HT-1R review by Blackstar

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 5
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.3 (45 votes)
Blackstar: HT-1R

Price paid: £ 145

Purchased from: eBay

Sound — 10
Compared to my old Amp (G-Dec 15) it is lovely and has quite a deep tone. It is also NOT prone to pickup noise even at high gain which was a surprise to me. Except when playing clean I never run out of volume (but I play in a flat). I love its classical rock tone it just sounds so nice playing simple power chords (muted and not) I can lose hours doing just that... I have a Steinberger Spirit and a Gibson Les Paul Studio. With the G-DEC both sounded okay but neither really stood out. With the Blackstar it really makes the Gibson stand out. It has a real "red wine oak" flavour too it's tone and sounds like its worth every penny where as on the G-DEC it just sounded a bit muddy. The Steinberger sounds okay, better on the humbuckers but the Gibson is just way better. I guess it doesn't have a huge range of sounds, it does "almost clean" through to 70s/80s rock and further. It is trivially easy to get a lovely Ritchie Blackmore type tone out of it. Actually it seems to have potential for very high gain for an amp on its own and I can't say I would need a Tube Screamer much. For me though the tones it does make are just right and I love it. The Reverb is also useful and I tend to often add a little - the reason for me buying the more expensive HT-1R over the HT1! In common with many Tube Amps it is very clear toned and is much louder than its rated power would suggest. I have used it in lessons with others using Cubes etc and it is fine.

Overall Impression — 9
The one design feature I don't like is the power LED which is incredibly bright. I have covered it with a lot of tape otherwise it blinds you when you lean over to adjust the controls! I don't know why this hasn't been described before by any reviewers! Rarely for me I think I have actually bought the right thing. Less is definitely more... It matches me very well and sounds lovely whilst having just enough tweakability to get the various tones I need. It reacts very well to the difference in my playing and is teaching me to really play with feel. I don't see the need for a load of stomp boxes or a multi-effects unit. Probably the only Stomp I can really feel the need for at this point is a tuner! I have had a few practice amps in the past (Boss Microcube - awful tinny thing although sounded okay with a Squier Strat when I got the Gibson it had to go, Marshal AVT20 (Not too bad but loud and fairly prone to picking up noise from lights etc) and the G-DEC 15. I have also used the normal Boss Cubes and Boss Cube XLs (which are significantly better than Microcubes) but still prefer this Amp. If mine got stolen I would be very tempted to buy another. There is competition though in the form of the Vox AC4 TV, Vox AC4TV Mini, Yamaha THR Series and Blackstars own HT-5R (Unfortunately the little Marshall Amps are too expensive being 500+). The Vox AC4TV is tempting - I liked the idea of having a 4 Watt Valve Amp with the ability to run at 1W and either 0.1W or 0.25W (Mini vs standard) but thought that I would prefer the tone of this one and wanted the reverb. I might buy one as well one day (probably not the mini as the reviews say that the 0.1W mode sounds a bit thin). The Yamaha THR is not a valve Amp but is designed for practice in a flat type environment. The demos are very tempting but this time I decided to by a real Valve Amp not one emulating a Valve Amp. The HT5-R is also very strong competition for the HT-1R. As well as more power (which is possibly a negative in a flat) it has separate treble, bass and mid pots but is nearly twice the price (350 RRP). If Blackstar want to sell me a new model they will need to add two things: 1. A bit more power but a Decent power attenuation mode as well (If it had 4 W and 0.2W that would be great) 2. 3 Pots to change the tone - Yeah I know I have said I don't need it but its difficult to think I might be missing something.

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Reliability & Durability — 8
I can't really judge reliability at this point. Mine is second hand (and managed to come happily in the post despite the usual service) but has been well cared for. Its a solid little box and appears really nicely made but being relatively light I will be able to carry it carefully - its not so heavy that you are likely to drop it! All the switches, Pots etc seem high quality. I have heard of one person who upgraded the speaker (but why I don't know since it sounds good enough to me). I haven't heard anyone say of issues on the web etc with any Blackstars so I expect it to be good for some time. Unlike many valve amps it has no standby mode. I haven't noticed any delay when I switch it on either (although I do turn it down before off so maybe there is one) A bit strange but there you go.

