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Review: Tanglewood Sundance Historic TW40O-AN-E + TW40D-AN-E

Tanglewood TW40O + TW40D – ad

This review could also carry the headline: ”Tanglewood brings vintage to the masses”. Tanglewood’s Sundance Historic guitars have been designed to give you plenty of that ”pre-war” charm at very player-friendly prices. Take the two models on review, for example, which have price tags well below 700 Euros, despite even coming with on-board Fishman pickups and preamps!

The TW40O-AN-E and the TW40D-AN-E are both quite reminiscent of certain legendary Martin-models from the 1930s and 40s.


Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – full front

The Tanglewood TW40O–AN-E (current price in Finland 673 €) is the Sundance Historic series’ version of a Martin OM-18 model – the first Martin steel-string acoustic to feature a neck joint at the 14th fret when it was introduced in the Thirties.

Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – full front

Tanglewood’s TW40D-AN-E (673 €) is a tip of the hat to Martin’s D-18, which is the most copied, most referenced steel-string of all time. Even Gibson went out and bought a Martin in 1960, so they could use it to reverse engineer their own Hummingbird and Dove models.

Both of these models can also be had without the pickup system for 598 Euros each.

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – back beauty

The necks of the TW40O and the TW40D have been built in the traditional fashion employed on classical guitars:

The neck is a one-piece mahogany affair – headstock and all – save for a separate, glued-on neck heel.

Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – body beauty 2

The bodies are crafted using solid spruce tops and laminated mahogany rims and backs.

The ”AN” in the model designation hints at the beautiful Antique Natural finish of these Historic Series instruments.

Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – headstock

The nut is genuine bovine bone.

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – tuners

The machine heads are very decent copies of 1930s open-geared Grovers. They do a great job of keeping the tuning stable, but their action is a little bit stiffer than what you’re used to with modern die-cast tuners.

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – fretboard

The slender and small frets fit the vintage brief of the TW40O and TW40D to a tee.

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – bridge

Here’s a good example of how different two pieces of rosewood can look:

The reviewed TW40O-AN-E’s bridge is a nicely-grained light example…

Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – bridge

…while the dreadnought carries a much darker counterpart.

The compensated bridge saddle is genuine bone on both instruments.

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – Fishman Sonitone

Both Sundance Historics have been equipped with a Fishman Sonitone pickup and preamp.

The piezo transducer sits beneath the bridge saddle and feeds its signal to the preamp – featuring master volume and master tone controls – that has been glued to the underside of the soundhole’s bass side edge. The Sonitone is powered by a 9 V battery, which is stowed away in its own pouch that is velcro’d to the neck block. The downside is that changing the battery is a much more involved affair than with a quick change battery compartment, but the advantage of this Fishman system is that it doesn’t spoil the guitar’s looks.

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – output

Both Tanglewoods sport an end pin output jack.


Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – body beauty 2

The care that has quite obviously gone into building these two Tanglewood Sundance Historic guitars really puts a smile on your face. The workmanship is clean and precise, and both instruments look more expensive than they really are.

Even though both guitars are from the 500-800 Euro price bracket, Tanglewood have gone the extra mile to match the wood grain on the sides of both guitars. The tops of the shoulders look bookmatched.

The vintage brief extends to more than simple cosmetics on the TW40O-AN-E:

Vintage OM-guitars (OM stands for Orchestra Model) are known for their slightly wider necks with soft V-profiles. You will also often find a slightly wider string spacing at the bridge, which makes fingerstyle playing much easier.

Tanglewood has used these vintage specifications for their Sundance Historic OM:

The neck has a very nice, soft V-profile, with a width at the top nut of 46 mm. The low E to top e spacing at the bridge is a very comfy 58 mm, which is good news for fingerpickers, working equally well with a plectrum.

The TW40O plays like a dream with a nice set-up on our review sample (string height at the 12th fret: bass-E – 2.1 mm/treble-e – 1.9 mm).

