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NAMM 2022: Take an in-depth tour of Blackstar's ultra-lightweight St. James valve guitar amp

A Blackstar St. James amplifier, on display at NAMM 2022
(Image credit: Future)

NAMM 2022: When we were drawing up a list of products we wanted to get a closer look at at this year's NAMM show in Anaheim, California, one that quickly came to mind was Blackstar's new line of St. James guitar amps.

First announced in May, the amps were advertised by Blackstar as “the lightest 50-watt valve guitar amps on Earth.” Indeed, when we did make it to Booth 5723 at the Anaheim Convention Center, Blackstar's Steve Marks was eager to explain to why he wants people to think of the St. James as a Formula 1 car of sorts.

The cabs and combos in the St. James range – which features a pair of two-channel combos, two 2x12” cabs and two heads – are powered by a new 12" Celestion speaker called the Zephyr. Featuring a ferrite magnet instead of a neodymium one, the Zephyr is said to emulate the tones produced by Celestion's Vintage 30 speaker, but at a fraction of the weight. 

Elsewhere, Marks explains in the interview, the company saved weight by housing the amps in a lightweight (but still acoustically resonant) candlenut plywood exterior and by using Switched-Mode Power Supply technology, rather than the standard, coiled heavy-duty transformer.

The end result is heads that weigh in at 14.8 pounds, and combos and cabs that weigh in at 28.2 and 30 pounds, respectively.

You can hear some of the St. James line's brawnier hard-rock and twangier country tones in the video below.

Each head and combo comes fitted with two channels, and either EL34 or 6L6 power valves. The latter, Marks says, has "a beautiful clean tone," and is perfect for blues, or anything that calls for a lot of gain. The former, meanwhile, is more of a "vintage pedal platform."

Though they boast a vintage look and aim to produce plenty of vintage-minded tones, the heads and combos are equipped with Blackstar’s Cab Rig DSP speaker simulation – which works with an app to customize speaker, cab, microphone and room pairings – for plenty of 21st century tonal tweaking.

The Blackstar St. James heads are both available now for $1,199, while the cabs and combos are available for $749 and $1,299, respectively. 

For more info on the amps, visit Blackstar (opens in new tab).

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.