The Blackstar HT-5 five-watt amplifier took the guitar world by storm when it first came out in 2008. Being very affordable and sounding pretty good, it’s still very popular today (and the new model is even better than the old one). With just a little bit of extra effort, you can take the HT-5 from sounding good to sounding great. Here are a few simple tips for getting the most out of this little five-watt wonder.
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Try A Few Different Tubes
The HT-5s stock tubes are nothing to write home about, to say the least. Changing out the 12BH7 in the power amp, or especially the 12AX7 (ECC83 in newer models, which is just a new name for the exact same valve) in the preamp is one of the easiest, cheapest and most drastic improvements you can make to the HT-5’s tone. 12BH7s are rarer than some tube types but can be easily tracked down online, and 12AX7s (and ECC83) are available at most music stores. With only one tube in the preamp section and one in the power amp, it can be a lot of fun to see the impact that changing out tubes can have on the sound.
Try It With Different Speakers
This applies more to the head version than the combo, but it can work equally well for both versions. Just because the HT-5 is a small amp doesn’t mean it can’t power some big speakers. I run my HT-5 through the same 4×12 cabinet I use with my 100-watt amp heads. It provides a great depth that no 1×12 can match. Don’t pigeonhole the HT-5 as a small amp that only works with small cabs, try it out with all sorts of cabs and speakers (making sure to keep the impedance matched of course) and you’re in for a world of new tone options.
The beauty of a low-wattage amp is the ability to turn it up about as loud as it can go without going deaf. While the HT-5 is certainly not whisper-quiet at max volume, it is a good deal softer than most amps, and it can really start to get that great power tube breakup without getting unreasonably loud. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take advantage of this and crank the HT-5 as loud as you can get it. The amp will absolutely come alive.
None of this advice is earth-shattering, but it can all add up to greatly impact the tone of the amp, and how much fun it is to play. Give one or more of these tips a try and unlock new shades and nuances to what the HT-5 can do for you.