There a lot of debate about the pros and cons of solid backs in acoustic guitars. Some claim that a solid back is almost as important as a solid top in a steel-string acoustic, while others point to the use of laminated backs in the legendary Selmer-Maccaferri guitars (and newer exponents of the Gypsy Jazz genre) or to the great sound of arched-back vintage Guilds.

My own position in this debate is that most (but not all) guitars with laminated backs a bit quieter and drier-sounding than their all-solid brethren. Nevertheless, I feel that a solid top and an overall well-crafted instrument are much more important to the sound as a whole.

An OM-sized steel-string will have a ”sweeter”, less bass-heavy tone than a Dreadnought of similar build, which is due in large part to its smaller and differently-shaped body.

Tanglewood’s TW40O has the trademark OM-sound – the guitar’s voice is open and well-balanced, with a projection akin to that of a Dreadnought, and it is very easy to record and place in a mix.

These two clips have been recorded with a pair of Shure SM57 microphones:

Fishman’s Sonitone system is a decent and easy-to-use choice to amplify your guitar on stage with the least amount of hassle:

Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – soundhole rosette


Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – body beauty 1

The original aims in designing the Dreadnought were the need for more volume and a fatter bass register. At first Martin’s D-models were aimed squarely at the ”singing cowboys”, which were so popular in the US in the 1930s and 40s. These musicians, such as Gene Autry or Hank Williams, needed loud guitars that would build a strong foundation for their vocals. This is what started the phenomenal success of the D-model, making it fairly ubiquitous in most genres of music.

Tanglewood’s TW40D-AN-E is a well-made homage to a 1930s-style D-18, both in terms of looks and sound.

The TW40D’s neck is virtually identical to the one on the TW40O – a nice soft-V affair, which is slightly wider and bigger than the neck on many contemporary steel-strings.

The craftsmanship displayed on this D is of the same high standard as on the reviewed OM, really leaving nothing to be desired in terms of the TW40D’s playability and set-up (bass-E: 2.2 mm/top-e: 1.7 mm).

We all know how a Dreadnought should sound: a big bottom end, coupled with a warm mid-range and chiming treble.

The Tanglewood TW40D doesn’t disappoint:

Fishman’s Sonitone system also works very well in the context of the TW40D-AN-E-model:

Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – soundhole rosette 2


Tanglewood TW40O-AN-E – beauty shot 1

In my opinion Tanglewood’s TW40O-AN-E and TW40D-AN-E really do offer something special in their price range:

Here we have a pair of steel-string acoustics at player-friendly prices, which take the terms ”vintage” and ”historic” above and beyond mere cosmetics. Thanks to the ”vintage correct” neck dimensions and neck profiles of these two instruments, and the wider string spacing, genuinely vintage-feeling guitars become available without custom shop price tags.

These are well-made, great-sounding guitars. Too bad I have to give them back…

Tanglewood TW40D-AN-E – beauty shot 1


Tanglewood Sundance Historic

TW40O-AN-E – 673 €

TW40D-AN-E – 673 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma


+ value-for-money

+ workmanship

+ authentic neck profile

+ playability

+ Fishman pickup and preamp

+ sound


Review: Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster

Hendrix Ad

Jimi Hendrix’ simply doesn’t seem to wane, even though the genial guitar hero himself died in London in 1970 at 27 years of age. There’s still so much interest in Hendrix’ music that he continues to rank among the top ten of best-earning dead celebrities in Forbes magazine.

The Fender Stratocaster was the master’s favourite instrument, so it’s not really surprising that the man has been honoured with a signature model by Fender last year. This guitar is now also available in Finland.

