Blackstar Amplification’s very popular HT Venue-series has recently been joined by the company’s brand-new HT Metal-range, which offers you valve amplifiers tailored specifically to the needs of Metal-guitarists.
Kitarablogi has received the compact five Watt HT Metal 5-combo – meant for use at home, for warm-up and in the studio – and the chunky three-channel, 60 Watt HT Metal 60 -combo for this review.
The Blackstar HT Metal 5 (street price around 450 €) is based on the company’s extremely successful HT-5R-valve combo, with the new amp sharing the older model’s main architecture and push-pull power amp.
The HT Metal 5 uses two different valves to amplify your guitar signal – one is an ECC83 (aka 12AX7), the other a model 12BH7.
Instead of a woven speaker cloth – like on the HT-5R – the HT Metal 5-combo sports a very sturdy metal grille.
The cabinet is a half-closed affair. The lower third of the back is covered by a metal grille, through which you can spot this Blackstar’s Chinese 12-inch speaker.
This compact combo weighs only 14 kilos, making it very easy to lift and carry around by its single top handle.
The Metal 5’s control panel looks like this (click for a larger picture):
This valve combo features two channels, called Clean and Overdrive. The Clean channel is equipped with a simple tone control, while Overdrive comes with a full 3-band EQ, as well as Blackstar’s patented ISF-control. Turning the ISF-control (ISF stands for Infinite Shape Feature) you can go from a USA-type response (with a loudness-style sound) all the way to what is known as a British tone (with its fatter mid-range).
The HT Metal 5 also comes equipped with a very nice digital reverb.
It is rather surprising to find so many different connectors and pushbuttons on such a small amp:
On the left, you will find the combo’s three speaker outputs.
Next up is Blackstar’s speaker-emulated output. A switch lets you choose between a virtual combo and an emulated stack sound. This output also works with headphones, and when the combo runs on standby.
The effects loop on the Metal 5 can be switched from a nominal signal level of -10 dB to +4 dB.
The line input on the far right allows you to connect your mp3-player to the combo.
A footswitch for channel switching is included in the price of Blackstar HT Metal 5!
Blackstar’s HT Metal 60 (street price around 1.000 €) is a three-channel powerhouse meant for live use.
This combo is build around a pair of ECC83-preamp valves and two 6L6s in the power amp.
The HT Metal 60 is equipped with two 12-inch Celestion speakers.
The closed-back cabinet aims at giving this amp a stack-style tonality and punch.
Because of the considerable weight (30 kg) of a large tube combo, such as this, the HT Metal 60 has been equipped with two metal handles, installed into the amp’s sides.
You can choose between two different tonal characters in this Blackstar’s Clean channel, using the Voice-switch: Boutique Clean puts the amp in Class A mode, giving you a very dynamic response, but with less clean headroom than the voicing called Modern Clean.
The channel’s Bass- and Treble-controls make it very easy to find your sound.
The HT Metal 60 offers you two distinct overdrive channels – named OD1 and OD2 – which share the three-band-plus-ISF equalisation section.
OD1 has a tad less gain than OD2. Thanks to its slightly less compressed sound, as well as its drier bottom end, OD1 is the ideal choice for chunky and precise rhythm parts.
OD2’s massive gain reserves are combined with very creamy compression, but there’s plenty of bite here, too, to make sure your lead lines cut through with authority.
The master section comprises controls for the HT Metal 60’s digital reverb, overall resonance and presence, as well as master volume.
You can connect the HT Metal 60 to virtually any other speaker cabinet, thanks to the five speaker outputs found on the back panel.
In addition to Blackstar’s well-designed speaker-emulated output, and the combo’s effects loop, there’s also a switch to access two different types of reverb (labelled ”light” and ”dark”).
The blue D-SUB-port is meant for the combo’s chunky FS-7-board (included, see below), that handles channel-switching duties and allows you to turn off the reverb on the fly.
The regular Footswitch-jack allows you to connect an additional footswitch to activate the combo’s internal boost. This boost is factory preset, and its amount cannot be changed by the user.
The Clean-channel on the Blackstar HT Metal 5 takes you from totally clean all the way to a mild Blues-crunch.
There’s more than enough volume on tap for living room and studio use. There’s a limited amount of clean headroom, though, which means that you will have to turn down the volume pot on a humbucker-equipped guitar.
This clip is played on a Hamer USA Studio Custom into the Blackstar’s Clean-channel, and recorded using a Shure SM57:
Here’s what the same clip sounds like recorded direct via the speaker-emulated output:
The HT Metal 5 dishes out delicious overdriven and distorted tones by the bucket load. Blackstar’s 12-inch speaker sounds fat and muscular, and makes it hard to believe that you’re listening to such a compact little combo!
Turning the ISF-control up full gives you a great Marshall-style tone, regardless of whether you’re using a mic…
…or the built in DI-output.
With ISF turned to zero the sound leans heavily in a Rectifier-type direction (first the SM57-clip, then the speaker-emulated output):
Blackstar’s HT Metal 60 naturally offers a much wider tonal palette than its small brother.
You can get two different types of clean sounds, with Boutique Clean being the rounder alternative of the two.
Modern Clean comes across as brighter and somewhat more compact (first the Shure SM57 -clip, then the speaker emulated output):
Here’s an example of the OD1-channel with the guitar tuned to drop-D.
First the ”British” version (ISF=10):
Then its ”US” counterpart (ISF=0):
With the exact same EQ settings, OD2 has more bite.
In my view, Blackstar’s new HT Metal-series is a fantastic addition to the company’s line-up, which takes the needs of modern Metal-guitarists into full account.
The HT Metal 5’s clean sound is very decent, even if the available headroom isn’t on a par with some larger amps. The distortion-channel is really where it’s all at with this compact combo – you will be floored by the big and fearless nature of the Metal 5’s mighty roar!
The Blackstar HT Metal 60 is the workingman’s Metal-combo. This is a professional grade combo offering both very tasty clean tones, as well as bone-crushingly powerful overdrive and distortion with spades of creamy compression. In all but the largest of venues this combo’s volume levels will surely be more than sufficient, even without adding any external cabinets.
Blackstar HT Metal 5 & HT Metal 60
HT Metal 5 – street price ca 450 €
HT Metal 60 – street price ca 1.000 €
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
Blackstar HT Metal 5
+ workmanship and finish
+ separate tone-control for Clean-channel
+ OD-channel’s 3-band EQ and ISF
+ big tone
+ speaker-emulated DI-output
+ footswitch inluded
– Clean-channel’s restricted headroom
Blackstar HT Metal 60
+ workmanship and finish
+ metal grips
+ Clean-channel’s Voice-feature
+ Clean-channel has own EQ-section
+ OD-channels’ 3-band EQ and ISF
+ big tone
+ speaker-emulated DI-output
+ FS-7-board included