Purchased from: Pawn Pros/Goodwill
Features — 8
Once upon a time, I was an impulsive gear shopper - now I wait around for awesome deals to come, and thus far, for the past 4-5 years I've been doing so - it's paid off MASSIVELY!
The Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 10 is a entry-level practice modeling amp with computer programmability - and it was EXACTLY what I was looking for to replace the beat-to-hell DigiTech RP-250 I'd been using the past 5 years since my V-AMP (and along with it, my DREAM guitar sound) died!
- I'm guessing 2016 is the year by the looks of it
- The amp requires a 6.5V 3A power adapter that is as rare as hens teeth outside of the regular box (I'll get to this soon - I had quite an adventure getting this for so cheap with regards to this).
- 6 Amp models total (Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD-1, and OD-2).
- Controls for Gain, Volume, Effects Type, Effects On/Off/Edit, effects Level Tap Tempo, Tuner, Manual Preset/Auto Preset/HOLD TO STORE, and power
- I/O for USB (using an old flip-phone style charge cable, aka USB 2.0 MINI Type B), Instrument Input, Line-In (for external audio devices), Headphones/Line-Out, and of course, a center positive AC Adapter ranging between 6.5 (well 5 actually) volts and circa 3A.
- I know very little of the speakers and any tunneling/porting/channeling inside the amplifiers cabinet, I probably should take it apart and take a look inside (I don't have a warranty to void!) - the sound this thing gets is amazing - but I'll leave at for the sound section.
- The amp is editable via Blackstar INSIDER software which has the best interface I've used thus far for any modeling product. My Behringer V-AMP used to hold the record for best interface but this software takes the cake.
- Downsides are there is no footswitch capability, so no changing channels, we have to go at it old-school-Marshall style here - by using your volume knob and changing your playing technique to clean up the sound when using distortion.
My only real issue with the features is I wish it had some kind of battery powerplant ability, and also, I wish the power adapter had not been such a PITA to work out - really, Guitar Center, Kennally Keys, Radio Shack, not a single one of them really knows much about electronics - but Goodwill saved the day with a Zip Drive Power Supply for a buck ninety-nine - albeit it's a 5V 2.5A PS, but it gets me there.
Prior to working out my own Out-of-Warranty PSU solution - I learned a lot, but I'll share that elsewhere.
Sound — 8
My typical sound is this - a British voiced, crunch-channel on a EL34 based amp with a good, powerful presense and midrange, and a tight, focused, but thick bass, usually with a light delay, stereo chorus, and plate reverb thrown on top in the studio. Basically put, I sound like the 1980's brought into modern times or so it sounds to my ears. I play a mix of New Wave, Punk, Grunge, Metal, Blues, and Video Game music - just to name a few things though I dabble in almost anything I like.
I'm mostly going to be using my guitar straight into this thing, only using pedals when I have to because my pedalboard is a ginormous SKB PS-45 monster with a DigiTech Whammy, Boss Super Shifter, Crybaby Wah, Behringer Phaser, Small CLone, DigiTech Turbo Flange, and BOSS DD-7 Digital Delay on it, and most of the effects I want to use I can get through other means (Behringer 2024P Virtualizer Pro rackmount studio processor).
Now let's talk the basics - this amp is shockingly quiet, I read somewhere that Blackstar implemented some form of noise gate on these amps, whateve it is it works really well and is non-intrusive, I was able to clean up my sound very easily from the crunch channel using my EMG Equipped Jag-Stang's volume knob - a guitar which is a hard guitar to clean up by it's very nature (short scale, EMG 81 active pickup in the bridge throwing a whole whopping 1VDC of electricity at the preamp, 1.5V peak). I think other makers need to make note of Blackstar's noise gate feature - THIS is how you make a noise gate. The DigiTech it replaced the noise gate had to be turned off for me to use the volume knob to clean up my sound, which by limitations of both of these devices is a need if you use clean and distortion.
