Blame it on the Blackstar

I’ve been using a hand wired VOX AC15HW1 for the last few years, and mostly loving it. I say “mostly” for a couple reasons. It sounds great in many situations, but sometimes I just can’t get what I need from it. 

The AC15’s clean channel has an inherent break-up to it, which is ideal for a lot of songs (think Beatles, Chuck Berry, etc). But sometimes, I need a perfectly clean Fender-like sound (think of the gorgeous clean solo in Sublime’s Santeria, or the opening of Smashing Pumpkin’s 1979).  To have higher clean headroom in an AC amp, I guess I’d need to upgrade to the 30-watt behemoth, the AC30.

Loop Master AB SwitchAnother issue with the AC15 is the way the two channels work. There are two independent inputs for the two channels- the only way to switch between them is to use an ABY switch. I added an A/B switch to my custom Loop Master switcher.  This works, but is a bit ungainly with the multiple signal cables from the floor to the amp. Also, there’s no EQ on the clean channel- only on the top boost channel. And

A couple more nitpicks- the AC15 is old-school and simple, which means no reverb, and no effects loop – which limits the way I can use outboard effects.

Recently I had a chance to try several Blackstar amps, and was blown away by their flexibility.  One in particular, the Stage 60, made me completely reconsider my entire rig.  Here’s why:

Stage 60 Front Panel Stage 60 Rear Panel

  • It has 4 channels (3 1/2 really), and the clean, overdrive and lead channels all sound great.  I won’t need my overdrive/distortion pedals anymore
  • The clean channel has a voicing switch between Fender super-clean, and Vox-style breakup.  Also the clean channel has separate EQ.
  • Two separate overdrive channels:
    • overdrive 1 is milder
    • overdrive 2 is super-ballsy, and has an additional footswitchable high-gain lead
  • Effects loop
  • Reverb
  • 4-button footswitch for clean, ch1, ch2 and reverb

Basically, the Stage 60 has everything my AC15 is missing. Downside? It’s totally overkill- 2×12” speaker cab and weighs nearly 70 pounds. And it’s loud as hell. However, I’m willing to take one for the team, and give it a shot!

The Sound In Your HeadBlackstar was founded by a few engineers and designers from Marshall, and they’re making some amazing stuff. (Full disclosure, my employer Korg USA now distributes Blackstar- so that’s how I learned about them).  At the last NAMM show, I scored a free Blackstar shirt with the logo “the sound in your head”.  And that’s really what I’m excited about- being able to get more of a Marshall sound, a Fender sound and a Vox sound, all from one amp.

It’s on order!