Blackstar Amplification is known for its successful Artisan, Series One, and HT amp lines. Its new HT effects line includes boxes for delay, reverb, modulation, distortion, drive, and boost.
All pedals in the series use a heavy-duty 6.25″ x 4.75″ x 2.25″ die-cast chassis with top-mounted controls, side-mounted 1/4″ jacks, tube window, on/off stompswitch with LED indicator, 16-volt power supply, and 12AX7/EC83 tubes. A 1/4″ speaker-emulated output jack sends signal to a mixer or recording device without having to mic a speaker cabinet.
Blackstar sent the HT line’s three overdrive/distortion pedals, which we put to the test with help from a Gibson Les Paul Standard plugged into a DST Marwatt (12AX7/EL84) 2×12″ combo with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers.
Placed atop the food chain is the HT-Distortion, which has controls for Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Level, and Blackstar’s Infinite Shape Feature (I.S.F.) controls, a highly adjustable tone shift that changes the characteristics of the Bass, Middle, and Treble. The HT-Distortion offers massive gain that is butter-smooth and thick as a brick, nearly infinite sustain that morphs into nice, controllable feedback, even at lower volumes. I.S.F. does a great job moving the center frequencies of the Bass, Middle and Treble controls from tight and bitey to smooth and scooped, allowing for a variety of distortion sounds. All three tone controls are well-voiced; the Bass adds tight, thumpy lows, Middle adds sweet, smooth overtones, and Treble keeps the crispness in check. Unlike other pedals with tubes that are more about window dressing than tone, the HTs’ EC83s work like they do in an amp – producing a lot of dynamic valve harmonics and overtones.
The HT-Drive has controls for Gain, Tone, and Level, while the HT-Boost has Boost, Bass, and Treble, as well as High and Low output jacks that cater to whatever is being plugging into it – other pedals that don’t want a ton of gain or the front end of a valve amp that likes to be pushed hard. As you step down the HT food chain, gain and tonal control options decrease, as well, but still offer better-than-average performance with the same thick, smooth valve overtones. While the HT-Drive sports only a single Treble tone control, it cuts a big swath over the high-frequency response, tailoring the aggressiveness of the overdrive.
The HT-Boost’s active Bass and Treble controls are well-voiced and allow for boosting and cutting of highs and lows, or are taken out of the circuit in their center positions.
Plugged directly into a pair of JBL Control reference monitors, the Speaker Emulated output jacks on the HT-Distortion and HT-Drive worked very well, with thick, natural tones. Blackstar uses a 300-volt circuit in all three HT pedals that gives a warm valve tone, even if dialed down for a clean sound.
The Blackstar HT Series pedals offer a boatload of smooth, thick gain, flexibility, and real valve tone and dynamics.
Blackstar ht Series pedals
Price: $199.99 (HT Distortion, street), ($179.99 HT Drive), $179.99 (HT-Boost)
This article originally appeared in VG August 2011 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.