One thing I've noticed, in the whole year I've been playing these amps at multiple guitar shops - is somehow they successfully managed to make an amplifier with not a single bad sound on it! Because of it's simplicity and stripping down of presets - this takes away the muckity muck of bad sounding presets, or presets that the designer might have had some kind of special technique for to bring out it's purpose, but would be lost in transition to the user.
We have six amp models - here's how I see them....
Warm Clean - Warm Clean sounds a lot like an emulation of an old Tweed Fender amp of some kind, like a Bassman 410 or a Tweed Harvard. Don't let "clean" fool you though - this amp breaks up very nicely and gets a good surf/rockabilly sort of breakup ala "Planet Claire" or "Lava" off the first B-52's album with the spring reverb applied whilst running my Jazzmaster through it, or a good Stevie Ray Vaughn type sound when using a strat.
Bright Clean - This sound sounds like a Fender Twin Reverb, Fender Deluxe Reverb, or Princeton Reverb type sound to me - but able to break up when gain is really pushed. The breakup is a very Ted Nugenty-sound, or re-referencing the 52's sounds a lot like the guitar tones off their Wild Planet album - it grinds in a good vintage way whilst retaining that chimey goodness. Cleaned up, this sound is my ideal clean channel, clean, glass-like, throw on some chorus and reverb, you can go to shoegaze/indie city in a pinch with a Jazzmaster or Jaguar pushing the front end. Cranked up it's Wango Tango or The Devil's in My Car. It also works great for that clean Ric Ocasek sort of sound if you use the Insider software (My Best Friend's Girl) - just toss a Jazzmaster or a Tele at it with both pickups on with a little gain applied and the midrange "twisted up a bit" and you'll be leading a "Double Life" in no time.
- The Crunch and Super Crunch channels are the main reason I picked this amp up - THIS is my sound - that sound of a 100+ watt EL34 based head with snarling midrange, tight but warm low end, and a little bit of sparkle on top that drew me in. In store I'd just turn it to Crunch or Super Crunch depending on my mood and what variant of (usually Jaguar) guitar I was running through it. Toss on some very slow but thick chorus, a light delay, and some plate reverb, and there's that magical sound I had in my head until 2006 when I made it reality on the V-AMP pro -except the ID:Core 10 makes it a lot more...uh....3D than it was on the Behringer. It's got more body, more warmth, without getting muddy or losing articulation - and that is KEY. Regular crunch on it's own without any alteration is sort of a Michael Shenker type sound, works great for the Scorps, UFO, or late '70s/early '80s Judas Priest sounds. The Super Crunch is of course, classic Edward Van-Halen all the way. The main love of these channels is I can get them to sound like my modified Bugera 333XL head though - so I can emulate that without spending a metric ton on a dummy load/power brake/cab emulator to record direct while sucking up 100 watts at a time while doing it.
OD-1 is a very scooped-like midrangey sound, which I found very handy for Nu-Metal and other 90's-2000's metal tones where the midrange was cut and it was all lows and treble. It kind of sounds and feels like Dimebag's Randall Roadking 100 head sound, but with tube-like dynamics to it. It's also the closest thing one can get to a distortion pedal sound out of this amp, which is surprising - usually it's the other way around with modeling amps - a bunch of pedal-sounding presets, and then a handful of good amp models.
OD-2 Is a brighter, slightly more midrangey thing - the closest sound I associate with it is Paul Dean of Loverboy's 80's Hiwatt sound. Paired with the Flanger on this unit, you'll get that Loft 450G Rackmount processor Delay Line/Flanger sound and be up and playing "When It's Over" and "Prime Of Your Life" in no time. Running the Hondo Paul Dean II through it gave a very uncanny resemblance to those tones heard on the first 3 Loverboy Records, it also does a great job on other 80's type rock tones like Night Ranger's Mesa Boogie type sounds, and this is also my choice channel for Metallica and Slayer tones as well.
It's almost impossible to sound bad through this thing - the control scheme is simple - just select the amp model you want, use the gain, volume, and EQ controls to taste, press a button or two or three for effects and turn the knob to the desired effect and the level to level, and you're off. For someone like me who just "sets n' forgets" most of the time - this is pretty good.