The new Made-in-Mexico Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster isn’t the first Hendrix model that Fender has released:

In 1980 a small, semiofficial run of Hendrix Strats was made, sporting a white body and a left-handed neck with a large headstock. Fender’s Custom Shop came out with 100 Monterey Stratocasters, which where close copies of the guitar instrument played and burned at the 1967 festival. It was a right-handed Stratocaster with a small headstock and a hand-painted body, set up for left-handed playing. Along with the guitar the Monterey Set also included a flight case and a leather gig bag. In the same year (1997) Fender USA started to produce the Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Strat. The Voodoo Strat was in fact a a left-handed (!) copy of Hendrix’ (right-handed) Woodstock Stratocaster, with the headstock decals turned into mirror images, so that you would look (a bit) like Hendrix, whenever you stepped in front of a mirror.   😀


Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – full front

The brand-new Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster (approx. 950 € in Finland) also has some features resembling the guitar Hendrix used at the Woodstock festival:

The right-handed alder body is finished either in black or in white, while the neck is a large headstock-carrying, left-handed, all-maple affair.

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – headstock

The headstock carries the so-called transition logo from the mid-Sixties, which was much larger than the Fifties’ spaghetti logo, but still gold coloured. By the end of the Sixties the logo was changed to black and the model name was written in large, bold lettering – that would be called the the CBS logo.

Modern improvements on the Hendrix Strat include truss rod access from the headstock side, as well as a flatter, more bend-friendly fretboard radius of 9.5 inches.

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – tuners

The headstock’s flip side displays Hendrix’ signature, and a very decent set of Kluson copies.

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – neck plate

The neck joint has been kept very traditional, but for the Authentic Hendrix-logo on the neck plate.

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – pickups

The most important differences between the Hendrix model and a bog standard Strat can be found in the pickup department:

The Mexican signature guitar comes equipped with a pukka set of American Vintage ’65 Gray-Bottom Fender-pickups, which have been installed into this guitar, as if this were a left-handed model turned over. Both the neck and middle pickup have been flipped over by 180 degrees, while the bridge pickup has been flipped over first, before being installed at a reverse angle. Usually the bridge pickup is placed so that its bass side is closer to the neck with the treble side being closer to the bridge. On the Hendrix Strat the bridge pickup’s bass side is closer to the bridge and the treble side closer to the neck.

This reverse installation means that the magnet stagger is ”wrong”, changing slightly the balance between the strings in terms of output. Furthermore, the bridge pickup will give you a slightly changed range of overtones, due to its reverse angle.

We’ll find out in the listening test, whether these changes really make any discernible difference.

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – controls

The controls follow the vintage recipe – master volume, neck tone, middle tone – while the pickup selector on the Hendrix model is a modern five-way unit.

The American Vintage ’65 pickup set is true to the original specs and does not feature a reverse-wound/reverse-polarity middle pickup for hum-cancelling in positions two and four, like many updated Strats!

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – vibrato

Fender’s vintage vibrato bridge (the ”Sychronized Tremolo”) sports bent steel saddles.


Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – beauty shot 1

Fender Strats are well-known for their excellent ergonomic properties and the Hendrix signature model stays true to this heritage.

Our review instrument was of comfortable moderate weight. The neck’s mid-Sixties C-profile feels great, thanks to not being overly chunky.

The guitar arrived strung with a set of 010s and tuned to E-flat, but the setup wasn’t quite spot-on. The vibrato bridge was tipped a little too steeply, and the intonation was a bit off on the bass strings. But it only took me a couple of minutes (and the correct pair of screwdrivers) to get this Strat shipshape. The result was a great-playing and great-sounding guitar (string height at 12th fret: bottom-E: 2.2 mm/high-e: 1.7 mm).

The flatter-than-vintage fretboard radius really helps to make the Hendrix Strat a very bend-friendly guitar, while also minimising the possibility of fret choke during large-interval bends.

I must admit that I’m not quite sure, whether I really hear much of a difference in the amplified sound of the reversed pickups, though.

Jimi’s guitar tech and effects guru, Roger Mayer, has often stated that Hendrix was satisfied with the sound of his (right-handed) Strats right off the peg. According to Mayer, the only ”customisation” the pair ever did on newly bought guitars, was to take off the neck and remove all possible finish residue inside the neck pockets to improve the stability of the neck joints. Hendrix’ effects, on the other hand, were a regular target for fine-adjustment and electronic customisation.

