Blackstar Amped 3 Overview (and How to Use it) – A True, Real Amp in a Pedal for Metal Guitarists

By Jason Stallworth

July 17, 2023

As a metal guitarist, there’s nothing like plugging into a tube amp and cranking it. Whether it’s a combo amp, 2×12, or 4×12 cabinet, you get this dominating sense of power when you start riffing.

But it can get tiresome lugging around all that gear show after show. And it’s not always realistic to crank up a tube amp every time you want to record your guitar or just jam.

This is where software-based amp simulations, also called plug-ins, come in. Talk about convenience. Just plug your guitar into your interface and you’re set. But no matter how far this technology has come, there’s still that disconnect of the feel you get with a real amplifier.
One may argue there’s no difference in the sound in the mix; however, the feel, or lack of it, can impact your performance.

There are also the hardware amp simulation units like the Axe FX, Kemper, Line 6 Helix, and Neural DSP Quad Cortex, and the list continues to grow. The two main issues with these are the price and the complexity of working with them.

This brings us to a solution that may give you the qualities you love about tube amps and amp sims while eliminating (or at least greatly reducing) the things you DO NOT like about both:
The Blackstar Dept. 10 Amped 3.

In this post, I’m going to take through the following:

  • Amped 3 Features
  • Blackstar Architect & Cab Rig
  • Manual & Patch Mode Explained
  • How to Record Direct with the Amped 3
  • How to Use the Amped 3 with a Speaker Cabinet
  • My Thoughts on the Amped 3 & My Settings

Blackstar Amped 3 Features: What it Does and What You Get

First, unlike many amp pedals, the Blackstar Amped 3 is a real amplifier. And it actually gives you options for power/wattage. This adds convenience when you’re using it with a cabinet. We’re going to get into those details and the multiple ways you can use it later.

At a glance, you have three channels: clean, crunch, and overdrive. But you can also change the mode and use these channels to store your own presets. We’ll get to that soon, as well.

What’s really cool is that each channel has two options:

  • Clean: Warm/Bright
  • Crunch: Crunch/Super Crunch
  • Overdrive: OD1/OD2

So these three channels really turn into six channels.

Of course, you have your standard gain and EQ but with more tone-shaping options:

  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Middle
  • Treble
  • Presence
  • ISF

This ISF allows you to get that extra American or British sound, which is an awesome added feature to the Amped 3.
I tend to have my ISF setting leaning towards the British side of the fence.

The Amped 3 also comes equipped with reverb. And you have the option of a dark or light reverb.
I must add that I’m impressed with the Blackstar reverb.

You also get a boost that you can set as pre or post. The ‘pre’ acts as an overdrive pedal that you would typically place in front of a high-gain amp to tighten it up. It sounds great on the Crunch channel but does leave a little to be desired on the Overdrive channel (just my opinion…but I have a solution for that at the end). If you select ‘post’ for the boost, it increases the volume, which is great for solos.

The power amp section is where the Amped 3 really shines. You can choose different responses and power settings. Here’s what you get:


  • EL84
  • EL34
  • 6L6


  • 1 watt
  • 20 watts
  • 100 watts

Lastly, let’s take a look at the back of the Blackstar Amped 3. You have everything you’d expect to see on the back of any amplifier with some additional options that make this pedal even more versatile.

You have your input and output along with send and return connections for an effects loop. This allows you to have pedals such as a noise gate and overdrive in front of the amp (going into the input). And you can have your time-based effects like delay running through your effects loop.

An extremely cool feature is the two Blackstar HI POT power outputs. This can simply your rig eliminating the need for an additional power source for those pedals.
I share what pedals I’m using with the Amped 3 at the end of this post.

You can also use the Amped 3 with a cabinet running out from the Amped 3 speaker outputs (there’s an option for 8 or 16 ohms). And this is where the choice of wattage comes in handy.
BTW, playing the Amped 3 through a real speaker cabinet at 20 watts is perfect for recording in small rooms and studios.

Another highlight of the Blackstar Amped 3 is the Cab Rig feature. This is where you can get the best of both worlds by combining hardware and software. We’ll get into how to use this later.

You also have connections for USB if you want to record direct (the Amped 3 acts as its own interface), line out (which can go into an interface), and MIDI capability.

