My experience upgrading tubes and speaker for HT-1R

Discussion - HT-1 amplifiers
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:00 am

Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:14 pm

While I considered the HT-1R to sound quite good in its original state I wanted to see how far it would go trying a few upgrades.

I bought:
* 2pc Blackstar HT-1R
* 2pc Celestion Super 8 (15watt)
* 2pc Tung-Sol Reissue 12AX7 (ECC83) shorter plate, like 1/2" -- PREAMP
* 2pc JJ Electronics 12AU7 ECC82 short plate -- OUTPUT

TIP 1:
When opening up your combo, fasten any loose or badly connected connectors and check if there is inadequate soldering on the terminals that connects the cable going to the speaker. I had to resolder one of my combos right there and had to fasten many connectors that were loose or barely fastened on both combos. Good connections makes a difference.

First I'd like to state what sound I'm going after. I'd like to have spacious 3D tube sound with good hard rock abilities. Think early Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Gary Moore, Jake E Lee. If I'm able to accomplish that I can go from vintage rock tones to metal with the switch of a pedal or the flick of a knob later. I'm no stranger to high gain but I'm not into metal core style. So now you know what to expect from this test.

I'm using a ESP HSS Jake E Lee strat (alder body + maple neck, Duncan JB + SS-120) + Keeley Boss SD-1 (only clean boosted, no extra gain) + MXR Stereo Chorus (on/off) + A-B Box Splitter
HT-1R overdrive button ON


Installing a Celestion Super 8:

- So I first installed a single Celestion Super 8 in one combo and had the stock Blackstar Blackbird 15w speaker in the other. When comparing the difference was night and day. It's not like the stock speaker is really bad, but it's rather cold and sterile to my ear. It also sounds scooped. The midrange where you can express yourself on a guitar is lacking. It's perfectly alright for high gain metal - the more modern down tuned kind - but sorely lacks a defined midrange for rock/hard rock and solo work. Changing the speaker to the Celestion Super 8 was like putting a Marshall brand on the combo instead of the Blackstar brand. The combo seemed to have gotten a flatter EQ where the scooped mids were now gone. It sounded more sophisticated than stock. An abolute must upgrade for anyone interested in playing vintage rock, hard rock, or metal 80's 90's style. For the 00's style metal core players the Marshall sound isn't really what's mostly used anyway...

- I then carried on by changing both combos to Celestions.


Installing different tube combinations in one of my HT-1R's with the other using stock tubes. Both combos have Celestion Super 8 in them:

TIP 2:
Always spray the connector pins on the tubes with electrical cleaning spray before installing them. This is to clean the tube-socket. Never forget!

*Original config: TAD ECC82 (output tube), SOVTEK ECC83 (preamp tube)

*config 1: JJ ECC82, Tung-Sol ECC83
impressions: Compared to the original, it's definately a much much warmer character but rather tame. Less gain, less volume. "Sophisticated without balls." Think Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton territory, no offence, but certainly not the sound I'm after... This config is the biggest difference to the original config. If you're into vintage rock of the kinder sort or find yourself often rolling off your tone knob, this might be what you're after.

*config 2: TAD ECC82, Tung-Sol ECC83
impressions: Switching to this from config 1, I recognized the colder, original Blackstar character was now back (it's obviously the TAD that does it) even though it's slightly warmer than original (which must be due to the Tung-Sol). It is for the better. It's not that bad of a sound if you're playing higher gain or metal like Judas Priest or similar. Also, there still is the warmth from the Celestions so it's not overly cold... Clearly more gain than config 1 but on par with original. More useful sound (better musically) through the EQ spectra than stock. Very good. It reminded me some of Geroge Lynch's sound in its character. OK.

*config 3: JJ ECC82, Sovtek ECC83
impressions: A clear improvement on config 2 and the original config. Clearly the best combination of tubes. More 3D (headroom), spaciousness. body. The gain is on par with the original but the string definition is a little clearer, less buzzy. It sounds warmer than config 2, but not as warm as config 1. Original config and config 2 sound noticeably thinner compared to config 3 (which might not be a bad thing if that's what you're after, like George Lynch, so keep that in mind). Config 3 has more body and better response over the whole EQ spectra. It's like all frequencies got a boost and picking response and delivery feels slightly more quick/dramatic. The brown sound of Van Halens guitar + speakers has been described as notes shot from a cannon and config 3 accomplishes the furthest towards that goal of all tube combinations I have tried.