Anyway, the new Fender Jimi Hendrix signature guitar sounds just like a great Strat should. Here’s a clean clip first:

Here’s an example of the Hendrix Strat’s distorted tone:

I was eager to start recording with the Fender Hendrix model. The first demo track puts the signature Strat into a slightly more contemporary context. The signal chain for this track was: Fender Hendrix Stratocaster –> Electro-Harmonix Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi –> Morley M2 Wah/Volume –> Blackstar HT-1R:

Next I recorded a demo track with a more Hendrix-like arrangement. The signal path was: Hendrix Stratocaster –> Morley M2 Wah/Volume –> Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi –> Blackstar HT-1R. The Uni-Vibe style sound at the end of the track was achieved with a phaser plug-in during mixdown:

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – back beauty


Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – body beauty 2

Hendrix’ Live Sound

Even though Jimi Hendrix was known for his avant-garde use of effects in the studio – buoyed by the creativity of his sound engineer Eddie Kramer – his signal chain on stage was surprisingly straightforward. Here’s a short and basic rundown of Hendrix’ live rig.

1. Marshall Model 1959 ”Plexi” stack
Jimi Hendrix used what we now call a vintage-type, non-master volume amplifier stack, which wasn’t especially high-gain by today’s standards. Usually Hendrix had two 100 Watt Marshall-stacks running in parallel, which meant things got very loud. His Strats would cause his amp to break up, but the type of distortion was closer to what we’d now call a 60s Blues sound than to 70s Metal, and far removed from the high-gain saturation of our time.

I simulated this type of amp response by turning my Blackstar HT-1R’s gain control up to get the clean channel to overdrive.

2. Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face

In my view, the fuzz pedal is the most important ingredient in Jimi’s sound, because it adds a lot of oomph, creamy compression, and aggression to proceedings.

A British importer of musical equipment, a man called Ivor Arbiter, came up with the Fuzz Face in 1966, because he wanted to have a fuzz pedal in his product range. He came up with a chunky package by having the Fuzz Face circuit built into the base of a 60s microphone stand. The round enclosure, coupled with the unit’s two controls and single footswitch, looked like a smiley face, which is where the pedal got its name from.

Fuzz Faces are built by the Jim Dunlop company these days. There are also cheap alternatives available, from companies such as Mooer or Rowin. I’m using an Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi for the demo tracks:

3. Vox Wah-Wah

Hendrix generally used his Vox Wah in front of his Fuzz Face, but keeping it behind the fuzz will also result in some cool tones. Great wah-pedals can also be head from Boss, Mission Engineering or Jim Dunlop.

I’ve used my Morley M2 Wah/Volume pedal in front of the Big Muff Pi:

4. Octavia +Uni-Vibe

Roger Mayer’s Octavia-pedal was sometimes used as an additional ingredient in Jimi’s live sound. This strange-sounding effect combines distortion with an artificial upper octave and some slight ring-modulation. Hendrix also used a Uni-Vibe effect, which was one of the first pedals that tried to create a Leslie-like sound in a compact format. 

A genuine Octavia-pedal is only made by Roger Mayer, but Joyo’s inexpensive JF-12 Voodoo Octave stomp box sets you off in a very similar direction.

Korg has introduced the NuVibe, which is a pukka re-imagination of the original Uni-Vibe-pedal. Voodoo Lab’s Micro Vibe is a high-quality proposition at a fair price.

You can also simulate Uni-Vibe-style tones by using a suitable phaser. The Boss PH-3 is a modern and versatile phaser. If you want something even more affordable, you could check out Mooer’s range of effects.

This clip uses a combination of two phaser plug-ins in my audio sequencer:

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – body beauty 1


Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – beauty shot 2

If you want to go all the way to ”become Hendrix”, you will need to buy a left-handed Stratocaster and turn it into a right-handed instrument. The result will be authentic, but also much less comfortable than a regular Strat, because the controls are all in the wrong place.

