Price paid: £ 85
Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 8
I play an ESP LTD EC 401 FM into a Fender Super Sonic 60 1x12 Combo. I use this pedal for most of my playing which consists of Metal, Alternative Metal, Post Rock and a bit of punk. This pedal handles them all with ease, the valve circuitry provides a warm, organic distortion that can be either gritty for alternative styles or tighter for more traditional heavy styles. The one thing I am not sure about is the ISF. I've played a few Blackstar amps with this control and it seems to work well in that setting, but on this pedal it needs a bit more work. When firmly in USA territory it can sound quite over-scooped, when back in the UK it can sound muddy. The best setting I found is to have the ISF in the middle with the Bass rolled off to about 10 or 11 o'clock, the Treble boosted to 1 or 2 o'clock and the Middle set to 12 o'clock, thus setting keeps the Bass in check without sounding muddy and adds in enough Mids to avoid over-scooping. The gain has a good sweep from OD style breakup to barely-in-control aggression, mostly I keep it at about 2 o'clock. The emualted output doesn't really impress on its own, but through some delay in post and it sounds convincing.
Overall Impression — 9
This pedal provided me with exactly the distortion I was looking for, masses of gain but with a true, valve powered and organic tone. Again, the ISF needs some work but this is by no means a disqualifying fault as, admittedly, I am a 'find a setting and stick with it' kind of player and there is a fantastic sweet spot on this pedal that, no matter what you do with the Gain and Level controls, it sounds fantastic. Before this I has a Boss MT-2 and truth be told, I don't know why I didn't buy the Blackstar sooner, it provides the rich, warm over-tones that give your tone the authenticity that digital distortion just can't provide. This pedal is likely to remain with me for many happy years to come.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Like most Blackstar products this pedal is made of top-quality components, the chassis is comprised of durable, high quality steel and the pots are solid as a rock. All-in-all I would depend on this pedal totally.
Ease of Use — 10
This unit is pretty simple to use with standard Gain, 3 band EQ and Level controls. It also has the addition of the innovative Blackstar Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) that allows you to sweep through from a scooped american sound through to a thicker, british style voicing. It also has a grill over the internal ECC83 Valve allowing you to see it glowing away as you play which is a cool feature. It came with a manual and a power supply, quite useful as finding a 16v power supply could prove a little difficult. The one proviso is that it is a hefty beast, taking up a lot of room on the board.