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Blackstar HT Studio 20H 20-watt Tube Head Reviews

4.5 stars based on 12 customer reviews
  • from Colorado Springs October 26, 2016Music Background:
    20+ years playing guitar, home recording

    Excellent amp. Highly versatile

    I am extremely happy with my purchase. This amp can cover a wide spectrum of styles and is plenty loud. Metal, classic rock, Jazz...it can do it all. Just dial in the tone and it can do it. Okay, its cleans aren't "Fenderish" and ultra chimey, but it still can get the job done very effectively. Classic rock and metal...absolutely no problem for this amp. Th effects loop is quiet as well; no issues with popping when turning on my pedals. I was surprised at how good the digital reverb sounds, plus it is very progressive. My other amp has a real Accutronics spring reverb tank and ultimately sounds a bit better, but I am splitting hairs here.

    My gripes are few:

    1. I wish it had a standby switch to warm the tubes up and to shut them down properly.

    2. Although the amp is cathode biased it will still require a re-bias when I decide to re-tube down the road.

    Finally, I'll give 5 stars to Sweetwater and my salesperson, Jon Faloon. I originally purchased a floor model that immediately had issues. I notified Jon and he immediately worked on getting me a quick replacement. I cannot believe how good the customer service is with Sweetwater! I am a customer for life now.

  • from buena park, CA October 13, 2016Music Background:
    Classic rock grand funk railroad

    My first all tube amp

    Just got mine at the front door at 1130 it's 3oclock now been playing 3 and a half hours now I'm giving the tubes a break then I'm going back to play for an additional 6 hours that's how much I love this head got it mated with my mg half stack And oh my god it's incredible I'm putting eminence governors in my mg then I'm laughing at all those guys puttin the mg cabs down its gonna shine dontae you my brother are awesome on scale of 1-10 this amp gets a 10 plus just buy it and stop thinking about it this amp is amazing

  • from DALY CITY CA March 25, 2015Music Background:
    PLAYING GUITAR 40 YEARS//1975 TO PRESENT

    HOW IS IT?

    HOW DO YOU LIKE IT ? THATS WHAT THEY ASKED ME ITS FRIGGIN AWSOME
    BEEN PLAYING A LONG TIME HAD MANY AMPS OVER THE YEARS MOST NOTABLE CUSTOM HIWATT 100 I LET GO I LET A LOT OF GOOD GEAR GO IN MY YOUTH I COME FROM THE ERA OF LOUD AND THIS LITTLE BUGGER WILL DO THE JOB FINE ITS NOT TO HEAVY TO LUG AROUND
    GOOD STUDY HANDLE WITH A STAR EMBOSSED NICE TOUCH NOW
    ABOUT SOUND WONDERFUL IT REMINDS ME OF MY HIWATT IN A SMALL PACKAGE
    UNLESS YOUR PLAYING A 5000 SEATER THIS WILL DO ANY GIG TRY ONE PLAY IT YOU WILL BE SOLD THEY SAY TONE IS IN THE FINGERS WITH THIS AMP THE NOTES ARE GLOWING OFF THE ENDS OF MY FINGERTIPS

  • from Illinois March 16, 2014Music Background:
    Playing guitar for 50 years; keyboards about 25

    Unbelievable tone for the buck.

    I got this head cheap when a local retailer went out of business, but it's easily worth twice what Sweetwater is asking. Even with only the single tone pot, he clean channel alone is worth the $599. I haven't even scratched the surface of the gain channel yet, but somebody that loved EL34s & early Marshalls had to have had a hand in designing it. The hot channel has a standard 3-knob tone stack, & an "ISF" control that seems to change the character of how the others interact. I'm running mine through a Fender closed-back 1x12 cabinet, & this combination sounds like a half stack. Plenty of cojones for club gigs. My only concern with this head is the lack of a standby switch, but at this price, you can afford to buy some extra tubes.

  • from Detroit December 19, 2013Music Background:
    Hobbyist

    Great Amp!

