Review: Blackstar Blackfire 200 Gus G. Signature Head
When Gus G. became Ozzy Osbourne’s axman in 2009, the Greek shredder quickly became as scrutinized as the celebrated guitarists that preceded him in Ozzy’s band, including Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee and Randy Rhoads. While his predecessors had relied on Marshall amps, the core of Gus G.’s sound came from high-wattage Blackstar Series One heads.
Now, fittingly, Gus—who also plays with his own group, Firewind—has received his own signature amp: Blackstar’s new Blackfire 200 Gus G. head. Limited to just 225 examples, it is Blackstar’s first signature head and, with its combination of modified American and British tones, it’s worthy of both Gus’ talent and Osbourne’s classic metal-defining tunes.
The Blackfire 200 generates a massive 200 watts of all-tube tone (courtesy of four selected KT88 power valves), features six modes and boasts Blackstar’s own Dynamic Power Reduction circuitry. Best of all, it sings with Gus G.’s monstrous-but-musical dragon-fire voicings.
The Blackfire 200 Gus G. has four footswitchable channels: Clean, Crunch, Fire and Fury. The Clean and Crunch channels share a set of EQ controls, as do Fire and Fury, while each channel has its own gain and volume knobs. The Clean channel has Bright and Warm modes, and the Crunch channel has Crunch and Supercrunch modes, making for a total of six modes when you include the Fire and Fury channels.
The most powerful of the EQ controls is undoubtedly Blackstar’s Infinite Shape Feature (ISF). This unique circuit makes it possible to dial the amp’s core personality through a range of frequency curves, beginning with the familiar, scooped-mid American voicing and ultimately morphing into the aggressive highs and fevered mids we associate with modified British-style amps.
Presiding over all channels and modes are controls for resonance, presence, volume and Dynamic Power Reduction. This last feature allows the user to dial the output power from 20 to 200 watts, in the process changing compression, speaker damping, feel and volume.
The amp’s backside has two speaker jacks with an impedance switch (four, eight and 16 ohms), a jack for the included four-button footswitch, five-pin MIDI In and Thru jacks, balanced and single-ended jacks for the emulated speaker output, and a series effect loop with level switch for +4dBV and -10dBV operation.
Beastly lows, throaty mids and a raunchy top end are hallmarks of Gus G.’s Blackfire 200—imagine a combination of Randy Rhoads’ excited, almost trashy upper midrange and Zakk Wylde’s wailing low-mid harmonic density. The Clean channel has plenty of headroom and is very friendly to layers of effects. The Crunch channel is best suited for vintage-type Brit snarl, while the Fury channel has enough molten gain and sustain to satisfy even the most radical metalist. My favorite channel was Fire, which delivers less overall gain than Fury but is voiced for growling lows, an extremely responsive top end and richly intense midrange cut.
Street Price $2,499.99
Manufacturer Blackstar Amplification Ltd., blackstaramps.com
Dynamic Power Reduction lets you dial the output anywhere from 20 to 200 watts, ultimately altering the amp’s balance of volume, compression and response.
Blackstar’s Infinite Shape Feature changes the preamp’s EQ structure and the power amp’s tonality, replicating the familiar response curves associated with American and British amps.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a fan of Gus G.’s tone or want a stage amp that combines sonic elements of modified American and British creations, the Blackstar Blackfire 200 Gus G. signature head is a powerhouse of finely tuned tube terror.