The Blackstar 45 series one is a medium sized, two channel all-valve guitar amplifier housing 2 speakers and running at 45 watts. The amplifier sounds great at low volume, yet there is plenty of volume to spare and would perform with ease at most medium sized gigs.
One thing that is consistent across the Blackstar range is the build quality and easy to understand layout of the controls and features like the ISF (Infinate shape frequency). The ISF is a standout feature on all Blackstar amps. This quirky little feature enables the user to create either a British or American sound or anything in between, depending on where the dial is turned to. The ‘British’ side creates a much warmer and thicker tone, than the more sparkly and twangy ‘American’ side of things, so the control is not just a gimmick but is well worth incorporating into your tone settings.
On the clean channel with low gain, turning this control all the way to the ‘British’ side presented a ballsy tone which threatened to break up when pushed hard, whilst turning it all the way to the ‘American’ side gave an extremely noticeable bright twang sound, reminiscent of classic fender and mesa amps.With the gain at half way and the ISF set al the way to British, the neck pickup of my guitar gave me a deep, resonant, yet crystal-clear twang perfect for country music styles. Selecting the ‘warm clean’ channel and turning the ISF control to the American setting meant that the bright twang was retained, yet the switch to the ‘warm’ channel meant that a new dimension of bass and resonance was added.
Switching to the overdrive channel, the same amount of warmth and clarity was retained with the gain control around 2, especially with the ISF control turned to the British setting. Keeping this ISF setting and turning the gain up to halfway rendered a hair-raising ballsy crunch, perfect for recreating any 70’s classic rock tone, whilst turning the ISF control to the American setting cleaned the tone up and improved the clarity and brightness. Cranking the gain served only to heat up this signal, adding more sustain, but the ISF control still made tone shaping infinitely possible.
Pressing the ‘super crunch’ button, I was amazed with the levels of gain that were possible even at low volume. Turning the ISF control to the American setting and scooping the mids, the tone was powerful yet fluid, with lead work sustaining and cutting through perfectly due to the impressive gain levels. Turning the ISF to the British setting, I was presented with the raw, ballsy sound of cranked Marshall heads, yet still surprisingly modern, given the ‘super crunch’ mode selected.
To conclude, it can be heard that the Blackstar has been developed and tweaked by engineers wanting to stay true to valve tone. To this end, it is easy to re create almost any classic amp sound, be it the bright clean of early Fender or Mesa combos, to the raw, dirty rock sound of early to modern Marshall heads. Modern tone players may find that the Blackstar does not deliver the compressed levels of sustain and gain as newer peavey and mesa heads, But from crystal clear clean to roaring, huge distortion sounds, the Blackstar will most definitely not dissapoint.