Here’s a video on my YouTube channel that covers the specs and how to use the Blackstar Amped 3:

***If you’re ready to get the Blackstar Amped 3 after reading this, please consider going through my Sweetwater affiliate link here (I get a little reward for this and that helps support what I do, which is greatly appreciated): BLACKSTAR DEPT 10 AMPED 3

Blackstar Architect & Cab Rig: Creating and Saving Tones

There are a few steps you’ll want to take to get the Blackstar Architect software:

  • Create your profile on the Blackstar website (you can register your product here as well):
  • Download the Blackstar Architect software from the Blackstar website (on this page, search for ‘Blackstar Architect’):
  • Use the USB cable that came with your Amped 3 to connect your Amped 3 to your computer (the connection for this is on the back of the Amped 3 to the left of where it says ‘Cab Rig Outputs’)
  • Next, you’ll plug in your guitar to the Amped 3 input on the back
  • Once your software is installed and your Amped 3 is connected to your computer, go into your DAW and select the Amped 3 as your interface.

TIP: If you’re using another interface (with your studio monitors connected), you’ll want to leave your play device as that interface and select the Amped 3 for just your recording device.
You can also run a cable from the Amped 3 line-out into your interface and keep both playback and recording device settings as-is with your current interface. There is another feature to using the Amped 3 as an interface and I’ll cover that in detail below.

Fortunately, there’s not a huge learning curve with the Blackstar Architect and Cab Rig software. The layout is set up to look exactly like the Amped 3 unit.

You can simply move all of the same control knobs virtually with your mouse. I personally love this feature and appreciate the thought that Blackstar put behind this.

Saving your tones is as simple as clicking the ‘Save’ icon at the top-left (see the icon to the left of the white box with ‘Overdrive’).

You can save as many patches as you want under ‘Patches.’ To recall any patch, you would just click on that particular patch. And you can assign up to three patches to the unit (one for each channel).

In other words, the ‘clean’ channel doesn’t have to be clean. You could assign a metal tone to all three channels under the Patch mode (the two different modes will be explained in the next section). And you can also name each patch that you save.

Blackstar’s Cab Rig

The next phase of dialing in your metal tone with the Amped 3 is using the Cab Rig software. This will give you access to multiple speakers/cabinets based on everything from vintage, classic, and modern cabs as well as 1×12, 2×12, and 4×12.

You also have your own mic locker that includes mic simulations of:

  • Shure SM57
  • Royer 121
  • Sennheiser 421
  • Beyerdynamic 160
  • AKG C414
  • Neumman U67

You can also choose on or off-axis with each mic.

The one thing that you may find missing here is the ability to move the mic around. However, Blackstar provides another option with its Master EQ section. It also has EQ presets for each mic.

With that, you can adjust the level of the cabinet and master volume, and you also have some room simulation options. All of these together can mimic the effect you would get from moving the mic around.

Of course, you’ll use your cabinet settings with the amp settings that you create. And you can save each cabinet setting as a patch.

But you can also assign three cabinet settings to the Amped 3 unit for when you’re using the Amped 3 in manual mode. This works with the Cab Rig 3-way switch on the back of your Amped 3 device.

***Here are my favorite three cabinet/mic combinations (these are the ones I have saved on my device):

  • 4×12 Vintage UK, 57 Dynamic, Off Axis
  • 4×12 Classic UK, 121 Ribbon, On Axis
  • 4×12 Modern USA, 121 Ribbon, On Axis

Manual & Patch Mode Explained

The two ways you can use the Amped 3 are manual and patch mode. To switch between the two modes, just hold down the Boost button on the device.

When the channel lights are all white, you’re in manual mode. When they have color, you’re in patch mode (clean = white, crunch = orange, and overdriven = red).

We went over creating and saving patches above. To recap, you would create a patch for the clean, crunch, and overdrive channels (these can be whatever you want, not necessarily ‘clean, crunch, and overdrive’). And you would have direct access to those patches that you assigned to each channel on the unit.

In manual mode, the clean, crunch, and overdrive channels are as the name describes. Think of manual mode as any other amplifier.

The only software element that you may use is the Cab Rig feature. On the back of the Amped 3, you would use the 3-way switch on the back of the unit we talked about earlier to choose the cab setting you want.
In patch mode, you would already have your cabinet setting included with your saved setting.

***Although I have a few patches saved, I find myself using manual mode most of the time.

How to Record Direct with the Amped 3

Direct recording with the Blackstar Amped 3 is simple. As you discussed earlier, you can use the Amped 3 as an interface in your DAW. All you need are to perform the steps (just once) to download and install the software and connect everything.

The advantage of using the Amped 3 as your interface is that you can record several versions of one performance. You can capture that performance with multiple cabinet/mic combinations as well as one with just a direct input (DI).

