Guitar Center Product Reviews: Blackstar HT-1R

| March 1, 2014 | 0 Comments


by Chris Budin

In our current fashion of ever-shrinking tube amps in both terms of size and wattage, finding one that holds its own in the shadows of it’s big-iron brethren is a treasure hunt of sorts. The Blackstar HT-1R combo is a very useful tool for the guitarist looking for an amp that gets a variety of tones, doesn’t get too loud and has other useful features to make the big boys jealous.

The HT-1R is a tube combo that features 1 watt of output and an 8″ speaker. This is simple to operate-featuring gain and master volumes, a clean/overdrive switch, an ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) tone control and a digital reverb that does a fine job emulating the springs found in many amps. The heart of the amp’s tone is generated in the ECC83 preamp tube (that’s a 12AX7 to the Yanks) and ECC82 (12AU7) tube that pushes/pulls similar to a class A/B amp. This is done via the dual triode design of the 12A/ECC tubes vs single-ended class A power amplification commonly found in single-tube power amps. Pretty smart, harmonically rich… and cool. There are solid state devices that drive the preamp and also act as the phase inverter in the power amp. This is also found in the other amps in the HT series. Therefore, it’s not a pure, all-tube signal path, but neither is that TS-9 pushing a 1959 half stack. A 4-16 ohm speaker output jack is found on the back to connect to an external speaker cabinet. Use of the jack mutes the internal speaker. A speaker frequency emulated line out also serves as a stereo headphone jack-this also mutes the internal speaker for silent practice. A Stereo MP3/line in is also present to plug in an audio source for practice.

How does it sound?  I tested the amp with both an American Deluxe Telecaster and Les Paul Standard. On the clean channel, the Tele kept it spanky until about 6 on the gain knob where it starts to overdrive in a classic, JTM/tweed kind of way. With a Les Paul, the clean channel evoked late 70s/early 80s AC/DC tone when dimed yet cleaned up nicely with the volume control on the guitar. With the dirty channel switch engaged, this amp roars with a high gain British tone-virtually starting where the clean channel leaves off. The dirty channel is more compressed than the clean and dips from the post-JCM800 Marshall/Rectifier bucket. The ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) knob evokes an “American” tone when on 1 and a “British” tonality on 10. It is continuously variable between these two extremes-allowing the player to dial in their sound. The control changes the whole tone stack response, but the difference is mostly heard in the mids, with the open sounding American lower mid scoop and the more focused British upper mid scoop and smoother high end. Lots of great tones can be had with the two channels and various settings of the ISF.  The 8″ speaker is surprisingly open sounding and not as boxy as expected from a closed back cab that is approximately 12″ square. I plugged into a Marshall 1960A 4×12″ and this amp delivered a large tone and was actually loud enough to hang in a band situation, given your drummer isn’t Animal on ‘roids. Yes, clean headroom is at a premium, but this gets those great overdriven tones at not-necessarily-bedroom levels. There is plenty of volume using the internal speaker to have fun with, but hitting the sweet spot where the power amp starts to overdrive and react is at a very reasonable volume. Plugging in a set of headphones mutes the internal speaker and one is rewarded with a great speaker emulated tone. This would prove invaluable for direct recording in silence. The reverb is stereo through the headphones. I’m not a huge reverb fan, but found myself dialing it in around 2 to get an open spread while ‘confined’ in the cans. Using the MP3 in with headphones makes for a handy, toneful personal practice space.

Overall, I’m left with the feeling that the HT-1R is a really cool tool for your guitarbox. This amp may not stand up to the live abilities of larger amps, but as a home practice and recording amp, it’s smarter than Einstein.

Pick up the HT-1R at the Guitar Center Arvada location.


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Category: Product Reviews

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