Price paid: € 339
Purchased from: Musicstore.de
Sound — 9
I am using this amplifier with a 2006 Gibson les paul. Like many guitarists I dabble in many styles but I am most partial to rock. I was disappointed somewhat by the sound of this amp when it first arrived but I soon learned that like all good valve amps you gotta wait for it to warm up before it starts to cook! Also a good sounding room will bring out the best in this amp but I guess that could be true for all amps. The clean on this amp was a revelation to me, it sounds beautifully clear and has a lot of character and doesnt't sound at all sterile like a solid state amp and if you dig in at about 1/4 volume you can get just a little breakup. Pushing the clean volume past 3/4 and you push the power valve acheiving classic Drive with a humbucker equipped guitar (think rock'n' singer by AC/DC and should I stay or should I go by the clash) cuts through well it is very easy on the ears. Moving to the overdrive side of things and you are in more modern territory as there is a lot of gain on tap here. The sound of the distortion is what I would describe as wet and saturated not classic rock smooth (Although this sound can be achieved by rolling the gain back and turning the volume knob up pushing the amps power stage)with the gain at around 6. With this setting I can quite easily nail the tone Joe Satriani had on his "surfing with the alien" album. If you don't think this possible check out the Peavey Joe Satriani mini colossal which promises to nail his tone but with an even smaller speaker but at twice the price. The isf is also very useful on this amp, actually surprisingly so with the gain whacked up and the isf turned toward the american side this amp can sound quite "djenty" maybe not pantera djenty but can certainly handle Metallica sounds from all their eras and most other forms of hard rock or metal. Because of the smaller speaker it tends to be on the brighter side but this can be remedied by proper EQ'ing. The amp is not noisy at all apart from the highest volume settings and this is what makes it such a viable choice for recording.The amp also takes pedals quite well either in front or through the fx loop.
Overall Impression — 10
For the price I don't think you can get a whole lot better particularly if you are after an all tube high gain sound. I had to buy this online as I couldnt find them in ireland and whatever ones are in shops have been flying off the shelves from what I understand. In my 8 years of playing this is the best small amp I've had, it certainly has a vastly superior clean and Drive channel to the MG and Vox valvetronix I had before this though it isnt quite as powerful as those amps. If it were lost I would buy either this or possibly the Blackheart handsome devil which is similar in price but is 15 watts although it has much less gain so would need a pedal to get a good heavy sound.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This amp is very solidly built. It feels like something that will last a long time if properly cared for. However, because it is all tube I can not recommend gigging without a backup as you just never know when the power tube(s) will decide to give up and die on you. I have not had to have this amp serviced yet as I have only had this thing a few weeks but it has been gigged and preformed well (with a mic of course). It got a little bit hot in the back by the end of the gig but I guess that's just the sign of a well worked power section.
Features — 10
This is a rather new product on the market having only been introduced in late 2008 and was designed in the UK by Blackstar, a company started by ex-Marshall engineers and manufactured in korea. It is a very feature rich amp for the price and wattage. It is all valve (5 watts), a 12xA7 in the preamp and a curious 12bh7 dual triode valve in the power section that operates in a push pull configuration whatever that means, packing 2 channels (Clean & Overdrive), black tolex covering, rear mounted gnarled chrome knobs, semi open backed cabinet, a 10 inch celestion speaker, shared EQ, standby Switch, FX loop that is switchable to suit either stompboxes or rack mounted effects, footswitch input, 8&16 ohm extension speaker output, emulated headphone line out with a 4X12 or 1X12 voicing Switch and of course the much vaunted ISF (Infinate shape feature) control. This comes in the form of a knob that when turned clockwise gives a amp a more british character (woody and dark) in the style of a Marshall and when turned counter clockwise gives the amp a a more american character (more bright and cutting with a mid cut) in the style of a Fender or Mesa Boogie. The amp also comes with a footswitch supplied. I was surprised by the power of this amp, I didn't realise a 5 watt all valve amp could be loud and it has never been past 5 on the clean or overdrive channel in my house. Rehearsals and gigs are another story especially with a loud drummer and it will probably need miking to be heard clearly. Btw this amp also comes in a mini stack and head form however I opted for the combo as it is the light (14kg) and portable option.