Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mr Blackstar, with these tiny amps you are spoiling us

So, the other day I wandered round Ruperts house on foot and used the prehistoric 15W practice amp I had at college as it's small enough to carry easily. Clean it was OK, but the moment I used my old Boss MZ-2 it sounded godawful.

I've got an Indie IT-30 I normally use but despite being only 30W it's a monster that fills the boot of my car and I've been vaguely dissatisfied with it recently despite changing the valve for the 'drive' channel.

Having a plonk on the Nanovalve recently made me want to use an amp at home more often but you really do need to wind it up a lot to get anything beyond a cleanish tone. I modded it with an L-pad but this seems to make it a bit muddy if you wind it back to indoor volumes. Even then it's really only 'heavy crunch' and not the out and out heavy rock/metal tone I want a lot of the time.

I've been toying with the idea of a Blackstar HT5S for a year, but when it comes down to it this is another 5W amp I'll only ever use a fraction of the power of. They're also quite big lumps and cost £400.

Almost on queue, Blackstar have come out with the HT1 which is essentially a trimmed down 1W HT5. You've been able to buy tiny boutique valve amps for ages but with Blackstar leading the charge on the 'consumer boutique' amp front, they've come in with an amp in a size that I might use at home at a sane price.

Not wanting to impulse buy online, I eventually saw one in PMT Romford while killing time post-Christmas. After a bit of dithering, my brother egged me on into buying it. Impulse buying in person is just so much more sensible.

It's a lovely little thing (BFG included for scale) and while is obviously built down to a price you get a fuckton of portable valve tone for this price. PMT only had the HT1R which is the slightly more pricey model with digital reverb, but I'd probably have run to this one anyway as it's not a huge price hike.

You could sit this on a bookshelf if you used a right angle mains lead, it really is that small and light. Despite the amps tiny dimensions, the speaker works well and conspires with the almost fully closed cabinet to give a solid heft to the sound, there's no tinniness here.

The controls are pretty simple with just a channel switch, gain, volume, EQ and reverb knobs but I certainly managed to get an assortment of acceptable tones from it. The clean channel is actually pretty solidly overdriven at full gain too giving you a few more options.

There is a reason people are simply gushing about these, I expect Blackstar to sell lots.

No comments: