Blackstar HT-1RH Ultimate Low Wattage Tube Amp

ht-1rhIn our quest for tone we all try different things. I do it, you do it, we all do it because it’s in the blood. We couldn’t stop if we wanted to. You find things that you think, at the time, are just what you were looking for only to find later there’s something even better. My quest has bounced from mega-high wattage amps like my Ampeg SVT monster (300Watts) down to Mesa Boogie (100Watts) down to a 50watt Soldano then 30watts, then 20watts (my beloved Jet City), then a 15watt Orange, a VHT Special 6, and then an Ampeg GVT5 watter. I gotta say that all of my previous amps were great sounding units with the amps below 15watts were able to deliver tone at reduced volume. It’s nice to be able to rock out without having the cops called on me or blowing out an eardrum. The crazy part is the tone was better and better as the amps got smaller and smaller. And this has led me to a truly awesome little tube amp that’s perfect for getting an enormous range of tones  at really low levels. The Blackstar HT-1RH. I got the head and run it through a 1×12 cab. It’s a 1 watt tone monster! I believe it’s due to Blackstar adding a patented technology in the controls. It has a clean channel and an overdrive channel that’s switchable from the front panel along with the usual Gain, Volume, and Reverb but instead of a tone stack it has what’s called an “ISF” control which stands for “infinite shape feature”. Instead of me rambling through a half assed explanation I included a video from Blackstar to tell you all about it below. The first thing I did is what we all do: open it up and probably change tubes to my favorites. Not this time. I mean, I opened it up alright but when I saw it was already loaded with Tung-Sols I just closed it back up. That’s another thing: the topology of this amp is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It uses a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 12AU7 for the power tube in push-pull configuration. This lets the amp produce the harmonic overtones of a 100 watt unit while reining it in at 1 watt. Clever idea that just happens to work. This amp can go from sparkling, chimey cleans to crunch to grind with ease. And it does it all at levels that everyone can live with. It can get loud when you crank it but you don’t have to do that with this little gem. It also takes any speaker from 4, 8, or 16 ohms so it’s damn versatile in that respect. There are only two minor negatives: It has a digital reverb that sounds pretty damn good to my ears although it gets a bit slushy  at higher settings, but I rarely play with a clean tone and that is a big part of it. I also find it a bit trebley until you crank the ISF past 12 o’clock, but that’s controllable from the guitars tone knob so it’s no big deal. In fact it could be my pickups causing that condition. Uh oh! Now I’m gonna have to start my pickup search all over again. AWESOME! All in all I am more than happy with this little acquisition, especially since they are retailing at around $250 and I got this one for $125. I actually found another amp that I was going to buy from a pawn shop but when I went to get it the place had closed early so I said “fuck it” and called this guy on craigslist and got the Blackstar. For some reason it doesn’t feel like a random thing. Almost like it was being orchestrated by someone with some influence that wanted me to get the Blackstar. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Blackberry Smoke Is On A Roll

Looks like Blackberry Smoke is on a roll now. A new (#1) album (Holding All The Roses), an American tour followed by a European tour. The thing that really jumps out at you about these guys is that when it comes to rock and roll they are purists,sticking to their roots and not falling into the corporate cesspool. This has served them well and I’m sure they’ll continue down this road just making great music. I said a long time ago that Blackberry Smoke just might save rock and roll. It looks like I was right. Here’s a llink to their new video “Rock and Roll Again”. One link is for the “Official video”, the other link is for the “uncensored, uncut, 18+ version.

BBS-officialBBS-18 version

The Pretty Reckless are Going to Hell

The Pretty Reckless: Taylor Momsen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Ben Phillips (lead guitar, backing vocals), Mark Damon (bass) and Jamie Perkins (drums).

the_pretty_reckless_-_ep Here’s a band that I was actually aware of for some time but only recently listened to and I was completely blown away. The reason I didn’t pay attention before was because the singer is actress Taylor Momsen from the tv show Gossip Girl, and I just assumed (wrongly) that it was another band not to be taken to seriously. Which is usually the case when a teenaged actress starts singing and cutting tracks. Such is NOT the case with this band. I caught a video on you tube by accident (I was aiming for the video above it) and man, I’m just glad my aim was off that day.  I have since learned that Taylor Momsen has always been into the music. She cut her teeth on the Beatles (her #1 favorite), the Who, AC/DC and so on. She views her acting as a day job and her music is what she does because she loves it. I believe she actually left the tv show due to an upcoming tour which backs up her day job statement. Not that she needed to back it up though. Watching them perform it’s obvious she’s serious about it. She’s one of the best rock singers I’ve ever heard, male or female. She’s a rock star to the bone like she was born to it. And on top of all that she co-wrote all the tunes on the new album “Going to Hell”.

