HT-20 Studio Review

manufacturer: Blackstar date: 10/11/2012 category: Guitar Amplifiers
Blackstar: HT-20 Studio
I play all types of music, from ballads to blues to metal, rhythm and lead. This amp has everything I need. And it takes the pedals I use with it fantastically.
 Sound: 7.3
 Overall Impression: 7.8
 Reliability & Durability: 8
 Features: 7.8
 Overall rating:
 8.2 
 Reviewer rating:
 7.7 
 Users rating:
 8.7 
 Votes:
 19 
reviews (4) pictures (1) 24 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 3.8
HT-20 Studio Reviewed by: SteveTone3000, on february 15, 2012
2 of 7 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 200

Purchased from: Private ad

Features: On paper, this amp seemed great. 20 watts of valve power is a great compromise between headroom and power amp crunch, it has a series FX loop (parallel is useless!) and an ostensibly useful "ISF" mid-shift feature. I don't use channel switching, but 2 channels is another good feature. The 12 inch speaker was advertised as a Celestion, but it was a sh-tty "Rocket 50" budget model. Therefore, I bought this amp second-hand on the strength of its spec. Big mistake! // 5

Sound: The day after I bought it, I took this amp to a gig and used it. I wish I hadn't. I play all styles and genres in the set, and this amp was pretty poor at reproducing most of them. The overdrive channel in particular is mushy, uninspiring, lacks clarity and does not clean up with the guitar volume pot. The amp does not project at all; it was loud onstage but when I stepped out into the middle of the venue, the guitar sound disappeared underneath the rest of the band. Next to a fairly loud drummer, the HT20 CANNOT cope. The 20 watts rating appears to be hugely optimistic! I've played 5 watt amps louder than this. I do not have ANY of these problems with my old Marshall JMP. I can only assume that the miles and miles of cheap, unnecessary circuitry involved inside this amp are responsible for the squashed, lifeless tone that issues forth from the laughable speaker. I opened it up to check, and saw the horrible miniature components. The more you turn it up, the worst it sounds, which is bad news for players in working bands. The ISF feature wasn't useful for me, either. // 2

Reliability & Durability: I sold it after one gig, so I have no idea about the reliability. // 5

Overall Impression: AVOID if you are a professional. This is a bedroom amp, nothing more. Some people might think I've made a rash decision, but why would I persevere with something that isn't usable outside the home? No punch, no sparkle, low volume and unresponsive. At least the effects loop worked properly though, unlike those fitted in the Marshall DSL and Laney L5T combos! // 3

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overall: 9.5
HT-20 Studio Reviewed by: unregistered, on july 23, 2012
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 599

Purchased from: Musiciansfriend.com

Features: Alot of reviews on here (and many other sites) talk in circles, so I'll try to be blunt and to the point. The Blackstar HT-20 plays anything from very low gain to medium-high gain rock. The user can easily dial in practically any tone they want with the appropriate usage of the EQ and the nice ISF feature. It has 2 channels (clean and dirty). It came with a channel switch footpedal for free, which the player will more than likely use quite frequently. NO HEADPHONE JACK, which somewhat disappointed me, but it is an amp meant for small, medium sized gigs. There amp has plenty of features. The built in reverb sounds amazing. I use this amp in my house and with my friends when I play. It has enough power to play by yourself, but if you have a friend that has anything over 50w (my friend has my old 100w Fender Mustang), expect the Blackstar to get drowned out. It's loud enough to compete with a medium-loud drummer but if the drummer feels jumpy, expect a few minor complaints about how you're not loud enough. 20w All tube amp. ISF is great, I'll get more into that later tho. // 9

Sound: I use a Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top with stock pickups. It makes my cheap LP sound studio worthy to say the least. The amp does suit my play style, even though it has a tough time playing certain types of Metal without the help of a pedal. The Amp isn't noisy. My Blackstar is built like a tank. I've dropped it 2 or 3 times and the thing still works perfectly. No rattling, no fuzz from turning the gain up too high or volume up too high. Clean sound and good durability. Like previously stated, the amp has great versatility. You can EASILY play a great blues tone on the clean channel, a great crunch on the dirty channel with the gain tuned down a bit, and if you feel like it, a very hard hitting rock tone. The clean breaks up at about 7 or 8 on master volume. It provides a nice mild crunch. This is how the distortion is... Listen to "Master Of Puppets" by Metallica... Any tone the guitar produces off that song, this amp nails (or can nail if you know how to use the EQ). Does this do death metal? No. Does it do INSANE gain, melt your face off screaming distortion? No. The ISF feature (which Blackstar so highly promotes as a selling point) is actually pretty neat. Essentially from what I can gather by using it, it pretty much makes your tone either 1. Very "light" or 2. Dark. The USA side makes your tone more "light" and brighter, good for tones with the like of AC/DC for example. The BRITISH side makes the tone darker and a little more Middy, or so it seems. I personally prefer the USA side over the BRITISH, but its all personal preference for tone. // 9