Fender’s new Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster will give you the (very slight) difference a reversed headstock brings to the playing feel, as well as the (very slight) tonal differences of the reversed pickups, while keeping all of the Stratocaster’s great ergonomics intact.

Fender’s Hendrix model is a fine Strat, which you can use for all types of music. Still, it’s the ”Hendrix-thing” this guitar does the best!

If I could only have the maestro’s long fingers and musical imagination…


Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster

Price approx. 950 €

Contact: Fender

A big ”thank you” goes to DLX Music Helsinki for the kind loan of the review guitar!


+ musician-friendly price tag

+ workmanship

+ American Vintage pickups

+ playability

+ sound


– factory setup

Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – flying


Review: Music Man John Petrucci Majesty

Music Man Majesty – teaser

Dream Theater’s guitar wizard John Petrucci has a long and very fruitful association with Music Man. Over the years, the company has released several signature models, both US-made and as part of their less-expensive Sterling brand.

Last year Ernie Ball/Music Man have released a new top-of-the-line John Petrucci signature instrument – the Music Man Majesty (Majesty was the original name of the Progressive Rock band that became Dream Theater).


Music Man Majesty – case

The first thing that will strike you about the new package is the sensationally low weight:

When I went to pick up the Music Man Majesty for this review (from DLX Music Helsinki), I had to open the case and check, because I suspected the guitar was missing. No, it really was in there…

Music Man Majesty – full front – video

Music Man’s Majesty (current price in Finland approx. 3,900 €) is a modern top-drawer signature model, which conveys the artist’s clear vision of what his dream guitar should be like. This isn’t simply a souped-up classic model – Petrucci and Music Man started with a clean slate.

Music Man’s new signature model is a Neck-Through design with a two-octave mahogany neck, and a very smooth neck joint at the 23rd fret.

Music Man Majesty – beauty shot 2

The Majesty’s body, too, is highly sculpted – you could call it streamlined – and it fits the player’s body perfectly.

The body wings, made from basswood, are capped by a maple top. The area on the top, which forms a sort of shield or crest, may look like graphite weave at first glance. In reality, this is a translucent area of the maple top, and what you see is a laser-etched graphic design resembling the look of carbon composite.

The review guitar’s finish is called Arctic Dream, which is a matte finish changing from violet to a dark green hue, depending on how the light hits the body.

Music Man Majesty – tuners

Music Man’s classic four-and-two headstock sports a set of locking Schaller M6-tuners.

Music Man Majesty – headstock

Below the compensated – and self-lubricating nut – you can see the metallic Dream Theater-logo inlay.

Music Man Majesty – fretboard

The quality of the fretwork on the Majesty is outstanding. We can find 24 jumbo-sized, stainless-steel frets installed into the ebony fingerboard.

The shield inlays are in fact tiny mirrors.

Music Man Majesty – vibrato bridge

The floating vibrato bridge is Music Man’s own, cool design, which features steel saddles equipped with Fishman piezo elements for acoustic-style tones.

Music Man Majesty – pickups

The Majesty’s magnetic side comprises a pair of DiMarzio Illuminator humbuckers (John Petrucci’s signature pickups), installed straight into the body wood.

Music Man Majesty – piezo switch

Music Man’s Majesty comes with a very dedicated, special switching system; the technically-minded among you can take a look at the schematics:

Music Man Majesty – schematics

The three-way switch in the top horn lets the player select between piezo-only, magnetic-only, and piezo-plus-magnetic settings.

Music Man Majesty – controls

Beneath the strings you will find a second three-position toggle switch, that works as a pickup selector for the DiMarzios.

The control next to it is the volume control for the humbuckers. It also contains a push-push switch for engaging the Majesty’s active signal boost.

The second knob is a passive tone control, whose push-push switch works in the pickup selector’s middle position. ”Down” gives you the full sonic attack of two humbuckers, while the ”up” position switches off the outer coils of both pickups for thinner, more Fender-style sounds.

