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Blackstar Dept. 10 Dual Drive & Dual Distortion

Blackstar Dept. 10

These valve‑based pedals offer DSP speaker emulation, USB audio interfacing and comprehensive EQ.

The Dept. 10 Dual Drive and the Dept. 10 Dual Distortion both originated within UK company Blackstar’s Dept. 10, which is a section of the company dedicated to exploring new and innovative design approaches. In a nutshell, these are dual‑channel overdrive/distortion pedals that combine full‑voltage valve circuity with some additional analogue circuitry, plus digital speaker‑cabinet emulation. The reason that I’m reviewing both together is that the pedals are identical in format, and differ only in colour and voicing. Conceptually, they appear to build on the ideas that have been explored in the company’s existing HT valve pedal range.

Housed in tough steel cases with dual footswitches, the pedals require 500mA of 9V DC power, and a suitable PSU is included. Internal circuitry then multiplies this voltage to over 200V to drive the valve, so that it functions in the same way as it would if in a traditional valve amplifier. There are two jack outputs on the left of the case, one a stereo headphone jack with speaker emulation, and the other a mono jack with no emulation — the latter is the one you’d use to plug into a guitar amp. On the rear of the case is a balanced XLR line output, again with speaker emulation, but a pair of send/return jacks allow an external effect to be inserted between the overdrive and the speaker emulator. There’s also a USB port, to allow the output to be recorded directly into a computer. 

Each channel has its own set of Gain and Volume controls plus a two‑way voicing switch. All the other controls are common to both channels: a three‑way cabinet emulation selector for three different cabinet types and a bass, mid, treble EQ augmented by Blackstar’s ISF control, which morphs the EQ voicing from a more edgy US style to smoother, more reserved UK tonality.

On the Dual Distortion model, the voicing switch on Channel One selects between CL (Clean) and CR (Crunch), while on Channel Two it selects between two flavours of overdrive, the second option having slightly more edge. The stock cabinet switch settings provide a bright‑sounding cab to the left, a scooped metal‑style voicing in the middle and a warmer, fatter sound to...

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