Blackstar Dept.10 Amped 1: What is it?
Blackstar’s rise to fame as one of the world’s leading guitar amp manufacturers is well documented, and certainly one of the reasons it’s arrived at the top and stayed there is that the team never seems to stop innovating.
Almost every month, or so it seems, there’s something new to tempt us and now it’s the turn of Blackstar’s Dept. 10, its ‘blue sky’ research and development team. Hot on the heels of last year’s multi-award-winning valve Dual Drive, Dual Distortion and Boost pedals, the latest product to bear the Dept. 10 moniker is the Amped 1, a 100-watt multi-function amplifier in a package small enough to fit on your pedalboard. Like all Blackstar products, the Amped 1 is smartly presented with clean, uncluttered cosmetics.
The electronics are contained inside a tough chassis with a white enamelled aluminium faceplate and a contrasting black steel base. There’s very little space inside, yet everything is neatly laid out, with mostly SMD components on high-quality printed circuit boards.
The Amped 1 is basically a single-channel design, with a choice of three preamp voices and six power amp response options. The top-facing controls are straightforward and easy to navigate, with knobs for Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble and a Master volume.
There’s also a level control for Amped 1’s digital reverb and a six-way rotary switch that changes the power amp response to emulate KT88, 6L6, EL34, 6V6 and EL84 output valves, with a Linear option for when you want the amplification to be transparent. There are LED indicators for all the switches, as well as an illuminated Blackstar logo.
A small three-way toggle switch selects from USA or UK preamp voicings, with a third option called Flat for use with external modelling preamps. Another three-way toggle switch selects three output levels, from one watt to 20 watts and the full-power 100-watt option.
There are two footswitches: the left one toggles the built-in reverb and also activates a cool Freeze function, while the right-hand switch can be used to save and recall a snapshot of the control settings. On the right-hand side of the pedal, you’ll find the mono XLR and stereo jack headphones/line outputs for the Amped 1’s built-in Cab Rig speaker emulation, with a three-way preset selector switch and Level control.
The busy back panel includes a switched universal mains connector, a single input jack, a USB ‘C’ socket for direct recording and connection to Blackstar’s Architect desktop app, and an effects loop that can be configured for series or parallel operation.
There’s a pair of nine-volt DC outlets for powering external stompboxes up to a total current draw of 500mA, and a pair of speaker outlets for eight and 16-ohm cabinets. The Amped 1’s MIDI in socket uses a space-saving 3.5mm TRS (Tip Ring Send) jack instead of the usual five-pin DIN socket, while the effects loop uses a 6.35mm TRS socket for audio send and return.
Adaptors for both are included, along with a USB ‘A’ to ‘C’ lead, for desktop connection. The other dominant feature on the rear panel is a small fan, which pulls in air to cool the internals, exiting from a perforated grille in the front, under the footswitches.
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Blackstar Dept.10 Amped 1: Performance and verdict
We tried out Blackstar’s Amped 1 with our usual selection of electric guitars, including an old Strat loaded with Duncan Alnico Pro single coils and a PAF-equipped Les Paul. Used into a 1x12 Vintage 30-loaded cabinet, the Amped 1 is practically silent at switch-on, with just the faintest whirr from the cooling fan.
Some fan-equipped amps can be intrusive at low volume; the fan on the Amped 1 is so quiet it’s quickly forgotten. The USA preamp voice is low gain and high headroom, making it ideal for pedals as well as country picking and jazz, with a sweet high-end, warm bass and a gently scooped midrange. The UK voice has more gain and a punchy, dynamic midrange that evokes classic British heads from the late 1970s and early 80s.
We’d class this voice as medium gain, with more than enough drive for crunch, blues and classic rock sounds. The third voice, called Flat, is intended for use with external modelling preamps. For this voice, the EQ controls function in semi-parametric mode, with everything neutral at the 12 o’clock setting.
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The Amped 1’s virtual output valve settings will be familiar to Blackstar Silverline owners, with a choice of five distinct output valve responses, including KT88, 6L6, EL34, 6V6 and EL84 options, together with a linear setting intended to work in tandem with the Flat preamp voice, for when external modellers are being used to emulate amp responses.
The virtual output valves are spookily authentic, providing a progressive increase in output stage compression and distortion as you move from the bold and very dynamic Class AB KT88 setting, through to the Class A compression and chime of the EL84.
To hear the output stage differences better at lower volume levels, you can reduce the Amped 1’s full-on 100 watts to 20 watts or just one watt, which is still plenty loud enough for home practice but lets you crank the master volume a little more. The digital reverb is toggled on and off by the Reverb footswitch, which can also be held down to activate a cool Freeze function, extending the reverb decay time to create synth-like pad effects.
