Fly 3 review by Blackstar

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  • Features: 10
  • Sound: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.5 (4 votes)
Blackstar: Fly 3
6

Features — 10
I'll say this at the outset - expectations from low price amps are really key here. Most of the ratings I gave are because, before buying this, I knew what I wanted out of a practice amp and wasn't expecting anything more than that. It should go without saying that when you're paying $100 for an amp, there will certain compromises you'll have to make compared to more expensive amps - sound, features, etc.

Okay, the review. The Blackstar Fly 3 is a solid state two channel - clean, overdrive - amp. It has gain, volume, EQ, and a built-in delay effect. It also comes with an MP3 input and a headphone/emulated output. I haven't used the output because I only use it for practice, but this amp can be as quiet or as loud as I need for for in-home use. The delay is pretty good, but it wouldn't pass off as elite. The manufacturer doesn't specify the delay timing, but if I were to guess, it goes from something close to 0ms up to 500ms, maybe 750ms. I still love the feature though.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting the extension cab. It adds a fullness to the tone that I just can't get with the amp head alone. In fact, I probably would not recommend this amp if you're only getting the amp head and not the extension cab. For an extra $40, the amp head and cabinet combo is well worth it (the amp head alone is $60, the head/cab combo is $100).

I have a 2002 Made in Mexico Strat with Texas Specials Pickups and I can dial in decent tones for rock and blues. The clean/low gain sounds I get with my strat great while the overdrive tones are average to above average. I've tried using my TDX9S overdrive pedal, but can't really get a good sound with it, probably since it's a solid-state amp. Still, I really like the sound I get for blues applications given the price tag.

I also have a Dean Razorback with Seymour Duncan humbuckers, and the sounds I get with it are great with the overdrive channel. I can get a great range of tones, particularly for hard rock and metal, though it won't get dirty enough for anyone who is looking for playing death metal (which is okay by me, not my bag).

I give the features a 10 for an amp of this class (solid, under $100, practice). Blackstar chose all the right features to include with this amp while keeping this amp affordable for any guitarist.

Sound — 8
I play blues, rock and metal and this amp works good for that. You're not going to get vintage tones and you're not going to get extreme high gain sounds out of this amp. I'm not a country guy, but I don't think this amp is really conducive to that sound either - part of that might be my choice in guitars, though.

The sound is warm, gets pretty good mids, decent highs, but the bass is a bit flat.

I don't think it works very well with pedals - a common complaint with solid state amps. I have a DOD FX80b Compressor, Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor, TDX9S Overdrive, and a Ditto Looper. The DOD works okay with the amp, but I generally don't use it in lieu of quicker set up times. The TDX9S isn't very responsive and drains the tone, making the NS-2 useless. I haven't tried the looper yet, but if I can amend this review later, I'll let you know.

I give the sound an 8, because while it outperforms other amps in this price range, the shortcomings of this amp are foreseeable. If a particular sound is important to you, I'd recommend testing it out or watching Youtube videos. The sound is great for me, but like any amp, the sound may not be for you and without doing your homework first, you may not get a sound conducive to your playing style.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I woudln't say this thing is built like a tank, but if you're using it for in-home use, you won't have any durability problems. It's strong enough to survive small impacts - i.e. I dropped it from about 2 feet and it was fine - but if you're hard on your equipment, I wouldn't expect it to last repeated beatings or high impact collisions.

I wouldn't use this in a live setting where you need the output, but you could jamming with bandmates that can dial down their output to match yours.

Also, the amp can be powered via outlet or via battery power (6 AA Batteries). On batteries, if you keep it at lower volumes, you can get several hours out of this amp. If you play it at max capacity, the battery life is pretty short.

I give this amp an 8 for reliability and durability because, while this amp shines as a practice amp, you shouldn't expect more from it. It will travel well if you're careful, but you'll either be playing on AC power most of the time or you will run through batteries fast at higher volumes.

Overall Impression — 10
For a $100, you're getting the biggest bang for your buck. I'd recommend this to beginners in particular. In my estimation, you're not going to get better features, tone, or sound for the price. It isn't an amp for any genre of music, but no amp is, and this one is about perfect for me for most the type of music I play. Again, the extension cab is a must.

I'd love for this amp to have an FX loop, but that would obviously drive the price up and then again, it being a solid state amp, might not be a welcome addition in the first place. A small nitpick, but I'm curious as to what it would add, if anything.

If you're looking at some of the other practice amps in this class - Marshall MG10 or MS2, Orange Crush 12, Vox Pathfinder 10 - I'd recommend the Blackstar Fly 3. For the beginner, you're going to get a great range of sound until you can identify the sounds and features you are looking for when you upgrade to a new amp. But even when you do, you will still have a great little practice amp to use for quieter settings that will deliver.

