Price paid: $ 399
Purchased from: GC
Sound — 7
This is an interesting amp, with both good and bad points. First, love the clean tones. Absolutley exquiste. My strat sings, my 12-string jingle jangles like Vintage Byrds or Burrito Bros. -- crisp, but clean. The distortion is only so-so. I like natural overdrive and I wish the clean channel had just a bit more gain. Channel 2 sounds like a pedal -- which this thing was -- until its pinned. Then it gets interesting. But it's still NOT LOUD ENOUGH. I know it's only 5 watts, but other low-watt amps like the Valve Jr. and the Vox blow my head off and they use basically the same 16 ohm speakers. The Tiny Terror will shake my fillings loose, this won't. With the HT-5 I have to stick a volume boost in front to keep up. Mind you, the extra gain does the trick, but it's beside the point. I expect it to keep up on its own. The HT-5 will recreate every tone you've heard on a rock record for over 40 years but it doesn't get you off the way a full-cranked Marshall will. It's basically a giant iPod speaker for guitar.
Overall Impression — 7
I'm a classic rocker, I like a mix between clean and dirty tones. The HT-5 is a reasonable facsimilie of every amp you ever heard on an album, with the right pedals and set-up I have No Doubt you could recreate almost any sound you've ever heard. The features, build and quality are all top notch. I got the cabs and footswitch thrown in basically free, and it was an incredible value for the money. Makes the Marshall mini-stack look sick in comparison. But prices have since gone up (nearly doubled, in fact) and I'd be extremely reluctant to shell out the extra dough. For one thing, it's not loud enough. This is an elaborate practice amp but short of running it through an 8X12 stack you won't be waking the neighbors, even a little bit. What sealed it for me though is the absolute lack of mods, it's vehemently discouraged by the company. I went on to a Blackstar forum and somebody asked what some good substitute tubes were. Some company troll ripped him down for even thinking about swapping tubes and said the whole thing would have to be rebiased. For a 5-watt head, WTF???? For the 799 or whatever they want now, I'd spend the extra $100 and get an Egnator or the new Tiny Terror. For that kind of coin I can get a Night Train and have enough left over for a weekend in Vegas. Great amp, but only at a certain price point. You have to figure out the value proposition on your own.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Seems pretty sturdy, nice build quality for an affordable amp, the chrome tele-style knobs and switches are a nice touch. Classic styling, everything is made to look like a 70s-era Plexi.
Features — 8
5 watt 2 channel Class AB push/pull tube design. FX loop, footswitch, unheard of in a low watt package. Two 10-inch cabs -- custom Celestions, nice! The ISF knob is a little geeky, but it does let you dial in a nice chiming tone on a strat and a late-60s Zep on the Les Paul. The knock on this amp is a lack of reverb, but a T-Rex Roommate in the loop works lovely indeed. In fact, this amp is extremely FX friendly, all your pedals will sound great. I've got an Ibanez phaser and a 60s Crybaby, both sound pristine. Has an "emulated" output, which basically isolates the preamp section for headphones, direct to mixer and recording into the computer. Unfortunately, can't run the line out and have the speaker outs engaged at the same time. Also the 2X12 and 4X12 speaker emulation seems frivolous.