Blackstar Amped 2 review: Has Blackstar finally given guitarists the perfect all-in-one rig solution?
In 2007, a small UK team of ex-Marshall employees embarked on a quest to bring their grand ideas to fruition and introduce the world to a new major player in the world of guitar amplifiers. From the humble workshop beginnings of co-founder Ian Robinson’s garden shed, it’s fair to say even they could not have predicted the unbridled success Blackstar Amplification has earned in the 16 years since. As the years rock and rolled by, Blackstar’s continued innovation and diversification in its catalogue lead us to Amped 1 in late 2022; showing that a portable, versatile amp pedal with the company’s technological flair was indeed possible.
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Keeping pace, let alone staying ahead, in this now fast evolving amp pedal market is no easy task, but Blackstar has kept its foot firmly on the release accelerator with the feature rich, customisable beast that is the Amped 2; an effects-loaded powerhouse aiming to be your one-stop-shop for your home, stage, and studio setup.
The much larger, much redder, yet still fairly lightweight sequel boasts extensive effects options including delay and a three-way modulation section, with footswitches added for each. The modulation parameters offer control over time, depth and level, while the one-knob reverb of the Amped 1 has been significantly expanded to select between room, spring and plate on the pedal itself (rather than via the CabRig software like the predecessor). All of which sound superb.
Usability has been enhanced even further by the arrival of a small screen for level control accuracy and the new built-in guitar tuner. The three-way CabRig DSP speaker simulation preset selector remains from the Amped 1 and each sound is again customisable via the free Architect software, as are all the other stock patches.
With the intuitive amplifier and EQ settings adjusted with physical controls, the Amped 2 allows easy shaping of tones across its three voices: USA, UK, and Classic. The headroom on offer is impressive and automatically matches to your speaker cab’s impedance to showcase an excellent range of Blackstar’s expertise in sound design. The introduction of three customisable drive voices enhances the already impressive selection to underline the all-in-one proposition here. Boost, drive, and fuzz are the options, and are placed before the amplifier in the signal chain. All three sound satisfying enough, however the drive and the boost voices can lack a bit of low end for the hard-rockers amongst us, and had us itching for the extra power of our own overdrive and distortion pedals.
Luckily Amped 2, like its predecessor, takes real pedals like a champ with the option of the FX loop too, again powering them via two 9V DC outputs (up to 500mA draw). The dynamic and clean USA setting is the standout pedal platform here by far, having us question whether Blackstar actually did sneak a tube or two inside the casing like its Dept 10 preamp pedals.
So the burning question still remains: can the Blackstar Amped 2 be the all-in-one rig for all your needs? Make no mistake about it, this is a giant leap towards that. Some players may be disappointed with the fact there are only two outputs for other pedals, so there’s no evolution from Amped 1 in this regard. But buying a two-way splitter power daisy chain cable would address that, provided you stay under that 500mA power draw limit. Overall, the myriad improvements, genuinely excellent tones, and connectivity options elevate the Amped 2 far beyond the original, as it surges to the forefront of pedal amps on the market.
DESCRIPTION: Solid-state pedal power amplifier pedal with onboard modulation, delay, reverb, power amp response selection and digital cab emulation.
POWER RATING: 100W / 20W / 1W
CONTROLS: Drive (Drive, Tone, Level), drive type mini toggle (Boost / Drive / Fuzz), Modulation (Time, Depth, Level), modulation type mini toggle (Chorus / Flanger / Tremolo / Phaser) Amplifier (Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Master volume), amp channel mini toggle (USA / UK / Classic), Delay (Time, Feedback, Level). Delay type mini toggle (Linear / Analogue / Shimmer), Reverb (Time, Level), reverb type mini toggle (Room / Spring / Plate), Power Amp Response mini toggle (EL84/EL34/6L6), Power mini toggle(1W / 20W / 100W). Tap tempo, Drive, Modulation, Delay and Reverb footswitches
FEATURES: Speaker Outputs (8 and 16 OHM), MIDI In/Out, 2 x 9V outputs (500mA total), Balanced XLR out, USB-|C CabRig output, Line Out/Phones, Level, FX Loop In/Out.
DIMENSIONS: W 29cm x D 15cm x H 8cm
CONTACT: Blackstar Amps
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