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hoonin_hooligan
    I have this amp - i agree for what it is this is a great little amp. I will say for anyone who comes across this it will not do metal. I've tried it with my jackson 7 string (EMG pickups) and ltd (duncan distortions). Even with high output pickups at most this amp will get you into a hard rock tone that is a little lacking in bottom end. For a practice amp is excels though - classic rock tones are on point, the clean channel is phenomenal. I find it take pedals pretty well - enough that i'm satisfied with the switch from clean to overdrive pedal. Its great being able to feed in a song through the input jack, have headphones in and play along to a song in absolute silence to anyone in the rooms nearby.
    biglou3303
    I can agree with your metal comment. I was thinking a lighter metal, but maybe I was a bit too candid tossing "metal" around like it doesn't mean something different to everyone. It doesn't have a lot of bass, and for some people, it's essential perhaps even for a practice amp. I am curious what you use for distortion. Like I said, I use a tube screamer and wasn't surprised when I found that it really sucked the out the tone. I might be inclined to buy a distortion pedal specifically so I can switch between clean and OD without having to hit the button on the amp if I can find something that the amp responds to.
    hoonin_hooligan
    I'm using a Bad Monkey for my overdrive so it's pretty much the same idea as you. It's a pretty good sound to me for classic rock to switch between it and the clean channel. I usually just use the built in distortion of my main amp so I don't really have a dedicated distortion pedal that I could use for this - I mean i have a metal zone from way back when but I shudder to think of how that would sound through this haha
    biglou3303
    I'll toss some batteries in and take it down to my local shop - I've got a gift card I haven't decided on what to use it for yet. If they have it or similar pedals, I'll give it a playaround. Thanks! LOL on the Metal zone. Probably not a pedal you'd want on the Fly3...or strat lol.
    hoonin_hooligan
    Ya couldn't hurt to give it a try if you can find one, conceptually though its essentially a tube screamer clone. Ya lol definitely not going to put the metal zone in front of the fly3 haha
    DomRusky
    I feel like these are unfairly high scores for a $100 amp.. in fact I can almost guarantee this amp shouldn't be more than a 6.5 - I appreciate it's great for the money, but no $100 amp is ever going to come close to some of the greatest out there
    Tharantyr
    You're missing the point. These scores are relative to the sort of product that this is, which is a cheap bedroom amplifier. "The greatest out there" have nothing to do with this whatsoever.
    DomRusky
    Hmm, I don't disagree with you and see your point. I think the rating system is a bit ambiguous in that regard - I would and always have read the ratings section in mind that all amps are rated /10 relative to each other, not the pricepoint/range etc. Does it say anywhere from UG how the ratings should be given? Appreciate your reply though, made me see it differently
    Wiencon
    I think You have a good point, both of You actually. It would be great if there were price categories for amps on UG, but honestly I think that if one searches for a bedroom amp he knows what he can choose from and looks at those amps, in a specific price range and then he can compare the scores. If I was looking for bedroom amp I couldn't care less what score does EVH 5150 has but I'd be looking at Fender Mustang i.e
    Tharantyr
    I don't know if there are actually any regulations for that but the guy stated in the article himself: "Most of the ratings I gave are because, before buying this, I knew what I wanted out of a practice amp and wasn't expecting anything more than that."
    biglou3303
    I can understand what you're saying, that's why I led with the disclaimer. If I scored based on all the amps I've played, seen and heard over the years, this would be an average amp at best. But this amp is designed for a specific purpose and not to be your go to amp for any situation. With that in mind, I limited the review to that specific purpose. When I started out, the internet wasn't what it is today. You could have someone demo a product for you, but they don't always know enough about the product you're asking about. I'm sure we've all bought something that looked and sounded great in the store, but found it didn't suit our needs after playing with it for an extended period of time (at which point if it's too llate to return it, they're out a hundred bucks and might be discouraged from playing the guitar further). Beginners don't necessarily have the luxury for that because, and if they were anything like me starting out, I wasn't even sure what the right question to ask was, let alone, make an informed decision on whether my amp suited my needs. Even this amp I had to read and piece together a lot of reviews because it was new enough, I only found cursory reviews on youtube/sweetwater/amazon/GC. So that's who I kept in mind when writing this review. They'll still be shooting in the dark a little bit until they find their way like we all have at some point, but my goal was to arm them with as much information as I could from my personal experience, given my tastes.
    DomRusky
    Massively appreciate your reply and the effort you put into the review - the issue is definitely in the ambiguity of UG's rating system, not your verdict. I definitely agree there needs to be more info tailored towards the guitarists this product is aimed at. My only worry is that if there are people like me giving this product a 6/10 in reviews, and you giving it a 9/10 - then therein lies the confusion. All caused by a very very small detail... But 100% not blaming you after Tharantyr pointed out the errors of my thinking!