Price paid: $ 349.99
Purchased from: MusiciansFriend.com
Features: The Blackheart Little Giant 5 watt combo amp is a single channel, Class A tube amplifier. It has 3 band EQ, pentode and triode mode (which allows either 3w or 5w settings), tube preamp and tube power amp and a solid state rectifier. The only controls are the 3 band EQ (Bass, Mid, Treble), the volume, the power knob, and the 3w/5w switch. There is a red light that comes on to let you know the amp is powered on. There is no standby switch. The Little Giant has 4, 8 and 16 ohm speaker out lines for hooking up to an external cab, which is an awesome feature.
The Little Giant appears to be built very sturdy with high quality parts. The Blackheart logo is displayed prominently and looks very nice. This is one of a very few 5w tube amps with a 12 speaker and the only one I found near this price. The Eminence speaker seems to be very well balanced.
The Little Giant Combo does not have an effects loop or headphone out. The Little Giant also does not have a Drive control, which means you can't get to the great tube distortion at super low volumes. I would have liked to have seen this amp come with a separate Drive knob, or a power attenuator to give an additional 1 watt setting. I practice a lot in my house with small children sleeping, so sometimes I need to keep the volume down pretty low. If you can crank up the volume just a tad, then this wouldn't be an issue for you.
I'm giving this a 7 rating, but a Drive control and a headphone jack could have made this a high 8 or low 9. // 7
Sound: First, the Blackheart Little Giant combo can get very loud for a 5 watt amp much louder than I expected. The tone is superb, especially for the price of the Little Giant. I played several guitars through the Little Giant a G&L S-500 Tribute Series (think SSS strat), a Les Paul type guitar with 2 passive high output humbuckers, and an Ibanez Artcore semi-hollowbody with two low to mid level output humbuckers. I played through a Vox Tonelab ST multi-effects pedal and also a Behringer V-Amp II. I ran this through a Dunlop Crybaby Original and an Ibanez Tonelok Delay pedal. I also ran each guitar directly to the amp with no effects. This amp sounded really nice with every combination.
The 3w mode breaks up at a lower volume than the 5 watt, which sounds really nice, but also has as more polished sounding break up to me I didn't prefer the breakup between the 3w and the 5w above the other, but I did appreciate that they are different and would have different utilities. This amp has a lot of headroom and has great clean tones, as well. I was able to use the volume knob on my guitar to control distortion to some extent, which was nice. The tone does not seem to get muddy on this amp, even cranked even with some pretty heavy tube distortion it was keeping pretty good individual string clarity in the sound. This amp won't get distorted enough for super heavy metal without a pedal, but it handles early thrash metal, heavier classic rock and heavier grunge just fine.
The Vox Tonelab ST sounded great with the Little Giant, and I used it primarily just for overdrive/distortion at lower volumes. The Behringer V-Amp was okay it sounded better than it does through my other amps. The Little Giant is marketed as American voiced and I would have to agree with that I normally break amps into three categories in my head they either sound like Vox, Marshall or Fender and this amp definitely gives me a Marshall-type vibe.
I played mainly overdriven blues and classic rock through this amp, and then a little early Metallica (Call of Ktulu) and this amp handled it all very well. Again, the tone is better than I expected for this price, and between the 3w and 5w setting it sounds different enough from each other that it is almost like having 2 different amplifiers. I give the Little Giant a rating of 8 for sound it didn't make a 9 or higher because its cleans don't quite compete with Fender cleans. // 8
Reliability & Durability: The Little Giant is seriously built very tough. It has metal corner-caps, tough covered wood construction, and just a general feeling of sturdiness and weight. I've only had the Little Giant for a bout a month, but it feels like it would last a long time. I try to wait for the honeymoon phase to be over with new equipment before I write a review, but I feel like this might be a long honeymoon.
I wouldn't gig without a backup just because of Murphy's Law, but I would trust this amp as much as my paranoid personality allows. I have had absolutely no problems with this amp, and have been thoroughly impressed with how tough it is built. My 2 year old son has already pushed it over a few times and besides worrying it was going to fall on him, I didn't break a sweat. I give the Little Giant a rating of 8 for Reliability & Durability. // 8
Overall Impression: The Little Giant is an awesome amplifier for what it is. I love the breakup, especially on the 3 watt mode, and I love the headroom that the 12 speaker allows. If this were stolen, then I would probably look for an option with a more diverse power attenuator, or built in Drive control, but overall the Little Giant has really made me happy. It delivers excellent tone at an affordable price and the amp looks and feels indestructible.
I've been playing about 4 years and sadly this is the first tube amp I've owned. I have played through several that are owned by friends, however, and I can say the Blackheart Little Giant has a tone all its own and I am very happy with my purchase. The Blackheart is really a good match for my diverse taste in music, but again would need a pedal to go distorted enough for the heaviest music types out right now. Again, for what I do which is pretty much everything short of black metal and death metal the Little Giant seems versatile and meets my needs.
When I shop for equipment, I usually check out all kinds of local shops to try out the equipment, but I usually order online because I can get a much better price. Before ordering the Blackheart I played through the Bugera V5, an Orange Crush Amp, a solid state Vox, and a few other tube amps that were out of my price range. I preferred the Little Giant then and I'm glad I made the purchase now. I would give this a rating of 9, just barely, for Overall Impression. Room for improvement was I prefer the Fender clean tone, I would have like a more diverse attenuator that gave me a 1 watt setting, would have preferred to have a headphone jack, etc. I am still very happy with this purchase. // 9
- Brandon East (c) 2011