Reliability & Durability: The amp has never failed me. Always works when I need it to. Like I said, I've dropped it 2 or 3 times and it still works perfectly without any rattling or fuzz. // 10

Overall Impression: Overall, this amp can handle anything you throw at it except Death Metal and other forms of crazy gain music. I've been playing guitar for little over 6 years and have purchased a couple tube amps in my time. This is easily one of the best ones. If this amp were stolen, lost, broken, melted, thrown in front of a train, etc etc... I wouldn't buy another one, I would probably try out a Vox Bruno or a Hughes And Kettner Tubemeister 18 simply because I like to diversify and try out new things. I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS AMP TO ANYONE. Some tones you can easily immolate through proper EQ settings: - AC/DC (easily) - Queen (Brian May tones, if you use a quarter It sounds spot on) - Metallica (100% nails the early "dark, gritty" tones if you scoop mids) - ZZ Top - The Eagles - Practically any Country tone if you have single coil pickups. - Practically any 60-80's rock tone. I hope my review helped someone decide on whether or not to buy this amp. I would highly recommend taking the time and watching the video's I'll link at the bottom, they helped sway me into buying this amp. Official Blackstar demo:

Again, I hope I helped. Keep on keepin' on. Peace. // 10

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overall: 8.8
HT-20 Studio Reviewed by: unregistered, on october 11, 2012
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 399.99

Purchased from: Manchester Music Mill

Features: I purchased this Blackstar HT-20 Studio 1x12 combo about six months ago and delayed writing a review of it until I'd spent some time with it. There's nothing worse than an evaluation from someone who got a new piece of gear the day before; they're so overwhelmed with excitement that they immediately ascribe the piece a five-star/10-out-of-10 rating but one has to wonder if theirs is an accurate opinion. By this point, I've gotten to know the amplifier in its stock configuration and I must say, it is truly impressive. This is a 20-watt combo with a single 12" Celestion speaker. It's powered by two ECC83 and two EL34 tubes. There are two channels, clean and drive, which can be changed via the included single-button footswitch (note: the cable on the stomper is a fixed length, but it's a pretty generous amount of rope). Each channel has its own volume and EQ knobs, and the dirty channel has a gain control. The downside of this configuration: the clean channel only has one control, labeled Tone, which makes for a somewhat limited amount of manipulation. The upside: the dirty channel has a 3-band EQ with High, Mid and Low knobs, which allows many more options in terms of sculpting the sound. There's also a built-in digital reverb with its own control, as well as a master volume knob. The real secret weapon with the HT-20, however, is the Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) knob. When dialed all the way to the left, one gets a more "American" sound with a tight bottom-end, a glassy high end and a sort of scooped-mids feel. With this knob turned all the way to the right, the character of the sound is more "British" with a looser bottom end, clangier, softer highs and a more pronounced midrange. // 9

Sound: Full disclosure: my main instrument is a MIM Fender 70s RI Stratocaster, and I play rock with alternative and pop leanings (no heavy stuff). The HT-20's clean sound is VERY clean, with a lot of headroom for a 20-watt amp. In my band, which gigs out playing both originals and covers, I've only had occasion to bring the volume up over the halfway point on one occasion, and at that point I can confidently say the HT-20 was not even close to breaking up. This could be considered both a positive and a negative thing, depending on whether or not you like a little grit in your first channel. I personally have mixed feelings about that, as I like to play right on the edge of breakup so that when I dig in with the pick, the amp responds with a bit of snarl; however, I will say that the clean channel on this amp sounds great, and I haven't really found myself missing that edge when playing live. The clean channel seemed really bright to me, almost Fender-y which is by no means a bad thing but I generally prefer a chimy Vox-type of sound with a little less snap to it. I was unable to turn the tone knob past the 9:00 point without the treble being physically uncomfortable for all in the room. However, I realized about two months into ownership that this could be caused by my Strat's bridge pickup, so in a sense the Blackstar prompted one of the better guitar-related moves I've ever made: swapping out the shrill stock bridge pup for a DiMarzio FS-1. This cut down the ice-picky high end, and the guitar sounds infinitely better through all of my other gear and amps now, too (although I still don't turn the tone knob past 12:00, but that's just personal preference at this point). The dirty channel is REALLY flexible as well. The three EQ knobs give you lots of tone-shaping options and I've spent a lot of time tweaking them as they're highly reactive. I would suggest anyone who isn't sure about the amp's sound invest the effort into getting to know their way around these controls. The gain knob is a real quandary; I saw another review that described the amount of nastiness that is on tap here as "a classic case of enough rope to hang yourself with," and that's exactly true. I'm reasonably sure you could play some form of metal with the HT-20. Since I don't, I often find that keeping the gain knob below the 11:00 setting yields everything from great, potent classic-rock overdrive to hotter modern rock sounds. Anything above that just sounds like too much, to my ears. I guess it's nice to have that flexibility. As stated above, the real trick here is the ISF knob. Now, I'm not sure I totally buy into the whole "American sound vs. British sound" that Blackstar is touting, as less-experienced players will probably not notice a world of difference between either end of the feature's spectrum. That said, it's a very subtle control which, when tweaked, really allows you to take that last step in sculpting your sound and getting it RIGHT where you want it. I don't know if I'd call it revolutionary technology, but damn if it ain't really useful! Finally, the digital reverb is okay; I don't use it much, personally, but it's got a pleasant enough sound. It's not overly extreme even at the highest setting, and while it doesn't sound like a spring tank or anything, adding a touch can take your sound from maybe a little thin to very lush indeed, even through the single Celestion speaker. // 9

