You are here

Blackstar Amped 1

Guitar Amp With Speaker Sim & USB Interface By Paul White
Published November 2022

Blackstar Amped 1

The past few years have seen sophisticated amp‑in‑a‑pedal products from several companies, so it comes as little surprise that UK company Blackstar are launching their own take on the concept. Their new Amped 1 combines a universal‑voltage switch‑mode power supply with analogue front‑end electronics, digital signal processing and a Class‑D, 100W power stage, and it builds on the company’s modelling expertise.

On the face of it, the facilities are very similar to those found on some larger Blackstar amps. The substantial metal casework features a sloping top panel and a vertical rear panel, formed from a single sheet, and most of the connections are on the rear panel, though the DI output connectors are on the right‑hand side panel. On the top, gain, three‑band EQ and master volume controls are augmented by switchable USA, UK or flat voicings, and an adjustable digital reverb. There are three power settings here: 1W, 20W and 100W. The amp character can also be changed quite radically, using the Response dial. This switches between a range of different output valve characteristics: KT88, 6L6, EL34, 6V6, EL84 or linear, the last for those occasions on which you might want to use Amped 1 as a power stage having used another preamp to shape the sound. The footswitch to the right toggles between the current panel settings and one stored preset, effectively giving the amp dual‑channel capability. The leftmost switch turns the reverb on or off. For some reason I can’t fathom, pedal amps of this kind always seem to omit a tremolo, and the Amped 1 is no exception.

The Amped 1 features both balanced line and headphone outputs, with switchable speaker cabinet emulation.The Amped 1 features both balanced line and headphone outputs, with switchable speaker cabinet emulation.The 1W setting is perfect for studio use, should you prefer to plug the Amped 1 into a cabinet and mic it up. But you also have the option of a balanced XLR DI output and a headphone/line output on the right side panel. These are processed via Blackstar’s Cab Rig system, which provides an authentic miked‑cab sound with three switchable cab options and a level control. Further changes to these cab/mic settings can be made using Blackstar’s free Architect software.

Around the back of the unit is a switchable IEC inlet socket — there are no annoying external PSUs to contend with — and there are jack outlets to accommodate either an 8Ω or 16Ω speaker. A small (and thankfully quiet) fan keeps the unit cool. A jack socket accommodates the guitar input, plus there’s a TRS send and return loop jack, for accessing a post‑preamp effects loop (switchable series or parallel and pre/post the onboard reverb, using the Architect software). A very thoughtful inclusion is a pair of 9V pedal PSU sockets, which can supply up to a maximum total of 500mA. A USB‑C port on the rear handles firmware updates and connection to the Architect software, and also supports direct‑to‑DAW recording with speaker emulation. The MIDI in TRS minijack makes it possible to access all the controls remotely, and a 3.5mm TRS jack‑to‑DIN MIDI adaptor cable is included to make connection to external devices easy. The default channel 1 MIDI setting can be changed within the Architect software if required.

This amp handily doubles up as a power supply for two more pedals.This amp handily doubles up as a power supply for two more pedals.The Architect software isn’t essential but I found it useful, not only for fine‑tuning the speaker cab/mic setups (which can replace the three preset positions) but also for switching between the three reverb types, Room, Spring and Plate. It also allows the reverb tonality and decay time to be tweaked. When I first tried the amp, I felt that the default reverb was a little mid‑heavy and boxy sounding for my tastes, and it turned out that this was because the default setting is Room. Switching to Spring or Plate produced a much more lively sound, and one that I preferred — if you do too, it’s easy enough to save this in a new preset. You could just set the front‑panel controls as required and then hold down the Preset footswitch to save your settings, but using Architect you can also choose reverb parameters that are different from the WYSIWYG panel settings.

By way of sound, the UK voicing goes from fairly clean to a bluesy break‑up, and with humbucking pickups can also stray into classic rock territory. Touch responsiveness is good, with the sound cleaning up well as you play less aggressively or pull down the guitar volume control. The choice of output valve modelling provides a number of tonal and responsiveness shadings, and I invariably gravitated towards the EL84 setting (I have a soft spot for Vox‑style jangle!). In US mode, the sound is very clean unless you crank up the master level control to bring in some power‑amp saturation, but even using the 1W setting that can end up being quite loud for studio use. Set clean, either voicing works well with drive pedals, and having pedal power built in is welcome — you can create a very compact setup. One thing that did elude me was a way to balance the volumes of the main sound and the preset sound, as there’s no separate ‘channel’ volume control.

The speaker emulation sounds very authentic to my ears, and offers a decent amount of choice when it comes to speaker types and miking options.

As with other Blackstar products that use Cab Rig, the speaker emulation sounds very authentic to my ears, and offers a decent amount of choice when it comes to speaker types and miking options too. If you just took the line output into an audio interface for recording, you’d get great results. But recording directly via USB cuts out unnecessary A‑D and D‑A conversion stages.

The Amped 1 is compatible with the same Cab Rig software used to configure other Blackstar amps.The Amped 1 is compatible with the same Cab Rig software used to configure other Blackstar amps.


Blackstar have a solid reputation for building great‑sounding amplifiers, both traditional valve types and more modern digital modelling ones. Their Cab Rig speaker emulation sounds authentic, with versatile cabinet and microphone options, so putting all this together in a pedal was obviously a good move. I’d have liked a way to change reverb types directly from the front panel (or would have settled for Spring as the default reverb), and a means of balancing the preset sound level against whatever was set up on the front panel. But they’re pretty small issues in the grand scheme of things, and other than that the Amped 1 is a very strong performer.

So, if you need a compact and versatile 100W amp ‘head’ that sounds good at any volume and is also well suited to recording, you should definitely give the Amped 1 a try.


£439 including VAT.

Sweetwater Affiliate logo 14px