Our Expert Guide to Blackstar Amps

Published on 29 March 2024


Have you been checking out Blackstar amps recently? Liking what you see? I expect you are: they are a great brand, and British to boot. Blackstar have really made a dent in the world of gear for gigging players who want consistently good tones and reliability, things we’re all big fans over here at guitarguitar.

They make a bunch of different amplifiers, though, and it can be very easy to confuse your Sonnets with your Silverlines, so today I’ll run you through the ranges. I’ll start with the go-anywhere Fly amps and end up on the mighty valve-powered St James, stopping at all points on the way. Step aboard, we’re about to leave!



Blackstar Fly 3

ISF - Infinite Shape Feature

ID Core




Series One


St James

An Amp for All Players


Blackstar Fly 3

Let me begin with the smallest amp in the shop that actually sounds decent: the Blackstar Fly! Yes, tiny amps are always fun, but oftentimes, the gimmick wears thin pretty quick and you’re left with another subpar object cluttering up your desk.

Not so with the Blackstar Fly 3! You get a surprisingly decent hard rock gain here, with a built-in delay for some very welcome ambience. When you consider how small and portable this lil’ thing really is, it hits hard, tone-wise.

There’s actually a few variants available, including a bluetooth model and a dedicated Fly Bass amp. Even more awesomely, you can buy a Fly Pack that contains the Fly 3 amp AND an extension cabinet to make a tiny stack, which sounds like the ultimate bad joke until you plug your guitar in and become humbled at how decent and large the sound is! It’s quite the surprise!


ISF - Infinite Shape Feature

This one isn’t an amp in itself, but in fact a patented feature on loads of Blackstar amps, so here’s a quick explainer.

ISF stands for Infinite Shape Feature, and it is a single control knob that changes the overall tone and response of the amp from a ‘British’ sound (let’s just be plain and say ‘Marshall-like’) to an American one (clearly referring to MESA/Boogie). These two flavours of amp are arguably the most popular in general ‘sound’ terms, and this dial lets you choose either for your tone, or - more interestingly - some midpoint between the two. It’s an overall EQ and presence algorithm, and is often used instead of a tone control on smaller Blackstar amps.


ID Core

Most of you will be at least familiar with the Blackstar ID Core amps. This is where to go if you want a great sounding house amp with tons of tones on board and a real lack of hassle in operating it.

The ID Core range has seen a few revisions over the years (we’re onto the 4th at the moment), but the range always delivers the goods: a few knobs do most of the work choosing the sounds, and those sounds are absolutely good enough for practising and recording. In fact, you can connect any ID Core amp to your laptop and record directly without the need for mics etc, which both sounds good and saves hassle. 

These are feature-crammed, super portable amps designed to give you a good time, not a hard time. You get to save preset sounds, use built-in effects and play with the ISF control, in a range of amp models that vary in size and output. 

For at-home guitar playing, the Blackstar ID Core is a no-brainer, and the larger models are a fair punt for gigging players, too.



Blackstar’s Debut amps are for those players who really don’t want presets, blinking lights and effects in their amps. The Debut range is all about simple, straightforward, analog tone. So, there’s no digital modelling here either, just old-school solid state technology, which means simplicity in terms of dialling tones, and light weight too. 

The Blackstar Debut range actually goes from small 10w combos to chunky 50 watt models. There is a ‘tape echo’ sound if you want it (I put it in quotes because it’s obviously not a genuine tape echo in there!), but otherwise, it’s clean and overdrive here, with a natural and convincing sound. If valves are a hassle and you don’t want digital, then here’s your next amp range!



HT stands for ‘Huge Tone’. 

Only kidding, but it may as well, as this range is the strong and sturdy back upon which the Blackstar empire sits. Bringing true valve tones to a wide variety of combos and heads, the Blackstar HT range covers most of the ground required by most guitarists.

And I do mean a ‘range’: this lot starts with a diminutive 1-watt combo and goes up to a full-on 100w head! The smaller combos focus on mid-level gain that increases when the power is cranked, but by the time you reach the top-selling HT40 MKIII Club combo, we’re talking pristine cleans followed by high levels of footswitchable dirt.

Indeed, the HT40 is perhaps the most ‘useful’ Blackstar amp, as it were, because it’s loud enough to gig with, big enough to pack a sonic punch and yet small enough to be an easy lift in and out of the car boot. It’s a best-seller for a reason!

P.S. ‘HT’ actually stands for High Tension, by the way, and it relates to the high voltages that are applied to the tube circuit to get lots of power-stage tone happening at lower volumes. Now you know!



The Blackstar Sonnet range are for acoustic guitarists. As with many acoustic amps, the Sonnet range is designed to support both guitar and voice, so there are two distinct channels to use here. Each channel is optimised for its purpose, including filter controls, XLR inputs for the mic channel and reverb for both.

The Sonnet range - available in both black and blonde - is a plug-and-play solution for the gigging songwriter who wants a simple, effective and great sounding amp that handles it all. You even get a line-in/Bluetooth function for playing back backing tracks from your phone or other device, so these can act as small, compact PA systems too, in certain situations. Handy!


Series One

Blackstar Series One is the brand’s all-valve high-gain range of amps. These are pro-level, heavy hitters for the worlds of contemporary hard rock and metal. The range includes heads from 50w to 200w (!) and have between 4 and 6 switchable channels onboard.

Pretty comprehensive, and there’s the patented Dynamic Power Reduction (DPR) feature to accompany the ISF you’ve seen elsewhere. Best of all, the construction is extremely heavy duty, with tough chassis and circuit boards made to withstand countless world tours.




Blackstar’s Silverline range of amps are handsome looking, state-of-the-art digital amps. They have the most powerful processing onboard that Blackstar offer (SHARC processors and everything!) and blend this with almost retro/vintage good looks. Custom Celestion speakers and innovative options - there’s a ‘response’ knob that allows you to choose which virtual valves you want to use - make the Silverline intriguing and effective, with sounds on board for every playing style.


St James

The Blackstar St James line of amps are all about classic looks, classic tones and lighter than classic weight! Indeed, Blackstar claim that these are on average 46% lighter than comparable amps, so consider this if you’ve got a dodgy back!

Sound-wise, we’re in relatively familiar ground here, with a wide level of gain on tap, the UK/US options and your choice of  EL34 and 6L6 models, which will alter the headroom and tone somewhat.

These amps look the part, sound grand and won’t make you cry when you lift them up. Win!


An Amp for All Players

Talk about comprehensive? That’s the major Blackstar amp ranges, but there are other bits and pieces dotted around in their catalogue. They really are trying to offer a good amplifier to every guitarist, and it seems to me that they’re doing a good job of it!

From the ID Core’s easy fun vibe to the strident, classic vibes of the St James models, there’s a lot here for guitarists to take in, try out and deliberate over. 

As ever, I reckon your best bet is to do your homework (starting here of course, so well done!), narrow it down to a few contenders, and then head to your nearest guitarguitar to try them out for yourself. You never know how your playing (and your ears) will react to the real thing, no matter how ‘box-ticking’ an amp may be on paper. 

Whichever models you decide to try, have fun checking them out and we’ll see you soon!

Click to View our Range of Blackstar Amplifiers


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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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