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This article was originally published in issue #7
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If I can offer any advice when it comes to buying guitar effects pedals, it would be that they are there to enhance your sound - not to replace it. Which, roughly translated, means that you should ideally spend your money on the best possible guitar you can afford, followed by the best possible amp. Only then should you consider how you can expand your sound with a few choice pedals, because - let's face it - if your core tone isn't happening, and you spend a chunk of money on a delay pedal, then it still won't be happening when you delay it....it....it....it.
The market is saturated with choice when it comes to pedals and we often base our choice on price, word of mouth, who is using what, true bypass or buffered, analogue or digital, etc. So for a pedal to stand out amongst the crowd, it sometimes needs a unique selling point. Blackstar has the HT range of pedals, which all come equipped with an onboard ECC83 valve that you dial in to taste, turning a state of the art digital effect into a real retro sounding pedal that recreates the vintage vibe of effects used 30 or 40 years ago, but without the vintage problems, such as hiss, signal loss, dead batteries, and general moodiness just when you want it to work!
The valve isn't the only cool thing about these pedals. As well as the obvious on off stomp button, you also get another button next it which will give you an option on whatever of the eight presets you have chosen. So, for instance, if you are using the HT Reverb pedal, on the plate setting dialed in to just how you like it, the other button can give you two modes of that plate reverb, short or long. Which in real world live use is a great versatile asset to have, and not just a gimmick to sell the pedal. It's almost like these pedals have been designed by guitarists! And sctually they have, because all the guys at Blackstar are guitarists, so know the ingredients to make a proper pedal that will give you your money's worth - and it shows.
Obviously, the short long button on the HT delay will give a shorter or longer delay with whichever preset you have selected, but where I think this feature really shines is on the HT Modulation, which on preset 7 and 8 , has a tremelo and rotary setting. Both great sounds in themselves, but with our extra button, this time giving a fast slow option, the effect is fantastic on the tremelo and very inspiring on the rotary setting, simulating the speeding up and slowing down of a spinning lesley cabinet. If you also start dialing in the valve with onboard pot marked saturation, you get the added harmonic distortion and compression that a driven lesley cab would give you. The fast slow button works on all the other presets, which feature some great warm vintage style chorus, phaser and flanger settings.
The HT reverb, delay and modulation pedals all come with 8 presets to choose from, which you can hear me run through on the filming. If you consider the option to push each preset with the onboard valve, plus the added short long and fast slow switch, these pedals add up to being very versatile indeed. I only scratched the surface for each pedal due to time considerations, but hopefully the film will give a better idea of how the pedal is laid out and the presets involved. Preset 8 on HT delay had a great 7 second sound on sound looping device, which again gives great live possibilties, and if layering isn't your thing, then preset 7 gives you the facility to record a 7.2 second phrase, and trigger it when you stamp on the pedal. Again, great live potential. You can also get very convincing vintage tape echo sounds when you wind up that valve.
If I had to play devils advocate, and say something against these pedals, which I don't want to because they are great, then it would be that each pedal is fairly large and heavy, and would quickly swallow up real estate on your already crowded, and way to heavy pedal board. Although saying that, they look real tough, and because they are physically tall, you can stick them at the back of your board and the switches would probably stand proud enough to be easily reachable..
The Blackstar guys make great products all round, and these HT series pedals cover a lot of sonic areas very well, and definitely have some great well thought out features that most other pedals simply don't. So although there are many brands out there to choose from, you should give these 3 some serious consideration. Hope you enjoy the demo ( I tried to make it as un pedal geek as I could ).