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.
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.