This gives you the option of choosing the best sound or blending them for that track. And you’ll also have the DI if you want to re-amp that track.

To do this, you would just create multiple tracks and assign each track accordingly in your session. Again, this gives you a ton of flexibility as well as a way to capture the raw track.

Another way to record direct is to use the line out and go into your interface. Obviously, you won’t the multiple sound and DI options with this method. So you may be thinking why you would entertain this method for recording.

One reason is that you won’t have to toggle back and forth with switching interfaces in your DAW (as you’ll more than likely be using your interface for bass, vocals, and practically everything else). Switching interfaces isn’t a big deal. But if you’re anything like me, you prefer simplicity and are okay with the tone you initially dialed in with the Amped 3.

To do this, you would simply plug a cable into the line out/phones output of the Amped 3 and run that directly into the input of your DAW.

***Though it makes more sense to use the Amped 3 as your interface for recording, I prefer running my Amped 3 through my interface. Some of that is for the sake of simplicity mixed with a weird mental aspect that I have of using it like I would any real amplifier.

This is also how you could use the Amped 3 for playing live. You would just run the line out to your soundboard.

How to Use the Amped 3 with a Speaker Cabinet

Here’s where things get really interesting. Remember, the Amped 3 is a power amp. You can connect your Amped 3 directly to a cabinet and you’re all set.

This is an awesome feature for both recording and playing live or if, in general, you just prefer to mic a cabinet rather than using the software.

In this case, you would connect a guitar amp speaker cable to the back of your Amped 3. Blackstar also provides both 8 and 16-ohm options (it’s important to make sure you use the appropriate output – check the back of the cabinet you’re using).

Another important note is that the Amped 3 is designed to be used with only one cabinet.

This is also where the options for power come in handy. I mentioned earlier that 20 watts when using the Amped 3 with a real cabinet is perfect for recording in smaller studios. If you were playing with a live band, you may decide to use the 100-watt setting.

***Below is a video using the Amped with different cabinets: Orange 1×12, Mesa 4×12, and Vintage Marshall 4×12. This was filmed in my friend Cliff’s studio and is on the Riff with Cliff YouTube channel:

My Thoughts on the Amped 3 & Favorite Settings

I posted this blog about a month after getting the Amped 3 directly from Blackstar via sponsorship (this blog is actually not part of the sponsorship deal, which must mean I’m liking this thing so far!).

Here’s the thing. I love playing through and recording with tube amplifiers. But it’s not always realistic. And convenience can sometimes mean more playing, practicing, writing, and recording.

That said, I’ve used amp sims (plug-ins) about 80% of the time for several years now. In fact, I used amp sims to record my first four albums.

But I haven’t touched an amp sim since I’ve owned the Blackstar Amped 3. So I guess that says it all.

I keep it connected to my computer at all times and as I mentioned, I have it running through my interface (not as an interface, but through my PreSonus Quantum 2 interface that I use for everything).

Here’s how I’ve been using the Blackstar Amped 3, my settings (approximate), and a couple of other details:

  • Channel: Overdrive, OD2
  • Boost: off
  • Bass: 5
  • Middle: 6
  • Treble: 7.5
  • ISF: Leans towards the British tone
  • Gain: 9
  • Reverb: 2-3, dark
  • Presence: 7
  • Response: EL34
  • Power: 20 watts when using it with a real cabinet

I also use an overdrive and noise gate pedal in front of the Amped 3. Here, I’m using the MXT Classic Distortion with the distortion at zero and level all the way up to tighten up the tone.
I only use this on the overdrive channel. For the crunch channel, the Amped 3’s built-in boost sounds great.

And I have the MXR Smart Gate that I use with the Amped 3.
I do recommend using a noise gate pedal for the overdrive channel.

For my leads, I just bump up the bass and mids a little. And I use a delay plugin in my DAW (the beat delay that comes with PreSonus Studio One).

I’ve also experimented a bit with the crunch channel (super crunch mode) and with the boost on. This gives you a really nice hard rock or 80s metal tone.

I have a video on that here:

***If you’re ready to get the Blackstar Amped 3 after reading this, please consider going through my Sweetwater affiliate link here (I get a little reward for this and that helps support what I do, which is greatly appreciated): BLACKSTAR DEPT 10 AMPED 3

Keep it Metal,


Jason Stallworth

About the author

Jason is a melodic metal solo artist, songwriter, acoustic performer, and co-founder of Metal Mastermind.

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