Crazy about Blackstar
I purchased the Blackstar HT5th last year and have been using it more or less daily. I have to say that first, for the price, there is not a single amp that can match Blackstars patented tone (ISF) and it's versatility. Although it's a little hard to get a true "High-Gain" tone from this kind of amp. Reminds me a lot of the "Feeling" that I had with my Fender Princeton Reverb (18 Watts). Tube amps like the 5TH are designed to let effects handle that. For those that love that straight to the amp sound, this is a real buy (if you can find one).
Secondly, for a practice/studio amp this thing is DARN LOUD. I know 5 Watts doesn't sound like much, but, if you are familiar with 5 Watt tube power, you will understand what I'm talking about. This amp is well positioned to cover practice at home or at the studio! The awesomely perfect amount of "break-up" without making you deaf is perfect for those players that practice a lot and don't want to make the neighbors crazy, but, don't want to disappear in the mix at practice. My only recommendation is a guitar stand that can lift this off the floor for practice while standing.
The controls are so simple, Blackstars idea to use the 3 band EQ settings for the "Overdrive" channel is a super idea. While a simple "Tone" control which was so common on tube amps from the era that (IMO) Blackstar is trying to reproduce. With a built-in (digital) Reverb circuit is quite tasty for this kind of reverb. Since the Blackstar engineers originally worked with some of the companies that made Tube Tone worth while (Marshall & Peavy). They knew how to create a wide variety of tones with simple circuits. Marshall, for one, didn't like the idea of using (ISF or Digital Reverb) in their tube series I'm sure are rethinking their "Ideals". Too bad JM wasn't around to work with these guys. I'm sure we'd be seeing a completely different Marshall today. So sad because this is the kind of "Proprietary Logic" that killed IBM's PC division & almost killed APPLE.
Anyway, back the the 5th. (again IMO) the idea of using the Celestion 2 x 10's in this amp gives you a whole new aspect to the "Punchiness" of this little girl. Without getting too technical, it pushes twice the amount of air, making for a "perception" of a much larger amp without the foot-print or price.
On price, Blackstar's (with the exception of the ONE series for now) are all made in Korea. My first reaction was probably like yours (Being a former US Serviceman, I ONLY buy foreign products when there is no other option and will go to extreme extents to ensure this) I hesitated, and honestly would NEVER have purchased a single Blackstar product until I did the "Road Test". I couldn't find a single amp that took the load and sounded anywhere near as good as the Blackstar. Truth be told, everything else in the price range was junk (IMHO). Even then, I brought the idea home and did even more research and discovered that the guys who started Blackstar were so committed to ensuring that every amp that they sold would meet or exceed specifications of the same ones built on their benches in England. They went through many manufacturers before deciding on the current plant that they are using in Korea. It was one of their last chances to build an amp that would not only meet their desire for extreme quality, but, also build their products to the price points that would keep them in reach of the regular Joe. I admire this, would love to see the folks at Gibson be that concerned with the regular Joe.
Anyway, simply put, you are not going to get a better amp for the price. Nor, are you going to get one that the builders actually cared enough to give up if they couldn't make it right. You just don't find that anymore. Since this first one, I have replaced my Marshalls & Fender amps with Blackstars ALL (Not that they would ever consider me as an "Endorser", way too low profile for that... hehehe) . So again, KUDO's folks at Blackstar, you have earned my respect again & again.