The third switch (near the output jack) is the volume control for the piezo signal. This knob sports a momentary switch, which allows you to reconfigure the output from standard mono – both the piezo and magnetic signals are sent to the same amplifier – to ”stereo”, enabling you to use a Y-cable to send the piezo’s output to a dedicated acoustic amp (or to a mixing console).

Music Man Majesty – trim pots

By using a tiny screwdriver you can adjust the active signal booster for the humbuckers, as well as set the maximum volume of the piezo signal, and the Fishman two-band EQ.

Music Man Majesty – back beauty

The Majesty’s active electronics are powered by a 9 V block.


Music Man Majesty – body beauty

Some ”signature models” are only for posing. Others are simply souped-up, or slightly tweaked, versions of classic guitar models.

Music Man’s Majesty is one of the few instances, when a guitar hero had very clear and strong views regarding the look, the features, and the sounds of his dream guitar. Petrucci and Music Man set to work, and no compromises were accepted.

The Majesty is a fantastic instrument, and each guitar leaves the factory set up to Mr Petrucci’s exacting specifications. You get the exact guitar the master himself plays on stage and in the studio.

As already mentioned, this guitar is extremely light and comfortable, and balances perfectly on a guitar strap.

The neck profile is a relatively thin D. The satin-finished neck feels very fast and friendly, without being insubstantial.

Thanks to the jumbo frets and the flat fingerboard radius (17″) the Majesty is very bend-friendly. The action is low, but completely free of fret buzz (low-E: 1.7 mm/high-e: 1.6 mm).

The Majesty’s floating vibrato works very smoothly, and has excellent return-to-pitch.

The piezo system works great! It gives you a credible ”acoustic” tone in the context of a Rock or Metal band, and also comes in handy to ”freshen up” the Majesty’s magnetic signal (the clip has the following order:  piezo –> piezo + coil split –> coil split):

Here’s an example of the clean magnetic tones you can get from this Music Man. The powerful DiMarzio Illuminators are loaded with ceramic magnets (neck PU –> both (full) –> both (coil split) –> bridge PU):

The Majesty’s coil split and active boost give you three different degrees of distortion without even stepping on a single pedal. This clip has the coil split first, followed by the full middle position:

The active boost on this Petrucci-guitar is a great addition to any guitarist’s tool-pack, used here on the bridge pickup:

And, lastly, the audio track off the Youtube-video:

Music Man Majesty – body beauty 2


Music Man Majesty – beauty shot

The Music Man John Petrucci Majesty is a top-grade signature guitar with an extremely wide array of sounds. In addition to the high quality and exemplary workmanship on display, the best thing about this guitar is that the Majesty’s features, its playability and its versatile sound also make it a great choice for many other guitarists, too.


Music Man John Petrucci Majesty

approx. 3,900 € (hard case included)

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

A big thank you to DLX Music Helsinki for providing the review guitar!



+ workmanship

+ finish

+ non-locking vibrato bridge

+ playability

+ versatile electronics and switching

+ sound


Review: Blackstar ID:Core 20 + 40


Blackstar IDCore 20 + 60 – opener

Earlier this year, Blackstar Amplification have released their new ID:Core series, which comprises three stereophonic practice amps (at the moment of writing).

Blackstar’s ID:Core combos are powered by the same modelling technology used in the company’s full-blown ID-series. The ID:Core amps simply take this technology to a smaller format.

Kitarablogi had the pleasure of testing the new series’ middle model – the ID:Core 20 (2 x 10 W) – as well as the largest member of the ID:Core family – the ID:Core 40 (2 x 20 W).


Blackstar ID_Core 20 – beauty 1

The Blackstar ID:Core 20  (current price in Finland: 149 €) comes equipped with a pair of five-inch speakers.

Blackstar ID_Core 40 – beauty 1

The larger Blackstar ID:Core 40 combo (current price in Finland: 195 €) uses two 6.5-inch speakers to get its message across.

Except for the differences in power amp-, cabinet- and speaker-sizes, the rest of the specifications are identical in these two guitar combos. To make this review more readable I will concentrate on the Blackstar ID:Core 40, and mention any possible differences found in the ID:Core 20.


