Sound — 8
I tested the HT-Metal with a Carvin DC145M and through a Blackheart Little Giant (with the Bitmo Triple Bypass mod) and a Peavey Transtube 212 EFX to get a feel for how it works with tube and solid state. The pedal itself is 'high integrity buffered bypass', and while I don't know what that technically means, I don't get any interference when the pedal is off and there isn't any hissing or other extraneous noise when using the pedal as a distortion pedal. When recording direct from the pedal I did have to use a VST Noise Gate in Reaper when I was using the higher gain settings of the pedal. There was no noise on the line when switching channels. With some tweaking I was able to really get as close to nailing tones from Iron Maiden, Metallica and other bands as I've ever gotten with a distortion pedal from either amp I was testing the pedal through. It seemed like it was especially awesome at louder volumes with the Blackheart Little Giant. This is probably the best distortion pedal I've played with before. Before this pedal I was using mainly an EHX Metal Muff, which I still love for sentimental reasons if nothing else, but it really doesn't even compare. The HT-Metal is like the Cadillac of the distortion pedal market.
Overall Impression — 9
I play a pretty wide variety of music, but even though this is called the HT-Metal (and it definitely can pull off any genre of metal), it seems to be able to pull off just about anything else you throw at it, even if you are using the channel 1 clean as an EQ. I've been playing several years at this point 6 or 7 years since I picked the guitar back up after an absence. I have mainly used an EHX Metal Muff for my distortion before now, or I did use a BOSS DS-1 before I changed over to the Metal Muff. Really the Blackstar HT-Metal makes my Metal Muff sound like a toy... The same for the BOSS DS-1. If this pedal were lost or stolen I would absolutely replace it, but I would try out the other pedals in this series first as they all seem awesome. I love the amount of control and options this pedal gives me. If there is anything I dislike about it, it would have to be the fact that it is requires a lot of voltage to run. It comes with its own power supply, which is a 22 volt AC adapter, so I guess that is okay, but for my current pedal board and power supply I have to power the HT-Metal separately.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Okay, straight up, the HT-Metal is like a brick. The casing is metal, the knobs are metal, and it weighs a LOT for a pedal actually, about the weight of a couple of bricks. I trust this pedal to survive abuse including some falls, kicks, etc. I would hope I was never in a situation were I was gigging without a backup for everything just in case, but if I had to play without a backup, then I would trust this pedal it is a monster. I have a friend who has a few of the other pedals from this series, probably some of the earliest that were shipped, and he swears they are indestructible. He has used the HT-DISTX for gigs on numerous occasions and claims it is his favorite pedal. After playing around with the HT-Metal he was convinced he needed to add one to his collection. Based on what I've seen myself from this pedal since getting my hands on it, and from my friend's comments I would expect this pedal to last forever. I've not exactly sure how the Tube Works in this thing, but he says he's never had to change them out in his pedals.
Ease of Use — 9
The HT-Metal is pretty easy to use, mainly due to the fact that it looks like the control panel from a guitar amplifier. You have controls for bass, mid treble, ISF as well as stacked knobs for gain and level. There is a button small button for channel one to choose clean or overdrive. There are foot operated buttons for channel one and channel two. You can set up channel one to be anything from a clean channel to a cruncy AC/DC-esque channel using the gain, EQ and ISF. Channel two is for high gain metal, but can be pulled down with the gain to more of a early metal tone. The ISF control is a genius little feature that lets you give the pedal a more American or British voicing, or blend the two. There is a guitar input, an output to your amp, or an emulated output to record direct with the pedal or go directly out to a PA system. There is also an actual tube, that along with the true 300 volt tube circuitry allows access to cascaded tube gain stages. Basically, I was playing with the pedal out of the box getting good tones, and after a few hours went back and read the manual in case I missed something which I didn't then went back to playing some more. This is a fully featured pedal which basically acts like an Overdrive pedal, a distortion pedal and an EQ pedal all in one that's not counting the ISF control.