would like me to receive credit if you end up buying something. All proceeds will go towards running this website or purchasing materials for my projects.
A Little Bit About The Fender Mustang III V.2 Guitar Amplifier
The Fender Mustang III V.2 is one in a line of Mustang V.2 amp models I through IV.* These amps come with a digital library of customisable sound effect presets and sport a mini USB port on their control panel for computer connectivity.
* You can get a copy of the Fender Mustang I-IV advanced manual PDF file here.
Over USB connection, the amp and its sound effect library can be further controlled and managed by using the now-discontinued** Fender FUSE application. Additionally, the USB port supports audio out; the amp itself has some kind of built-in audio interface that enables it to be a middleman (who drives a hard bargain, by the way) between instrument and computer.
** Fear not, if you want to get Fender FUSE, I have found download links for it and they are listed all the way below in step 6 with additional information.
The Joys of Hardware and Software (In)compatibility and (Un)availability
Instrument → Computer
Unfortunately for me, a straight connection between my instrument to my laptop using just a 1/8″ (3.5mm) TRS-TRS audio cable was not an option and at the time, I lacked the appropriate adapter that could have made audio input work. Some computers such as my Microsoft Surface Book 2 laptop just have a combo sound jack, whereas others have two separate sound jacks built-in. The combo (a.k.a. headset) jack type is TRRS which means that it is capable of simultaneously handling audio output (headphone) and audio input (mic) but only when it met with the TRRS plug type. When given the TRS plug type, the TRRS jack favours audio output. Therefore, I would need a TRS —> TRRS splitter so that my laptop would know to treat my instrument as audio input only (time to go shopping!).*
* 👍 Update: After getting the headset splitter/adapter mentioned above for my laptop and plugging my instrument in to just the mic half of it, I can confirm that was indeed the solution! This is a nice option to have because the recorded keyboard’s sounds will be as spot-on as they get, since with my amp there is some degree of alteration due to it adding sound effects.
Instrument → Amp → Computer
I faced the same audio cable limitation described above with my guitar amp because ultimately I did not have the right adapters for either of my 1/8″ or 1/4″ audio cables to make them compatible with my laptop’s sound jack.
Boy was I glad that I happened to have a USB cable with a Mini-B connector lying around. The possibility of recording the amp’s output over USB occurred to me after I had already turned my box of miscellaneous incompatible audio cables inside out! I bought my amp secondhand and it didn’t come with any manual; the desire to hadn’t crossed my mind sooner, but I see now that it does briefly mention audio out via USB as a feature.
This was actually the first time I’ve ever plugged my amp into a computer. Up until now I have only really used my amp’s presets as they were or tweaked them by using the amp’s buttons/data wheel/LCD display, and made my infrequent guitar recordings using a separate mic.
Recording using the amp’s USB connection feature was far from a plug-and-play setup situation for me. I ended up having to configure various Windows system settings as well as Audacity settings, and even found myself downloading and installing some software — (ASIO4ALL and Fender FUSE) which in retrospect may not have been necessary — in attempt to get my computer and Audacity to properly recognise the amp. Now that I’ve figured that out, the amp works fairly well with Audacity.
Dedicated Audio Interfaces
Really though, this entire endeavour might have been a lot simpler with a dedicated audio interface such as a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, but alas, I am without, so here we are.
Audacity & Ableton Live
For some more context, even though the guide below mainly walks through set-up for recording into Audacity, there will be mentions of Ableton Live 10 Lite and a section on setting that up too, because that was my first choice and what I was trying to set up in the first place — not only because I want to learn how to use Ableton Live but also because it offers more capabilities than Audacity — and didn’t figure it out until a few days after posting the original version of this article.
In the early stages I was having difficulty with configuring Ableton Live to recognise my amp and properly handle input signal, so I fell back to Audacity as a part of my troubleshooting process. As it turns out, I ended up having better luck with Audacity before Ableton Live.
After some more testing I’ve realised that an issue I was having with amp input getting “mixed” with external noise is specific to my toy keyboard and has to do with the keyboard having an always-connected speaker. When I have my keyboard plugged into the amp, the mini speaker inside the keyboard acts like a microphone by picking up vibrations and those get sent along with the main sounds from the keyboard. Here’s a link to SoundCloud for a recording I made by singing directly into the keyboard’s mini speaker grill. I really don’t understand how that works, but I’m looking into it.
So, I can now confirm that recording into Ableton Live 10 Lite works as well — at least with electric guitars, which is the amp’s primary use case anyway — and that the input signal does not normally get “mixed” with external input. Anyway, now that’s finally cleared up, I will also include additional information on my recording configurations in Ableton Live 10 Lite in this guide (see step 7) for good measure.
