playing the Blues, feeds the soul

Blackstar HT Club 40 Guitar Amplifier Review

Blackstar Guitar Amplifiers are well suited to the Guitarists who wnats or needs to have the flexibility of  A Fender, Marshall, Vox and uniquely personlized tone machine all in one very portable unit.  Blues, Jazz, all forms of Rock and yes, even (reluctantly admitted) Heavey Metal.  All the Blues tones are available in this amp.  In addition, extreme  variety of signature tones can be generated. All of Blackstar Amps are well worth considering.  They definately perform way above their price point.

Blackstar sent us the HT Club 40 for review. Powered by two ECC83 and two EL34 tubes, it is, by appearances and a glance at the data sheet, your standard mid-range valve combo minus the digital doodads amp makers tend to stuff into products at this price point. Plug in your guitar and tweak a few knobs, and you quickly realize that the Blackstar HT Club 40 is much, much more.

The Essentials
The amp also worked fine with my standard two-channel footswitch-- one switch managed the amp's two channels, the other, reverb on/off. The back panel also has a Light/Dark switch for the amp's digital reverb, which, in my mind, is the right place for such a feature. The speaker portion of the amp is essentially a sealed cabinet, giving the amp lots of focus and spank, and a tightly controlled bottom-end that may border on too tight at lower volumes.

In the throes of sweaty onstage inspiration, the last thing I want to do is count knobs or worse, study the front panel of a complicated combo before tweaking something that I feel needs it. The HT Club 40's standard amp layout-- clean channel, followed by the high-gain/distortion channel, followed by EQ then master out controls is improved by a sensible use of spacing between sections and crystal-clear white-on-black labeling.

Clean and ... Not So Clean
In Boutique Mode, the volume can introduce a dose of overdrive reminiscent of classic Vox amps and approaching the threshold of a classic HiWatt. With the Voice switch in, the sparkly high-end definition of a Class A/B amp is obvious and pristine at any Channel 1 or Master Volume level. To my taste, the amp and my guitars sounded best from 12 o' clock to 9 o'clock.

While I was impressed with Channel 1's versatility, Channel 2 (overdrive) is what made me covet this amp and come up with excuses as to why I can't send it back to my editors. To my ears, the distortion sits somewhere between classic Marshall and Mesa/Boogie, and can be managed very effectively using the ISF knob, and, to a lesser degree, Channel 2's Voice switch.

The HT Club 40's ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) knob lets you dial back in some crunch and bite so instead of an either/or choice of creamy metal distortion or classic hard rock distortion, you can achieve a hybrid of the two. This is where the amp truly shines, and probably why Blackstar's artist roster leans towards heavy metal, punk, and hard rock acts, though not exclusively so.

The relationship between the EQ knobs and the ISF knob means there are nearly endless tone settings and so many sweet spots it may be hard to park on just one (the upside to a simple UI is also its downside-- unless you plan on twiddling knobs during your gig, you will just have to pick your tone and try and forget all the other good ones lurking closely by). It also means every guitarist who owns this amp can have his or her own signature sound that is of very high quality.