    I've been through many amps and no amp has really been a good out of the box solution for me. This one is the exception. I've always wanted something that produces great high gain tones by itself without any stomp boxes and without ridiculous volume levels or digital noise like the dreaded modeling amps. The tones in this amp are great. The clean channel has tons of headroom up until right before full-tilt. Very fenderish sounding and the controls for this channel are simple. Put a good sounding guitar in and get a great sound out. You can also just use the clean channel if you like using pedals or processors to get your tones. I've already got some great sounds this way as well. The headroom in this channel facilitates that rather nicely.

    The Gain Channel is really the highlight of this amp. You can get everything from excellent tubey lower gain stratty sounds to full-blown jcm800/900 stuff with the gain turned up. Nice thing is that you can do it all at a low volume by keeping the master down and playing with the gain and master of the channel itself. None of the sounds are useless either. You don't get any of the nasty by-products of "too much gain" like you do with many other amps. None of that buzzy noise. In fact that was another thing that impressed me. This amp is very noiseless. You don't get any annoying buzzing or hum when idle. I've had a couple other 20 watt tube amps in the past that couldn't cut it volume-wise...let me tell you something....this thing gets loud. Don't worry about volume with this amp, It's more than enough. I play it through a 2x12 cabinet and it's incredible. It can also drive a 4x12 with ease. The sound has a nice full body to it and isn't thin at all. At lower volumes it sounds a little dark, but brightens considerably with more volume. You can also use the effects loop with some eq or whatever you want to brighten the amp to your liking. The loop is a great feature in an amp of this price. The reverb sounds good to a certain point. I like it a lot better on the cleanER tones though since it seems designed to go with tones of that type. The emulated out sounds very good for playing at night with headphones and doesn't lose any of the amp's character.

    If you want an amp that sounds good plugged directly into it without having to buy all kinds of other stuff, you will love this. It covers a lot of territory and suits a lot of situations. Very flexible for something so simple. It's a really good deal for the price and sounds as good or better than many amps costing 3x as much.

    My only complaint is that the higher gain tones are a bit dark. But like I said earlier, with a little eq in the effects loop you can completely change that, or turn it up if you have the ability. You might not even care. Simply a matter of taste so it's not really a downer.

    This is not one to be overlooked. Check it out.

  • from Temperanceville, VA September 5, 2013Music Background:
    guitar player, studio owner

    Very gutsey

    Friend of mine just brought this little guy to my studio and I was blown away. The combo has a tremendous amount of body and the sound is very present. Cuts through a dense mix easily with lots of tonal possibilities.

  • from NC November 29, 2016

    What an amp.

    I got this on the black friday closeout, great deals always from Sweetwater. Great candy too, fast shipping.

    Let's start with the clean channel. Frankly, it's not much to get excited about with only volume, tone, and master volume coming into play. You can get a serviceable sound, which is fun to go back and forth to on the footswitch, but if you're looking for a great clean amp, look elsewhere to the classics we all know.

    Kicking on the distortion, HOO BOY! This is what it's all about. Out of all the clean amps I have, all the pedals I have, none of them sound like this. The reason to buy a distortion amp is so you can leave the pedals on the shelf, and get your guitar tone from the amp itself. From its high voltage tube gain section. There is just so much clarity, fullness in the low end, evenness of tone, you don't get that running a fuzz pedal into the front of an amp. It just sounds, and more importantly, feels real. It inspires a different sort of playing. This is really the forte of the amp, and a really great sound that gets me excited to rock out. I chose the 20 watt head since I'm often not competing with a band. More of a home studio setting.

    The ISF control takes you between two (very) slightly different schools of tone. I prefer the bigger bottom of the American side. The British side gives a little more low mids, which might be useful sometimes. The master volume keeps things reasonable, but still lets you get some bite on your cleans, and some girth on your distortion. Reverb is kind of cheesy, but would work in a pinch. It's more of a room tone than a spring reverb emulation.

