New Blackstar heads and combo

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New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by ef37a »

GOTS to ask! Is anything in the review pipeline?

First 50W valve guitar amp I know of with a universal SMPSU.

Dave.
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by rockydennis »

That's quite the feature set - reactive load, mic'd cab models via direct out, and a 50 W 1x12" tube combo that only weighs 24 lbs. These are the kind of things tube amps are going to need to survive with the likes of Kemper and Quad Cortex.

The font and the illumination of the logo reminds me of Matchless.

https://blackstaramps.com/stjames/
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by Music Wolf »

Over on another Guitarist's forum these new amps have been absolutely slated. Needless to say, 99% of those doing the slating haven't actually seen, let alone heard, one yet. I've seen a couple of review videos and frankly they (the videos / reviewers, not the amps) are very disappointing. The obvious answer for anyone who is interested would be to go and try one for yourself.

My guess is that they are aimed very much at guitarists such as myself. Late 50's, comfortable financially, playing live a couple of times per month. The light weight is very appealing.

What rules me out is that I play using IEMs so I don't need an amp on stage. If one were to follow me home from a guitar shop I'd be plugging my Helix into it as my pedal board and listening to it, both at home and on stage, via the emulated speaker output. In short, it would be used as a pre-amp (of which the Helix already has a multitude). I'm sure that there are many others in my demographic who don't use IEMs, have individual pedals and who like to have the feel of the amp in the room - they just don't want to be lugging a heavy amp up stairs.
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by S2 »

I agree with that. For the 'older' musician, weight and portability is paramount. 24lbs for a tube amp, if it sounds good, is ideal! I'm a bass player, but the same rules applies which is why I use a Mark Bass combo as it's a huge sound with decent power that I can easily carry one handed. I don't use IEMs, so I need an amp.

Written reviews (and actually video reviews too) make me laugh, since most of the time they are just so subjective and don't give any idea what the thing sounds like under your fingers. I look at them to get an idea of the features and the layout, but once the reviewer launches into guff like 'the sound is detailed without ever being too truthful, and yet still has a chocolate veneer that will appeal to xxxx', then it's time to switch off and hunt one down to see what they sound like.
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by ef37a »

I think it is obvious that much will be made of the lightness in terms of all your poor old backs (mine is 76.5 and painful) but making a product that will ship all over the world half the weight of almost all other valve* 50 watters has 'green' credentials as well. There is also surely some saving on Copper?

Also very important I think is the universal mains capability. The debate has raged forever whether amps should just be made for intended destination voltage or have traff taps. The latter adds a cost that is very rarely useful (you watch!) and often they get it a bit wrong 'over there'!

*I have heard, but not had it confirmed, that the amp uses an op amp to get the first stage gain. I do hop we will not go down that daft "not a valve amp" rabbit hole again?

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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by Wonks »

It's a Blackstar, so we don't expect a 100% valve, resistor and capacitor only signal path.

Here's a link to the Andertons review of the amps:

https://youtu.be/eZUzkqoOzA4
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by GCKelloch »

ef37a wrote: Wed May 18, 2022 10:45 am I think it is obvious that much will be made of the lightness in terms of all your poor old backs (mine is 76.5 and painful) but making a product that will ship all over the world half the weight of almost all other valve* 50 watters has 'green' credentials as well. There is also surely some saving on Copper?

Also very important I think is the universal mains capability. The debate has raged forever whether amps should just be made for intended destination voltage or have traff taps. The latter adds a cost that is very rarely useful (you watch!) and often they get it a bit wrong 'over there'!

*I have heard, but not had it confirmed, that the amp uses an op amp to get the first stage gain. I do hop we will not go down that daft "not a valve amp" rabbit hole again?

Dave.

