Blackstar HT-5 Review
It's all the rave!
A review by Marc Maiden
Big beefy tube amps? Pfffft that is SOOO last week! Low wattage tube amps are in, and it is taking the guitar world by storm!
This puppy comes loaded compared to its competition!
• Innovative 5-watt valve combo
• 1xECC83 and 1x12BH7
• Unique push/pull power amp design
• Award-winning HT Pedal preamp
• Two foot switchable channels
• Enhanced tone controls
• Patent-Applied-For Infinite Shape Feature (ISF)
• Fully equipped for studio or practice
• Speaker emulated output with 1x12 or 4x12 voicing
• Effects loop with effects level switch
• Footswitch included
• Cool vintage styling
• Power Rating (RMS):40 Watts
• Impedance: 16 Ohms
• Speaker: 1x10" Celestion
• Weight: 24 lb. • Dimensions: 17-4/10" W x 17-4/10" H x 9-7/10" D
I will talk about the important stuff.
5 watts? Wimpy wimpy wimpy? Or Hefty Hefty Hefty???
Well let me say, this is the loudest 5 watts I have ever heard. Now I could go into mathematics and explain to you logarithms and how volume is measured, but let’s just says that from volume 1, I can get a nice soft bedroom level of playing, but I can start playing with a drummer (low practice volume) at 5, and at 10 I can rock the house! You can crank it without making your ears bleed but trust me!!!! These 5 watts are loud! Do not be fooled!
Tubes tubes tubes!
Well, as you can see, there are only 2 tubes, 1 for the pre amp, and 1 for the power amp. I learned that having only 1 tube in each amp helps give the amp less muddiness and more clarity when you are playing. This I really did notice! I could not believe the clarity I got from these 2 tubes. When they wear out, I will replace them with the same tubes…they are very warm sounding, and I think they compliment the amp very well
He wears many hats!
This amp comes with something that not one of the other low wattage tube amps has! That is a second channel! That’s right folks! This bad boy comes with a clean channel, and a gain channel which can be changed with the click of the **included** footswitch!
Loop de Loop!
YESSIR! This does come with an effects loop! How rare is that in a $400 amp? Not one of the low wattage tube amps comes with an effects loop. This one does. I’ve put in stomp boxes and multi effects units in the loop and they sound great! There is a switch for you to increase or lower the effects level, but usually you find that the effects blend in nicely with the amp on its own. She takes pedals like a tank; don’t be afraid to load her up! I know I did, from the front and the back!
Let’s talk about the sound now shall we?
The cleans are very nice. They chime, and I can get a range of tones out of my guitar. It can get very spanky at times too, which is kind of cool if you are looking for a stratish sound out of your humbucker. This amp is really bassy! I really have to roll off the bass for most my tones because it just over powers the other parameters! The gain is very nice…it reminds me of the Mesa Mark I I had, but it also has a Marshal style sound to it thanks to the ECC tube which pretty much a British sounding tube. The gain can get good, however it could always use a little more. I’m not complaining about that because I wasn’t expecting a gain machine out of this little guy, but it does pack more of a punch than I expected. (Also note that my main guitar used vintage output pickups so what I do is run an Ibanez Tube Screamer in front of the amp and use it whenever I need the extra boost. This combo works out extremely well for me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world! (Yet )
It’s all about the tone baby!
There are 4 parameters to use when shaping your tone, the bass, treble and mids knob, but you also have the new ISF knob as well. The normal EQ controls are very responsive. You can hear the differences in the slight turns of the knob, which is rare in an amp these days. I usually keep the mids and treble at around 9 O’clock and the bass almost all the way off, but I change this from time to time. I am still playing with it of course! The ISF is a cool feature. It lets you turn your amp into a UK sounding amp, or a USA sounding amp. You can even blend both styles if you want. This really lets you tailor your sound to exactly how you want it. Overall the EQ is going to keep me busy for months trying to discover cool sounds to use!
SHHHHHHH! You are in a library!
Well, if this amp isn’t quiet enough for you, you can always plug headphones right into it! Yessir, comes with speaker emulation so you can play in even the latest of nights!
The cab is very nice sounding. I am curious to see what it sounds with other cabs, but the Celestion speaker sounds great. It can handle up to 40 watts, and the cab itself is very light! One of the reasons why I bought this set up! The amp does come with a stereo speaker out, so you can hook up 2 cabs with ease. Closed back tonal goodness yum yum!
A price to pay…
This comes at a great price! The combo amp or head/cab will cost you around $400 USD new! Not bad for delicious tube tone with all the features you get. The Blackheart low watt tube amps are a little less expensive, but they come with half the features and tone…the Egnater rebel costs over $600….and comes with only half the features. For $600 you can do what I did, and buy the Full stack version which comes with 2 1x10 closed back cabs. Great sound for a great price! You can’t beat it!
None of the amps besides the blackstar come with an effects loop or two channels with separate volume controls
I’ve been using this amp for 3 months now! Before that, I owned a Mesa Mark I, a Peavey Triple X, and a Marshal JCM900. The Blackstar has been my favorite! It replaced them all! Its ease of use, its light weight, and its amazing tone just took them all out. $400 VS the $600 + I paid for each of those other amps is another +++
It’s always been about me!
I play Jazz, Fusion, Progressive Rock/metal, and whatever else GMC throws at me. This amp handles all styles well, but when I need a little extra gain for my heavier Dream Theater songs, I turn on my Tube Screamer and it takes care of that! Really guys, this amp is extremely versatile, don’t be afraid if you think the gain is a little weak for you. You can always add gain, but you can’t add tone
A WARNING TO THOSE LOOKING FOR A BUDGET AMP
This amp as I've mentioned is great for those looking for a cheap tube low watt amp for recording and practice. The problem is you will need pedals. There is no reverb, and the sound can get a little dry, so be prepared to buy effects for this. (Just a heads up)
We are going to war!!!
This amp has handled my abuse + moving a lot. Not one problem or bug yet. This amp is even really quiet since it is so low powered. Not much to say about reliability except that it has handled itself thus far!
Let’s break it down!
Features: 8/10 - great features for the price and especially the size, but of course you can always get more in a bigger more expensive tube amp
Sound: 8/10- while the gain channel is amazing, I feel like the cleans are great for "clean lead" playing, but when you start strumming chords, you find that the sound is a little off...nothing a change in the EQ can’t fix, but in a live situation I don't think that it would be noticed much.
Reliability: (so far) 10/10 I've had this one since June of 2009 (its October now) and not one problem. So reliability is good with me for now.
Price: 10/10- can't beat it. In this price range, you either go modeling, or go for tone; you can't have the best of both, so this amp does a good job competing with the modelers that come with 1,000,001 effects and sounds.
Versatility: 9/10 - as I stated, this is very versatile. There isn't an over powering gain channel, which allows you to go to a lot of classic and modern metal, but if you need more you can always add more. That’s why I look for tone first, gain second.
Overall score: 9/10
Here are some declicous sound clips and videos for you!
Song i recorded "pirate overture" :
Demo i made for the review: