Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review: Blackstar HT50

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we are going to take a look to a review, done by our good friend Edoardo Del Principe, of the interesting Blackstar HT 50 Head: let's see what are his thoughts!

Blackstar produces some of the best bang for the buck amp heads in the world, they are really flexible in order to put the final choice of what voice an amp must have to the players.

I have bought the head 5-6 weeks ago, so I had the time to understand the potential of this device.

First of all you have to know that the Blackstar HT50 is sold around 600$ new, so it’s not a first class head but it has several pros as cons. Why should you try it?

A head with multiple amps inside

The Blackstar HT serie works as a stamina cell which is not already specialized in something but that can works fine for everything thanks to the ISF knob and two channels.

The ISF Knob is the most misterious tool for most the guitarist who have tried these amps, what does it do really? You can choice between two type of regulation: one is “american” one is “british” and you can balance the presence of each one or have it full on. Turning the knob into “american” you boost low-mid frequences, while turning into “british” you boost mid-high frequences.

In order to hear the difference you must turn the mids in the EQ near 7-8 o’clock, then the two kinds of “boost” becomes more evident. This allow you to have a more Mesa-ish sound or a more Marshall-ish one, or, as the company says “tons of sounds in the middle”. It can be used without cab with the speaker emulated output putting the head in stand-by mode too, so it’s good even for home purposes. As said it’s quite inexpensive compared to other models, it so could be a nice start.

It’s not extreme

Sure this amp wouldn’t be my first choice for Death Metal. At least could be used for thrashy stuff but its level of saturation it’s not as high as the genre requires. You can play with crunchy stuff or boost it a little more, but at the end you’ll never have a full compact sound with granitic low-mids and sharp trebles as an ENGL does. It is more suggested to classic heavy metal players, hard rock or stoner rock. It can assure the brilliance of the modern Marshalls with a deep and warm sound, with obviously significant differences in tone qualities, if you compare it for example with a JCM800.

Is it Pedal Friendly?

In my opinion this kind of amps are created to have a solid base for your pedals. The footswitch can select lead/clean channel and reverb. The lead channel also features a gain boost button to give it an extra gain for heavy metal sounds. It works great if you want improve the lead channel with a booster or adding delays and modulations in the loop.
It works great also with the clean channel, it has only two knobs: tone and “volume” that control everything you need. The “volume” knob adds volume from 7 to 12 o’clock and a bit of gain from 12 to 6 o’clock, the tone modulates the depth and brightness of the sound. The clean channel is really pedal friendly. The master volume is the same for both channels, they work separate just in the gain section and clean mode, this helps to have an even output for both channels.

Is the ISF knob really useful?

The more you are going to use more tone-related pedals, more the IFS knob starts to lose importance on your equalization because from your pedalboard you are going to boost different frequences. The more you use OD, Fuzz, etc the more the ISF knob can result. If your tone comes only from the Blackstar HT50 it is a really usuful tool, but if you add stuff it loses its purpose quick. At the end you can manage a clean channel with various types of high gain pedals and fx and use a separate high gain channel based only on the amp. This can allow you to have several choices to find your perfect tone and the ISF could be crucial or insignificant, but it’s not its fault!


- Flexibile head, useful for several purposes

- Great for working with pedals

- Good Quality to Price ratio

- Speaker emulated output


- Lack of a separate EQ for each channel

- Lack of a boost stompbox in the switch to add extra gain, you have to choose it first, before you play.

- Not too heavy but very large.

- ISF knob could be useless for someone

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