Blackstar Amps. The New Marshall?

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Blackstar: The New Marshall?

By Marc Johnson for TheToneKing.com

At TTK, we’ve been keeping our ears to the ground and have noticed that Blackstar Amplification has been getting a lot of press lately. Shred-masters like Gus G. (Ozzy’s new right-hand man) and Fredrick Akesson of Opeth (one of the underrated metal bands of all time) are putting Blackstar amps to work for them. And there seems to be a common thread out there that four dudes from Marshall may soon give their former employer a run for its money. Some people are asking, “Is Blackstar the new Marshall?”

Working for Marshall was a dream for Ian Robinson, but after ten years, he noticed constraints. “A Marshall has to sound like a Marshall,” was the company dictum, and, to create something really different, Ian knew he would have to leave the nest and learn to fly on his own. Bringing in the muscle of fellow Marshall alumni – including, Bruce Keir, Paul Hayho, and Richard Frost – Ian, debuted Blackstar amps at the 2007 Musikmesse convention. And, in 2009, Blackstar established a standalone operation in the US.

Line 6

The common component among all Blackstar amps seems to be versatility. Every amp claims a wide variety of tones. From the hand-wired Artisan Series, which will appeal to connoisseurs of “vintage” tones, to the Series One, which is for the more aggressive amongst us, Blackstar is not limiting themselves to one particular sound.

While The Tone King was at NAMM 2011, he got a chance to check out the Blackstar booth and their new Series ONE 200w KT88 head, a 4-channel midi-switchable amp with 4 KT88s and 200 watts of power. Included is a built-in attenuator that can bring you all the way down to 20 watts, basically giving you the ability to rip the doors off of your local venue and to practice in your apartment without disturbing your neighbors with the same amp.

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But back to the question, “Is Blackstar the new Marshall?” The simple answer is, well, “No.” The Marshall sound is a historic sound that will probably be around after we’re all six feet deep, and I don’t think that Ian or the rest of the guys at Blackstar would even dispute that. And I don’t think they are even trying to do what Marshall has done. In fact, it seems that they are more interested in doing the opposite. Marshall made some really cool tones and pretty much have stuck with that “sound” since the 60s. If you want that “Marshall sound,” buy a Marshall. If you’re looking for a sound that you can call your own, then you should probably check out a Blackstar.

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Filed Under: AmpsCommentary / Editorials

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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