Being a metal guitarist is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that metal is one of the few musical styles where every variety of guitar tone—from pristine clean to high-gain heaviness—is welcome.
The curse is that most amps that can deliver the necessary variety of tones needed to play metal are friggin’ expensive. The Blackstar HT Metal 100 is an affordable exception, providing three channels, versatile EQ and more than ample gain for players of any style of metal.
Features: The Blackstar HT Metal 100 is a 100-watt all-tube head driven by four 6L6 tubes in the power-amp section and one ECC82 and two ECC83 tubes in the preamp section. This provides ample clean headroom and substantial volume output that’s more than sufficient for most gigs when used with a single 4x12 cabinet or a stacked pair of 4x12s.
While the HT Metal 100 is a three-channel amp, its front panel is not overly cluttered with a confusing array of knobs. The Clean channel controls are located to the right and consist of a volume control, treble and bass knobs, and a voice switch that provides a choice of boutique (focused mids and highs) or modern (enhanced bass and percussive attack) settings. The OD (Overdrive) 1 and OD 2 channels each feature their own separate volume and gain controls, but they share the same set of bass, middle and treble controls as well as ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) circuit. ISF is Blackstar’s patented control that lets you infinitely adjust the response of the tone controls between traditional American and British voicings. The amp also provides built-in digital reverb with a level control on the front panel and a dark/light voicing switch on the rear panel. The master section provides master volume, presence and resonance controls.
The rear panel hosts a variety of speaker output jacks to accommodate any speaker cabinet or pair of cabinets, from one four-ohm to two 16-ohm. The speaker-emulated output can be used without a speaker cabinet for recording applications with the amp in standby, and the cabinet switch emulates the sound of either a 4x12 closed-back or 1x12 open-back cabinet. There’s also a mono effect loop with a +4/-10dBV level switch, a jack for controlling the amp’s boost function and a jack for the supplied four-function footswitch that selects any of the three channels and turns reverb on or off.
Performance: Most British metal amps use EL34 tubes, but Blackstar’s choice of 6L6 tubes for the HT Metal 100 was a wise choice, as these tubes deliver tighter bass and more dynamic performance that’s ideal for modern metal styles. The high-gain tones are lusciously thick, and the versatile EQ controls for the two overdrive channels can dial in a wide range of tones, particularly thanks to the ISF control, which alters the overall tonal character from American (tight bass and aggressive mids) to British (more focused midrange with a touch of natural tube compression). While the EQ controls’ range is impressive, the tone is never unnatural or overly harsh.
On many metal amps, the clean channel is usually an afterthought, but the HT Metal 100’s Clean channel sounds as good as the high-gain channels. The “boutique” voice is fat and punchy, with a satisfying twang that would please even country purists. The “modern” voice is more slinky and sizzling, with a razor-sharp treble that slices through a mix and tight and punchy bass that’s great for funk. The amp’s digital reverb sounds excellent with the clean channel, and while I usually prefer dry tones when using high-gain distortion, I have to admit that it sounds quite good with the overdrive channels as well, particularly with the dark setting engaged.
List Price: $1,469.99
Manufacturer: Blackstar Amplification, blackstaramps.com
The two overdrive channels share a versatile EQ section that includes an ISF control, which adjusts the overall character from bold American tones to more focused British distortion.
The built-in digital reverb can be switched on or off with the included footswitch and features a voicing switch with dark/light settings.
The Bottom Line: The affordably priced Blackstar HT Metal 100 impresses with its wide variety of high-quality clean and high-gain distortion tones as well as unexpected features like built-in digital reverb and a boost function.
For the rest of this review, check out the August 2014 issue of Guitar World.