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Blackstar ID:60 First Impressions

aleclee

TGP Tech Wrangler
Staff member
Messages
13,430
I ordered a Blackstar ID:60 from Sweetwater last weekend. As I attempt to purge the glowing bottles from my home, I wanted something to replace my Hod Rod Deluxe as a 1x12 combo that could serve as a "houseguest amp". Sweetwater offered a nice package deal with the foot controller and Blackstar is offering a $75 rebate.

It got delivered while I was at work and I didn't get a chance to unpack it until after a late-ish dinner (Thursday is my kid's choir practice). I couldn't do much with it while Mini Me was doing homework and not long after homework was done, it was his bedtime. I was reminded of why I stopped using regular amps in the first place. Without a proper headphone output, I can't do much while the house is sleeping (or watching TV, etc.). I didn't realize that the amp didn't have a headphone jack. It's definitely not a deal breaker but something to keep in mind.

After work yesterday, I finally got to put it through its paces. Not a bit of buyer's remorse here. It sounds quite good, is lighter (but about the same size) as the HRDx it's replacing and is easy to dial in. The foot controller isn't going to make me miss the MFC on my AxeFx but it works for running through presets and turning FX on/off.

At this point, you probably want me to get into the tones. :) I can get most of my go-to tones out of this thing:
  • Fendery Cleans
  • Voxy Grit
  • Marshall Crunch
  • D-style Smooth Overdrive
  • Brown Sound
  • Modern High Gain
I probably need some more time to dial them in but I dialed in usable versions of the above in maybe half an hour...with a chunk of that half hour being used to figure out how to save a preset. :bkw It's not totally byzantine but it did give me some appreciation for the "Store" button on the AxeFx.

In two respects, this is very different from most modelers I've played dating back to the Digitech RP-1. First, the timbral response to playing dynamics is quite good at least until you get to face melting gain levels. Speaking of face melting gain levels, the ID seems to be most in its element with cleanish to moderate drive (think AC/DC). If I was living in high gain land, I might pull out my G5 instead but this modeler seems to run against the trend of being weak when it comes to mildly driven sounds.

Speaking of weak, I'll echo the complaint about having to max out volume on clean presets. It's workable but it makes it harder to match volumes across presets.

Effects are basic but usable. You get four flavors in each effect category (modulation, delay, reverb). No built-in drive or compression FX. Front panel controls are limited. Each category has an on/off button. There are the (probably) familiar knobs to select type and intensity for each category and a tap tempo button. The tap tempo button applies to both speed for modulation FX as well as delay time. :(

That brings us to the PC editor: "Blackstar Insider". It's useful and I daresay necessary if you're using effects. It allows you to control some effect parameters not available on the front panel. I suppose that's the downside to having traditional aesthetics and no LCDs/menus: you're limited in what you can control. Insider lets you tweak things like delay time, feedback, and mix level. A couple irritations about the Mac version worth mentioning. First, the installation is a bit cumbersome as it requires both Silverlight and the Mono Framework. I found myself doing additional installs when trying to start the app. Second, there's an irritating "Insider has quit unexpectedly" when exiting the app. I suppose it's better to get a "quit unexpectedly" message while quitting than to actually have it quit unexpectedly while trying to do something but it's annoying.

I'm getting together with a drummer on Tuesday. Because of schedule issues, we only have an hour so this is the "grab 'n go" scenario that a combo fills better than a rack unit. We'll see how it holds up. It seems about as loud as my Fender so unless there's some digital/SS wimpiness, I don't expect any unpleasant surprises there.

Bottom line is that the device isn't perfect but it is a very usable and enjoyable option in a value-priced combo. It won't make me abandon my AxeFx (DUH!) but for a rig that only cost about 15% of my AxeFx / MFC / CLR setup, it's a solid value. If my kid expresses more interest in guitar, I'll probably let him use it as a starter amp. I'd have to come up with a viable headphone solution at that point :) but I should be able to run the emulated out into a headphone amp easily enough.
 
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jds22

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,930
Cool, glad you like it.
I have the 260 and can't imagine needing any more volume.
I agree about the effects. Usable but nothing great. The stereo spread with this amp is hardly noticeable.

I also have the VIP3 and was pretty excited when the Vyp Pro was announced thinking I might sell both the ID and the VIP to pay for the Pro. So the other night I spent some time with the ID and the VIP and found I like the sound of the ID more. So if the Pro isn't a huge step up over the VIP, I can't see me replacing the ID.

