NAMM 2022: Blackstar debuts all-new St. James amp series, featuring “the lightest 50-watt valve guitar amps on Earth”

Blackstar St. James guitar amps
(Image credit: Blackstar)

NAMM 2022: Blackstar has introduced its all-new St. James family of contemporary guitar amps – a range of combos, cabs and heads that the company says comprises “the lightest 50-watt valve amps on Earth”.

For an overview, the St. James range has been debuted with a pair of two-channel combos, two 2x12” cabs and two heads, with each head and combo coming fitted with either EL34 or 6L6 power valves.

As for how light the St. James units actually are, the heads weigh a mere 6.7kg, while the combos and cabs weigh 12.8kg and 13.6kg, respectively. So, very light indeed. 

According to Blackstar, the aim of its latest lineup was to create the world’s lightest valve amps without compromising tone, feel or performance. A tall order, given the infamously back-breaking nature of valve amp components.

In an effort to slimline its amp design, Blackstar has equipped each of its St. James units with lightweight candlenut wood exteriors, as well as lightweight power transformers that were designed around modern Switched-Mode Power Supply technology – a development that is now patent pending.

For the cabs and combos, Blackstar also worked closely with Celestion to design the all-new 12” Zephyr speaker – fitted with a ferrite magnet rather than a neodymium one – which is said to harness the sound of the speaker manufacturer’s Vintage 30 unit at a fraction of the weight.

Despite the classically styled nature, the amps also take a fair bit of inspiration from modern digital and modeling alternatives. The heads and combos both come equipped with Blackstar’s Cab Rig DSP speaker simulation for more tonal variety, which works alongside an app to customize speaker, cab, microphone and room pairings.

The software, which uses Blackstar’s proprietary collection of algorithms, boasts over 250 mic and cab combinations, and can be used to create savable presets that in turn can be stored in one of three onboard slots.

Further still, three output options – XLR, Stereo Line Out and USB – work alongside an internal reactive load box situated before the Cab Rig, which emulates the electrical response of a loudspeaker in a bid to deliver authentic power amp tones in studio and at home.

In terms of performance, both the EL34 and 6L6 heads and combos feature two channels, the first of which is a universal clean tone that seeks to tap into mid-’60s US cleans and offer an abundance of clean headroom for effects pedal pairing.

Elsewhere, the second channel of the EL34 St. James amps takes inspiration from vintage crunch and clarity, while the 6L6’s secondary channel boasts Blackstar’s “highest gain overdrive circuit to date”, with an added Voice switch for metal-minded chug tones.

There’s also an option to control power valve supply voltages, with the two-watt output setting letting you drive the power amp at a lower volume without negatively impacting the overall tone of the amp.

Price-wise, the heads are available now for both $1,199, while the cabs and combos are available for $749 and $1,299, respectively. 

For more information, head over to Blackstar.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.