Review: Blackstar ID:Core BEAM

Blackstar ID_Core Beam – front

Blackstar’s ID:Core BEAM (current price in Finland: 299 €), which was introduced at this year’s NAMM Show, is one of a new breed of amplifiers:

The BEAM is a so-called ”lifestyle amp” that combines a practical solution for living room practising with a Bluetooth stereo system with a suitable Rock look.

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Blackstar ID_Core Beam – angle right

The Blackstar ID:Core BEAM is a genuine ID:Core-combo, which means that all its parameters are accessible via Blackstar’s Insider software.

The newcomer is a stereophonic amp with its 20 watts of power running into a pair of three-inch speakers. Blackstar’s Super Wide Stereo-effect – a feature taken from the company’s larger ID:Core combos – can also be applied to the BEAM’s music player, with its own, separate width adjustment.

Blackstar ID_Core Beam – back

Apart from the power switch, the ID:Core BEAM’s back panel features the input jack for the (optional) footswitch. The rest of the combo’s controls and connectors can be found on the top-mounted control panel.

Blackstar ID_Core Beam – control panel

The larger ID:Core combos are well-equipped practice amps, but the BEAM has a couple of additional aces up its sleeve:

The ID:Core BEAM offers you 12 amp models (Voices). The first set (the Voices LED glows red) deals with six amp models for electric guitar, while the second set (green LED) gives you two Voices each for acoustic guitar, electric bass, and acoustic guitar simulation.

The amp section has three physical knobs for adjustment – gain, volume, and Blackstar’s patented ISF-control, which control’s the amp’s overall tonal character. Using the Insider-software you will be able to access additional parameters for deep editing, like a three-band EQ-section or a noise gate.

The effects department features four different modulation effects, four delay types, and four reverbs. The two Voices for bass swap the reverbs for bass distortion. You can choose one effect from each effect section for a Voice (meaning up to three simultaneous effects).

The small combo also features a built-in tuner.

The music signal, sent to the BEAM from your mobile device via Bluetooth, naturally isn’t sent through the combo’s amp modelling circuits. It is fed into the signal chain just before the power amp section. The ID:Core BEAM allows you to play along to the Bluetooth signal, of course!

The USB-port isn’t only used to remote control the amp’s parameters via Insider – this lifestyle combo doubles as a full-blown USB sound card. The BEAM can be run in three different USB-modes, which allows you to either send a stereo signal of the amp sound to your sequencer, or send two discrete mono signals (with one channel completely dry, and the second channel with all the amp modelling and effects) to your recording software. The third USB-mode is called Reamping, and it’s used to feed a dry guitar signal off your audio sequencer into the ID:Core BEAM and record the effected signal onto a separate recording track simultaneously.

The signal level of the USB-audio can be controlled directly (and independently of the amp’s master volume settings), making it very easy to set the correct recording levels for your personal studio setup.

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Blackstar ID_Core Beam – front angle

Blackstar have really hit the bull’s eye with their new lifestyle combo!

Listening to music with a very critical ear you can hear a little bit of hiss, but it isn’t loud enough to spoil the fun. Remember, the ID:Core BEAM isn’t meant to be a studio monitor, but rather a nifty, compact music player for your bookcase – something this little combo handles with much aplomb. You wouldn’t necessarily expect such a full and strong delivery from such a compact unit.

The ID:Core BEAM also sounds great as a guitar and bass amp, which isn’t quite as surprising, considering this combo’s pedigree.

The guitar amp voices have plenty of character, and the effects have more than ample depth and width:

The high quality of the acoustic simulator was something of a positive surprise:

Despite its diminutive size, the BEAM also delivers when it comes to electric bass tones:

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Blackstar ID_Core Beam – angle left

The Blackstar ID:Core BEAM succeeds to combine a programmable practice combo for guitar and bass, a Bluetooth-player, and a USB sound card into a very enticing package. In addition to being a great living room amp, the BEAM could also prove a handy little amp for guitar instructors.

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Blackstar ID:Core BEAM

299 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

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Pros:

+ well thought-out concept

+ value for money

+ feature-packed guitar and bass amp

+ adjustable Super Wide Stereo-function

+ USB sound card

+ full sound

Cons:

– high noise gate setting on default bass distortion

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