AS A CERTIFIED GUITAR DORK, I NEVER HAVE A
huff diving into an amp’s controls and crafting
sounds. But true bliss is achieved when I plug
right into an amp, and am immediately overwhelmed
with a sound so righteous that I want
to play non-stop for 17 hours, then take a bathroom/
nap/Cherry Coke break and start playing
That’s what it felt like the first time I
plugged my favorite Les Paul into the Blackstar
Series One 45. It held me in its sway after
one chord, and didn’t release me—I can’t tell
you for how long, because I was gone—until I
had explored nearly every shade of its many
clean and overdrive sounds.
Designed by former Marshall R&D engineers
Ian Robinson and Bruce Keir, the Series
One takes the classic British roar and ups the
ante. The versatile beast can unleash a stout,
ballsy overdrive that would do AC/DC proud,
delve into outsider territory with Omar
Rodriguez Lopez and Nels Cline-style sounds,
serve up meaty clean tones, nail the gritty sting
favored by ’60s traditionalists and garage rockers,
and much more. While the Korea-manufactured
Series One doesn’t deliver the
tsunamis of saturation perpetrated by fire
breathers from Mesa/Boogie, Krank, and
Bogner, transforming it into an uber-high-gain
machine is only a matter of adding the appropriate
distortion pedal to your signal chain. By
the way, I played several gigs without a boost
or distortion pedal for solos, opting instead to
simply click from the amp’s Warm Clean or
Crunch mode to Super Crunch mode—a move
that let loose a delightfully old-school, fat-butnot-
overly-saturated lead tone.
To mete out its bountiful tonal options, the
Series One employs a unique Infinite Shape
Feature (ISF) that shifts the three EQ knobs
to either British (sweet mids, blossoming lows)
or American (tougher mids, tighter lows) characteristics,
as well as a Dynamic Power Reduction
control that sets the output from 40 watts
to 4.5 watts. The ability to dial in more or less
headroom with the DPR control, while simultaneously
changing the voicing of the EQ via
the ISF knob made working the Series One all
about digging the initial clean/overdrive sound
instantly, and then gleefully realizing, “Hey, if
I just twist this knob, I can get a bit more [pick
one] sizzle, chunk, kerrang, punch, articulation,
low-end wallop, skank, midrange gristle,
or you name it.” Very powerful stuff.
The only tonal downside is a very intense
Bright Clean mode, where the hyped highs
threatened to decouple my tympanic membranes
if I wasn’t careful. I used Warm Clean
exclusively, and, even then, backed down the
Treble a tad. Others may find the aggro highs
beneficial, as they can help cut through even
the thickest band mix, or maintain note articulation
when massive signal processing is
For gigging, the nearly indestructible Series
One is built like a World War II bunker. I
dumped it rudely into car trunks and onto
stages, and it still looks and plays like new.
However, the trade-off for such toughness is
weight, and after one punishing club gig lugging
the 64-pound amp up multiple stairs and
a raised stage, I prayed for an errant gamma
ray to transform me into the Hulk.
The Blackstar Series One is a brilliantly muscular
amp for anyone who demands glorious
tube tone. It’s not an inexpensive proposition—
and other options in its price range include
excellent combos from Marshall, Vox, Egnater,
Engl, and Bogner—but its ISF and DPR controls
offer bold twists on tone sculpting, and
it can handle just about any gig you throw at
it. The Series One’s combination of versatility,
innovation, and toughness win it an Editors’
MODEL Series One 45
PRICE $2,249 retail/$1,799 street
CHANNELS Two (with four modes)
CONTROLS Power (Dynamic Power Reduction), Master Volume,Master Presence,Master Resonance,ISF, Treble, Middle,Bass, Overdrive Volume, Overdrive Gain, Crunch/Super
Crunch switches,Clean Volume, Clean Gain, Warm Clean/Bright Clean switches, Impedance Selector.
TUBES Three ECC83 and one ECC82 preamp tubes, two EL34 power tubes.
POWER Selectable 45 watts to 4.5 watts.
SPEAKER Two 12" Celestion custom Neodymium.
EXTRAS Effects Send/Return (with selectable +4dBV/-10dBV level), Speaker Emulated Output (XLR and 1/4” jacks), MIDI In/Thru (for channel and program changes), FS-2
Footswitch (Bright Clean, Warm Clean, Crunch, Super Crunch).
WEIGHT 64 lbs
KUDOS Instantly fabulous tones.Versatile sounds.Innovative EQ. Built to survive a nuclear blast.
CONCERNS Heavy. Bright Clean mode’s high end is very aggressive.