So my search is now over. I ended up using config 3 for both combos and that sounded the best to my ears! I tried config 2 and 3 together. That made for an interesting combination where one was thinner and one slightly warmer. In a stereo setup that sounded good but both combos with config 3 in stereo sounded the best, hands down.

So to sum up, here's my advice for you all:

* Check cables and soldering inside your HT-1R.
* Switch the stock speaker to Celestion Super 8 (15w 8ohm) or maybe the newest model Celestion Eight 15 (15w 8ohm) that was just released (not available at time I purchased).
* Keep the stock Sovtek 12AX7 ECC83 Preamp tube
* Buy and install JJ Electronics ECC82 Output tube
* ENJOY your new Blackstar/Marshall style boutique budget-combo.

Hope you find this useful! Image

Some pics:

Celestion Super 8

Brand new Celestion Eight 15

JJ Electronics ECC82 Output tube

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 12:00 am

Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:13 pm

AMAZING TIPS .....very professional !

why don't you publish a video about it to let us understand better your recommendation ?? It will be super popular :)


Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:00 am

Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:20 am

Thanks you for posting this! I love the HT-1 because of it low volume capabilities.. But, I cant get the tone i want. Where did you find that 8" celestion? I cant seem to find any for sale online or stores..The new eight 15 could be the ticket.. Also thanks for the info on the JJ otput tube. Would you say that this config covers 70's rock zep, ac/dc, early VH etc? Also, having never never changed a tube myself as my Marshall has to be biased is it easy to do along with changing the speaker? Thanks again for a very informative post ..

Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:00 am

Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:56 am

KB wrote:Thanks you for posting this! I love the HT-1 because of it low volume capabilities.. But, I cant get the tone i want. Where did you find that 8" celestion? I cant seem to find any for sale online or stores..The new eight 15 could be the ticket.. Also thanks for the info on the JJ otput tube. Would you say that this config covers 70's rock zep, ac/dc, early VH etc? Also, having never never changed a tube myself as my Marshall has to be biased is it easy to do along with changing the speaker? Thanks again for a very informative post ..
Hi. If you're after the 70s zep tone or early van halen I think you would like my suggestions. My choice of speaker and ECC82 tube steer you away from the coldness/sterile impression the HT-1R gives you when stock. The stock equipment is more towards modern 00's metal. The Marshall sound is pretty important to what you're after, so we should share similar preferences. To get something similar to early Zep and Van Halen, a cranked Marshall is essential, so you must really drive your HT-1Rs hard! Almost cranked volume on the combo, and clean boost pedal in front (for example a tube screamer type pedal like the Boss SD-1 but here used more as a clean boost - at least 50-75% on Level, 0% on gain knob). Then add dirt on the HT-1Rs gain channel to taste. Very little for early zep, more for early van halen and even more for jake e lee (early ozzy). Of course use the EQ to dial in the correct tone character.

The most important thing is to change the speaker. I do not know how the brand spanking new Celestion Eight 15 performs but it should be good. I don't believe Celestion makes any duds. If you compare the response curves the Super 8 seems to reach lower in the register, before it drops off, while the new Eight 15 will have a longer flat curve into the high registers before it falls off. Of course there might be overall tonal difference as well...

Maybe you can find the Super 8 on a good deal if you look around. I bought them for half price here in Sweden. I didn't understand at the time why they were so cheap, but in hindsight, clearly it was to make way for the new 8" model.

Changing the ECC82 tube is more to focus the tone, more 3D (headroom?) for a bigger experienced sound (purely subjective I know), slightly better string definition, make the HT-1R more useful throughout the ISF EQ spectrum. The stock ECC82 doesn't sound very good (useful) throughout every possible EQ setting, but changing the ECC82 to JJs made it a lot better.

TIP 3:When changing tubes, wiggle the tube a little bit as you pull them upwards carefully with your fingers. I usually use gloves or a clean cloth whenever touching the tubes to avoid finger print. Make sure to spray the new tube with electrical cleaning spray before installing it. Put it in, take it out and insert it again to clean the socket fully. Do this whenever you change tubes. I gets easier to change tubes after the first time so don't worry.

