At last year’s Frankfurt Musikmesse Blackstar launched their ID-series of programmable guitar amps. Now these amps are finally available in Finland.
The new series is a first in Blackstar’s product range – guitar amps without any valves. These are the company’s first digital modelling amps, and Blackstar being Blackstar, they’ve come up with a couple of exciting new features for the occasion.
The Blackstar ID:60TVP (current price in Finland: 499 €) is a mid-size, 60 Watt guitar amp, equipped with a single 12-inch speaker.
The compact combo’s cabinet is covered in a black, leather-like vinyl, and sports black plastic corner protectors.
The ID:60TVP’s back is almost completely closed, which no doubt helps with achieving authentic stack tones.
Blackstar use their own Blackbird-series speakers for the ID-series, which are made under license in China, just like the amps themselves.
One downside to valve amplifiers has always been their substantial weight. The ID:60TVP has no such problems – it weighs in at only 18 kilos, which makes it relatively easy to lift and carry.
Behind the Blackstar’s stylishly restrained exterior there’s some lightning-fast digital signal processing at work. The combo is also equipped with a very generously-sized patch memory, which stores a whopping 128 patches.
The front panel only gives you access to the first 12 patches, however, so if you want to take advantage of all of the combo’s possibilities, I’d recommend buying the optional four-button footswitch unit (the ID:FS-10).
The front panel’s left half deals with the combo’s preamp. The three-band EQ is enhanced by Blackstar’s patented ISF-control, which lets you change the amp’s character from British to American, with many cool in-between settings.
The Voice rotary switch offers you six different amp models as raw materials for your own patches.
Thanks to its USB-connector the ID:60TVP can also be used as an external soundcard for recording your guitar tracks direct, as well as for re-amping already recorded, dry material.
With Blackstar’s own editor software you can access all of the amp’s parameters. Additionally, it also provides a very nifty phrase trainer for practicing.
The front panel’s right half is reserved for the combo’s effect and master sections, as well as Blackstar’s revolutionary TVP-function.
Up to now, most modelling amps have centered their sounds on combining a modelled amp with a cabinet model.
Blackstar’s approach is a little different, by adding a dedicated power amp modelling section into the mix. The TVP-selector (TVP = True Valve Power) gives you access to eight different virtual power amp valve types.
A physical power amp valve doesn’t just amplify the amp signal in a tonally neutral way, acting more like a multiband master compressor instead. Different valve types react differently to the same signal, resulting in different amounts of compression, as well as different frequency curves.
Power amp valves play an important part in the overall tone and punch of a genuine valve amp – they’re a huge part of what we call an amp’s character. Now Blackstar have addressed this issue and come up with a way to let the player choose between different power amp characteristics in a quick and easy manner.
The ID:60TVP’s effects section offers you the most important guitar effects and is easy to use.
There are four modulation effects to select from – chorus, flanger, phaser and tremolo – as well as the same amount of different delay and reverb types, respectively. Synchronising effects to your music is easy by using the Tap Tempo button (or the IF:FS10 board).
You will find an excellent speaker-emulated line level output on the ID:60TVP’s back panel, along with an auxiliary input, a MIDI IN socket, and the jack for the footswitch unit.
The combo sports a solitary speaker output.
Blackstar’s ID:FS-10 (current price in Finland: 72,60 €) is a four-button footswitch unit for use with ID-series amplifiers.
Using the footswitch unit will give you access to all of the combo’s 128 patches, and you’ll be able to switch effects on and off on-the-fly. Furthermore, using the built-in tuner is far easier with the footswitch unit.
In my view, the Blackstar ID:60TVP’s TVP-feature puts it head and shoulders above its direct competitors. True Valve Power clearly raises the bar for what a great modelling amp should sound like.
With TVP disengaged the Blackstar combo sounds quite good already, but it still lacks most of a good valve amp’s punch and multidimensional impact. The tones are like quality snapshots of the genuine article.
When you press the TVP-button the amp really springs to life and jumps into turbo mode. The tones become exciting and inspiring, and suddenly there’s that depth and the interaction between the player, his/her instrument and the amp that is missing from many lesser designs.
And yes, there are – sometimes dramatic – differences between the virtual power amp valves in their behaviour, which mimic their physical counterparts surprisingly faithfully. Thanks to the TVP-feature Blackstar’s ID-series manages to offer modelling guitar amps, which feel and sound ”real”, and which are imbued with a genuine valve amp’s sheen and punch.
Combining the different options brought to the mix via the Voice and TVP selectors, the fine EQ-section, the ISF-function, as well as the quality effects on offer leaves the player with a real wealth of fantastic guitar tones for final fine-tuning using the master section’s Resonance and Presence controls.
Due to their feature-packed nature, I’d recommend taking your time to get to know any ID-series amplifier thoroughly, so you can really take advantage of all the goodies on offer here.
Here are a few examples I recorded for you:
In my opinion Blackstar have landed a bull’s eye with the ID:60TVP. The company have really put all their valve amp experience to good use, managing to come up with a revolutionary concept in digital modelling guitar amps.
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
+ great value for money
+ quality of amp models
+ quality of effects
+ stores 128 patches
– footswitch unit optional