    The power tubes that came in my amp are really nice TAD EL34s, I was impressed, no need for a tube change right out of the box. Build quality is good, and it's not very heavy. I've only had this amp a few days but I'm having a lot of fun with it. It's just so satisfying to play, and most of the songs I know work with the tones on hand. This is my first distortion amp, all my other amps are clean. I have to say, it scratches that itch very handily. Now I only want more. The next in line will be something with more extreme gain and high power. The perfect place to start for me was the medium heavy gain and medium volume of the Blackstar HT Studio 20H. I think this amp is going to see a lot of use. Thanks, Sweetwater.

  • from Arkansas October 2, 2016Music Background:
    16 year hobbyist and recording guitarist.

    A Book and Its Cover

    A quick shout out to my rep Clint Bransteter. Thanks for always checking in. Disclaimer: constructive criticism for guitar players first, amp review second.

    To potential buyer of this amp: a word . . .

    Oftentimes us guitar players like to think that after playing through an amp or two for a few years and watching a multitude of YouTube videos where guys such as Rob Chapman, Ola Englund, or Ryan "Fluff" Bruce, etc. demo a product, we are then privy to a certain amount of knowledge about how amps work and do not work, which wattages are best (typically thinking the higher the better), and worst of all, which companies are inherently and perfectly synonymous with "the best tone" whether clean, dirty, or saturated; thereby creating a fallacious sense of brand loyalty that more often than not exists even when we have yet to invest in whatever brand we are "loyal" to. This type of thinking gets us in the position where our creativity starts become stifled. We no longer trust ourselves to branch out artistically or simply trust our own ears and past experience. We forget that sound is such a relative stimulus that can and will change with slightest variable.

    For example, to famous guitar player A, the marshall JCM 800 2203 100 watt valve head is the best (don't worry, I'm not about to attack Marshall, nor any other brand for that matter). Fans of famous guitar player A (with varying degrees of skill and experience) buy themselves a Marshall JCM 800 2203 100 watt valve head. Some will be in tonal heaven; believing the following is applicable for all guitar tone: 100 watts or more equals best guitar tone, Marshall equals best guitar tone, one must spend at least the cost of a high-end Marshall to get best guitar tone, and if the first three aforementioned steps are not followed, then one will not have best guitar tone. Other players will enjoy the amp, but may wish for something a little different at times in either areas of features or tonal options; perhaps realizing that their playing style is better suited for something a bit different. Or, other players might really like the amp, but wish for less wattage to allow for comfortable playing at home that doesn't incite complaints from others (i.e., significant others, spouses, neighbors, children). And lastly, some players may not like the amp hardly at all. They may insist that the amp doesn't give them the tone they thought it would ("You know, like [insert famous guitar player A's name] who's been playing them for years and swears by them").

    These players will be the first ones to most likely "rinse and repeat" the previously mentioned steps to "best guitar tone", but with either a different famous guitar player, or a different brand altogether (or both). We desire the solution to our idea for "best guitar tone" from a place different than where we know it can only come from. And where is that place you ask? It comes from the moment you know nothing at all or choose to ignore any information regarding the given or lack of given tubes, wattage(s), features, brand name, or even aesthetics, and, when either listening to or playing through whatever the product may be, you keep your eyes closed. Doing this, as it has for me on numerous occasions being a player who has been ensnared by the same traps I here speak ill of, has presented me with a tremendous amount of welcomed surprise. What I thought I knew was not quite as real as it always seemed or as I hope it would.

    Now, on to the amp review . . .