Let us know how next Tuesday goes.
 

Spider-Man

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,658
I really liked the ID:30 I had. Sold to either move to the 15 for a smaller practice amp, or the 60 for something that would be loud enough for a jam. Got side tracked with a Super Champ X2 which I really hated. Still might buy a 15 at some point. Thanks for the review.
 

jerryratpack

Beano can’t cure this sort of GAS
Double Platinum Member
Messages
1,828
This was good information . Thanks for the review... I am looking at the ID 60 ( don't need that much but it has the extra controls on front that the 15 and 30 don't have )
And had only a little time to play it in the store... It was between the mustang 3 and the blackstar, but I am waiting to try the peavey pro when it arrives in stores...

I didn't realize the 60 didn't have a headphone out and just assumed it did. So that's good info. Enjoy your new amp !
 

partytrain

Senior Member
Messages
6,110
I was waiting to hear your report since you mentioned you were getting one. I have the mustang III v2, and I've been wondering if the id60 is enough of a difference to make then switch.
 

aleclee

TGP Tech Wrangler
Staff member
Messages
13,430
The results playing with a drummer last night were pretty good. Volume was not a problem and the presets I dialed in held up well for how little time I spent putting them together.

The only weird thing I experienced was some dynamics issues when I'd lay into the strings. It's likely just a low battery in my Parker but sometimes, smacking the strings gave an odd feel like I was running through a brick wall limiter.
 

Madmax25

Member
Messages
1,317
I'm curious about the ID amps aswell...

Could't you just use the Emulated Output for headphones? According to the manual it's a stereo out with volume controlled by the volume knob. And you can silently record by disconnecting the speaker jack from the speaker jack output. Sounds like a perfect candidate for a headphone out to me :)
 

slugworth

Member
Messages
2,698
There are 2 problems with that.

One, the speaker-emulated output is tied to the amp master, so for silent play you'd have to keep the master volume at zero.

Two, you suggest disconnecting the speaker instead. But if you run the amp without a speaker load, the power that drives the speaker stays in the amp as heat. You might not fry the amp, but then again you very well could.

The other option is a load box or attenuator, but... bleh.
 

deanesque

Member
Messages
778
Question for ID owners... I've owned many modelers (hardware and software) and I've never found one that feels right without using compression. Do you miss having a compressor? Can it get really spongy without one?
 

Souper

Member
Messages
646
There are 2 problems with that.

One, the speaker-emulated output is tied to the amp master, so for silent play you'd have to keep the master volume at zero.

Two, you suggest disconnecting the speaker instead. But if you run the amp without a speaker load, the power that drives the speaker stays in the amp as heat. You might not fry the amp, but then again you very well could.

The other option is a load box or attenuator, but... bleh.
The ID has a speaker load protection, so if you unplug the speaker cable from the amp, its fine. If you keep the cable in, but disconnect at the speaker end however,..........
 

Baba

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,483
These are not tube amps, so, you wouldn't need a speaker load, correct?
 

Souper

Member
Messages
646
Solid state amps, just as tube amps, are designed to be loaded. If you remove the load, you remove part of the circuit, which is a very bad idea. But the ID has protection built in providing you dont leave the cable in the amp.
 

slugworth

Member
Messages
2,698
Question for ID owners... I've owned many modelers (hardware and software) and I've never found one that feels right without using compression. Do you miss having a compressor? Can it get really spongy without one?
I know what you mean about needing compression. On my POD HD I often use stacked compressors, even. With the ID, it's very rare that I miss having no compressor built in. The gain control on the clean channels primarily adds in compression, not distortion. And the different poweramp sims have varying levels of compression as well.

Solid state amps, just as tube amps, are designed to be loaded. If you remove the load, you remove part of the circuit, which is a very bad idea. But the ID has protection built in providing you dont leave the cable in the amp.
Souper, not that I don't want to take your word for it, but is that feature documented somewhere? I'd love to use my amp this way, but I would prefer not to risk sacrificing it to the gods of internet forum banter, if you know what I mean.
 

CheeseGrater

Member
Messages
709
Thanks for the review. Every time i plug into one of these at the store i've been impressed with the amp modeling sounds. If it didn't require it's own proprietary foot controller i may have bought one already.
 

slugworth

Member
Messages
2,698
The only cab sim is through the direct speaker-emulated output. You can turn it off by changing the FX loop settings in the Insider software, but you also lose the poweramp sim by doing so.
 






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