The new Blackstar combo has a very handy size, and it is easy to carry. In addition to the carrying strap, you will find the power supply unit and a quick start guide in the shipping box. You can download the full owner’s manual as a PDF-file from Blackstar’s website or HERE.

Even though the ID:Core series, naturally, isn’t really built to withstand the rigours of touring, these combo’s are rather sturdy little numbers. These may be mere practice amps, but toys they are most definitely not!


The electronics have been installed into the ID:Core’s top.

All the controls, push-buttons and inputs/outputs are identical throughout the whole series, with the exception of the smallest combo (the ID:Core 10) not offering the option of connecting a FS-11 footswitch unit (not included).


The ID:Core 40’s factory default uses the FS-11’s left switch for switching between two Voice-channels, with the right switch functioning as an effect mute for the selected channel.

The free Blackstar Insider -software (PC and Mac) also lets you select a different footswitch mode that offers you all Voice-channels, and which uses the two switches to step through all the channels, either up (right switch) or down (left switch).


Blackstar ID_Core 40 – control panel

The ID:Core 40 is very easy to use:

The Voice-selector lets you choose one of the combo’s six Voice-channels (= digital amp models). In Preset-mode calling up a channel automatically recalls all the stored preset settings, like gain, ISF or effects. In Manual-mode switching to a different Voice only changes the selected amp type, with the other settings staying the way you have manually set them.

Naturally, all presets can be adjusted by the user, and the changes can then be stored in the ID:Core combo’s memory, wiping the factory preset in the process.

The new Blackstar-combos also come equipped with a digital tuner, which springs to life when you hold down the Manual- and Tap-buttons simultaneously for a couple of seconds. In Tuner-mode the combo’s red Voice-LEDs represent the six guitar strings, while the LEDs in the Effect-buttons tell you whether the pitch is flat (REV), sharp (MOD) or right on the money (DLY).

Blackstar Insider software

By downloading Blackstar’s Insider-software you get access to additional features of the ID:Core combo via its mini-USB-port (Hey, Blackstar: Why isn’t a USB-cable included with the amp?):

The most crucial of the additional functions, in terms of the combo’s tone, is the access to its internal three-band EQ. The combo only offers you a physical knob for the ISF-setting, which lets you change the amp’s character from bright-ish ”American” (ISF = 0) to chunkier ”British” (ISF = 10). The Insider-programme also lets you fine-tune each preset’s Bass, Middle and Treble EQ-settings.

Insider also allows you to create you own ID:Core-presets, save as many as you like, and send them to your combo for use. But note that each preset is always tied to the Voice-channel used as its basic ingredient. This means that an ID:Core combo will always offer six different Voice-channels – you cannot load six different Warm Clean patches, or six OD1 Metal sounds, into the combo’s six Voice-channels.

If you want, you can set up an Insider-account, which enables you to share your own patches with other ID:Core users around the globe.

The Blackstar Insider software also includes some tools for practicing. There’s a simple rhythm box, as well as a music player (looking like an old cassette recorder), which even allows you to change a music file’s tempo and/or loop a certain part.

Insider’s tuning section gives you an on-screen, graphically-enhanced version of the combo’s internal tuner.

Thanks to its USB-connectivity you can also use the ID:Core combos as an external sound-card for direct recording to your audio sequencer. You can even configure the combo for re-amping (using the Insider-software), but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the way the ID:Core performed as a sound-card (at least with the tested firmware version). I’d like to see an even shorter audio latency, as well as a hotter audio signal, before I would seriously consider using the ID:Core for direct recording.



Blackstar’s advertisements are placing quite a lot of emphasis on the ID:Core series’ Superwide Stereo function. With Superwide Stereo turned on (factory default, you can also switch it off via Insider) especially the delays and reverbs sound impressively lush. You feel enveloped in a cloud of sound, with some of it seeming to even come from behind you.

