A true innovation…mindblowing!!!
At last year’s NAMM and as well at Musikmesse, Thomas Blug introduced his new company to the world: BluGuitar! He has been developing full-tube & digital amplifiers for almost 20 years, while also being a session player on numerous records. His most known achievements in the amp world include the Hughes&Kettner TriAmp MKII among other amps from the German manufacturer. But he also developed one of the most sophisticated digital amps back in the days, the Hughes&Kettner Zentera!
In the past couple of years, he was focused on the development of a vision he had. He wanted to create a compact amplifier with authentic tone and feel, that should be able to cover a wide range of different sounds, everything from vintage clean to modern high gain. Now this vision has become reality… and it’s more compact and light than anything else I came across so far!
This thing is loud!
The BluGuitar AMP1 features a 100 watt power amp and achieves that due to a completely new power amp design, combining the best aspects of tube-, solid state- & digital technology. The unit measures 245 x 68 x 192 mm and weighs around 1,2 kilos. Thanks to an intelligent power supply, it can operate everywhere in the world. This seems to be the perfect tool for the traveling musician, as you can stow a multichannel amplifier into the accessory compartment of your guitar bag.
When you connect the AMP1 to a cabinet and then slowly turn up the Master Volume, you are truly surprised how loud this small thing can be. And on top of that, it also reacts like a tube amp would do. It’s dynamic, fast and really tight. I tried a Mesa Boogie Thiele 1×12″ first and then my fellow Diezel 4×12″ G12-K100. As expected, the small cabinet already sounds huge with the AMP1, but it really shines with a big cabinet. It’s just unbelievable how much low end this small power amp is able to produce.
At first sight, it seems like the AMP1 just offers one set of frequency controls, which are also shared by all four channels. But flipping the unit to the left-hand side reveals the so-called “Custom Controls”! These small knobs make it possible to adjust the volume and tone of every channel to your individual taste, in except for the Vintage channel. The volume adjustments help to set the channels closer to each other or more apart, which can be useful if you want the overdriven sound to be lower in volume than your insane metal rhythm tone for instance. The tone controls will continuously change the sound of each channel from a more classic and mid-focused tone towards a modern and fat version with enhanced high end.
The built-in boost of the AMP1 can be adjusted between just a slight treble enhancement without any gain added or a full boost which results in more gain and sustain for creamy lead sounds. Furthermore, you can set the noise gate between “Off”, “Soft” and “Metal” and you can determine whether the built-in FX loop will work serial or parallel.
The Clean Channel
The AMP1’s clean channel delivers glassy and transparent tones, no matter if you play it with a Strat-type guitar or with humbuckers. If you turn the channel volume all the way up, the signal breaks up nicely like you would expect it from a classic California tube combo. Engaging the boost adds more clarity in the high frequencies or cranks the whole thing up even further, depending on how the boost value is set. The Custom Control gives you the possibility to stay within a classic flavor or change to a contemporary clean sound with crystal highs.
The Vintage Channel
This channel is the only one that comes without any custom controls, as it reflects a personal favorite of the designer. It delivers the classic British overdrive sound and a huge dynamic range between smooth blues and AC/DC-type rhythms. It reacts to every little nuance of your playing and you will clearly hear every difference between a guitar, a pickup and even a fretboard or pick. This channel of the AMP1 comes best, when you like to just crank up volume and gain and control everything with the volume control of your guitar and your hands of course.
The Classic Channel
You want the “Brown Sound”? The AMP1’s Classic channel has it right there for you! This channel delivers 80% of all overdriven sounds you will ever need. Muted chords ring with a lot of weight and tightness, while complex, open chords are really transparent and full. The Custom control on the side will transform the character from classic 70’s/80’s Rock to a more modern flavor with enhanced bass and a slightly extended high end. Activating the Boost adds more gain and sustain, which is perfect for singing leads or even solos.
The Modern Channel
While I was exploring the Modern channel and its possibilities, it reminded me a lot to my old ’94 Dual Rectifier. It delivers a super-tight and fast response with a huge gain reserve and massive low-end, if needed. Especially if you’re playing in a lower tuning or with an extended range instrument, you are going to love this channel. Like with the Classic channel, the Custom control changes the sound from a more mid-focused flavor to the well-known extreme metal setting (less mids, enhanced bass & treble). If you like to sharpen the attack of your high gain amp with a Tubescreamer-type pedal, the built-in Boost will do that job as well. For all you “Djentlemen” out there, the noise gate set to “Metal” definitely helps with chopped and fast riffing.
So many features and more to come…
So what do we know at this point? 100 watts of power, four channels, boost, reverb, custom controls for fine tuning, noise gate, FX loop… but there’s much more!
You can combine the AMP1 with your favorite pedals, just like you would do it with your regular amp head or combo. And then you would just need a switching device to control everything, avoiding the step dance on stage. This is where the REMOTE1 comes into the picture. Bluguitar’s proprietary footswitch connects with a simple stereo instrument cable and also receives phantom power through that connection. It expands the possibilities of the AMP1 tremendously by adding an adjustable power soak, a second master volume, the option to switch the FX loop, access to all four channels instantly, as well as to all other built-in functions. And in addition to that, the REMOTE1’s Preset Mode will also let you save gain & volume settings for each preset number and sends MIDI program changes to other devices.
But the AMP1 also offers a built-in Preset Mode, using the three switches to instantly access any combination of channel/boost/reverb (I explained that in the video below).
If you’re the purist kind of player, you could also use a simple 2-button footswitch in Preset Mode to add another clean and distortion sound. This way, you will have 5 different sound available with just two small boxes stowed in your accessory compartment.
Everything in the loop
The soon to be available “Looper-Kit”, which connects with the REMOTE1, offers 4 true bypass mono loops for your precious stompboxes. It connects with a special socket on the side of the footswitch to economize space on your pedalboard. This package makes you change your entire sound within a footstep.
As far as connections go, the AMP1 doesn’t disappoint me here either! It comes with a proper power plug jack instead of an external power supply, unlike other pedalboard amps I could mention. The small fan beneath the jack kicks in when you play for while to keep the circuit cool. The noise is acceptable and you will not hear anything, unless you’re in a super quiet environment. The next jack is reserved for either the REMOTE1 or a standard 2-button footswitch. At a later point, there will also be an adapter available to connect with your existing foot controller. Watch out for the MIDI1!
Two speaker jacks (8 & 16 ohms) will connect to your cabinet, while the Recording Out/Headphone jack sends a signal to the mixing desk/audio interface or your in-ear monitoring device. This signal includes a speaker simulation in the form of multiple high-resolution filters that create the sound of a guitar cabinet. All the sounds in the video below were recorded through that connection and I was absolutely happy with the results. FX loop and the guitar input round the whole thing up.
There were a few devices in the guitar world that really impressed me in the past couple of years. The approach to more portable rigs with units like the Axe FX or the Kemper Profiler was a huge step forward and had a huge impact on musicians and the overall market.
I honestly think that the AMP1 will revolutionize how people think about portable amplifiers, pedalboard amps…you name it! I never came across something portable that sounds and reacts just like a real amp would and also transports that through a strong power amp with huge headroom. The sophisticated inner circuit with over 5000 (if I remember that number correctly) small parts does a great job and the user experience couldn’t be better and easier! I guess this might be my new fly rig and currently my favorite recording device for the home studio!
Here’s the video with a play-through song! Enjoy!
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