Blackstar have their credentials stamped all over modern Rock and Metal. No nonsense multi channel tone harbringers, the series one range of amps have become the “go-to” amp for today’s guitarists.Four selected KT88 power valves form the backbone of this 200W high gain power house and provide unbelievable dynamics and head-room. The DPR control allows the power to be reduced down to 20W for beautiful power amp distortion at a much lower volume level.
Setting new standards in tonal flexibility, the deceptively simple preamp section has four world-beating channels (6 modes) which are further augmented by dual ISF controls.
One cool thing about the S1’s bright and warm clean options is that, behind the scenes, the power amp is also being reconfigured, going from Class A operation with no feedback in bright mode, to Class AB with feedback in warm mode. This makes for a dramatic difference between the two clean modes. Combined with Blackstar’s ISF control, the EQ is wide-ranging, yet easy to dial in, and the gain range for both clean sounds is perfectly tuned.
Where the clean modes finish, the S1’s crunch takes over and we’d have to say that the crunch mode has some of the best tone and response we’ve heard from any amp in any price bracket for a very long time. Bold and very forward-sounding with a fast attack, it’s supremely responsive to player input and once again it is very rewarding to be able to tune in exactly the right output stage response using the DPR control.
“Unlike other manufacturers’ power reduction features, ours doesn’t sit between the valves and the loudspeakers,” explains Blackstar’s Bruce Keir. “A lot of the magic in a great amp happens in that chain from output valve to transformer to loudspeaker and you mess with it at your sonic peril. The DPR circuit reduces the output valve’s voltages proportionally, maintaining that dynamic feel of power stage ‘sag’ and compression at any output level”.
Switching to super crunch mode kicks everything up a gear for blistering solos, yet roll off the guitar’s volume knob and you’re back in Cleansville – it’s very responsive.
As well as the aforementioned clean and crunch sounds, the S1-200 has an extra preamp valve and two extra lead modes with familiar-sounding names. OD1 has the more pronounced mid-range typically associated with classic Brit sounds, while OD2 is more balanced and aggressive.
Both overdrives have massive gain, but somehow manage to retain plenty of response and clarity too, which isn’t easy. There’s none of the piercing high-frequency fizz often heard in this style of amp – it’s been deliberately designed out and the end result is a much more natural distortion that provides great clarity, which breathes and responds to what you play, rather than just superimposing itself on the guitar’s signal. It goes without saying that this amp can be brutally loud, but with DPR you can fine-tune how much of the power you need.
If you want to get massive stadium-sized cranked-up tones at pub volumes, the S1-200 does it better than almost any other amp we know.
Blackstar’s Series 1 range has found a lot of fans at all levels, from serious amateurs to top pro players. You’ll apreciate the care that’s evident in every corner of the design. Cool ‘secret’ features such as digital valve monitoring (which automatically puts the amp into standby if you pull the guitar lead out) and MIDI channel switching are great, but let’s be in no doubt about this, the bottom line is great tone and the Blackstar Series One amps have got bucket-loads of it.
Thanks to the combination of British design and Korean manufacturing, the price is incredible considering the performance potential which makes the Blackstar Series One 200 Watt Head very, very hard to beat.
If you are a serious about sound…this could be your amp…seriously.