Even once I got the Insider software up and running it was not a hard time getting anything to sound good. The only thing that may make it difficult is when it comes to creating/emulating the tones of people who play with a Fuzz Pedal or distortion Pedal in their chain - Jimi Hendrix (Fuzz Face), Kurt Cobain (DS-1), Keith Richards (Maestro Fuzz), or Cris Olivia (DS-1) all would be best done on this amp using an actual pedal in front while using one of the clean presets actually clean. Because of this, I'll take a point or two off for versatility - but for my intents and purposes personally I'd give it a 10, but here on UG, I know I'm not the only one who would look at this amp - so eight it is.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Before we begin here - let's take a look at WHY I wanted this amp in the first place, and it's actual PURPOSE in my ridiculous collection of gear for a non-famous musician guy.
See, I do these things at my house with an amp/amp modeler - I practice for my bands, show off to family/friends who come over to visit or to my wife, and I record demos. Now, my thoughts were, wouldn't be be nice to CONSOLIDATE my crap and actually have one thing that could do all this and not require a minute wait period on standby, not sit around unused for months because the only time I use it is to play for people at home, and not have me all cranky because I have to deal with flaky flash memory and remember and rewrite my presets which I'm never satisfied with.
That said, I'd never really use this live except in a backup sense, even then, I'm more likely to relegate my DigiTech to that job as that's what it was for to begin with.
Oh, and BTW, I bought this thing USED from a pawn shop, the strap was installed - and that's where out adventure with the one problem these amps seem to have - which I was made aware of by one of the only Guitar Center clerk I know and trust - and that is the origianlpower supply.
The original power supply for the ID:Core 10 Stereo is a 6.5V 3MA proprietary power adapter with a standardized plug intended just for this amp. However, when I was trying them out in the shop, it seems that Guitar Center, and later other shops, were having problems with these 6.5V adapters dying after awhile. So to fix this, Blackstar started providing the higher output 10VDC adapter for the ID:Core 20 with the device, or so I guess, because it can take the current draw better or whatever.
Problem is - due to this change, the Pawn Shop I was at was NOT a musical instrument retailer of any kind. They had a wall of small guitar amps, and most of them had the regular AC 120V plug on the end, this was the only amp with a AC Adapter, and after 25 minutes sin back fiddling, they said they found ONE power adapter that was 10V with matching amperage, and said it did not work... so they would knock the price down on the amp because they "did not have a compatible power supply."
So I tried several local stores for a power supply - 2 authorized Blackstar dealers - one electronics shop, and three thrift shops.
Guitar Center was the quickest. The guy there filled me in on the situation with these amps and the burning up 6.5V PSU they had, and that they had replacements but could not sell them because they where for warranty replacements on-site only. Understandable.
Kennally Keys was the same, some poor old guy had to go through 2 registers and looked up both PSU and offered to order those, and after talking with the tech, same speil I got from Guitar Center - "This is a proprietary power supply, there is nothing else that will work, you're better off just buying a new one for $99.99...yadda...yadda" - haha - B.S.! It was at that store I tried my new amp out through one of their supplies and realized along with some phone research two things about the pawn shop - they had the right adapter (Blackstar shipped at least some of these with a 10V 3A power adapter instead of a 6.5V 3A - which I think relates to the early power supply issues these were having) - and it takes a moment for it to start up - so the guy probably just flipped it on for one second and because he saw no lights on the immediate just assumed it was the wrong supply (either that or the supply was bad hence being pawned off).
See, I know a thing or two about "fudging" the power supply ratings on electronics - I own a Intellivision II game console that used a rare 14.3V AC power supply that cost about $140 on E-bay because that was even more oddball, rare, and non-standard than anything Blackstar probably put out for their amplifiers - I used my old US Robotics 56K modem power supply - I've been using that console with that PSU with the wrong ratings for 15 years now, ditto my 8-bit NES that uses the same exact power supply after the original fried (except the NES uses the exact power ratings the USR Faxmodem used). After a failed trip to Radio Shack - whom refused to sell me a power adapter because they had nothing within 100ma - I took my quest back to the thrift shops - in that big bastion of orphan power adapters known as Goodwill.
