When Experience Counts: Blackstar’s Seasoned Musical Soul Shines In It’s Products

Blackstar Amplification has been around just a pinch over ten years, but it’s smart range of products and enthusiastic reception from musicians gives it the air of a company with much more history and experience behind it. Which makes sense, because it is such a great company.

directorsBorn in a small, Northampton, England, garden shed in 2004, Blackstar is the brainchild of Ian Robinson, Bruce Keir, Paul Hayhoe, and Richard Frost. The quartet knew a little bit about amps; an obscure amplifier company by the name of…hold on, I’ve got it right here…Marshall…had enlisted the their talents for several years prior. Once their employment with Marshall ended, they dove in and began the hard work needed to realize their collective vision and branch out from identity of their previous employer.

Now, we here at TheToneKing.com are big fans of Marshall amps. But we like that Blackstar isn’t simply built around delivering the Marshall sound in a different package. Blackstar has brought real innovation to the amplifier world with features like Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) and Dynamic Power Reduction (DPR) and products like the ID:Series.


The ISF control is a clever feature that allows players to order up a bit of apple pie with their fish and chips. In other words, it adjusts the sound and response of the amp from British to U.S. voicing characteristics, allowing a player a wealth of tweakability beyond the typical EQ options.ISF-Full-page-ad-05-01-111

With live sound reinforcement becoming more powerful and sophisticated with seemingly every passing moment, the need for very powerful amplifiers isn’t what it used to be. In fact, most modern sound guys will get a tad pissed off if you insist on meticulously recreating The Who’s stage sound from back in the day. But let’s face it; even if your rig never leaves the basement, nothing compares to sweeping the volume knob all the way and rattling some drywall a little bit. With Blackstar’s DPR function, you can tailor the amp’s output to your needs and help get the magical power section breakup tones without causing a near-collapse of the venue’s ceiling as Bob Mould and his Blackstars did here on the David Letterman show a couple months back.

Blackstar has also leap-frogged makers that have been around far longer with it’s ID:Series amps. With the ID:Series, Blackstar, through it’s True Valve Power system, allows the player to choose between six emulated power sections – EL84, EL34, 6V6, 6L6, KT66, and KT88. Then, you combine that with six different Voice options – Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD 1, OD 2. And you can tweak things further with the supercool ISF feature mentioned earlier, as well onboard effects.

That Blackstar has found it’s products ensconced with players as diverse as Gus G, Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper), Wolf Hoffman (Accept), Bob Balch (Fu Manchu), and Steve Jones (The Sex Pistols) after such a relatively short time tells you much of what you need to know about the impact Blackstar has already made. But to really know, you’ve gotta plug into one. The name may be relatively new, but the bloodline is classic.


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