So what if you were not a metal head and wanted to play something a little more dynamic?
Well I am in a band that pays homage to the up and coming blues legend Joe Bonamassa http://www.dustbowlbluesband.co.uk and as all blues musicians know, the blues requires a lot of dynamics and expression that come from the fingers of the musician so the amp has to respond to every nuance of the player.
I decided to purchase an ID:60 as I wanted a lightweight amp that I could rehearse with and take to drop in gigs. So when I read about this amp and I was excited but I also had dread as I have owned some of the best modelling amps in the business (Fender Cybertwin, VOX Valvetronix etc) and have always been left disappointed as they just don't work in a live environment.
Just for background, my live rig consists of my pedal board running into a DSL 100 2x12 half stack and a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 4x10, I run both amps simultaneously.
After playing an ID:60 at my local music shop http://www.pmtonline.co.uk I found I was happy enough to take a chance on this amp, although I felt that the over-driven tones were not that user friendly for blues and blues rock but as I was going to run my board into it, I just wanted a good clean sound that had that valve like tone and dynamcis.
So lets get to the point. I took my ID:60 to a rehearsal last week and this is what I found:
- Sound? Dialling a sound that works for you can take a while, it took me all of the first hour to get where I wanted to be, but once I got there, boy was I happy!
- Dynamics? Ok, here is the biggie. I am running the amp on the warm clean voice so there should be no noise gate to interfere. I was able to use the volume on my Les Paul to clean the guitar up even when I had my overdrive pedal on full (Rothwell Hellbender with the gain on full), so this was very impressive.
- Effects? I decided to run the amp dry and use my board for all effects, at the end of my signal chain I have some modulation and delay pedals finishing up with a reverb pedal. I have to say, the amp did not like these pedals in the mix, there was some bleeding and general nonsense going on, even when I ran these pedals through the emulated effects loop on the amp (I normally run all mod, dly and verb through the effects loop on the Fender) So in the end I reverted to using the ID:60's reverb, delay and modulation, which worked well.
- Volume? Well, I was running the patch volume around 2 o'Clock and the master volume around 1 o'Clock and this was just perfect and even if it wasn't I had a lot more headroom to go.
- Noise? Ok here is the biggest pain in the arse, there was a distinct mains hum like noise going on the entire rehearsal that I though could be down to the rehearsal room, but after getting home and trying it out, it is still there. I have yet to take it back to the shop and A/B it with another (I am waiting for Insider 1.4 to be released so I can save my patches on my computer as I am running Windows 8.1 and cant right now) There is also a lot of white noise going on in the background which will also be A/B tested. Is this a show stopper? to be honest, when the band is in full swing (even in the quite bits) you really don't notice it, so if the A/B test reveals it to be a feature and the guys at Blackstar can't sort it, I am not sure it would bother me long term.
We all want different things from our gear, and some put more value in a guitar or a set of pedals, but to me the amp is key to a great sound. Many of us never even get close to the sound that is in our head as we either don't have the budget, talent or the know-how. I can honestly say that for me, the ID series amps are absolutely investing in no matter what your style. Providing you are willing to put in the time to dial in your sound it is a very rewarding and versatile amp. I haven't even started on the insider software or the studio recording abilities yet and to be honest I am very excited about them.
I think Blackstar are on to a winner here and I look forward to future developments and firmware updates as we all have niggles about the amps and we all want them to do exactly what we want with no compromise. But we will always have to compromise, such is life.
Hats off to Blackstar, I am not ready just yet to hang up my Marshall and Fender amps, but I am ready to invest in studio time with Blackstar. When you have found the sound that works you, it is very easy to get lost in its brilliance at emulation and I find myself thinking "Wow, I could replace my heavy, expensive rig with two of these babies" but then when I plug back in to my main rig, it is just "Home".
The testament to Blackstar is that I have to remember that this is NOT a valve amp! My ID:60 will definitely be a backup amp for live use but like many, I am not ready to switch just yet.
What? Blackstar also make valve amps? Hmm I feel another trip to PMTOnline coming on!