British company Blackstar Amplification have earned a reputation for producing versatile, reliable, no-nonsense valve amplifiers for the modern player. Their ever-growing roster of endorsers from a wide variety of different musical styles is an irrefutable testament to this.
This time Kitarablogi will take a closer look at the Blackstar HT Club 40 combo (current price in Finland 694 €), which looks like the perfect workhorse for the gigging guitarist.
As indicated by its name, the Blackstar HT Club 40 is a 40-Watt valve combo. The preamp is designed around two ECC83-valves, while the power amp uses a pair of EL34s.
This made-in-China combo is a two-channel affair and comes equipped with a single 12-inch speaker.
One of Blackstar’s trademarks is the clean and crisp, unfussy look – the HT Club 40 means business, and it’s ready to go.
This mid-sized combo weighs in at about 24 kilos, which makes it relatively easy to move around.
The combo’s back is almost fully closed, which makes achieving stack-like tonalities from a combo amplifier easier.
Because of the very small opening – and the compulsory metal safety grille – changing valves is rather tedious, as you will have to remove the whole back panel for the procedure.
Looking in through the grille you can spot the valves…
…as well as the combo’s quality transformers.
Blackstar have chosen a Celestion Seventy 80 -speaker for the HT Club 40 – a speaker highly regarded for its dynamic and open sound.
A sturdy FS-5 footswitch unit is included in the price.
Even though the Blackstar HT Club 40 is called a two-channel combo, the amp’s many features offer the player a wider palette of sounds than he (or she) might expect from such a compact design.
The clean channel offers you two controls – Volume (gain) and a simple Tone knob. The channel’s Voice switch gives you two different versions of the clean channel.
Boutique Clean has the HT Club 40 working in Class A -mode, which even lets you dial in a good dose of grainy dirt using the Volume knob.
In Modern Clean the amp runs in Class AB, and offers a fatter bass, and a far cleaner overall tone, even at high Volume settings.
The overdrive side offers you separate gain and volume controls, enabling you to get even the most distorted tones at moderate volume levels. This channel is also equipped with its own Voice switch.
Classic Overdrive takes the Blackstar into classic Seventies and Eighties Marshall-territory – the sounds are chunky and tight.
Modern Overdrive gives you more gain, a bigger bass register, as well as a creamy and vocal mid-range.
The overdrive channel also offers a far more versatile EQ-section than the clean channel.
In addition to the fine three-band EQ, Blackstar have included their patented ISF-feature. The settings of the ISF-knob (ISF = Infinite Shape Feature) directly influence the EQ-section’s tonality, as well as the overall tonal response. ISF set to zero (Blackstar call this the USA-setting) results in a very tight bass response with a sharper treble zing, compared to ISF at ten (UK), which sounds fuller and fatter.
The back panel offers you three different speaker outputs…
…a speaker-simulated line out, an effects loop, and the Reverb switch that lets you choose from two different reverb characteristics. The HT Club 40’s fine reverb is digital.
Here are some Blackstar HT Club 40 sounds I recorded using a Hamer USA Studio Custom and a Gibson Les Paul Junior:
Gibson Les Paul Junior – Modern Clean
Hamer Studio Custom – Modern Clean
Gibson Les Paul Junior – Boutique Clean (Volume at full)
Hamer Studio Custom – Boutique Clean (Volume at full)
Gibson Les Paul Junior – Classic Overdrive
Hamer Studio Custom – Classic Overdrive
Hamer Studio Custom – Modern Overdrive
The Blackstar HT Club 40 is a joy to work with! The combo dishes out a plethora of quality tones, and it proved very intuitive and easy to use.
In effect, the HT Club 40 really offers you four quality amps in one package:
Modern Clean is a Fender-like (or Mesa/Boogie-type) clean channel with oodles of headroom. Boutique Clean embodies Class A interactivity – there’s less clean headroom, but the amp reacts organically to your playing dynamics, as well as the volume knob setting on your guitar. Classic Overdrive is the place to go to for all your classic Blues Rock, Hard Rock and Metal needs, with Modern Overdrive catering for the current gain-saturated mosh-pit crowd.
In my opinion the Blackstar HT Club 40 is a fantastic choice for the guitarist on the move. It will give you great tones on stage, as well as in the studio, where using a moderately-sized amp may prove to be a more workable solution than going for a full blown stack.
Blackstar HT Club 40
Current price in Finland: 694 €
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
+ speaker-simulated line out