I remember reading that the phase inverter is the Op-amp. Would have been better if it was the first gain stage because that isn't driven hard enough to compress or generate distortion anyway, so it would hardly matter if it is a tube or not. I guess they wanted to have an extra tube stage for high gain sounds. I suppose they apply more high end filtering on the phase inverter op-amp so it's not harsh. Blackstar amps do tend to be a bit dark sounding.
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by ef37a »

GCKelloch wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 5:31 am
ef37a wrote: Wed May 18, 2022 10:45 am I think it is obvious that much will be made of the lightness in terms of all your poor old backs (mine is 76.5 and painful) but making a product that will ship all over the world half the weight of almost all other valve* 50 watters has 'green' credentials as well. There is also surely some saving on Copper?

Also very important I think is the universal mains capability. The debate has raged forever whether amps should just be made for intended destination voltage or have traff taps. The latter adds a cost that is very rarely useful (you watch!) and often they get it a bit wrong 'over there'!

*I have heard, but not had it confirmed, that the amp uses an op amp to get the first stage gain. I do hop we will not go down that daft "not a valve amp" rabbit hole again?

Dave.

I remember reading that the phase inverter is the Op-amp. Would have been better if it was the first gain stage because that isn't driven hard enough to compress or generate distortion anyway, so it would hardly matter if it is a tube or not. I guess they wanted to have an extra tube stage for high gain sounds. I suppose they apply more high end filtering on the phase inverter op-amp so it's not harsh. Blackstar amps do tend to be a bit dark sounding.

Where, did you read that GC?
Since you need in excess of 130V peak to peak to drive a 25W OP valve into distortion I very much doubt that the PI is an op amp? It is true that the HT series uses a MOSFET LTP PI and that has been criticised, quite unfairly IMO.

The most common valve PI is the cathode coupled LTP and this has massive headroom since half of it is a cathode follower. Consequently it is hardly ever driven into distortion even when seriously hammering the OP valves. The MOSFET circuit is similarly very clean and transparent. (the Series Ones use the circuit but with additions I shall not reveal here).

An op amp front end though makes a deal of sense. Valves hum, hiss and are microphonic and I found it increasingly hard to select good ones for the first stages of the Artisan amps (out of 50 ECC83s I would get perhaps ten good ones). Op amps, even the venerable TL072 have less noise, zero hum (if you get the supply clean!) use far less power, cost SIGNIFICANTLY less (how important is that now?!) have zero microphony, and almost never fail.
They also have at least as high an input headroom as a triode and as said, the first valve stage in an amp cannot usually be driven into distortion by a guitar. There are now even better jfet op amps than the 72 and I bet Blackstar are using one!

What's not to like?

Dave.
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by Folderol »

What they should do is stick one of the dodgy ECC83s in there with just the heater wired, then hidden under the valve base have an op-amp doing the real work :bouncy:
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by ef37a »

Folderol wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 12:17 pm What they should do is stick one of the dodgy ECC83s in there with just the heater wired, then hidden under the valve base have an op-amp doing the real work :bouncy:

They were accused of doing this with the HT pedals Will. There is an Orange LED on the power board and it shines up through the side mounted valve.
Some said the valve was a 'dummy' and the LED a cheat. Not so, the triodes run at 200V+ and deliver almost all of the OD sound. In any case...IF you wanted to cheat why use an ORANGE LED? Valve heaters are Red.

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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by Folderol »

ef37a wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 2:04 pm
Folderol wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 12:17 pm What they should do is stick one of the dodgy ECC83s in there with just the heater wired, then hidden under the valve base have an op-amp doing the real work :bouncy:

They were accused of doing this with the HT pedals Will. There is an Orange LED on the power board and it shines up through the side mounted valve.
Some said the valve was a 'dummy' and the LED a cheat. Not so, the triodes run at 200V+ and deliver almost all of the OD sound. In any case...IF you wanted to cheat why use an ORANGE LED? Valve heaters are Red.

Dave.

They should have changed to a bright blue LED - that would have terrified the numpties.
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Re: New Blackstar heads and combo

Post by GCKelloch »

ef37a wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 10:55 am
GCKelloch wrote: Sat May 21, 2022 5:31 am
ef37a wrote: Wed May 18, 2022 10:45 am I think it is obvious that much will be made of the lightness in terms of all your poor old backs (mine is 76.5 and painful) but making a product that will ship all over the world half the weight of almost all other valve* 50 watters has 'green' credentials as well. There is also surely some saving on Copper?