Setup & Troubleshooting Information
…for using the Fender Mustang V.2’s USB connection feature to record into Audacity and/or Ableton Live 10 Lite (on Windows 10).
This guide was originally written just for Audacity, but now includes information for Ableton Live 10 Lite as well. See step 7 for Ableton Live 10 Lite download / setup / configuration information.
Disclaimer: Follow these steps at your own discretion! I am sharing what settings/changes worked for my specific scenario as a guide/suggestion so that maybe they will help somebody else. If you try them out and something breaks, I am not responsible for it.
Cables You Are Going To Need
- USB 2.0 A male to Mini-B male cable
(6 ft) I strongly recommend 6 feet or longer. The 3 ft cable is miserable to work with if you’re not sitting immediately to the right or in front of the amp. If you already have a 3ft cable, consider upgrading or getting a USB extension cable.
- Any standard guitar cable i.e. 1/4″ plugs on each end
Straight: (10 ft) (15ft) (20 ft)
With L plug: (10 ft) (20 ft)
Whether the plugs are straight or have an L-plug is personal preference. I’m partial to the latter.
General Troubleshooting Tips
I strongly suggest you write down your own notes and take screenshots of every change you make so you can backtrack and troubleshoot more easily, and also so that you have an idea of what to do next time if you have to set something like this up again in the future.
If you suspect that a software or system configuration change that you have made is not working, try some combination of the following:
- Turn the amp off and back on.
- Exit/quit any and all actively running windows/software/applications including your audio editor(s).
– or –
Restart your computer.
- Have one audio editing app open/running at a time, check and review your settings to see if they updated or if there is an error.
Annoying, but I have found that it helps.
These are the things I did and the approximate order that I suggest doing them in. It is likely that not all of the steps I describe are necessary and I will try to point out ones that I think are optional — you can try skipping them and revisit them if the other steps haven’t worked out for you.
Important: Start by not having Audacity or any other DAW (Digital Audio Workflow) such as Ableton Live already open. Close/exit them and try to have only one running at a time. Two main reasons:
- If you make changes to your Sound system settings in Windows, they might not always dynamically reflect in your DAW. Relaunching your DAW more likely ensures that you are seeing the latest info/changes.
- I’ve noticed that audio editing software will sometimes conflict with each other due to needing exclusive access to the mic. There are instructions below in step 3b. to lift that restriction.
0. Try the official guide
Consider following the instructions from Fender on this topic before doing anything else, it just might work for you: How do I record to my computer using my USB-equipped Fender® amp?
In my walkthrough below, I start from the beginning and include many more troubleshooting tips, details, and download links – they could be useful especially if you are struggling with the same issues as I did. This info may be applied to comparable versions of the software being mentioned here or other amps/equipment with similar capabilities.
1. Install Audacity
If you don’t already have Audacity installed, download an official release for free at audacityteam.org and install it with the default configurations offered in the setup wizard. Then I suggest restarting your computer. At the time of writing this, I am using the latest version (2.3.3) of Audacity.
Logo image source: audacityteam.org
For Ableton Live 10 Lite download resources see step 7 and then return to step 2.
2. Connect the equipment/hardware
3a. Checking and configuring Windows system Sound settings
Go to the Windows system Sound settings and check whether or not the computer detects the amp as an input device, and select it if possible:
One of the first things this article from Fender tells you to do is select the amp as the Input device in your Windows system Sound settings. However, when I first plugged my amp into my laptop via USB, my laptop did not detect my amp as an Input device at all (not in the in system settings nor Audacity/Ableton Live).
This is how you can access your system Sound settings:
Right-click the volume/sound icon in the Windows taskbar’s system tray and then click on “Open Sound settings” in the popup menu:
A window with your system Sound settings should pop up now.
If/when the amp is available it should appear under “Input” in the “Choose your input device” dropdown menu as an option called “Internal AUX Jack (Mustang Amplifier)” or similar:
And your laptop should be receiving signal from the amp when you play your instrument:
If the amp shows up for you and your laptop is receiving input signal, good. Skip to step 4a (Configuring Audacity) or step 7 (Ableton Live resources).
But as you can see, that was not the case for me:
At this point you may also check Audacity (see step 4a) or Ableton Live (step 7) to see whether or not the amp shows up – but if the amp doesn’t appear as an input device in your Windows Sound system settings, I doubt it will for Audacity/Ableton Live.
If you have this problem, proceed to the Troubleshooting step below.
3b. Troubleshooting: Get Windows to recognise the amp as an input device
One possible reason for the amp not appearing as an Input device option may be that the amp is hidden and/or disabled. We are going to try and un-hide and enable it.
