Last year, we had a look at Blackstar’s AMPED 1 and were suitably impressed with the tones it produced as well as its versatility as a product. Blackstar has followed up with their new AMPED 2. The AMPED 2 is somewhat of an expansion on the first model, adding more features that make this new version an even more powerful and useful tool for the gigging, recording and working musician (as well as the home hobbyist). We took a look at the latest from Blackstar and were not disappointed!
The AMPED 2 is slightly larger than its sibling, including 5 stomp switches and a small screen on its face. Its striking red colour also demands attention, looking great on top of an amp, on a studio desktop or indeed nestled among your other favourite stomps on a pedalboard. The AMPED 2 boasts a number of outputs for a wide range of use options including a direct out (to use the OD and effects and go to another amp), XLR out (to use the cab simulated output to go direct to the desk or recording interface) and an 8 and 16 ohm output to plug directly into a speaker cabinet. For the latter the AMPED 2 (like its sibling) has 100w, 20w and 1w output level options selectable via a switch on the unit. Throw in an effects loop as well as MIDI ins and outs and both audio and control via USB-C and you have a seriously versatile unit!
While the AMPED 1 has 6 different tube response types and a ‘linear response for using with modelling units, the AMPED 2 has paired this back to just include the essentials in the tube types: EL34, EL84, and 6L6. Effectively, this gives you ‘Marshall-ish’, ‘Vox-ish’ and ‘Fender-ish’ tones. There is also an amp type setting going from ‘USA’ (clean), ‘UK’ (more gain) to ‘Classic’ (most gain). The amp itself has the usual three-way EQ and gain and master volume. We found all the settings here produced very pleasing tones from pristine-clean all the way through AC/DC crunch to modern shred tones. These different amp tones are all saveable and accessible via MIDI too.
The main difference to the AMPED 1 comes in the effects section. The AMPED 2 includes a drive section which has an overdrive; voiced somewhat like a tubescreamer, though perhaps with a little more tone range, a boost; again with a wide tonal range, able to get all the way from dark to treble style boost and a fuzz, capable of really thick fuzz tones. It also includes a modulation section containing a chorus and flanger, phaser and a harmonic and optical tremolo. A reverb section has a lush-sounding spring, plate and hall reverb, and the delay section contains an analog style delay, digital delay and a shimmer delay. The inclusion of the shimmer on this unit we thought was a particularly good idea, as it’s a sound that is becoming more popular again, and not easily found on units – especially ones like this! The delay also has a dedicated tap tempo button for keeping those repeats in time. All of these effects are accessible via individual footswitches, and once again presets are saveable via MIDI.
Finally, the USB-C allows for both access to the Blackstar Architect software allowing for mixing and matching of cab and amp types, of which three can be saved and accessed without a computer via a switch on the unit, and even more saved an accessed via MIDI. The cabs sims include everything from open-back small 1×10 and 1×12 combos to closed-back 4×12 rock behemoths and a huge array of mics from SM57s, C414s, R121s and more. This amounts to a truly staggering number of available sounds. On top of this, the AMPED 2 can act as an interface for plugging your guitar directly into your computer and recording to your DAW. Did we also mention the 2 x 9v pedal power outlets included on the back of the unit for quickly adding your favourite stomps into the signal chain? The list of features is seemingly endless!
The AMPED 2 joins a long list of incredible products in the market these days that tick a lot of boxes in terms of versatility and functionality. The AMPED2 is the perfect grab-and-go unit: perhaps you just need a basic set-up for a quick gig, perhaps a basic set-up for a rehearsal or a one-off interstate gig. You might want a backup rig in case your main rig goes down, or perhaps a unit that you can have on your board that will cover both direct or to the amp setups, or even directly to a cab on stage. You might want a unit on your studio desktop that allows you to dial up an array of tones (and really quickly) for different projects you might be working on. These days we are truly spoiled for choice as guitarists when it comes to extremely versatile units that can cover a huge amount of territory and the AMPED 2 comfortably sits among the best of these.
Blackstar is distributed by CMI Music & Audio in Australia