LOVE THIS AMP!
After months of searching, I took the plunge and bought the Artist 15 and in three words ...I Love It!
Talked with Lucas at Sweetwater and ended up with a demo for eighty bucks less than retail.
Sweetwater had the amp at my front door in less than two days and everything arrived in Mint condition right down to the footswitch (and the bag of candy was a nice touch too!).
This amp sounds awesome!
The Clean channel is very basic - just Volume and Tone (perfect for Jazz), but the Gain Channel delivers everything from twangy single-coil style tones all the way up to Humbucker dirt. The Digital Reverb is very impressive and the ISF really does create a definite USA/British difference and the Emulated Output lets either the amp or the amp with pedals come through loud and clear for recording.
The definition through all the gears is very impressive and if I want to, I can crank it up and take the paint off the walls --- 15 watts is LOUD! With the ISF cranked to the "British" side, it does sound very Marshall-like and the "USA-side" sounds Fender-ish but the overall sound is somewhere in between.
The ECC83(12AX7)/6L6 tubes ought to make it a Fender by default but there's something in the circuitry that either gives or takes something from that configuration to create a unique sound all its own. Most people think of Blackstar as a high-gain, high-saturation Hard Rock or Metal amp but the Artist was built to be deliberately different and has a far more organic or old-school sound which is what I love. The master volume allows for bedroom-level play and even at that level there's more than enough crunch to satisfy my ears, but turn it up a bit and it really starts to sing. As for pedals, the clean channel is a blank canvass, but the gain channel becomes a whole universe of voicings when pedals are added and I'm still exploring the possibilities.
I played other amps in this category and price range but I could not find an actual Artist 15 to play so I depended on online reviews and it was a "Sweetwater Minute" by Mitch Gallagher that sold me on the this amp. His video was a simple "Plug n' Play" demonstration with no pedals - just a couple of guitars, a cable and the amp and was the most comprehensive demo I'd seen on this amp and it's what convinced me that this was the one for me.
If you're looking for pedal-friendly, low-gain amp with an "old-school" feel, bluesy grit and plenty of punch, the Blackstar Artist 15 is worth a long look. I'm totally happy with this amp and with Sweetwater's service as well!