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Blackstar HT-1R combo
Reason for Purchase?
I wanted a tiny valve-amp for use when visiting the in-laws for extended periods. Over the years I've owned countless Pods, Boss's, Zooms etc and, since getting a 'real' amp I've become something of an analogue snob on the guitar front. I still use Guitar Rig for weirder stuff but I like a plain, simple valve amp and the good things that such a beast will do.
When travelling, I wanted something that would sound great and fit in the car with 3 other people and stuff for the week. This little thing fits in just fine and so its main feature for me was 'size'. In this respect it delivers exactly what is needed - it's tiny.... about a foot square and 7 inches deep is the grand total and it weighs next to nothing. I figured that it would also be useful as A.N. Other flavour for home recording but really if it sounded half decent at the size then I was sold. And sold I was
This amp has a gain and master volume and an 'overdrive select' button to crank things up a notch. I have the 'R' version and the reverb control is a simple 'more or less' knob with no other tweaks possible. We then have the EQ section, such as it is.... This is labled both EQ and ISF standing for Blackstar's 'Infinite Shape Feature'. This is the knob that supposedly flavours the amp in a British or US direction or anywhere in between depending upon its setting.
All of this plays through a built-in 8 inch speaker but you have a 'speaker out' which claims to be happy driving anything from a 4 to a 16 ohm speaker cab. I've tried it with my 8 ohm 1x12 and it does a fine job.
Finally, we have a 'headphone / emulated output' for silent recording or practice and we have an MP3 input for jam tracks.
Played at 2/3 volume and above, there was a fair bit of rattle / distortion going on when I first got the amp. And not in a good way! I'd played one in the shop and this brand new boxed one had a bit of vibration going on that shouldn't have been present. The shop suspected microphonic valves and swapped them (this improved matters, one was indeed a tad microphonic) but there was still a wee bit of rattle going on....
I took the back off and discovered that all 4 speaker lugs needed about another 3/4 turn to be tight - this cheered things up considerably.... It's a tiny enclosure and the back of the cabinet is just a metal plate with the circuit board mounted on it. The valves are actually mounted into sockets direct onto the PCB and are not far away from the back of the speaker. Make of this what you will.....
After a couple of weeks, I actually replaced the stock speaker - a £10 clearance bargain Celestion. Rattle gone at all but the craziest cranking and generally a much nicer sounding amp IMO!
Considering its size, there are some fantastic sounds to be had out of this little box. I actually prefer the clean channel which is only really clean up to about 1/2 way. From noon onwards gain-wise, it goes into a lovely breakup which will bring a smile to most people's faces. It really does punch above its weight. Between the gain and master volume there are loads of 'sweet spots' to be found and you'll be kept very busy finding all the fun sounds here.
The ISF knob does make an impressive difference BUT I do miss having a traditional 3 way tone stack here.... Yes, you can get some fabulous sounds using what you have plus of course your guitar volume / tone knob but there are many situations where you just know you could do a little better if you had those dials. My favourite guitar is a Godin LGX where I've fitted some Bulldog scatterwound pickups. These are very bright, clear pickups that sound blindingly good through my main amp but do need just a touch of tweaking with the tonestack to dial them in. I can't quite get them to shine through the HT-1 in the same way as the guitar tone control is not quite flexible enough to get me where I want to be. Other guitars with rather cheaper pickups sound just fine throught it though!
The built in 8" speaker is never going to give you any serious 'thump' but overall it's a loud little thing. A touch shrill when cranked all the way but what do you expect from an 8" effort?
The emulated out gives a passable sound quality straight to disk. I really wish this was just a 'line out' as their are plenty of high-quality cabinet impulses out there these days. Blackstar should consider a switch on their amps to turn the cabinet emulation on or off - I accept that it's a great idea for live sound but in a studio you can do better if you use impulses - being robbed of the opportunity to do so is rather a shame.
Squirted into my 1x12, this little thing is a lot more fun - you can get some fabulous sounds out of it and some of the toppy nature tails off so the lack of a traditional tonestack becomes less of an issue.
For the job it's paid to do by me (a travel amp) it is absolutely perfect - it sounds great for its size, it's perfectly loud enough without being too crazy and it has headphone out.
Were this my only amp for home studio use I would find it lacking - there are some fabulous tones in there but the lack of a traditional tonestack makes it too limiting to cope with all guitars and all situations. Don't get me wrong - it's very good at what it does but if you need something to cover as many bases as possible then this isn't it. Obviously Blackstar's HT-5 does a similar job to this but in a bigger box with the missing tonestack I'm bemoaning, but for my purposes that box was too big....
So if your needs match mine there's a good chance this little box will make you happy - I love it. But be aware of what it doesn't do before you part with your cash - spending more doesn't just get you a few extra watts, it gets you loads of extra flexibility and once you get up to the £300 - £350 range there are loads of different low-watt amps to look at these days.
- Posts: 433
- Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 11:00 pm
Certainly an amp that seems fit for a travelling purpose. Just wonder if some might just spend the extra £50 (is it?) and get the extra feature of the HT-5?
- Posts: 98
- Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2002 12:00 am
- Location: Manchester, UK
Neil S. Bruce - www.spencerbruce.com
I owned the non-reverb version myself, but just found it too dark sounding and lacking air and bite, so let it go after a few weeks. I too found the lack of a tone stack frustrating but, that said, I usually find the tone controls for every amp or pedal I buy disappointing in that they always seem to boost or cut the wrong frequencies! In the end I bought an inexpensive (and rather lovely) silver Biyang graphic EQ pedal and have never looked back. No matter how good the amp/pedal I am using, the Biyang makes it better, sometimes dramatically so! Just cutting 5-10 dBs of low mids at 400hz immediately takes away that awful 'boxy' quality that every amp seems to display at low vomes and lets the other frequencies breath.
Although it would be another thing to throw into your kitbag, I would imagine your little Blackstar would be transformed with this pedal, and I promise it will allow you to bring out the best qualities of all your other amps and pedals. It's been a huge help with my Blackstar ID series 60 watt head via the effects loop in calming the hiss and hum (400hz and 1.6khz being where most of the noise lies) and then boosting some of the higher frequencies to compensate. I see you've come up against the same issue in this department yourself!
Anyway, hope I'm not expressing the obvious to someone who is clearly a tone hound like myself, but if you haven't tried this route yet, I strongly recommend giving it a try. Happy tone hunting!
- Tone Slave
- Posts: 1
- Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:00 pm
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