In your system Sound settings, click “Sound Control Panel”:
Then, in the dialog that appears, go to both the “Playback” and “Recording” tabs and right-click in the open area (shown below), and check the “Show Disabled Devices” option in the menu:
Specifically, we want the amp to show up under the “Recording” tab. If it does, right-click the amp > “Enable”:
After enabling it, it may say “Ready” or “Default Device” or “Default Communications Device“. Any of these should be fine but if you have a problem such as loud background whitenoise, try setting the amp as your default recording device by right-clicking your amp > “Set as Default Device”:
Finally, click “OK” to save your Sound Control Panel setting changes.
If things are looking shiny so far, proceed to the next step (4a).
If no dice at this point, try restarting your computer (and refer to my general troubleshooting tips) then try again, and/or skip to steps 5 and 6. I happened to download/install the ASIO4ALL driver (step 5) and Fender FUSE (step 6) before I managed to figure out what I needed to do here. Good luck ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
4a. Configure Audacity settings
Launch Audacity. These settings worked for me:
In Audacity’s device configuration toolbar (from left to right):
Audio host: MME ← default setting
Input device: Internal AUX Jack (Mustang Amplifier) ← important
Input channels: 1 (Mono) ← I used this because my toy keyboard is mono and so is the Fender Mustang III V.2 amp.
Output device: Microsoft Sound Mapper – Output ← default setting
At the bottom left of your Audacity window:
Project Rate: 44100Hz ← default setting
You can also view/edit these settings by hitting Ctrl + P or going to “Edit” -> “Preferences”:
Optional reading: You can learn more about the device configuration toolbar at the official Audacity wiki here.
4b. Troubleshooting: Audacity error appears after clicking the record button – “Error opening sound device. Try changing the audio host, recording device and the project sample rate”
I ran into this error and I believe it is because I had Audacity and Ableton Live open at the same time, and Ableton Live was hogging the amp — even though Ableton Live wouldn’t receive any signal from the amp at the time — and conflicting with Audacity which also needed access to the amp. Although the culprit in my case was Ableton Live, it might not be for you, in which case you could try to identify/confirm the offending app through process of elimination like I did (at one point, I suspected Skype, Discord, Cortana, and even Google Chrome which also have access to / make use of the mic) and try the instructions below.
There is a property for your recording devices that allows applications (such as Ableton Live) to take exclusive control of a device. We are going to lift that restriction:
Exit Audacity, Ableton Live, and/or any other apps.
Go to the system Sound Control Panel (see step 3b) > right-click the device (i.e. the amp) > “Properties” > go to the “Advanced” tab > UNCHECK “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device” > “OK” -> “OK“
I suggest restarting your computer after this. Relaunch Audacity and try again to record into it.
Ideally everything should be working by now, because the following steps (5-7) are kind of a crapshoot.
5. Install ASIO driver ——— OPTIONAL
ASIO4ALL is the Universal ASIO Driver For WDM Audio.
It can be downloaded for free at http://asio4all.org/. After installing ASIO4ALL, restart your computer.
You’ll benefit from having an ASIO driver for working in Ableton Live in general, but official releases of Audacity don’t support ASIO and you must build Audacity yourself to use ASIO with it.
The Fender website states that “No special drivers are necessary for either Windows or MacOS to record audio from your amp to your computer” but recommends downloading and installing the ASIO driver if your audio editing software requires low latency (see How to reduce USB audio latency by using an ASIO™ driver with a Windows-based computer ). Latency is basically the time between playing a note and when it reaches the recording software.
As stated above, it appears that the ASIO driver is unnecessary for recording into Audacity and I have learned that official releases of Audacity (i.e. the version we got in step 1 above) do not include ASIO support due to licensing restrictions. I think what that means here is even if you install the ASIO driver, you’ll have it but you can’t use it in/with Audacity. The exception is if you compile Audacity with ASIO support (I did not) if you want lower latency. To support that further, the ASIO4ALL instruction manual that comes with the installation states that an ASIO4ALL system tray icon should appear if the ASIO4ALL driver is initialized by a running application – this does not appear to apply to Audacity.
Side Note: I believe Fender used to have their own version of the ASIO driver but I think they axed it in favour of ASIO4ALL. There are mentions of a Fender ASIO driver in various forums and dead pages on the Fender website. I did not get a copy of the Fender ASIO driver or install it.
6. Install Fender FUSE ——— OPTIONAL
Fender FUSE is the preset manager and amp controller software for the Fender Mustang I-IV V.2 guitar amplifiers. Originally I thought I had to get FUSE in order to have recording work or maybe that it has recording functionality (it doesn’t). In retrospect, I don’t think this step was actually necessary, but I think it’s nice to have anyway. I may start making custom presets for my toy keyboard!