This is a seasoned hard rock outfit of solid musicians. Heavy riffs, solid backbone, explicit lyrics and everything that’s rock and roll!. It reminds me of when “rock and roll” was like flipping The_Pretty_Reckless_-_Going_To_Hell_(Official_Album_Cover)off the establishment. With titles like “Make Me Wanna Die“, “Fucked Up World” and “Why’d You Bring A Shotgun To The Party” this crew is flipping them off with both hands.

One other thing, and I’ll only say this once, Taylor is smokin’ hot. That certainly doesn’t hurt anything at all but seriously that is NOT why I like this band. I mean really, I could have watched them a long time ago if I wanted to just look at her.  It’s part of the appeal, no way around that, and I’m not complaining, believe me. But if the music wasn’t good they wouldn’t last very long in the choked out music market even with her looks. And the new album came out at #5 on iTunes and only talent can get you there. So here is there new video for you to check out. Oh yeah, don’t just turn the volume up. CRANK IT TO ’10’ AND TEAR OFF THE KNOB!

DIY Pedalboard Mod

Perforated metal pedalboard makes a rock solid mounting system

I thought I had a kick-ass original idea, but turns out it’s already being done commercially, and they”re getting a lot of money for these. Perforated metal  pedalboards. The catch is the prices are upwards of $200, so I went ahead and modded my Pedaltrain and I thought I’d share the idea. If you like the look and you’re tired of velcro, then you can save the $200+ cost of a new board by doing this mod. Including the metal I only have $30 in the mod (plus what I paid for the Pedaltrain which I think was $39 on sale at G.C.). I can’t stand velcro. It ain’t foolproof and it collects every bit of dirt and hair that it can grab onto. Another side benefit is the extra weight this adds to the board keeps it from moving around on you. And it just looks so freakin’ cool!



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My Jet City JCA20H and Me – 4 Years of Tone SoakedBliss

My little tone monster’s 4th birthday!

Jet City JCA20H guitar amplifierIt was 4 years ago today that I hauled ass to G.C. here in Phoenix to grab a Jet City JCA20H. I say “hauled ass” because I had been watchinig the news feeds for an indication that Jet City had shipped their first amplifiers. It was 3 or 4 months previous that I found out about this new company that boasted Michael Soldano as one third owner and that he designed the flagship model JCA20H. With promises of “100% Tube Tone and 0% Bullshit” at affordable prices they had my undivided attention! Then I got wind that they had shipped the first units. I called G.C. and found out that they only had one left, which explains the “hauled ass” statement. I also grabbed a couple of the JCA12S cabs to complete the package. Just for reference, over the years I’ve used a bunch of different amps (all tube of course). From MusicMan, Kustom, and Peavey, to Fender, Marshall, Mesa, and Ampeg. All good amps for sure. I never had one that I would call bad, they’re just all different. Like most of you I’ve been on a quest for that elusive “tone” the entire time. The Ampeg came the closest, but it was a 300 watt monster SVT with the 8×10 cab (I paid $275 for it in 1975). Not very practical for an apartment dweller. I gotta say even though the sound pressures were freaking brutal (I think the term “ear bleed” was coined for this very amplifier), the “tone” was unreal. Fast forward a couple of years (33 years actually) and I have my little tone monster and I couldn’t be more pleased. It nailed that tone in my head spot on. I bought it without trying it in-store simply because I Jet City JCA20H 100% tube tonehad convinced myself that if Soldano put his name on it then it had to meet a certain level of performance and quality and I love his hand built creations, so with a WTF attitude I bought it and here we are. It’s gone through a few modifications here and there. Started with the cosmetic stuff like the steel baffle, LED accent lights, and burghundy snakeskin Tolex, then the internal stuff like the tone stack mod, a depth mod and a choke. It goes without saying that I went through some tubes to really dial in the tone like we all do when we get a new amp. So after 4 years what’s my opinion of this little beast? Put it this way: I never hung on to ANY amp for more than a year,  maybe year and a half because I had to keep looking for “the right one”. 4 years on and it’s still with me. On a scale of 1 to 10 the Jet City JCA20H scores the coveted “11” in my book. And just like everything else “tone” related, YMMV.Jet City JCA20H modded

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