This was my first experience using a Blackstar amp. After a chance encounter with the company earlier at NAMM this year, I was curious to try out their products and see what they had to offer. BlackStar's amps are designed and engineered by BlackStar amplification in the UK. The ID:Core BEAM amplifier is a 20 watt stereo guitar amp with Bluetooth functionality and channels for both electric and bass guitar. It was hard to believe that an amp this small could offer all these features and look good to boot! I decided to crank up the volume and put it to the test in an afternoon jam session.
At First Glance
The ID:Core BEAM amplifier is small, cute and has a sort of retro type look to it. I instantly liked the amp's appearance, which is a good starting point. With a size of 291 mm x 202mm x 166mm, it's an appropriate size for a practise amp and will fit into smaller jam spaces. It has a weight of only 3.9 Kg, which means its quite portable and can easily be taken anywhere.
The amp has two main modes; manual and patch. When the manual button is unlit, patch mode is engaged and the sound you hear is the sound of the programmed patch. When the manual button is lit, the sound of the amp refers to the position that all of the knobs on the amp are in. I thought this was a pretty cool feature and the first time I'd personally seen something like this on a guitar amp before.
Instrument and Voices
There's a toggle knob on the amplifier that allows users to switch between electric guitar, bass and acoustic, and acoustic simulator voices. I was impressed with the quality of the pre-amp voices; all of the patches sounded quite good. My personal fav was the clean warm tone (with the chorus effect on top). Good job on the patch programming BlackStar! This is amp capable of cranking out a notable amount of sound for such a small amp, making it ideal for musicians who are rehearsing on their own or with a buddy or two.
Each of the sounds can be customized by setting gain and EQ. BlackStar has a feature on their amps called ISF control which moves the bass, middle and treble EQs together as a whole tone stack response. If you move the EQ knob counter-clockwise all the way, you'll hear the 'US' sound, and if the EQ knob is turned all the way in the opposite direction you can hear their 'UK' sound. This is certainly a effective way to quickly EQ your guitar tone, and as Blackstar would say dial in 'the sound in your head'.
The ID:Core BEAM amplifier has an effects section that features three types of effects; modulation, delay and reverb. Each of the types of effects has a choice between four different flavours of the effect, giving guitarists twelve different effects and a level control. The effects sounded pretty decent and are certainly a welcome feature on an amp as compact as the ID:Core BEAM. Although it's not quite the same as having effects on a pedal board, these effects are great for practising and musicians will be able to easily dial in tones for songs.
One of the coolest features of this amp is the fact that it's Bluetooth enabled and can be paired with your Bluetooth device. While I was a little skeptical about this, once I paired my iPhone with the amp I appreciated this forward-thinking innovation. The ability to play back audio via Bluetooth makes the Id:Core BEAM amp an valuable practise tool; you can rehearse to backing tracks or bed tracks you've created. When the amp is not being used for guitar practise, you can play songs from your phone or Bluetooth device and use the amp as a speaker. Just one more reason to try out this amp for yourself!
The ID:Core BEAM amplifier sounds great and combines cool retro styling with futuristic features. Its a winning combination and would make a great addition to any guitarists collection of amps.
Price: Suggested Selling Price: $379.95 USD
Pros: Sound Quality. Preset Patches. Audio playback via Bluetooth.
Cons: I would still prefer a traditional three band EQ. Although the one-dial knob concept is interesting, I think you can achieve greater sound control by adjusting the lows, mids and highs individually.
[Pics by: Melle Oh https://instagram.com/melleoh/]