Price paid: $ 950
Features — 8
This is a 60 watt tube amp combo with 3 channels pushed through 2 12" Celestion speakers and runs 2 ECC83's and 2 6L6's. The Blackstar FS-7 footswitch is included, which allows channel switching and toggling the reverb on and off at the kick of a button. There is a clean channel and two OD channels, OD 1 and OD 2.
Controls – There is a power switch, as well as a standby. The master controls include Resonance, Presence, Volume and a Reverb level (that can be toggled on and off with the included FS-7 footswitch). The Clean channel includes a Volume, Bass, and Treble knob, as well as an on/off button for "Voice." Its boutique style is extremely versatile with two modes - "British Class-A" and "dynamic US." The OD1 and OD2 channels each have their own Volume and Gain knobs. They share Bass, Mid, Treble, and ISF knobs between the two OD channels. On the back panel there is a Dark/Light toggle for the Reverb, an effects loop with an optional decibel boost, and an emulated output that can emulate as a 1x12 or 4x12 cab. There are multiple outputs for cabs at 4, 8 and 16 ohms. The only thing it was missing is a variable wattage setting of some type, which isn't exactly a necessity with a master and channel volume and channel gain controls.
Sound — 8
In general, what stands out to me about this amp is that it definitely has all of the low end you could want for practically any sub-genre of metal, and being close-backed it helps keep the low end tight and articulate. There are so many tonal options that you can find virtually any heavy tone you are looking for on this thing. The clean tones are definitely sufficient but somewhat limited as this amp is definitely geared to play almost exclusively metal. I tested this amplifier with multiple guitars, with active and passive pickups and with single coils and humbuckers. I tested with a variety of dirt pedals, and via the effects loop I tested analog and digital delays, as well as a chorus and flanger. I was very impressed with the results here, as well.
Clean – The clean channel was actually better than I expected for an amplifier that is designed for metal, but still limited. The gain on this channel basically let me get anywhere from a fairly pristine clean to a light blues crunch. When I say "Gain," I actually mean the channel volume and the volume control on my guitars to push this channel a little bit, as there isn't actually a gain control for the clean channel. Spending some time with the Reverb, Presence, and Resonance really helped open up the Clean channel more than I thought it would.
OD 1 and OD 2 – Both of the OD channels are basically identical, but have separate controls for Volume and Gain. This would let you set up a separate channel for rhythm and lead, or possibly for a more classic metal channel and a modern metal channel. There is plenty of gain on tap with the OD channels, and I also tested with dropped tunings down to Drop Bb and C Standard with some very impressive results.
A Note About the ISF Control – I've played with several Blackstar products and I've gotten slowly more comfortable in using the ISF control and really paying attention to what it does. Basically, the ISF control changes the way the three way tone controls interact (Bass, Mid, Treble), which allows you to dial a more US or UK sound (as the simplest explanation of the function of the ISF), but spending the time I could get pretty much any sound from my head to come out of the amp. The secret is really taking the time to adjust the ISF, then mess around with the EQ and not be afraid to spend a few minutes chasing a specific tone. Pretty soon I had a sheet of notebook paper with scribbled settings on it so I could go back and find previous settings I liked.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The Blackstar HT Metal 60 Combo is built like a tank. There is a heavy leather handle on top, corner caps on each corner, a stout metal speaker grille, indented handles on each side for transporting the amp, and rubber feet on the bottom in each corner. I have to say that with the extensive use I've had with Blackstar products over the past 18 months I can guarantee that their products are built to last. Their HT pedals are made of steel and some of the toughest pedals I've ever encountered, the ID Series amps, and then finally this HT Metal 60 Combo are some of the toughest amps I've encountered. I imagine they could survive a wide range of mishaps without anything more serious than some scuffs and scratches.
Overall Impression — 8
I am not primarily a metal guitarist, though it does make up for probably a very solid 30–40% of my playing time, and I was really impressed with what this piece of equipment could do. First, while I played it primarily at "bedroom" volumes (or at least not much louder than bedroom volumes), it easily kept up with a hard-hitting drummer and honestly I don't think it would have a problem with small gigs with a loud crowd, even without running into the PA. When jamming with friends they were impressed with the amp and had a lot of questions, which I was more than happy to answer. I was especially happy that the FS-7 footswitch was included with the amp, and the clean channel is one of the most usable clean channels I've heard on an amp made primarily for metal.