Blackstar is one of the hottest guitar amp companies around at the moment. Their first Series One -heads have found their way into many a professional’s back line, due to their muscular tone and extreme versatility. Their more recent sweet little HT-5 and HT-1 combos can already be found in many studios and living-rooms around the globe.
New from Blackstar comes the HT-Venue-range. This series promises to offer more affordable amps that still aim to give you the full ”Blackstar Experience”.
The whole Blackstar range is engineered in the UK, but built in South Korea. The Venue-half-stack looks very stylish, with somewhat more of a vintage-type charm compared to Series One models.
Workmanship is top-notch – this gear clearly made to stand the rigours of the road.
The HT Club 50’s two-switch pedal is a sturdy little number…
…but I feel that its practicality could be improved significantly with some skid-resistent material stuck to its underside.
The head’s insides look very tidy, and the quality of the components used is reassuring.
We find a pair of ECC83-tubes working in the HT Club 50’s preamp, as well as twin EL34s making up the power amp section, which steers performance expectations in a Marshall-ey sort of direction.
The HT Club 50 sports three cabinet outputs on its back panel for different cabinet configurations…
…as well as an excellent speaker-emulating direct output. The Reverb-switch offers you the choice between a full-bodied version and a leaner counterpart of the nice digital reverb’s offerings. Next to it there’s the effects loop.
Blackstar’s angled HTV-412A cabinet can be run in mono or in stereo, the latter splitting the cabinet’s four 12″ speakers into groups of two.
The head is a two-channel affair, but as usual with Blackstar, each channel has its own ace up its proverbial sleeve:
The Clean channel is ease-of-use embodied, offering only two simple controls for volume and tone. But the Voice-button opens up the gates to two different worlds of clean:
Modern Clean has headroom in spades and stays clean and transparent at virtually all gain settings, regardless of the guitar used.
Boutique Clean, on the other hand, is a much more interactive beast, with some tasty sag, compression and even overdrive on offer, once you turn up the wick a little bit (or when using hot pickups).
The Overdrive channel offers a bit more in terms of adjustability: Adding to the gain and channel volume knobs, it has a three-band EQ, as well as Blackstar’s ingenious ISF-control.
ISF stands for Infinite Shape Feature. While the knob may have been placed together with the tone controls, ISF offers far more than a simple tone-tweaking. With ISF at zero the amp behaves like a typical US-style amp – there’s a tight bottom end, the attack is very precise and the tone has a light loudness-curve applied. With ISF at ten the amp sounds significantly warmer with a crunchy mid-range and a healthy amount of softening sag at higher gain levels.
When you keep in mind that the Overdrive channel also is equipped with its own Voice-switch – Classic Overdrive leaning towards typical Marshall-territory, and Modern Overdrive going the Rectifier-way – the options opening up before you are sheer endless and truly staggering.
In my opinion Blackstar’s HT Club 50/HTV-412A half-stack is one of the best guitar amps out there at the moment, not even taking into account its relatively low price. It is quite rare to find an amp, which gives you great clean and overdriven tones from the get-go, without having to touch the EQ section first. Blackstar’s HT Club 50 is one such amp, where the EQ section is really only used for fine-tuning the tone, and not for rectifying the amp’s shortcomings.
Yes, there are a few finer details where corners have been slightly cut (in comparison to a Series One head) to be able to achieve the HT Club 50’s keen price point, but it still gives you the genuine Blackstar-tones and -versatility, without any foul compromises.
Due to its versatility this is one amp that’s hard to pidgeonhole into a one-trick pony. The HT Club 50 is a great choice if you appreciate versatility in a gig-worthy package.
Blackstar HT Club 50 & HTV-412A
Finnish distribution: Musamaailma
Blackstar HT Club 50
current price in Finland: 591 €
+ basic tone
– no indicator LEDs for the Voice-buttons
– pedal slides around on hard surfaces
current price in Finland: 435 €
+ can be run in stereo
+ compact size
+ sensible placing of handles