Fender has discontinued and no longer supports their FUSE software as of March 2020 and the download link has been removed from their main website. If you still wish to download and install Fender FUSE, I’ve found a few different options that are still available at the time of writing this.
Look below for various resources/downloads.
User manual (.pdf):
HERE is a link to a PDF copy of the Fender FUSE owner’s manual.
Download Fender FUSE (3 different download locations):
– Download a copy from the Portuguese version of the Fender website. Click “Baxiar” which means download. If you want to look around on the page but can’t read Portuguese, you can use Google Translate to translate the whole page.
– Download a copy linked in this Reddit comment (this is the one I used), or in this comment, both of which are responses to this thread.
Required for Fender FUSE – Microsoft Silverlight:
From what I have read, Fender FUSE requires Microsoft Silverlight (which also got discontinued and is the main reason why Fender FUSE was discontinued): Download Microsoft Silverlight here if you don’t already have it, and if you’re running into problems with Microsoft Silverlight, try the fixes described here. I think I already had Silverlight, but I downloaded and (re)installed it anyway, and I did not need to make use of any fixes.
7. Install Ableton Live and configure settings
If you are only interested in getting Audacity set up, this step is optional.
I already had Ableton Live 10 Lite installed and wanted to get that working as well. Since I was able to, I have included screenshots of my settings below.
Download and Install the ASIO4ALL driver:
Download and Install Ableton Live (Lite):
Get Ableton Live 10 Lite or comparable version. If you don’t have a license and don’t want to shell out more $, here are some options:
– You can download a free trial of Ableton Live from ableton.com/en/trial/
– Check here to see if any of your musical/audio equipment or products are eligible for a free copy of the latest version of Ableton Live Lite. Secondhand equipment is still eligible.
You might need to create an account on their website.
Here are the official instructions for installing Ableton Live.
Configure settings in your Windows Sound system as needed:
Configure settings in Ableton Live 10 Lite:
Launch Ableton Live 10.
On the right side there should be a column menu called “Live 10 Lessons“.
Try the following two tutorials in the list:
- “Audio I/O” which will guide you step by step through setting up your audio hardware.
- “Recording Audio” which will guide you through the recording setup (e.g. assigning incoming audio signals / inputs to a track) and related process.
These are the settings that worked for me:
Options > Preferences > Audio:
Options > Preferences > Audio > Input Config:
Options > Preferences > Audio > Hardware Setup:
This step opens the ASIO4ALL driver tool through Ableton. You should close any application other than Ableton Live that has ready access to your microphone (including system sound setting windows) first so you can set this part up properly.
Troubleshooting Tip: If you suddenly start getting a loud scratchy white noise type sound during audio playback after making changes in the ASIO4ALL driver tool, click the diamond button on the bottom right corner to reset your ASIO4ALL driver settings and restart your computer.
The “Mustang Amplifier” is set to enabled, and the top level “input” items listed under my laptop’s sound system (Realtek High Definition Audio(SST)) are set to disabled:
Expanded view of above for clarity:
In Arrangement View, these are my channel selections (3 and 4 happened to be the ones associated with my amp/guitars):
Remember to arm your track (rectangle with dot in top right is red).
This has been quite the riveting exercise for me. I ended up making a bunch of adjustments and amendments to this post as I was learning new things and figuring stuff out the days after I published it!
The notes I’ve included in this post are a collection of things I found interesting or really wish I had known before/while I was getting my Fender Mustang III V.2 amp set up for recording using its USB connection feature.
At the very least I got Audacity going for me I’m glad I figured out a working recording setup in Audacity and Ableton Live 10 Lite and I hope you did too (or learned something).
For greater flexibility in your music production workflow options, it is worth investing in a separate audio interface.
I do wish that this post has saved you or somebody else’s time / sanity.
If you followed my suggestions please leave some feedback in the comment section about what worked or didn’t work for you!
Shop The Products In This Post (Using My Affiliate Links)
Here are the various items I have mentioned. If you click a product below and buy it, I will get to earn a small portion of the sale amount through the Amazon Affiliate program. All proceeds go towards running this website or purchasing materials for my projects – thanks for your support!
- I’ve linked to the Fender Mustang I V.2 (the base model, no LCD) instead of the Fender Mustang III V.2; all Fender Mustang V.2s have the mini USB connection feature.
- I personally have the AmazonBasics mini USB cable as well as the Kingtop combo audio adapter and I can say that they are of good quality.
- The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) allows more flexibility than the Scarlett Solo/simpler models. I recommend getting a 2i4 (2nd gen) or 4i4 (3rd gen) if you want midi support.