The Blackstar HT-5R is simply a stunning guitar amp for the money. I won’t list the tech spec as you can see that on the website. I have owned and played through many guitar amps, both small and large and for the money and size, this is the best.
The short and thick of it is that it sounds and plays like a fully-fledged all valve amp. The clean channel simply has a single volume and tone knob. It has a lovely thick sounding clean, that when you crank up past 2 a clock starts to saturate up a bit and then break up, higher up – very nice. The only area I would at all improve the functionality of the amp is to have a separate pre-amp gain for the clean channel, so you could drive it a bit more while not having to turn it up so loud.
The drive channel goes from crunchy to pretty high gain, although not quite to full on metal sounds. The unique ISF mid range shaping filter goes from mesa boogie sounding fully anti-clockwise, to marshall territory at 12 o’clock, to vox land fully clockwise and then everything in between. And it just sounds great. Basically it is a practise sized amp, which sounds like a big valve amp. If I was to pin down its overall tone, I would say it leans towards marshall the most. The onboard reverb really sounds fantastic too, even though it is digital and not a real spring. The speaker cabinet emulated output (switchable between 4x12 and 1x12 emulations) sounds particularly good going straight into an audio interface too. Because it is only 5 watt, you can really crank it up at home and it is still not too loud to cause a problem with neighbours and it sounds great turned up of course. The opposite of this though - our guitarist uses one live with the clean channel at 3’oclock (so it is just saturating a bit) and the drive channel on a lowish gain with about 2 o’clock and this can just about compete with me on a big bass rig, a drummer on a big mapex kit and synth and a powerful vocalist. So when turned up, it is actually pretty loud. Although we do play quite dynamic music ie not metal!
It is a hard piece of gear of criticise, so other than a gain knob for the clean channel, I would say the speaker and/or the cabinet lets it down a tiny, tiny bit. There is a slight lower midrange boxyness that you get with smaller cabinets and speakers and therefore also a lack in bass frequency extension. But that’s it (other than maybe the reverb being footswitchable!) and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s the first piece of gear I have had in a while where I just love it!