Actually, the ID:Core’s effects aren’t really stereophonic at all – you shouldn’t expect ping-pong delays, or anything of that sort. In reality, these Blackstar combos have a signal path that is completely monophonic, up to the point the signal reaches the power amp section (and headphone amp). It is only at this point that a stereo signal is created from the mono by splitting the mono signal in two, and by changing the phase of one of the signals. The result is a lush, broad, and fairly natural ”stereo” sound.

This method of creating ”fake stereo” has long been used in analogue modulation effects. There’s nothing ”wrong” or ”deceitful” in doing things this way, and Blackstar’s Superwide Stereo sure sounds impressive, but I’m not sure I’d want to trumpet this amp series’ ”stereo-ness” so loudly.

But now to the most important aspect of an amp – it’s tone:

I could sum it all up by saying that the amps sound great! Regardless of the fact that we’re talking about very pocket-friendly practice amps here, the sounds and dynamic response Blackstar’s excellent ID-modelling technology dishes out will leave you with a big grin on your face. Six well-chosen Voices and 12 quality effect types shouldn’t leave anybody wanting.

The ID:Core 40, naturally, sounds noticeably ”bigger”, compared to the ID:Core 20, with its smaller speakers and cabinet. Nonetheless, you get the feeling that both combos make the most of their respective wattage. Miked up both combos sound virtually the same.

The following sound clips have been recorded with the Blackstar ID:Core 40, using the factory presets as a basis, which I then fine-tuned to my liking. I played these clips on my Kasuga (a Japanese ES-335 copy from the Seventies), recording the sound with two dynamic Shure microphones.

Clean Warm:

Clean Bright:


Super Crunch:




Blackstar ID_Core 20 – beauty 2

Blackstar have successfully managed to transfer the great sounds of their ”grown-up” ID Series amps to the ID:Core practice combos. Together with Blackstar’s Insider-software, the ID:Core 20 and ID:Core 40 combos are fully-spec’ed and inspiring tools for practice, home recording, teaching and warm-up. You get genuine Blackstar tone in a handy package!

Blackstar ID_Core 40 – beauty 2


Blackstar ID:Core -kombot

ID:Core 20 – 149 €

ID:Core 40 – 195 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma



+ workmanship

+ versatile sound

+ up to three simultaneous effects

+ built-in USB sound-card

+ Blackstar Insider -compatible


– latency in USB-recording


How-tos +++ Oppaat



Changing strings

* Classical guitar

* Floyd Rose -equipped guitar

* Les Paul -type guitar

* Stratocaster -type guitar

* Steel-string acoustic guitar



DIY: ML-Factory LP-Type Guitar Kit

* Review of self-assembled guitar (with audio clips and video)

* Sound comparison – Epiphone LP vs ML-Factory

* Alternate video

* FREE eBook for iPad


DIY: Putting a new jackplate on a Gibson Les Paul Junior



Jakkilevyn vaihtaminen – Les Paul Junior



Kielten vaihtaminen

* Floyd Rose -vibratolla varustettu kitara

* Les Paul -tyylinen kitara

* Nailonkielinen

* Teräskielinen akustinen

* Vintage-tyylisellä Stratocasterilla



Rakennussarjan kasaaminen: ML-Factory LP-Type

* Osa 1 – alkupiste

* Osa 2 – rungon etupuolen värjääminen

* Osa 3 – muovikansien sovitus ja rungon takaosan värjääminen

* Osa 4 – tallan, virittimien ja elektroniikan asennus

* Osa 5 – loppuraportti, soundeja ja video

* Soundien vertailu – ML-Factory vs Epiphone Les Paul

* Toinen video

* English wrap-up of the guitar kit project

* Ilmainen eKirja iPadille (englanninkielinen)



Sähkökitaran osto-opas

* Osa 1 – Hyvin suunniteltu on puoleksi tehty

Osa 2 – Uusi vai käytetty?

* Osa 3 – Miten arvioin kitaran kuntoa?

* Osa 4 – Mitä tarvitsen kitaran lisäksi?


Strato-tyylisen vibraton blokkaus