Also very important I think is the universal mains capability. The debate has raged forever whether amps should just be made for intended destination voltage or have traff taps. The latter adds a cost that is very rarely useful (you watch!) and often they get it a bit wrong 'over there'!

*I have heard, but not had it confirmed, that the amp uses an op amp to get the first stage gain. I do hop we will not go down that daft "not a valve amp" rabbit hole again?

Dave.

I remember reading that the phase inverter is the Op-amp. Would have been better if it was the first gain stage because that isn't driven hard enough to compress or generate distortion anyway, so it would hardly matter if it is a tube or not. I guess they wanted to have an extra tube stage for high gain sounds. I suppose they apply more high end filtering on the phase inverter op-amp so it's not harsh. Blackstar amps do tend to be a bit dark sounding.

Where, did you read that GC?
Since you need in excess of 130V peak to peak to drive a 25W OP valve into distortion I very much doubt that the PI is an op amp? It is true that the HT series uses a MOSFET LTP PI and that has been criticised, quite unfairly IMO.

The most common valve PI is the cathode coupled LTP and this has massive headroom since half of it is a cathode follower. Consequently it is hardly ever driven into distortion even when seriously hammering the OP valves. The MOSFET circuit is similarly very clean and transparent. (the Series Ones use the circuit but with additions I shall not reveal here).

An op amp front end though makes a deal of sense. Valves hum, hiss and are microphonic and I found it increasingly hard to select good ones for the first stages of the Artisan amps (out of 50 ECC83s I would get perhaps ten good ones). Op amps, even the venerable TL072 have less noise, zero hum (if you get the supply clean!) use far less power, cost SIGNIFICANTLY less (how important is that now?!) have zero microphony, and almost never fail.
They also have at least as high an input headroom as a triode and as said, the first valve stage in an amp cannot usually be driven into distortion by a guitar. There are now even better jfet op amps than the 72 and I bet Blackstar are using one!

What's not to like?

Dave.

I don't remember the details of where, but I think it was indeed about the HT series. I confused the MOSFET for an Op-Amp. I don't know that much about electronics, but I knew it was some type of SS component. I also read recently that MOSFET's have a smoother S-curve than ECC83's. I see no reason to think these new amps are an entirely different design. Perhaps all the preamp overdrive comes b4 the MOSFET, but I have also heard that most distortion in a Plexi comes from the PI tube. So couldn't the MOSFET be used as an overdrive stage as well?

I recently watched a YT video demo wherein the reviewer showed how cranking the Master vs pre Gain knob yields a substantially brighter sound -- opposite the case with most guitar amps. Perhaps the Master volume is situated post MOSFET PI, and the brightness is then coming from the less-driven preamp tube stages combined with the brightness of the overdriven 6L6GC's? The MOSFET may well generate lower harmonics when driven, yet not compress, and the overdriven preamp section then reduces the high end, yielding the final darker/fatter sound? Interesting approach. My only concern is if something breaks.

Some Blackstar owners report that they can not a find techs to fix them, but that's also true of other PCB amps. Is it really worth ~5x the price of a 60W Line 6 Catalyst considering how Line 6 recently eliminated the digital aliasing issue, and that there are multiple great sounding amps that include response tuning parameters? It may also break and can't be fixed, but you'll only be out ~$300. One could buy two and replace any broken ones to always have a backup. Might be ~$300 every ~5 years.

Replace the speaker if you want a personalized stage tone. The stock speaker does sound a bit midrangy to me. A Weber smooth cone Ceramic 'California' (w/paper dust cap), or a '1230-55' (100W version) might be a nice affordable upgrade. The California has more high end with a bit more 2.3kHz "clarity" than the 1230-55, but it also has a bit more ~3.2kHz "ice pick", so it's a trade off. The 1230-55 has that big warm low end and strong ~5kHz presence. Users say they can hear themselves well on stage and it's not harsh. The WGS WGS12L is a sweeter sounding EVM12L type if you don't mind the 18lbs. Again, the amp section response parameters also make the amp models customizable.
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