Price paid: € 590
Purchased from: Keskusmusiikki Lahti, Finland
Features: This amplifier is the newest one in Blackstar's affordable HT series. As a lazy-a-s writer I'm just going to copy the list of specs from Blackstar's website:
- 50 Watt valve head
- 2xECC83, 2xEL34
- Two footswitchable channels
- Enhanced tone controls
- Patented Infinite Shape Feature (ISF)
- Clean voice switch
- Overdrive voice switch
- Master volume
- Digital reverb with dark/bright switch
- Speaker emulated output
- Effects loop
- 2-way footswitch included
- Cool Vintage styling
(I like how they mentioned the styling).
I believe this amp was made in 2011, as I bought it in February this year. The thing I like in this amp is that it can do pretty much everything. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to do an "all-ten praise" for this amp, but seriously, this thing does it all. The clean channel gives you bright Fender-ish tones when tone knob is turned all the way up, or then other way around dark LP tones. You can Drive the clean channel at classic voicing so that it gives nice true tube overdrive. And with a master volume, you can do this at bedroom levels. WIN! Overdrive channel gives you roaring high-gain sounds or more settle rock tones.
About the channel's eq options... It's pretty 50-50, as the channels don't share the same eq, but at the same time the clean channel has only volume, voicing and tone knobs, while overdrive channel has volume, voicing, gain, 3-band eq and ISF controls. Master reverb and volume are separated. The ISF control is praised and said to be "the feature" in Blackstar's amps. Honestly, I haven't found much use of it. True, it's handy to have a knob that adjusts the mid frequencies, but it's not that special. Useful, if something.
Other news include effects loop with a pad control and a dark/light reverb control AT THE BACK. This I can't understand. It's pretty powerful control, as it controls the tone of the digital reverb, so why place it in the rear panel? I haven't used it much, since it's so hard to get into. I use this amp as the heart of my "gig-rig". This is my second amplifier, first one being Roland Cube 30X. (Okay I did a DIY-tube amp some time before getting this but that doesn't count, does it?) Power is not an issue. 50 watts of tube power is insane! Sometimes I feel bad buying amp this big, but when I crank that volume I REGRET NOTHING! (True, Orange Dark Terror would've been enough for me, but this was just too awesome to not to buy). Great features with a few design flaws. // 9
Sound: My main guitar is Tokai SG-43 and the second electric I own is a half-diy Stratocaster clone "Jaycaster". Tokai has humbuckers and Strat... Y'know. SG's humbuckers are bit muddy-ish sounding, which is expectable from a 400 guitar. Strat sounds too good to be a 160 kit guitar. I have a rather different view of buying gear (when needed). I got my Tokai and Cube 30X as a present about 2 years ago. Now, the reason why I chose to upgrade my amplifier instead of my guitar (which many people do), is that a great guitar can sound poor through a bad amp, but even the worst guitar can sound decent through an awesome amp. Hence why I spent all my savings to this.
Sound is gorgeous. Clean channel is simple to use, and gives you just the tone you need. It isn't as awesome as the best amplifier's cleans, though. Distortion channel is rich, saturated true tube drived train of madness to hell. With classic voicing you get rock 'n roll tones (to the extreme), from classic rock to alternative and/or some light-ish metal tones too. On modern voicing it's all about full-blown modern metal distortion that rips your ears off your head. The eq for distrotion channel is quite powerful.
The problem with tube amps and bedrooms is that the distortions sound better the more volume you crank. While it sounds awesome at lower volumes, it just ROARS when driven at full volume through 4x12". Just be careful if someone is around... Oh, and if you use bad cables or your guitars grounding is not ok, beware, at higher volumes this amp will start cycling and squeeling. Not anything you haven't seen before, just be careful.
I play everything you throw at me, trash, pop, punk, prog... And this amp does it all. (I wonder how many times I've read that here in the UG.com). I mainly just tease my parents and my brother with br00tz when home, but with my 2nd band project we're going to a lighter music. Something you would hear on radio. Conclusion: Decent guitar + Awesome amp = Win. (Oh I would want to rate it 10, but since there are things I don't like...) // 9
Reliability & Durability: Tube amp is a tube amp. While on the road tubes will break down. There's no going around it, this is not as reliable as my Cube 30X, but hey, I've seen amps worse than this. This thing will hold itself together. No flaws in the finish, tubes sit nicely in their sockets, all knobs are sturdy and potentiometers do what they are meant to do.
This is the section where I can't give a final review, since I've had this amp only ~6 months, but the feel it gives to me says "Hey bud, I won't let you down and if I do may my tubes be smashed and thrown to hell". Tubes are still stock, I don't feel the need to change them in some time. Only thing I'm afraid to break down is the handle, but that's just me being paranoid. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Yet. I'll update this article if something breaks down. // 10
Overall Impression: Compared to my previous amplifier (OH GUESS WHAT! It's still Cube 30X!) this is a huge step forward, and I am not planning to change this amp in a loooooong time. Possibly when I move to my own place (which I believe will be an apartment somewhere downtown) and I don't have a band and no rehearsal space where I could play it. Let's say, when this thing has sat a year in my living room without playing, THEN I will get rid of it and please someone else's life with an amazing amp.
I've been playing for 7 years, 2 of which electric guitar. I won't say I'm amazing player, but hey, I know what I'm doing. I'm 17 btw. I bought this straight from the shop, they had to order it for me as this amp was just released at Winter NAMM 2012 show. I had to buy this amp mostly based on internet demos (Thanks Rob Chapman!), but since I read it doesn't differ too much from Blackstar's other amplifiers (HT-40 or 60, which I've played), I made my decision.
Oh I know you've been expecting this... If it were stolen, I'd get it back no matter what (I saved for this almost a year!), but I think I wouldn't hang myself... It's just gear after all. I think I'd go and see if there were other amplifiers that would do the job better, but I think there are none. Orange's Dark Terror is nice, though... Hmm.
I did quite a lot of research before buying this, and I can say I'm happy as hell. I tried some Marshalls, H&K's Tubemeister and other Blackstar's amps. This one seemed to do the trick, and here we are. And please guys, if you are going to blame me rating everything 9's or 10's, please just consider the possibility that they are well deserved! Go and try one out. You won't be disappointed. This was my first review here. Liek, evar! Go get one! // 9