As a respected touring and recording guitarist for more than three decades, Thomas Blug has experienced the difficulties of traveling with heavy and bulky amps and cabinets. Which is largely why he and Russian engineer Andrey Polishchuk joined forces some years ago to create Amp1, a 100-watt amplifier containing four types of 100-watt tube amps (not models) in a package small enough to fit in a gig bag.
The latest version of Amp1 is the Mercury Edition, which is fully analog and uses a microphonic-resistant Nanotube in the power section to improve reliability and provide resistance to vibration from speaker cabinets and stages.
Amp1 has one Clean channel, which the first footswitch can exchange for one of three Overdrive channels. The middle boost switch operates on all four channels, as does the reverb switch on the far right. Optionally, you can program the footswitches as presets.
A master volume controls the overall output, and there’s a volume knob to adjust the Clean channel’s gain. Two controls in the Overdrive section modify the gain and output of the three grit channels.
A set of bass, middle and treble tone controls are shared by all four channels, and there are small, custom controls on the unit’s side that provide additional volume and tone modification for some of the channels. A noise gate lets you choose between settings for Soft and Metal (an ultra-fast gate with extreme damping for metal riffing), or turn the gate off.
In addition to outputs for eight- and 16-ohm speakers, Amp1 has an output that adds a speaker-style load and miked-cab emulation for direct use with headphones, mixers or a home stereo system. Amp1 is feature rich and offers many more modifiers and options, but let’s look at those that illustrate Blug’s insight into what pros need.
If you choose to place the unit atop a speaker cab behind you, switching is still possible through a remote switcher, such as BluGuitar’s Remote1, or MIDI, and Amp1’s underside has a recess that allows it to sit safely on a cabinet’s carrying handle. For world tours, the power supply provides the proper operating voltage anywhere, requiring only the country-specific power cable.
While Blug decided to increase the gain in this latest version of Amp1, it turns out that my favorite feature is its Low-Gain mode, which reduces gain on all channels. I found this setting offered a warmer sound with every channel choice and enhanced Amp1’s already excellent responsiveness to picking and guitar volume-control dynamics.
Low-Gain mode also helped me more easily find a sweet spot in the master tone section that worked for all channels.
I tested Amp 1 through separate 1x12 cabinets housing an Eminence Texas Heat speaker and a Warehouse 75 Watt. Using the Clean channel, I set up a warm, Fender-like clean sound that was as satisfying to me as any classic Leo-designed amp. Engaging the boost offered a little more chime and sparkle, but without unpleasant shrillness.
With the Overdrive section gain set low, the Vintage and Classic channels became excellent variations on traditional British-style sounds, with Classic clocking in a little warmer and Vintage a bit edgier. At higher drive settings, these channels retained their sweet high end and great dynamics.
I’m not a metal guy, but even at the global Low-Gain setting, I could crank the Modern channel’s drive and have a solid rhythm tone for heavier styles. One of Amp1’s great features is that any tone I dialed in remained consistent at every master volume setting, even bedroom levels, and all channels responded brilliantly to overdrive and fuzz pedals.
I could easily see how this unit and something like a Line 6 HX Stomp would allow you to recreate an entire album, with multiple amp sounds and effects, anywhere in the world, and without having to check your gear through baggage.
It’s often the case that the best musical product ideas come from professional players, and Thomas Blug has come up with something revolutionary in a package that’s not much bigger, and no heavier, than an iPad, without compromising tone or feel, and all that makes it an easy winner of an Editors’ Pick Award.
Amp1 Mercury Edition
CHANNELS Clean, Vintage, Classic, Modern
CONTROLS Clean volume, overdrive volume and gain, bass, middle, treble, reverb, master volume. Side controls for individual channel volume and tone shaping. Noise gate switch.
TUBES One Nanotube
POWER 100 watts
EXTRAS Headphone/recording output, effects loop (switchable between series and parallel), 8Ω and 16Ω speaker outputs
WEIGHT 2.6 lbs
KUDOS Uncompromising amazing amp tones. Extreme portability