Price paid: $ 300
Purchased from: Zzzounds
Sound — 8
I play it with a Fender MIM Strat (stock SSS), an Ibanez AG-75 (stock HH), and a Schecter C-1 EX (stock SD '59/JB, tuned to B). This amp really brings out the differences between the guitars in a way that even the best VST sims just fails to. I get a whole world of clean sounds just by switching up the guitars on this amp. That lets me use the HT-1R for clean country picking (real country, not the contemporary trash), any sort of rock, and even some decent Vintage metal tones. Clean tones on the amp are sweet and can chime or hit like a piano depending on the ISF setting. Clean headroom is a lost cause; the clean channel does not get loud enough to distort unless you crank the gain to make it crunchy. But on a one-watt amp that is kind of the point. The lack of a real EQ does hurt the clean tones because you cannot just crank the treble for extra sparkle. Far more volume can be coaxed out of the overdrive channel, which still gets loud too fast, but works much better at low volumes than the HT-5. The HT-1 has a crazy amount of gain on tap for a 1-watt amp. But it will never hit the brtl mdrn tnz that screamycore players want. The high gain tones sound more like a modded old Marshall and the Vintage channel on a Rectifier. Overall the tonal quality is good but lacking great definition. As the overtones pile on sounds can get a little muddy and harsh, but it sounds much better than just sticking a boot in front of a low-gain amp. I was afraid that the boxy tone from the tiny cab and six inch speaker would hold the amp back, but that is not a problem. There is plenty of low end and the boxy tone gives it the boxy clean sounds of small Vox and Fender amps. For high-gain music it gives the sound a pronounced, tight feel akin to boosting the hell out of bigger amp. Nu-metal and screamycore players should definitely stay away, but other players will do fine.
Overall Impression — 7
Blackstar seems to have made the HT-1 to satisfy all the people who thought that the HT-5 was too big, loud, and lacking in punch for what was marketed as low-volume metal machine. Urban apartment dwellers will be very happy with this amp. Guys with loud garage bands will not. For the money this is a winner. But it fails to be a great amp because Blackstar stripped it down too much. It should have an effects loop for time-based effects, and more importantly, to stick an EQ pedal into. But if you are not picky about that sort of thing, the HT-1R is probably perfect.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I have only had the amp about a week, so I cannot say how long it will last. The HT-1R is a solid little combo built from good wood with metal corners and great tolex work. It does have a PCB inside packed full of funny little parts that nobody would really want to troubleshoot. So this is the wrong amp to travel with itor for your dumb teenager who like to kick his gear around. For the money this seems a lot more solid than other stuff out there.
Features — 6
I bought this amp, made in 2011, new from Zzzounds. I picked it up because I wanted its two channels to cover everything from clean finger-picking to metal. The amp has two channels, clean and overdrive; they share gain, volume and tone (ISF) controls. The ISF tone knob adjusts the mids to get tones that run from Mesa to Fender to Vox to Marshall. The headphone out with cabinet emulation is a big plus, without that I would have bought the VHT Special 6 Ultra. There's also an external input, bound to be useful when I can't play along next to some other audio source. There are still a few things missing. There is no effects loop. And like most Blackstar products there is no button to disable cabinet emulation on the line out. Both of those are nasty flaws in an amp with no EQ! And with its PCB tucked away in the top of the amp the HT-1R is not mod-friendly. This is a tube amp (shut up about the diodes in the circuits, you know who you are) and comes with TAD tubes so I there is no need to replace the cheap Chinese tubes that come in some other Blackstar amps. Reverb comes built-in. This is a great reverb that can just open up the sound a little or really drench things without sounding cheap and digital. It has a plain plate reverb sound with no fake spring pops or noise. For the money the features are good. But the lack of a three-band EQ or an effects loop is a big problem.