For live use, the Amped 1 delivers its full power into either the eight or 16-ohm speaker output jacks, producing more than enough volume on the 100-watt setting to handle any gig, large or small.
We said the Amped 1 is best described as a single-channel amp, but with the exception of output power and master volume, you can store and recall your control settings into a single onboard memory slot, using the Preset footswitch. Saving a preset is a simple matter of holding down the footswitch for a couple of seconds until the LED flashes.
To make editing easier, there’s a handy ‘recall’ LED by the Gain knob that flashes when the original control value is met. Switching Preset off reverts to the sound of the current control settings, so it’s possible to operate the Amped 1 as a semi-two-channel amp – for example, using a manually dialled-in rhythm sound that can be switched to a saved lead voice.
The Amped 1 also includes Blackstar’s excellent Cab Rig speaker emulation, which gives you dynamic control of a virtual room environment, including room, cabinet and microphone type and positioning.
The Cab Rig outputs are on the right-hand side of the unit’s chassis, with a mono-balanced XLR and stereo headphones/line out, together with a Level control and a three-position preset selector switch. You can also record the stereo Cab Rig output via USB, along with a non-effected preamp output and a dry guitar sound, for reamping. The Amped 1 can also receive audio from a computer for monitoring or backing-track playback.
The Cab Rig settings are accessed, edited and stored using Blackstar’s Architect desktop app, which connects via a USB ‘C’ socket on the rear panel. Architect edits the rest of the Amped 1 controls, too, along with several hidden functions including reverb type, loop configuration and firmware updates. The app’s clean, uncluttered graphics and logical layout make it very easy to use.
Plugged into a DAW via USB, the Cab Rig sounds are superb, providing highly realistic room emulations that can be edited in real-time, needing little or no EQ to sit perfectly in a mix and keeping the creative process spontaneous by saving hours that might be wasted scrolling through static IRs.
If you wrote a list of all the features you’d want to see in the perfect pedalboard amplifier, Blackstar’s Amped 1 would probably have every box ticked. Weighing in at just over 1kg (2.8lb) and roughly the same size as an average paperback, it’s highly portable. You can use it as a standalone amp or you can not only amplify your pedalboard but also power it using the external DC outlets, provided the total current draw is under 500mA.
If you have a modelling preamp, you can also use the Amped 1 as a flat-response mini PA system. While it’s great for live gigs, it really shines in the studio where the integrated Cab Rig’s dynamic cabinet emulations reduce the time needed to get great recorded tones to a matter of a few seconds.
MusicRadar verdict: Aimed at serious players at all levels, we think it’s great value for money when you look at what’s on offer. Whatever your equipment setup, the Amped 1’s inspiring features and superb tones will open the door to all kinds of creative possibilities.
Blackstar Dept.10 Amped 1: The web says
"it does feel and respond like Blackstar’s Silverline amps. Crucially, as a foundation for your tones it offers the clean headroom the Dual preamps were lacking and that enhances the full amp experience.
"The simple three-band EQ and clean layout make the transition from traditional amp to pedal layout feel smooth. And the Cab Rig/headphone amp makes for an easy transition to studio desk. It’s comprehensive and well-considered – there’s MIDI input too, though no stereo out – but most of all, Amped 1 can go fiercely loud and be tamed down efficiently to bedroom levels."
Total Guitar (opens in new tab)
"Plugging in our trusty Telecaster with the balanced out going to our rehearsal room PA, we’re greeted by the brightly lit black star letting us know the Amped 1 is alive and kicking when we flick the power switch. Setting the voice switch to USA, the response to 6L6, and the gain halfway we head straight for that linchpin ‘Twin’ tone and boy do we find it. Closing our eyes it’s damn close to the real deal and only the purest of purists would be able to tell otherwise."
Guitar (opens in new tab)
Blackstar Dept.10 Amped 1: Hands-on demos
Blackstar Dept.10 Amped 1: Specifications
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Analog/digital preamp, Class D power amp
- OUTPUT: 100W RMS into 16 ohms or 8 ohms, switchable to 20W or 1W
- DIMENSIONS: 200 (w) x 149 (d) x 81mm (h)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.28/2.8
- CABINET: Aluminium/steel
- CHANNELS: 1, with 3 selectable voices
- CONTROLS: Gain, voice select, bass, middle, treble, master volume, reverb level, output level select, power amp response select, Cab Rig select, Cab Rig level
- FOOTSWITCH: 2x integral switches for reverb on/off/freeze and preset save/select
- ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Built-in Cab Rig speaker emulation, 3-position virtual cab selector, balanced mono XLR out, stereo headphones/line out. 5 selectable power amp responses, plus linear, series/parallel effects loop (switched via Architect app), USB for direct recording and connection to Architect app, dual 9VDC outlets, MIDI in
- CONTACT: Blackstar Amplification (opens in new tab)