HT-5H review by Blackstar

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9 (31 votes)
Blackstar: HT-5H

Price paid: $ 220

Purchased from: Craigslist

Sound — 9
I played a couple guitars through this. The first was an Fender HSS MIM Stratocaster for a very short time, the second was a PRS CE-22. The PRS has markedly hotter pickups than the Strat, but they both sounded nice through this amp. I started with just the guitar TC Electronic Polytune and Dunlop wah into the front of the amp. With the guitar volume off, it is very quiet on the clean channel like this. The Drive channel is a bit noisy. I then added pedals to it through the effects loop; a TC Electronic Nova System and Boss 20XL Loop Station. The effects loop works flawlessly. Extremely quiet -- just perfect. I consider this amp very versatile. It has plenty of gain on tap (which I imagine is what most people are after). This will handle metal just fine. Metallica, Slayer, Godsmack, etc. Not a problem. If you want something heavier you should get a pedal. The ISF knob is very cool and very useful. You can leave it in the middle for the "Blackstar sound" or left or right to get California/England sounds. The clean channel is quite adequate. I've heard others pan the cleans but I found them nice. You'll get breakup anywhere above 7 or 8. I don't think that's surprising. Rolling off the volume will solve this if you're going to be picking hard. The main problem is lack of reverb - but if you have a pedal (or the newer model) this is a moot issue. I typically played with the treble & bass a bit past 1 o'clock and the mids scooped a bit, around 10 o'clock.

Overall Impression — 9
The intent behind this purchase was to find a head that would work well in my home but that could also be used for recording. After playing through it for about a year, I think it would be an excellent head to gig with, but only if it was either mic'd through a PA or if the gig was relatively intimate/quiet. I mainly play blues, classic rock, hard rock/metal. My musical playing tastes range from SRV, to Metallica, to ZZ Top. I found this amp willing and able to do it all. This amp also made me fall in love with tubes. There's a warmth to the tone it makes once things are heated up and being driven hard - I've not been able to do that with large wattage heads. But this guy wants to be ridden hard and put away wet - and you can totally do it without worrying about your neighbors calling the cops on you! It's currently sitting to the side as I bought one of its bigger brothers (HT-20H) but I don't really want to sell it. I love this little amp. I have the feeling if I sold it, I'd just end up buying another one eventually anyway. The only reason I can see me selling it would be to buy another small wattage amp that sounds better to my ears...

Reliability & Durability — 10
This is a VERY affordable amp. It does not have chassis mounted pots, hand-wired circuits or chassis mounted tubes. It has all overseas-made, PCB internals. That should not be surprising to anyone. The amp has never failed to work for me. It warms up quickly & plays nicely. I've never needed servicing done on it, but as it's so inexpensive, I would probably take it to a local shop rather than try to get the factory to repair anything. The discussion about gigging is interesting, but this is totally gig worthy. You'd just need to mic the thing - most clubs these days (that I've been at anyway) have moved this way anyway, so big amps aren't as useful...

