Blackstar St James 50 EL34 Combo review

Blackstar claims its latest release is “the lightest 50-watt all-valve combo in the world”. Is this really the future for tube amplification? Time to plug in

Blackstar St James EL34 Combo
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Guitar World Verdict

For professional players and serious amateurs who are after a compact and portable all-valve combo that doesn’t compromise on tone, the St James is a superb choice.


  • +

    Compact and very portable.

  • +

    USA-inspired clean channel.

  • +

    Superb vintage overdrive channel.

  • +

    Cab Rig goes beyond standard IRs.

  • +

    Power to spare for live gigs.

  • +

    Superb loudspeaker.


  • -

    No hardware output level control for Cab Rig outputs.

  • -

    No offline mode in the Architect app.

  • -

    Somewhat pricey.

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Blackstar’s history goes back to 2004, when a gang of four guitar-playing mates left secure employment with a major amplification manufacturer to spend the next two and a half years developing their own range of guitar amps, from the somewhat more dubious security of a shed in Northampton.

Blackstar Amplification made its debut in 2007 at Frankfurt’s Musikmesse trade show – and the rest we know. Today, it’s one of the top amplification brands in every niche, from hand-wired pure valve designs to cost-effective digital modelling, all presented with the typically down-to-earth pragmatic attitude that’s a reflection of the company founders and the city Blackstar comes from. 

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Nick Guppy

Nick Guppy has been a regular contributor to Guitarist magazine for over 20 years, mostly writing reviews on guitar amps and related products. He built his first valve amplifier at the age of 12 and has since bought, sold and restored many more, with a particular interest in Vox, Selmer, Orange and tweed-era Fenders, alongside Riveras and Mark Series Boogies. When wielding a guitar instead of soldering iron, he’s enjoyed a diverse musical career playing all over the UK, including occasional stints with theatre groups, orchestras and big bands as well as power trios and tributes. His favourite musical genres are ‘anything that’s good’.