My Blackstar Stage 60 is a 3-channel amp, but with the additional gain switch on OD2, it’s effectively a 3 1/2 channel or 4 channel amp, depending on how you look at it. I absolutely love this flexibility! Blackstar’s catchphrase is “the sound in your head”, and it’s true. I’m really happy with the sounds I can get from this bad boy. I’ve put my overdrive and distortion pedals back in storage, as I can get everything I need from the Stage 60’s channels.
I use the channels as Clean, Overdrive (OD1), Distortion (OD2) and High Gain Lead (OD2 with the gain switch on). As pictured above, I’ve marked my preferred settings on the front panel with a green glow-in-the-dark pen, which has saved my ass on numerous occasions, on a dark stage before a gig.
Since I want a Fender-like high-headroom Clean channel, I run the Clean channel in the Modern voicing rather than the AC-like Boutique voicing. According to the manual, the modern voicing has
a greater bass response and tighter sound from increased Class AB style power ampli er damping. The gain structure is also altered to keep the sound clean at higher settings of the Clean Volume control.
For the OD1 Channel, I again have the voicing set to Modern for a tighter sound than the Classic. The Classic voicing is a bit more flabby, while the Modern voicing has:
a greater bass response and a looser more aggressive sound from reduced power amplifier damping.
For the OD2 Voicing, I have it set to Classic, which
has a ‘classic’ overdrive voicing similar to Overdrive 1, but with a little more gain. When the switch is in, mid-band gain is applied to give the overdrive sound more ‘body’ and a smoother overdrive characteristic.
The OD1 and OD2 channels share an EQ, and the “ISF” infinite shape feature, which I have set towards the American end of the dial which the manual says has
a tight bottom-end and more aggressive middle.
The reverb is controlled by footswitch 4. I have the voicing switch on the back of the amp set to the warmer “Dark” mode.
The Modern voicing of the Clean channel does indeed stay sparkly clean, all the way up, which is exactly what I was lacking with my VOX AC15. But I also love the Clean channel’s ‘Boutique’ voicing, and I wish there was an additional footswitch to control it. It sounds more like an VOX AC style amp.
The HD500X settings for my ultra-low-gain tube screamer are shown in the picture at left. I have this set to bypass/enable on the lower left footswitch on my HD500X. If the Blackstar is on the Clean channel, this makes it sound enough like the “Boutique” AC-style voicing for my needs. And I can also kick that on in the OD1 channel for a little extra oomph.
This is what my pedal board looks like now:
I only have a couple complaints about the Stage 60. When changing channels, there’s a very noticeable delay where the sound goes silent. This makes it a bit of a challenge when switching channels on the change from verse to chorus, or going into a solo. I’ve had to change my playing a bit to accommodate the pause. That’s a bummer.
The only other downside is that it’s really overkill in every way. It’s huge and heavy- around 75 pounds – and I’m not sure how long my back will be able to take it 🙂 And so freakin loud that I generally have the master volume on like 1.
In spite of all that, I’m loving the sound I get from this amp when paired with my Gibson SG. With the HD500X wired up with 4-cable method, I’ve got all the flexibility I need and my setup has never sounded so good.