Features — 8
My HT-5H is the previous generation head (not the newer one with reverb). I originally wished mine had reverb, but it's no longer necessary with my pedal board... It has 2 channels, an effects loop and a headphone jack. One thing that was poor was the length of the footswitch cable (very short). I removed the cable, replaced it with a 1/4" jack and velcro'd it to my pedal board. This mod is a must. Luckily it's probably the cheapest mod in history - and only takes a few minutes. This was my first tube amp. And while others claim here and there that it's a "hybrid" amp, I'm not aware of that as a claim. My Vox VT-series amps were hybrid. The Blackstar is described & promoted in only "tube" terms. It has a pre-amp tube and a power tube. Perhaps there's some digital wizardry happening inside, but regardless of that it's still a tube amp. It is remarkably loud when you consider it's only 5 watts. It also has a standby switch which is very useful.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Or maybe somebody thinks: "Because it's not all tube I won't accept that it sounds good for me so I'm gonna say that it sucks even though I really like it."
    MaggaraMarine wrote: Or maybe somebody thinks: "Because it's not all tube I won't accept that it sounds good for me so I'm gonna say that it sucks even though I really like it."
    You might be hitting the nail on the head. I don't know but the use of diodes in the signal doesn't make it "non-tube" in my mind. It means they did what was needed to shape the tone to their liking. I've seen people complain about amps that use diodes in their effects loop -- calling them non-tube because they didn't have a buffered tube loop. Seriously? It starts sounding to me like people trying to be "right"...
    rockkiller23 wrote: I don't think of Ht5 all tube amp. it is only hybird amp, Ceratinly many people cann't claer which real tube or not
    it's basically a hybrid between hybrid and all tube. it has just clipping diodes in the preamp, but also a tube gain comes mostly from the diodes, sound and tone comes from the tube. so you have a hybrid preamp and an all-tube poweramp. 1/4 diodes, 3/4 tube.
    m4ss3 m/
    EddieRowan wrote: Is this amp good for metal?
    Quite but there are better ones.
    A real tube debate. I read on may web sites that this the head version is classed as a Solid State amp, where as the combo version is Valve. I dont understand this so maybe someone can clear it up for me.
    So here I am, two years later since I wrote a comment on the Blackstar HT-5H. Still got the amp but it desperately needs to be retubed. don't forget that tubes only last for a year or so. And in my case, I used this amp A-LOT. I cranked this baby like it should be. And therefor the tubes have become numb and flat. But still happy with it.
    mitch Long
    I got mine recently and invalidated the warranty on the first day. New power Tx / new O/P Tx. 6X4 valve rectifier powering the valves and phase splitter. EL95 PP O/P stage added . I can now switch between the BH7 or EL95. Why ? just for the fun i suppose and something a little different. Its a great little amp in stock form but very misunderstood as to what it is under the bonnet (Hood) : It is a hybrid, there are opamps / Transistors and valves in the signal chain. The op amps are mainly at the start for clean gain increase , (with standard protection diodes for static.) in the OD section (which uses classic distortion generation by clipping diodes per any dist pedal available since 1967 )FX send and return and tone section recovery and buffering. The AX7 is sort of in the middle of the chain before the tone section adding "colour" as you would put it. I would say that all the op amps apart from the OD section are arranged to have enough headroom to not clip the signal, but the OD section driving the AX7 just into clipping to produce the dist you all love, (if i had the time it would be easy to bash through it with a scope to really check these points). The phase splitter is Transistor driving the O/P stage thru 1UF electrolytic caps (yuk) . The output stage is biased really cold -24v or there abouts stock, about 1 ma at 290V ! But only adjustable from -35 to -20V . Anyone can put anytube they like in there with no precautions ... you cannot bias it to harm the valve. (i hope they designed it that way on purpose ) For a standard AB output stage at 70% dissipation you'd want to have about 8ma probably -14V or thereabouts. The O/P TX is fantastically small with quite high winding resistance . The stock amp sounds nice and is versatile, great in the house or office. If you like the stock sound then some mods really open it up, its fun. not my low powered twin but i don't want it to be that. After the Mod its much more expressive around 8 watts , the cleans shine, distortion is more gritty - the amp is more responsive to attack. The O/P TX is essential to this but the pentode output stage (with film coupling caps) helps a lot. The package is really good value for money and worth playing arround with because the tone section is so good.. Should i have just bought the pedal and saved my time and money..... no lah !
    I bought this amp, had it for a year, got rid of it. It's a great amp if you play mostly metal, but for anything lighter than Hard Rock, it's not very good. Even with the gain set on 1, it was too over-driven for my taste, not to mention, one-dimensional. The clean channel reminded me of a Marshall MG, solid state, soulless and boring. Bottom line, get this if you play stuff like Metallica and the likes, but for everything else, there are much better valve amps out there. I believe this amp is nothing more than a solid state with some valves to make it warmer, I don't even need to look at schematics to realize this is, it really sounds like a Marshall MG, but with a warmer overdrive channel.