What lead me to the Blackstar HT-5
The amps I tried were :-
Vox Night Train : - I was soooo tempted with this little beast. It sounded unbelievable and gave more gain than anyone could possibly need. What put me off was a couple of reasons. It doesn’t have an effects loop and it cost £100 more than the HT-5 stack and only came with one cab for that price. I also thought it sounded a little boxy.
Class 5 : - The guitarist in the band I was nearly in used one of these and I was most impressed. I tried one in the shop and I was still impressed. It sounded very sincere and genuine. But.. Again... no effects loop and I REALLY need my master volume fix. This amp only sound spectacular at full volume and even at 5 watts it’s way too loud for bedroom use.
Haze 40 combo :- I only had my recent TSL602 to compare this with but in the end the comparison was negligible as I soon realised it was nothing like my old 602. I’m struggling even now to remember what it did for me but what I do remember is that it had nowhere near enough gain for what I was looking for. It had a nice feel about it but it wasn’t floating my boat but that’s probably because I was on a quest for hard core metal sounds. Plus.. 40 watts for bedroom use... even if I loved it this amp wasn’t going to be used to potential.
Orange Tiny Terror :- Now then.. I used to have one of these and I had it connected to the closed back version of the 2 X 12 with its vintage 30’s. I already knew it was a none contender because of the obvious lack of effects loop but one thing I remember about my Tiny Terror was that it took pedals really well. I used to put an MXR Dime in front of it and it chugged like a Randal.
Hayden Mofo : - I’ve seen this in mags and a few utube clips and it didn’t claim to be anything special but I thought it deserved a try as it fell into my category. Not knocking this or any amps here but I only had this amp plugged in for probably less than a minute. It’s clean seemed very dull and lifeless and the OD channel was much the same. It felt kinda chavy, if there’s such a word. In the mags I thought it looks cool but up close and personal it looked cheap.
Getting desperate now :-
Roland Cube 80 :- I know... I know... The only reason I tried this was because the sales guy said he used one as his bedroom amp and he was happy with it so I thought, what the heck.. You don’t know until you try. I tried it and to be fair it did everything I expected a modelling amp to do and the loop recording thing was quite cool but didn’t do much more than my DD-7. At the end of the day it’s modelling amp and, although they do have an obvious place, they’re not for me.
Still slightly desperate :-
Vox VT30 thing : - Sorry.. can’t remember the exact model but it was the 2 X 12 combo that used a pre-amp as its power out section called reactor or something. I’ve always liked the look of the Vox’s and I used to own an old 100 watt Venue some years ago and this massive 30 watt beast of an amp looked the part so I thought I’d try it. The sales guy was giving me some funny looks at this point because he was a little unsure as to what I wanted and clearly couldn’t understand why I would even consider this Vox after the previous amps I’d tried. His concerns were warranted. This amp wasn’t going to do anything for me. It’s loaded with features but it gets kinda plastic when you get down to the nitty gritty stuff. Felt a bit like a toy although it was a capable amp. Just not for me.
At this point the Vox Night Train was the amp that suited my needs more than all I had tried despite the lack of effects loop. The sales guy suggested the HT-5 stack £400 for head and 2 X 10 cabs. He didn’t have one in but could get one the next day for me to try. I’d driven 50 miles to get to the shop so I REALLY didn’t want to leave without an amp but I know that the HT-5 would always be in the back of my mind so I agreed and came back the next day.
Blackstar HT-5 :-. This is the amp I walked away with and here’s some of the reasons why. It was all set up ready for me to try and my instant thought was.. wow.. it really looks the part. Kinda little and dinky but a little mean and menacing. Blackstar obviously pride themselves on making their amps look expensive. For the next half hour I put the HT-5 through its paces best I could with my playing ability and it really did tick every box. It’s got two channels that can be switched via the supplied foot switch. The cleans were melodic and chimed very nice and got dirty when the volume was increased. The distortion channel... What can I say... It rocks. I’m not technically a brilliant player and I do love my power chords and this amp chugged like a train. It’s difficult to explain sound but I loved this amp from the off and never stopped. It has an effects loop, 2 channels, headphone socket. Ooodles of controllable tone with the added extra of the ISF knob that scoops the mids even further. If I could add something to this amp it would built in reverb. Even a digital reverb would do but as it has the effects loop it’s not really an issue. Also, I think it’s a little tight that it doesn’t come with Cab Leads. I bought the full stack version of this amp but it, effectively, wasn’t fit for purpose because I couldn’t use it with having to buy further cab leads at a cost of £16 each. As far as I’m concerned this amp cost me £432.
One thing I must point out though, and this isn’t really an issue with the amp but, the sales guy seemed to know what he was talking about and he used an Englator in his band so he had tube amp experience but I asked him a simple question :- If I plug headphones into the headphone socket, does the amp still need the speakers plugged in for the load. His answer was somewhere along the lines of You can’t damage a tube amp by not having the speakers plugged in. I just kept quiet and thought, I’ll read the manual when I get home. Also, I didn’t take much notice but it was only when I got home that I realised that he’d had the two cab leads plugged into the wrong sockets on the amp. There’s 3 outputs on this amp. Two of them are clearly linked with a line and underneath them both it says “8 ohm or 2 X 16 ohm”. The cabs are both 16 ohm so this is where I now have them plugged in but in the shop he had one plugged in the single 16ohm socket and the other plugged into one of the 8 ohm sockets. I’m hoping this hasn’t caused any damage. I’ve got a 4 year warranty with the amp so I’m not too concerned and it was only played for about 20 minutes. Just surprised me that’s all. I wonder how many people buy these amps and plug into the wrong outputs.
Tell everyone about your background and why you chose Blackstar
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