Review : Blackstar HT-5R
Blackstar's HT5R Combo has been around for a few years now and has made many a guitarist incredibly happy with its diversity and performance. Small valve amps are very much the norm now, providing enough punch for smaller venues, ease of portability and fantastic recording capabilities. Let’s have a quick look at all the goodies you’ll find on this great amplifier.
For an affordable and compact tube combo the HT-5R brings a pretty large number of controls, and unique features to the table. The first cluster you run into is the clean channel volume and tone control. Next is the channel select button followed by an overdrive cluster with its gain and volume knobs.
Here’s where things get really interesting. Most Blackstar small tube combos feature only their ISF EQ that allows you to go from a more American type tone to a fully British flavor. Not this one, though. Instead, you get a full three-band EQ and the ISF combined. Last but not the least, there is a built-in reverb level knob. All things considered, this is quite a lot of tone-shaping potential.
The Blackstar HT-5R offers 5 Watts of power, delivered by one 12AX7 in the preamp stage and one 12BH7 in the power stage. What is really neat about the HT-5R is its speaker, for which Blackstar went with a sweet 12 Inch Blackbird 50 custom voiced unit. The effects loop comes as standard, as well as the 8/16 Ohm speaker outputs... And there's more! For those situations where you need to practice without causing too much noise, Blackstar has built in a cab emulation output. This way you have access to either a 4×12 or 2×12 setup running straight to your headphones. There is also a line in for your MP3 device as well as a footswitch input.
Even though its features are amazing considering the price, the performance it offers is still its best attribute. They have tailored those tubes to give you a pretty authentic vintage tone that is rarely heard in this segment of the market. The cleans are crisp and well defined while the overdrive brings a perfect amount of grit to the signal. With both the standard three-band EQ and the ISF control, you can dial in a wide range of tone colors without ever needing to use guitar effects pedals. Even when you plug in your headphones, the quality of tone is just impressive. Finally, that reverb that comes with the amp is one of the better built-in effects out there.
At the end of the day, the Blackstar HT-5R is one of the first success stories of the compact tube amp market. Even though it's had several iterations, its core performance hasn’t been changed all that much and it’s still considered to be the best choice available. If you are looking for a good tube practice/small venue combo with a bit of a punch at a great price, then look no further.