I brought the Blackstar into Goodwill, and used my legacy I.T. skills to figure out what adapter to use - I knew if I provided too much voltage or especially amperage (current) - I'd blow the amp - but if I spend a $1.99 and blow said $1.99 power supply - I'd be fine as sthere are plenty more - and I found out - and no I'm NOT recommending this, I'm just saying it does work - I use a IOMEGA ZIP DRIVE 5VDC 1A Power Supply and of course, the ID:Core fired right up and runs just fine, sounds every bit as good as it did when I tested it with an original PS at Kennally Keys. I wonder if the voltage is stepped down to something more like 3V or 1A when it hits the amplifier's actual circuit - sort of like what the giant capacitor in an Atari 2600 game console does (9VDC 100ma Adapter - only 5VDC of current draw at something like 75ma).
After playing through it for five hours straight with said supply, the supply barely gets even warm to the touch, showing that it's not at all struggling to keep the ID:Core fed enough voltage/current - everything works exactly as it should - software, hardware. The ID:Core stays the same temp as well. We'll see how it goes long term, I don't really plan to really blast this thing at all, but I must say, all that whining from 2 guitars shops and a Radio Shack about the power supply being proprietary and that I can only get a $50 replacement online and that's the ONLY thing that would work is total bullshit. Once again, the gods of Legacy computer equipment shined down upon me again at a local thrift and saved the day at laughably low prices.
This amp does look built to last outside of all the PSU adventuring as well, all of the chassis hardware feels solid and sturdy, the knobs are quality parts, and the jack is actually METAL - which is something that I REQUIRE of all my amps from this point forward because I've had so many bad experiences with plastic jacks. I'll give it a 9 - if only because it seems the art of the bargain through bizarre knowledge is dying due to OEM benefiting information. If it was in warranty and from Guitar Center - I'd understand, but being a second hand PAWN SHOP amp that probably had a dead power supply in back, and no tangible warranty to speak of - that's a whole other story.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I love this amp, it got my sound within 5 minutes of trying one out, I can carry it around standalone and do what I need to do, I can record with it and it will sound the way I want it to, I can practice and sound the way I want to. What more is there to want. It even has extremely good software with an easy interface - even uploading presets is easy.
I have been playing around 21 years now, and I own so much gear it's better to look at my profile to find out what I have at this point. If I had more amps, I could probably open a music shop! A cheap one but a shop no less.
If this were stolen or lost I'd just buy another one for $100 - new. Though the chances of this thing getting stolen are unlikely because of the known PS issues, unoriginal (and odd) power adapter, and I guard everything with lots of anger and well armed anyway.
I love almost everything about this amplifier, the only thing I don't like is the B.S. about the power adapter. In my case it was special because I bought the amp second hand from a clueless pawn shop with no warranty, manual, or power adapter to speak of. I bought it KNOWING full well I could find a workaround at a thrift shop.
I compared it to it's bigger siblings - the ID:Core 20 and 30, and to a bunch of other amps including a Rocktron stereo chorus, a Behringer Tube hybrid thing with a 2024P Virtualizer rackmount processor built into it, Fender Mustang II/III amps, and a few other less memorable amps, and kept going back to the Blackstar ID:Core 10. It was the only amp small enough to fit my limited space, cheap enough to be justified for it's use, and able to kill 3 birds with one stone without irritating the mess out of me or forcing me to change operating systems to run the software for it.
TBH, I would never have picked this up so soon had I not stumbled upon a Used, Warranty Free unit that I was able to get for $30 in a package deal with the Plunge Router I was buying to route a Mosrite copy I'm building. Just to "easter egg" the PSU and get a suitable replacement albeit a bit "under-powered" for a Gala Apple is quite the bargain!
About the only thing I wish it had was a footswitch, but with my skills and purposes behind this amp, I don't really NEED one.
So overall, I give it a 9, it sounds great, it works great, it seems quite content to run on something other than it's original PSU used (and that says a lot about these amps longevity second-hand in the future beyond their production), the software rocks, and I only spent $31.99