Price paid: $ 515
Purchased from: Musiciansfriend
Sound — 8
I'm using an Ibanez s series with the stock INF, Ibanez pickups as well as a Mexican Strat. eI'm playing in a post-hardcore/post-rock band, and we Switch a lot between clean and distorted tones and its perfect for it. Even when I want to sit down and just mess around, the tones and sounds I can get from it are ridiculous. I'll be playing John Mayer's cover of Hendrix's "Wait Until Tomorrow" and get a sparkly clean, but thick Strat sound even with my Ibanez, and then go play Megadeth's Tornado of Souls with the footswitch. For those metalcore/deathcore friends, it has a nice chug, and a tight low end. I wanted to be able to go from those Vox like tones and switch to something modern all in the same amp and it does that. Anything in between, though, I'm less impressed with, which I'll get to. As for headroom, this amp is pretty awesome. At 60 watts, it has plenty of clean headroom. The rest of my band will be playing at a loud part of the song, the other guitarist playing some lead or riff with a lot of distortion and my clean parts still cut through without breaking up. It is loud. I am competing with a 100 watt 5150 with a 4x12 cab, and I can still be heard over that, a bass player, and a loud drummer. I haven't gigged with it yet, but we practice in a basement, which is probably where we'll have most of our first shows, so I'm betting it will sound great even there. There are only two "problems" I have with this amp: 1.) It doesn't really do any one sound particularly well. And, it's not really that great for that "dirty" classic rock tone. I'd see bands like Rise Against, Senses Fail, Thursday and etc being played on this amp then I would Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, ACDC and bands like that. It has a great modern edge to it for metal and deathcore, and scene bands like The Devil Wears Prada, but for some reason the OD channels, even with the use of the ISF feature, can't really get that "vintage" sound out of it. I mean, trying to play a really dirty rock'n'roll sound that an Orange or similar amp can deliver, just can't happen on this amp. A lot of this probably has to do with how compressed and tight the distortion is, but I think a tube/speaker change or even putting a pedal through it would help. 2.) I remember playing around with it on the HT-5 when trying it out, and it really changed the tone that I heard. It's seems less distinct on the Ht-60, and the changes are more subtle. Maybe I'm just hearing it wrong or something, but it seems like it affects the sound less on this one.
Overall Impression — 9
This is a great match. Its versatile enough for my needs. I've been playing guitar for 8 years, and this is by far the most versatile and great sounding for this price range, especially since I got it used without the footswitch from Musiciansfriend. Other amps with this amount of tweakability is going to cost you upwards of 1200, and here you can get it for 899. If it were stolen or lost, I'd definitely get this amp again. I love this amp for what it is. It gives me tube tone, and with enough options to tweak my sound. I will say that the Blackstar is great for modern tones, and even some blues/jazz tones with the sparkly clean channel, but for those wanting a more "dirty" Vintage sound, then they should think of trying other amps. I bought it because of its versatility, and for the price.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've owned it three months, and have kept it on for about 4 hours a weekend (two hour practices Friday and Saturday) and I've heard no problems with the amp. Amp has not broken done as of yet. So we shall see.
Features — 9
2009? I'm not really sure. There is so much that I can tweak, with the resonance and presence controls as well as the one clean and two distortion/O.D. channels. The clean channel has its own Treble, Bass, Volume controls as well as a tone button that allows you change the character of the sound. The difference with the tone thing is pretty obvious, one going for a sparkly Vox-like sound, to a more rick, dark sound that emphasizes the low end. In the OD1 and OD2 channels we get a gain and volume knob for each channel, and a 3 band EQ and the ISF knob to control both channels. It also has a knob for the ISF or infinite shape feature, which allows you to turn the sound from a tight, American sound, or for a more British flavor. Its got a reverb, which is footswitchable. 2xECC83, 1xECC82 in the preamp section, 2xEL34's in the power section. I'm currently using this in a 4 piece band (another guitar, bassist, drummer). It is versatile in that the clean channel can go from really sparkly, chimey clean tones for blues, classic rock, jazz etc, and the O.D. channels you can go from classic rock to more modern sounds. Its sounds great from playing anything from say, Stevie Ray Vaughn to Necrophagist. It has plenty of headroom in the clean section, so that it won't overdrive in even a band setting (unless of course you bring down the master and crank the volume in the clean section). It also has an effects loop, headphone jack, and several ohm outputs for different cabs.