I am interested in knowing if it is reasonable to expect an amp like a Mustang 3 to deliver an equal level of effects that a pedal board can provide. It seems to me that the amp has such a wide variety of effects available that one should just about be able to simulate anything a series of physical pedals can do. Still, I see that most lead players stick to a pedal board assembly for their effects and suspect there is a good reason for this. Perhaps it's the wide variety that is instantly available, yet for the most part it seems that 3 good effects are sufficient for most smaller scale settings / gigs.
Interested in feedback from the pros out there.
It really comes down to personal preference. Modeling amps like the Mustang have a wealth of built in effects for a very reasonable price. What's the trade off? Mainly the sound. The FX in these type amps don't sound bad, (and they certainly sound better than a plain dry sound!) but there's no way they compete sound quality wise, or offer the range of sounds/control as a well designed and built stomp box. Chances are, until you develop some very specific wants and needs RE pedals...the built in FX in a modeling amp would work very well for you.
This is the classic dilemma for a guitarist, eh? I've worked my way around the course, pedals, fx rackmount units, modeling amps... ended up where I started, with a big pedalboard. As mentioned before, the quality of the good stompboxes is just so much better and more controllable. Anytime you shove a hundred features into one device, it ends up doing nothing particularly well. It just does a lot of stuff in a mediocre way. I'm reminded of the cheap combo FM/CB radios for cars that were made back in the 80's. They pretty much sucked at both jobs.
The beauty of the little modeling amps, like the Fender Mustang series, is that you can buy one for cheap and play with it and fiddle with it and have a great time figuring out just what you like and what you'll never use.
Then it's time to build that pedalboard. You'll save a bundle on it, because you won't be wasting your money on the stuff you'll never use.
Seriously consider the good stuff. True bypass. Quality sound. You'll pay more, but you'll be happy with your choices. Five delay pedals that you hate still costs more than one good pedal that you love.