Features — 5
Mine was bought second hand on eBay and was made in 2010. The RRP is 200. I think I got a good price particularly as mine included a cover. The HT-1R is a basic tube amp for home practicing. It has very few features. Volume, Gain, ISF, and reverb pots with a switch to go from "clean" (ish) to "less clean". It also has large jacks for headphone out and audio in which I haven't used yet (no adapter to 3.5mm). It would have been nice to have had an adjustable volume pot for the audio in but never mind. It is made to a high standard (in China) and looks almost "boutique" with its leather finish. A lot nicer than many Amps in its price range which are often a bit "plasticy". It is quite small but is not quite as miniature as some video reviews will have you believe - It does have an 8 inch speaker! I was after an Amp that would go from clean to classic 70/80s rock and possibly a little further with the minimum of settings. My previous Amp had a load of different settings but was too fiddly so I rarely used them and tended to just use either a basic Marshall or occasionally a Vox emulation preset. I don't need a lot of volume since I live in a flat. Occasionally I take it to group Guitar lessons and it is loud enough for that environment too (if there are drums they are politely played). I would like to say that I miss the separate treble, middle and bass pots of the HT-5 but actually I don't. Probably the biggest thing I miss of my old Amp was the built in tuner.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Had mine for 12 months now. Today I bought the HT408 cab and that takes the amp onto another level. I've been playing for nearly 30 years and this is by far the best home use/bedroom volume amp I ever used.
    I like the amp, good range of sounds and sounds very nice through with heaphones as well. Unfortunatly I've had quality control issues as well though. Bought my first one 2nd hand from the 'bay, although it was nearly new (amp hadnt even been released long). That lasted a few months before dying (onboard fuse problem) - sold on for spares/repairs. My second unit was bought new, I sent that back as the retailer tried to palm me off with a used unit (no fault of blackstar there, but not taking chances after the first one). And my third unit is now on its way back from its second four week trip back to blackstar (under warranty) for a faulty aux in jack. Although I like the sound it produces, I wouldn't buy another after the problems I've had.
    I just got it for bedroom practice and it kicks ass! everyone says that it's a little beast and it's so true. the clean channel breaks a little too early, but it's still loud enough for inside a room and the dirty channel is just amazing. i love it, great amp for 1 watt only! I play it with a Gibson Les Paul Studio and it sounds great! if you wanna enter the valve amp world, then definitely start from the HT1R!
    Agree that it (head) sounds good with Les Paul. Probably will improve with an EQ pedal, as my pups don't have much treble as is. Going to use it with a V30 eventually, saw a video of this just slaying through one. All around great little practice/recording amp. I haven't tried yet but for kicks I'm going to try running the direct out into the FX return on a Cube30. I think it will do well...
    I have had a ht-40 for about a yr, which I love. I never get a chance to practice until wife and baby are asleep. So, I needed a small practice amp. I picked up the ht-1r about a week ago. Man, this thing is perfect for me. The clean has very nice tone. Although its not very loud, but that's the idea right?I could not put my guitar down last night,messing with the clean tones. The gain channel is real nice too. The hardest stuff I like to play is UFO, Deep Purple, Thin lizzy ect. This thing just sounds fantastic playing that 70's hard rock. Even though I mention Euro bands ,I prefer the ISF closer towards the american side. The british can get a little muddy. Thats my 1st and only complaint about tone. I play a Gibson SG, Gibson V, And a mim Strat with no effects except maybe a wah sometimes. I see reviewers saying these are inexpensive. Even though I love it, I think they are overpriced considering where they are made. Also, with just a handfull of folks commenting,Its is a concern 2 guys had major quality issues. All I can go on is my ht-40 has been very reliable, and it gets moved around quite a bit.
    Recently bought another HT1-R and take it into group lessons. Its so light it is trivial to carry it, guitar and a rucksack with music all at once. In that environment it does really well. It's more than loud enough and its easy to get the tone I want. I love the reverb and tend to use that when clean. The only pain is that I would like a genuine two channels - ie. a switch and a separate volume. The overdrive select button changes the volume so much that using it mid-song is not really possible.
    These amps are great! Easy to use and, great with pedals. Put an overdrive in front of it and, hit the OD channel. You will have killer low volume tone guaranteed!
    I've really had my eye on this little practice amp for a while. I'm just wondering if you could get a Pantera/ Megadeth kinda distortion on the HT-1 without a pedal?
    This is one of my fav amps. I have 2 - one ht-1 combo and one ht-1r combo. I run them in stereo sometimes. Oh yee they sound awesome trough my 212 cab v30. Perfect with a ts/od infront also.