    I had the privilege one day, while walking into a local guitar store with a friend, to sit down and play two amps. One was an Orange OR15H (the one I was sure I would buy, it being the established and more expensive brand), and the Blackstar HT20H (the less established, not as expensive brand that I held doubts for). I had my friend, without me knowing which amp I was going to be playing through, hook both amps up to a 212 speaker cab loaded with a pair of celestion standard 70/80 speakers (not a bad set by no means/ good solid tone across the spectrum). After spending about an hour going through both heads while trying clean tones, dirty tones, and saturated tones, it was revealed that the amp I was going to invest in would be the Blackstar HT20H. The Orange OR15H was an exceptional amp. I had no hard feelings toward its array of tones at all. The Blackstar simply fit what my hands wanted to play and what my ears wanted to here. With regards to how I EQ'ed the amp, the amp itself had and still has good chimey clean tones (could be better, ergo the 4.5/5.0 star rating), punchy overdriven tones that were very dynamic and response to my guitar's volume, and incredible saturated tones that were both saturated as well as percussive, tight, and clear (the onboard ISF feature, in my opinion, is the sweet spot).

    The ability for me to achieve the tones I wish to have (at a plenty loud 20 watts for $500) as well as the features necessary to explore other types of tones with either just the amp, or the amp with pedals front-ended and/or looped gave me the faith that I needed to buy this amp. It's been a joy to own for the past year. I've recorded with it, gigged with it, practiced and played at home with it, and my personal favorite, been given the best-on-stage-mix-of-the-night affirmation from a sound man who, as he put it, "fought tooth and nail" with the "ignorant" players of this particular evening who loyally flew their JCM, 5150, Dual Rectifier, and Rockerverb flags without so much as considering all those variables that they overlooked when making such a purchase. Their guitar hero sounded good playin' and so would they?

    This is a great amp. Don't fool yourself into thinking that 20 watts isn't enough, or that Blackstar isn't as an established brand as Marshall, Orange, Peavey, or Mesa Boogie, and therefore not as good or trustworthy. Also, don't fool yourself into thinking that because this amp has four tubes in it, it will sound better (to you) than that tubeless Orange CR120 or that tubeless Randall 1503 you're looking at. And, DO NOT be fooled by the price tag. I stand by this amp's tonal and build quality and would encourage players to invest. But, before that happens, close the eyes, ignore the details, and listen with the ears and not the eyes. It's a good book that just happens to have a good cover.

  • from rochester,ny July 6, 2012Music Background:
    hobbyist

    sweet sounding head

    blackstar hit a home run with ht series head. great sound range does every thing it says it does and more. i own a 65 deluxe reverb amp, must say that will always be my favorite.play my american made strat with the ht gret sounds.if your loo2king for a good 20 watt head buy this one.

  • from Mid Michigan August 6, 2011Music Background:
    Hobbyist

    Scary Good!

    I used this amp head with a Fender 2x12 cab (1980) and it drove the speakers with absolutely no effort. The clean channel is crystal clear, but I would like more than just volume and tone control. I don't use overdrive a lot, but the overdrive channel has many tone options. I'm just a hobbyist, but I've always liked the sound of EL 34s in home audio tube amps. I think the EL 34s separate this amp from the others out there (they seem richer). It is built like a tank. I liked this head so much that I am exchanging it (bought from Sweetwater) for the HT Stage 60 combo which has many more tone options. Blackstar has really made the grade with their amps. I can't wait to get my HT Stage 60.

  • from Lancaster, KY USA June 20, 2014Music Background:
    Musician, Student, Hobbyist, Classical player

    Excellent head

    This is an absolute gem of an amp head. It was delivered on time and was super simple to set up. The amp sounds quite good, very warm and is an excellent practice and live amp. I love the emulated out and the free footswitch I got too, the amp is pretty good for rock and clean, it's neato for metal too :D

  • from Ca December 3, 2016

    Good amp with caveats

    This is a good amp with some caveats.

    The good:
    Good/excellent clean channel tones. Plenty loud enough for home use. After getting inside mine it appears to be well made.

    Caveats:
    My amp has a small power supply buzz. This is a common issue with the HT20: Google it.
    Clean chan only has one tone control. This is actually a fairly minor gripe.
    I don't like that the Standby function is done by pulling the input cable. Should be a switch.
    The gain channel is WAY too hot for my liking. I fixed mine with a preamp tube swap.

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