Blackstar has a well-earned reputation for quality amps at an affordable price, and the HT Stage 60 Mark II is no exception.
Ever since Blackstar amplification got their start in 2007, Blackstar has earned a solid reputation as a designer and manufacturer of quality, affordable guitar amps primarily aimed at the rock/blues crowd. Fast forward to 2018 and Blackstar has continually improved and updated their amp line. One of their most most popular models has been the HT Stage 60, which was updated not long ago to the Mark II version, which contains some significant updates and changes that users have requested. Let’s take a look and see if the new version improves upon an already respected amplifier.
The Blackstar HT Stage 60 Mark II is a 60-watt all-tube combo with 3 footswitchable channels: clean, OD1, and OD2. The clean channel has controls for bass and treble while OD1 and OD2 share eq – bass, middle, treble, and ISF (Infinite Shape Feature), which allows the amp to shift between a US-based response and a UK-based response. All three channels also have a dedicated voice switch, which let the user switch between various amp voice configurations, allowing even more versatility. A digital reverb is standard, with settings for dark/bright presets. A front power switch allows you to change the power from the full 60 watts to a more manageable 6 watts.
A speaker emulated output is included, with a choice between 1×12 or 4×12 voicings. The included effects loop has level control switch to help match effects (pedals vs. rack mounted gear). A footswitchable boost is available and the 2-way footswitch is included, though support for a 5-way switch is also available. USB audio output for direct recording is also onboard.
My first impression of the HT Stage 60 Mark II is that it is a very well-put together piece of kit. I’ve owned and played numerous Blackstar amps over the years, and I’ve been universally impressed about their build quality and the “little touches” that their amplifiers display. The HT Stage 60 Mk II is no exception.
Given their heritage (Blackstar was founded by former Marshall employees), I checked out the OD1 and OD2 channels before the clean channel, and I was seriously impressed. With the voice switch option on all channels, there are essentially six different sounds available, with four devoted to overdrive and high gain. There’s a lot of versatility to be found here. The only downside is the shared EQ section, but there’s a wide range of American & British sounds available in this amp, including the clean section. The main downside to the clean section is that the only EQ options are bass and treble. That said, the clean section on this amp is really nice, and the voicing switch lets you choose between a British Type A sound and a more US-voiced tone. Despite the EQ tweakability, the clean section sounds really nice and works well with a wide range of overdrive and distortion pedals.
I was also really impressed by the amp’s “bells and whistles.” The back showcases the amp’s numerous interface options. Though I tended to mic the amp during my testing, there are usable DI and Line Outs (the latter of which defeats the internal speaker). You can select between 1×12″ and 4×12″ speaker voicings for the direct out. The onboard digital reverb (which is really high quality) can be switched between “light” and “dark,” and the onboard effects loop lets you choose between -10dBV and +4dBV. You can use either a 2-way or 5-way footswitch (offering a +4dBV boost) and a USB port allows you to record directly. If you you want to add an external speaker, other speaker output options are also available.
A noticeable difference between the original HT Stage 60 and the Mark II version are the footswitch options. In addition to a +4dBV boost, by double pressing a channel select button you’re able to remotely engage the voicing for a particular channel. So if you’re already on the clean channel, hitting the clean button on the footswitch will engage the alternative clean voicing. A nifty addition is that the amp will remember which voicing you’ve selected, so if you switch to another channel and switch back, the alternative voicing will be the default.
Blackstar has a well-earned reputation for quality amps at an affordable price, and this amp is no exception. Blackstar really put a lot of thought into this revision, and I could easily gig with this amp and nothing but a volume and delay pedal.
Name of Gear: Blackstar HT Stage 60 Mark II
List Price: $899.99
Manufacturer Info: Blackstar Amplification; blackstaramps.com
Pros: Good value; versatile; excellent output and interface options
Cons: Limited clean channel equalization