Pedalboard amps - that being a guitar pedal-based preamp/frontend with speaker emulation for going direct into a cab or PA system - have become big news in recent times. In the last few months we’ve seen offerings from Blackstar with its Dept.10 series, the Orange Guitar Butler, IK Multimedia’s X-Drive, Victory Kraken and more.
Now, effects veteran Carl Martin has pulled up a chair at the pedalboard amp table with its new Ampster: a completely analogue, valve-driven preamp designed to either complement your current amp, or replace it entirely.
The single-channel Ampster gives us a set of familiar amp channel controls, with gain, three-band EQ, presence and a master volume control on the face of the pedal.
Two footswitches offer LED colour-coded speaker emulation switching (red for 2x12” or green for 4x12”) and output muting. There’s even a window for you to take a look at that 12AX7!
The back panel of the Ampster is well-stocked, too, with a three-position voicing switch which tailors the low end response, plus a ground lift switch to help eliminate any unwanted earth problems.
Connectivity-wise, there’s a balanced XLR direct output for connecting straight to a PA or powered cab, effects send and return allowing you to route external pedals in the same way as an amp, a remote input for external foot-switching of the cabinet type, and a link output for routing your guitar’s dry signal to another amp or device.
Tonally, the Ampster delivers a clean-to-driven preamp sound, with some Marshall-y type overdrives at its higher gain settings. It’s powered by a 9v/1000mA PSU, which Carl Martin doesn’t actually provide with the Ampster due to “various import regulations in different countries” but does suggest its PowerJack or similar power supply.
The Carl Martin Ampster is available now, priced at $299/€299.