Features: The Blackstar Amplification Series One 1046L6 is the newest full-power offering from these British tone wizards, and for people already familiar with the great amps and pedals from Blackstar, or for those coming upon them for the first time, there is something here for every guitar player to enjoy. The 1046L6 is a 4-channel powerhouse head (non-reverb), coming in an all-black, heavy, full-sized headshell with a cool look to it for the stage player or the home hobbyist. The amp is powered by 4 6L6 power tubes (also available in an EL34 variation), which gives it a conservative rating of 100 watts, appropriate for any arena stage in the world, but also with a very innovative "DPR" dial that allows you to bring the wattage all the way down to 10 watts, or anywhere in between. This allows you to achieve full power tube saturation at tolerable studio or home volumes, without the need for a separate power attenuator of any sort.
The four channels are similar to other 4-channel, high-gain amp offerings, with a Clean, Crunch, Overdrive (OD) 1 and OD2 channels. The Clean can be toggled between Plexi tones ("Warm") or Class A tones ("Bright"). The Crunch channel can be toggled between standard Crunch, which is very classic rock-oriented, and a Super Crunch mode. The OD1 and OD2 are the very high gain channels, for thick metal tones or screaming leads. Each channel has its own volume and gain knobs, but the Clean and Crunch share a 3-Band EQ circuit, while OD1 and OD2 has another of its own. In addition, each pair of channel shares one of Blackstar's signature features, the patented Infinite Shape Feature (ISF), which changes the overall EQ curve and allows for many different tonal options.
The controls are rounded out by a Master section which provides overall Volume, Presence and Resonance controls, which is useful for tailoring the sound to a specific room or gig. A series FX loop is accessible on the back, as well as 2 selectable 4, 8 or 16 ohm speaker outputs, a MIDI port for switching channels from any standard MIDI control system, a footswitch jack, and a speaker emulated output. This last feature is a cool innovation seen more and more lately on modern amps, because it allows silent recording out to capture loud, tube tone without scaring the neighbors. It's important to note that while the footswitch is included, it is only used to select the four channels, and cannot toggle between the Clean or Crunch modes. This would be a nice addition, to match the somewhat similar 4-channel offering from Marshall. // 8
Sound: This is a monster of an amp. It is advertised as a metal amp, and it delivers that in spades. The OD1 and OD2 seem to be nearly identical in tone, so the typical application would be to use OD1 for metal rhythm work, and OD2 for solos, set to a slightly higher volume. The tones have a thickness and a thump to them, that is evocative of the popular high-gain amp maker from California, but with a sound all its own. The ISF dial adds to this, allowing the player to select their own voicing. Every string articulated nicely even on the highest gain settings, and these are meant for the rock and metal player who knows what they're doing. The rock / hard-rock / blues player would probably live in the Crunch channel on this amp. Its capable of much more gain than typical on a crunch channel on other 3-channel and 4-channel amps, and there is a huge variety of tones here. Setting this up for rhythm work, and then using OD1 for screaming leads, was a blast to play. Even just setting this channel to 12:00 on all of the dials yielded amazing tones, with no real adjustments needed. The Clean was also fantastic, and very fun to play. While we always miss reverb on a clean channel the most, this was a powerful, room-filling tone, and applying a little delay and reverb via the FX loop put this tone into perfection. The Warm setting was a more familiar tone, but the Bright was also capable of some chime, and evoked memories of tons of classic songs. // 10
Reliability & Durability: Much like other higher-end 100-watt amp heads, this head weighs a ton and is built like a tank. The covering and the corners all look high-grade, and the sleek metal control panel surface is solid, while the dials and pots all have a smooth, linear turn to them, and everything feels well made. One pet peeve is that the footswitch uses and RS232-style serial connection, which is a physically weaker-feeling connection, and is a difficult cable to replace on the fly should something go wrong. Still, the footswitch itself is also solid, and the amp feels like it could survive years on the road. // 9
Overall Impression: This is clearly a well-built, full-featured amp for the touring artist, studio recording player or serious home player. All four channels are very touch sensitive, where the slightest subtleties of your fingertips on the strings came through, and when you hit a note, it was there immediately. The controls are all easy to use and have dramatic effects on the tone, and there are lots of options to be played here. Further, the DPR dial allowed big stadium tones at basement volumes, which made it even more of a joy to play. Blackstar has proven once again that while they are a newer entry in the world of tube amps, they are serious about great tone, and the Series One 1046L6 proves that in spades. // 9
- Shekhar Dhupelia (c) 2011