TIP 4:Also, when changing the speaker, carefully remove the old speaker as it is glued in a few spots. Then swap the speakers and make sure the new speaker fits so you know how to install it quickly. Then notice the spots approx where there were glue earlier and replace with new warm hot glue (from a glue gun) and quickly fit your speaker before it dries. You have maybe 15-30 seconds to glue like 6 glue spots and to install the speaker - so it has to be rehearsed so there is no hesitation. Screw the speaker down with the 4 screws.

I have 2 ECC83 JJs on the way so I will try them in my combos already sporting Celestion Super 8s and JJ ECC82s. I will A-B it with the Sovtek ECC83s that are currently fitted. From what I can gather, tubes from JJ have a great reputation and maybe an already great combo can get even better fitted with JJs in the preamp tube as well. I will return with my findings.

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 12:00 am

Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:21 pm


Following denne's recommendations, I changed the speaker to a Celestion Super 8 and it is an amazing sound improvement ....for 20 € only !!.

Mids and highs are now way more clear, less fuzz than with the stock speaker. Overall the ISF effect becames much more effective and I also feel that the sensitivity (sound volume at low power) had increased

Honestly, I think Blackstar should put this speaker by default in the HT1, at least in the HT1-R and create a more premium combo.

Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:00 am

Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:55 pm

Hi, thanks again for the info. Hot glue gun huh? Never used one, lol.. Anyway, the main problem is i cant find a 8" celestion anywhere! lol . Found a super 8 online , but, its in england and i am in the states, lol.. No stores have any and the new celestion isn't out yet? Have not seen them either.. Hopefully that new 8" celestion will be available soon :) i have a feeling celestion made this new one with blackstar owners in mind, lol . Cheers :) Was going to just go for one of the marshall 1 watt 50th anniversary jmp's. But at 750.00 bucks i think i'll stick with the ht-1, lol..

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2012 12:00 am

Wed Aug 08, 2012 5:12 pm

I agree with Denne about the speaker. Was a little disappointed with the HT-1 when I got it home if I'm honest. I play an Epi 335, and the amp seemed to suck all of the bottom end out of the guitar, to me it sounded a bit like playing with a wah pedal half way open, if you know what I mean. I know it's only a tiny cab, but I wasn't happy with it really.

So I ordered the Celestion Super 8 (which you can find on Ebay for less than £15 at the moment) and whacked it in. One tip... If you are going to change the speaker, make sure you have a nut driver set with deep sockets. The mounting bolts are quite long, so if you have to undo the nuts with an adjustable spanner, it will take you hours and cost you all the skin on your knuckles.

The Celestion makes a big difference. There is immediately more bottom end, and the middle is fuller and the highs are smoother with a bit of sparkle. I'm sure this must be my imagination, but there also seems to be a little more clean headroom too, the lack of which is a problem with the Epi as it has quite hot pickups, so to get a truly clean sound the gain has to be set so low you can hardly hear it - but how a new speaker could cause that, I don't know?

I have a Tung-Sol ECC83 on order for the preamp. I'm hoping for a little more clean headroom and a slightly less aggressive, smoother sound. Will let you guys know if it works.

Posts: 68
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 12:00 am
Location: Southern California, USA

Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:25 am

I just felt I should mention that the Celestion Super 8 that is available now is 8 ohms. The stock HT-1 speaker is 16 ohms.

north east al
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 4:35 pm

Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:36 pm

I know you posted this a while ago and might not see this. I am planning picking up a celestion eight 15 soon, but wonder if the valves need changing. Have you tried other alternatives since? I thought my HT1R sounded like all the others, but mine has stock JJ ECC 82 and JJ ECC83S already in it. Your suggestion that the jj 82 makes it sound more Marshall confuses me, since it was already in mine. Either way, they are the cheapest valves Blackstar could find looking at the cost of them online (£10 and £7 respectively). Is it work putting some Gold Pins in instead?

Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:27 pm

Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:48 pm

It is really wird and confusing.
My amp come from factory with the TAD E83CC and Electro Harmonix 12AU7ECC82EH.

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