Blackstar’s entry to the growing market of “all in one” compact amplifier/effects units claims to offer a high degree of usability built around famous tones – but don’t they all?
With 100 watts of Class D output (adjustable to 20 watts and one watt), creating a sound with the Amped 2 starts by selecting one of three Amplifier voicings labeled USA, UK, and Classic (patterned on Blackstar’s 6L6 amps with cascading gain). From there, a three-band EQ allows for tweaking to taste, aided by knobs for Gain and Master Volume.
Running the Amped 2 direct to a mid-sized PA, the unit proffered respectable base sounds with noteworthy touch sensitivity. The footswitched Drive function brings Boost, Drive, and Fuzz with knobs to adjust Drive, Tone, and Level; Boost nicely bumps output for a solo that cuts or can be pushed to overdrive, Drive quickly becomes a distortion, and Fuzz delivers as much as you’ll need.
While running the A2 direct to a PA is great fun, going to 1×12 cabs with a Celestion Custom 90 and H75 Creamback proved especially satisfying thanks to the Power Amp section’s Response switch, which nicely models the feel (sag, tightness, etc.) that draws adulation for each tube type – EL84, EL34, and 6L6 – when playing through proper speakers. Fans of clean headroom may not appreciate how quickly all of the settings break up.
The unit’s effects section is the two-thumbs-up show stealer. Under the Modulation header is a toggle to choose Chorus/Flange, Tremolo, and Phaser along with controls to adjust Time, Depth, and Level. The Delay toggle selects Linear, Analogue, and Shimmer with knobs for Time, Feedback, and Level, while the Reverb toggle selects Room, Spring, and Plate with knobs to alter Time and Level. All are very responsive and add obvious dynamics; Level is super-useful when bouncing between Power Amp Response settings, and we really liked how the OLED display shows a numerical value while adjusting each effect, which are engaged with separate footswitches.
The unit’s CabRig feature simulates cabinets, mics, and rooms, and functions much like it does on Blackstar’s St. James amp. Each of three factory presets performs well as-is and can be modified and saved by using Blackstar’s Architect app.
Other handy features include outputs for 8- and 16-ohm cabs, two outlets for powering outboard pedals, balanced XLR and 1/4″ stereo out jacks, effects loop, four-channel USB out for connecting to a DAW, headphone/line out, MIDI compatibility, and a tuner.
Solidly constructed with high-quality components, the Amped 2 brings a lot at a reasonable price. It may not have diehards shoving aside their tube amps for live gigs, but it’s also just 11.3″ wide and weighs 4.3 pounds, and its sounds are highly satisfying. There’s a place for it wherever portability and practicality are as important as good tone.
This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.