Reliability & Durability: So this is an odd area: the HT-20 I now own is my second one. The first one was with me for less than a month. I had to return it because the volume kept cutting out on me for no real reason at all. The store where I purchased the amp has a terrific repair shop (one of the best in New England) so the owner had them look the amp over at no cost to me, since it was still under warranty; the techs found some shoddy soldering work somewhere in the chassis and they re-did it. Everything was great for a day or two, but then it was back to its old ways and I had to wash my hands with it. However, I was enjoying the sounds so much when it WAS working that I hesitantly agreed to accept an exchange for another new HT-20. Despite the above experience, I'm glad I did because my current amplifier is VERY sturdy. It's worked night after night for rehearsals and gigs and never given me ANY problems. So while I'm docking two points for the first experience, my guess is that it was something of a fluke as the second HT-20 seems so well assembled that I can only assume the first was a fluke. // 8

Overall Impression: All in all, I would recommend the HT-20 Studio to any rock guitarist looking for an amp with the versatility to cover a lot of ground, while still retaining its own special something. It's nice to have an amplifier that can conjure sounds reminiscent of yesteryear but with enough flexibility to execute my own visions, especially considering I play both covers and originals. I haven't played every other amp in the HT-20's price range and power class, but I would strongly suggest you check one out if you're in the market for a 15 to 20-watt amp in the $400 to $600 range! // 9

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overall: 8.8
HT-20 Studio Reviewed by: deletedacct123, on december 12, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 599.99

Purchased from: Alpha Music

Features: I bought this new from Alpha Music. Its the floor model but Alpha is known for being anal about not letting anyone touch their gear. You can't even try a guitar without assistance. The amp has all the features I need. 2 channels, clean and overdrive. Digital Reverb, effects loop, and know to let you go from British to Modern style distortion. 20 watts is plenty with a tube amp. This amp is loud enough to play any local bar and anything larger I'd be mic'd up. The only thing I feel this is lacking is a really over the top distortion for extremely heavy genres. // 8

Sound: I'm using an Ibanez ARZ307 with the stock humbuckers, which are somewhat high output - I plan on changing these soon. The amp handles the low B string just fine - no mud here. The cleans on this amp shine, as good as anything I've payed. They are bright and full and don't break up unless you really set the knobs to get the breakup, in which case you get some nice power tube breakup. The distortion channel is also nice. Its a full, creamy distortion with good ntoe definition, and no fuzz at all. You can get a killer hard rock tone up to say a "Ride The Lightning" type distortion If you are a metalhead, you'll probably want for a bit more gain. I use a Boss Overdrive before the preamp to push it over the top, and it handles it nicely, staying clear but adding some chug. I tried the OD in the effects loop and it turned things to mush, so I run just the OD from the guitar and everything else through the effects loop, and everything sounds good, giving me extra crunch when I want it or a solo boost. The amp does have a bit of noise to it at high gain, but no more than the average tube amp and I'm not getting any unmanageable feedback, even with the OD pedal. Between the amp and the OD pedal, I have every tone I need here, There is a ton of low end available here, so I think an extension cabinet would suit this amp well, as it seems to be a bit much for the 1-12" speaker and small closed back cabinet. I'm backing off the bass to about 10 oclock to compensate. // 9

Reliability & Durability: This amp looks and feels really well built. The tolex is of high quality, everything looks solid. there's nothing here to complain about. Since I got the floor model, I was told if anything happened within a year it would be replaced by the vendor, rather than having to mail this off, but either way the 1 year warranty is nice. I'll give a 9 here since I have not had this long enough to know more. // 9

Overall Impression: I play all types of music, from ballads to blues to metal, rhythm and lead. This amp has everything I need. And it takes the pedals I use with it fantastically. I've owned a B-52 AT100 previously, and I prefer the cleans on this. The distortion channel is not as crunchy, but overall sounds smoother and harmonically rich. If it were stolen I'd be happy to have another. The cleans are my favorite feature on the amp - I chose this over a 6505 for that reason. I did like the heaviness of the 6505 but I need a good clean channel. I'm very happy with the amp, and it helps that the price was 599. The feeling of overall quality is a notch up from the price. Oh yeah, did I mention it's compact and LIGHT?!?! Great for anyone without a roadie. // 9

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