Blackstar Amps: The Best of Both Worlds
Keeping up on my Bri’ish slang… not to cause a kerkuffle, but in my humblest of opinions, British amplification is top-notch. There is a little company called Blackstar Amplification out of Northampton England that began their quest to revamp amps in 2004. Known for their expression and innovation, Blackstar Amplification has hopped the pond to share their ingenuity with us Yankees. Right o’ Chaps, without further delay (heh!), here is what you need to know about Blackstar.
ISF Controls: Blackstar set themselves apart from any typical amp with the Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) tone control network. What makes this so unique and appealing is that YOU set the signature sound of your amp. Even more interesting is the voicing that ISF allows you to create. Turned counter-clockwise, your Blackstar amp sounds more like a British amp with punchy midrange and top end. If you rotate the knob fully clockwise, your amp will sound more American with a cut midrange.
From the Blackstar website (www.blackstaramps.com/uk/faqs):
Benefits of the ISF control:
1. ISF is a passive circuit giving a musical response that is not found in active parametric or 'contour' controls.
2. The whole tone stack response (i.e. Bass, Middle and Treble) is moved.
3. The tone controls remain fully interactive, just like in a regular tone stack.
4. The ISF control is continuously variable between all the traditional responses allowing you to effectively design your own sound.
5. ISF and 'the sound in your head' are only available on Blackstar products.
Blackstar Amp Lineup:
Just like any amp company, prices vary and depend on the type of amp you wish to purchase. For convenience, the lineup is listed from professional-grade to on-the-go small amplification for practicing or small audiences.
Series 1: Designed with the professional in mind, the Series 1 amp series is an award-winning set of masterpieces with the patented ISF feature and high-gain valve amplification to create an uncompromising sound.
Artisan Series: If you’re a guitarist who values tone, a Blackstar Artisan Series amp may be your new bestie. Offering vintage and boutique tones, the Artisan series are user-friendly and functional. Truly unique to its design is the ability to blend channels, allowing you to be an explorer and find a tonal variation that suits any style of play.
Artist Series: Simple and pure is the Blackstar Artist Series. Don’t confuse simple with bland, however. The Artist Series is as dynamic as they get. For the ultimate package, Artist Series amps feature reverb, master volume and effects loop (all which can be controlled by your foot, by the way). If you value aesthetics and style, this amp is sweet on the eyes!
HT Venue Series: Classically clean and devilishly dirty, the HT Venue Series puts you in total control of your sound and output. Simple controls allow you to control reverb, activate the ISF feature to perfectly match the sound you want, and tone controls to balance the amount of treble and bass as you play. And, if you’re a pedal junkie like myself, there is an effects loop to appease your inner creative.
HT Metal Series: Metal gods, unite! Welcome extremely high gains and custom cosmetics to your family through the amp series that is specifically designed for today’s metal guitarists. Available in heads, cabinets or combos for any metal occasion (which is always). Achieve the British heavy metal sound through ISF or stick with your roots with good ol’ American high gain. Match the look with your sound with the HT Metal Series, which includes metal grilles, panels, and logos.
ID:Series: The ID:Series is probably the most innovative and intuitive series in the Blackstar lineup. Unique controls that have had over 7 years of technological development allow you to tailor your sound and have total confidence that it will perform in a loud environment with Blackstar’s True Valve Power. When you hear a tone in your head, the ID:Series allows you to combine the ISF feature and six unique channels: clean warm, clean bright, crunch, super crunch, OD1, and OD2. Apart from your channels the amps include effects (delay, reverb, & modulation) that can simultaneously be stored with your sound.
HT-5: Your family will love this amp, since it was specifically designed to have great tonal quality and sound even at its lowest volume level. At 5 watts of power, the HT-5 series is perfect for the studio musician or practicing at home. With the HT-5 amplifiers you’ll achieve all the crunch you want without compromising your tone. Included is the fully specified stereo speaker output which only adds to the integrity of studio recording. The Blackstar speaker allows you to achieve full tonal value with headphones, as well as, to tape or disk. An MP3 line is also a big feature in the HT-5 series amps; you can jam along to your favorites tracks to improve your playing or just have some added fun.
HT-1: Introducing the HT-5 amp with 1 Watt format; the HT-1. Basically, you’re packing the great features of the HT-5 into a smaller amp. The HT-1 series does include the MP3 line, as well as, the ISF feature.
ID:Core: Simply put, these amps are wicked and should be enjoyed by every guitarist. Not only are you able to achieve great sounds with the ID:Core series, the amps have a built in looper and polyphonic octaver. If you enjoy effects, but don’t want to break the bank by investing in pedals, this amp is perfect for you. Features super widestereo sound, ISF, enhanced voices and 12FX (studio quality modulation, reverb, delay with four of each effect type). The ID:Core also has a USB feature that allows you to record straight into your computer.
Additional ID:Core brands are available, be sure to check them out for Bluetooth capability.
Fly: All of your sound in a compact mini amp. Easy on your wallet with big features, the Fly amp series is a 3-watt amp with two channels, combining tape delay and ISF to enhance your sound anywhere you go (literally!). The Fly mini amp also has an MP3 line in/line out jack allowing you to connect your mobile phone, mp3 player, laptop, tablet and more! If you prefer to play with headphones, the Fly amp does that, too. Sold separately is the Fly 103, which is a separate 3-watt cabinet to increase your overall wattage to 6. The stereo effect from the cabinet allows them to be used as portable computer speakers to play your music through. The functionality of the Fly amps are unbeatable.
Overall, Blackstar is an engineer driven company that is always thinking outside of the box. They go beyond amps to include effects and bass amps. If you’re looking to expand your horizons and sound from the same ol’ same ol, the Blackstar lineup is impeccable and worth considering. Cheers!