Blackstar HT Soloist 60 by ape_j
I owned this amp for a few months but found a steal on a Mesa Lonestar 2x12. I do think that the amp is definitely worthy of a good review...ok, here goes....
Right out of the gate this amp impressed me with the straight forward controls layout. The price is very nice as well (well under $1000 new). It comes with a decent Celestion speaker (70/80 I believe) and has a nice boutique appearance. Volume wise it can easily be used for small venues and band rehearsals.
The channel 1 controls leave a little to be desired with just a Volume and Tone knob. There is a Voice switch that allows you to go from a more broken up clean to a straight forward clean sound. Despite the limitations of channel 1, I could dial in a decent clean sound. It would be nice to toggle between the 2 clean voices via footswitch, but at this price point you can't ask for everything under the sun. The more broken up clean sound took to my TS9 Tubescreamer fairly well also. Pushing the volume on this setting will give you a more than enough overdrive sound...You can get some really good classic rock style distortion doing this and maybe throwing in your favorite overdrive pedal to the mix. The other clean voice setting worked great with flange, chorus and delay type affects. This setting is a lot less versatile as it doesn't give you the option to go for that break-up overdriven sound that you can get with the other setting by playing the guitar a little harder.
Channel 2 have far more features in the tone shaping department. The voice switch can give you the option to go from a more vintage to a more modern gain sound (making this footswitchable would be nice, but again...at this price you can't have everything). The 3 band EQ is fairly decent, however I will say that I felt that the amp couldn't provide enough bass for my needs. Maybe running a closed back cabinet with this amp would provide a little more thump, however I never did try this set up. The ISF, or Infinite Shape Feature, is very useful. You can go from a more British tone the more you dial it towards 10 or a more American tone if you dial it more towards 1. I tend to lean to a 12 o'clock setting on this control.
There is a Boost control that really makes this amp stand out for this price range. It's straight forward...you set the boost to a level you would like to perhaps have you guitar solos set to and then just kick it on when you need to have your solo stand out. It's perfect for small gigs where your amp may not by mic'd or you have a sound man that decides to take a nap during your solo. The presence control pretty much does what it should and adds a good amount of 'bite' to your tone without having to turn up the treble.
The footswitch is very simple. You can switch between channels, turn on and of the boost and turn on and off the reverb. My only complaint is the cable that the footswitch uses. It looks like some type of computer serial port connector that would break easily. I would suggest they use a footswitch that would allow you to use a 1/4" cable of your choosing so that you could replace it more easily and select your ideal length of cable.
This amp is great for Rock, Blues, Country, Alt Rock and maybe some old-school style hard rock. It doesn't seem to have the ability to give enough gain to pull off some of the nu metal sounds. I would think trying a few distortion stomp boxes would put you in the right direction if you wanted to use the amp for that sound. They make a 'Metal' model amp that accomplishes this though, so I'd keep that in mind if you are leaning towards a more 'metal' sounding amp.
So...if you are looking for a tube amp, and you are on a tight budget, I'd recommend this amp over just about any other tube amp in this price range. The company is fairly new (company is made up of former Marshall Amplifier employees) but they seem to have made a big impact on the market in a short period of time. I didn't own the amp long enough to have to deal with their customer service, however, these amps are available almost anywhere (Guitar Center, Sam Ash, Online) so I'm fairly certain repairs, replacement parts and accessories for this amp are easy to obtain.
Thanks for reading!!!