Price paid: £ 170
Purchased from: Web Purchase
Features — 7
My Blackstar HT5 was one of the earlier models fitted with a 10 inch Celestion speaker and without reverb. I bought it second hand with a fault that its had for ages - the switching between clean and drive channels always needs two presses of either the foot switch or the button. It was made in Korea but is finished to a good standard and looks and feels nicely made. Like all Blackstars it is fitted with corner protectors and the plastic covering feels and looks nice and not cheap. It's key features are two foot-switchable channels and an effects loop. The clean channel has a volume control whilst the drive channel has Gain, Volume Bass Middle and Treble controls. Like all Blackstars it has an ISF control which I am unconvinced by. Yes it changes the tone but not that much... The amplifier also has an emulated out that may be used with headphones etc. I have never used it on this model.
Sound — 9
Unlike many modelling amplifiers the Blackstar does one thing. It sounds like a small Marshall like amplifier and is really easy to tweak. It has a "Copper like" mellow clean tone that sounds lovely with Gibson type guitars. The clean channel goes fairly loud but doesn't stay clean for that long. It has a nice edge of breakup tone that can be made dirtier by heavier playing or using the volume knob on the guitar (think older style blues). The drive channel does have a lot of gain and go a lot more modern than I would tend to play and can cover most '70s/'80s stuff (e.g. Bryan Adams, Rainbow) without needing extra pedals. I have used mine for several jams with a drummer/ guitar/ bass/ singer through P.A. and I could hear myself fine and drummer had nice things to say about my playing - so obviously he could hear it! I don't regard it as loud enough for a genuine gig. Its quite a bit louder than a 30Watt solid state but.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I wouldn't want to do a conventional gig with a HT5. Its great for Jams with a drummer etc but isn't quite loud enough for a small heavy rock/traditional rock gig. That said you could play it comfortably in a coffee shop. Its also not so powerful that you can't play it in a flat with the volume turned down at sensible levels. I believe its on its first set of valves and believe its very strongly built. I wouldn't abuse it but it has regularly been transported in the back of a car (or by post when I bought it) and is absolutely fine.
Overall Impression — 9
Most of the time when I play at home I tend to play "Rocksmith" or practice along with backing tracks. I also have a Boss JS8 to play along with should I want it although I never tend to plug into it anymore - I prefer the Blackstar tone even when played very quiet. This amp was bought as a relatively cheap amp with a nice tone for Gibsons and dual channels that I could easily carry into a Jam session out of the car (guitar one hand amp other) and easily adjust to get the tone I wanted. I didn't want a modelling amp as I knew it would have lots of settings that I wouldn't know how to use. I was very tempted by Hughes and Kettner 18 Combo but was not entirely sure about the tone and they were at least twice the cost of this amp. The HK would have done everything I wanted and more but I couldn't justify the money. The Blackstar is still doing everything I need. I hope at some time in the future to need a more powerful gigging amp but at the moment it is good enough and its a good compromise between power, cost and weight.