The Blackstar Silverline Special is an awesome addition to the digital amp lineup. But this amp is nothing like the ID:Core Series. This is next level, and today we take a look at what makes this amp tick.
Blackstar Silverline Special: Next level Amp Modeling!
Let me be upfront with you, I am a huge Blackstar fan. In fact, I am notorious for changing up gear at a rapid pace. But the Blackstar HT40 became a staple of my live performance, and at one time I used it without a pedalboard at all. But that’s a big expensive tube amp, and it’s not going to fit in everyone’s budget. But that is exactly why something like the Blackstar Silverline Special exists.
Blackstar does a great job of having several different tiers when it comes to amps. The Silverline amps have been created as a bridge between the more expensive tube amps, and the cheaper ID:Core series. Now don’t get me wrong, the ID Series is amazing. These little digital amps sound crazy good, especially with the insane 3D stereo sound. (If you have never heard this feature, go to a music store and try it out!)
The appeal of the ID:Core digital amps is the sound, right out of the box. They do a lot, with minimal fuss when it comes to setting them up. They are easy to use because you essentially have a few different tones to work with as well as effects. It’s just really simple. They remind me of how easy the BOSS Katana is to operate and navigate. There are tons of features, but it can also be simple.
That being said, some people want a few more options. There are people that like to tweak the tone a little more when it comes to digital amps. That’s exactly where the Blackstar Silverline Special steps in. Today we are going to look at the features and break down what makes this amp so damn cool. There is a lot to cover, and I only really had a few days with it.
Blackstar Silverline Special: Features and Specs
The Blackstar Silverline Special is just one of several models in the newest lineup. I picked the Silverline Special because it sits right in the middle of price and features. Sure, there are bigger ones, and a smaller one. But the Blackstar Silverline Special can be used for home practice as well as gigging. Where as something like the 100 Watt version is probably overkill for a home setup.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Silverline. The pitch is that the amp is not just a digital modeler, this is a real amp that just happens to use modeling tech. That’s a cool idea, and the features show this off pretty well:
- 50W Combo
- SHARC DSP Technology
- 12″ Celestion V-Type speaker
- 6 Voices: Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD1, OD2
- Delay, Modulation, and Reverb Options
- Selectable Tube Response
- Full EQ Section
- Patented ISF Technology
- Architect Software Compatible
When I first sat down with the Blackstar Silverline Special, I was a little taken aback by the aesthetics. The amp is wrapped in a unique silver/grey Tolex that looks amazing. When you factor in the grill cloth, it looks like a vintage amp upon first impressions. It looks like a really nice boutique amp, and strangely enough…it can sound a lot like one too.
The Blackstar digital amps have a pretty simple layout when it comes to patches. Unlike something like the Mustang Series, it does not have endless banks to scroll through. The knob on the far left allows you to choose between 2 different clean tones, some crunch tones, and two overdrive tones. These are tweakable, but to be fair, they sound pretty great with the presets.
The two clean tones are variants between light and dark sounds. One is like plugging your guitar into the “bright” channel of a vintage amp. The other has a more warm sound, with less mids. This is where I was first blown away by the sound. The warm clean tones are amazing with some reverb dialed in. This sounds a lot like a Fender twin to me. While the other clean is brighter and sounds like a Vox. Both are surprisingly great, and using the ISF knob works like a midrange scoop on an AC30.
The overdrive/crunch channels are also really amazing. You can use the ISF knob a lot more with distorted tones, and it really shines here. I was able to dial in a Marshall tone almost instantly. I would not expect anything less from the people that used to work for Marshall! I tried the channels with a single coil guitar, and it was like SRV heaven. With humbuckers, you can get some great Aerosmith tones. The blend in the middle with the ISF knob sounded great too, but I prefer one or the other.
The two overdrive channels are… how do I describe this without sounding like a fanboy? Look, the distortion channels are astounding. Both of the channels have a unique character to them, and the OD1 is a little darker sounding than OD2. Are you seeing the pattern here?
The OD1 channel has a lot of gain, and sounds to me like a boosted Marshall. If you throw on some effects, you can easily get that Van Halen tone that every guitarist needs (every now and then). But the OD2 channel is a little different, and sounds more like a Peavey 5150/6505. Both channels provide an amazing platform to add effects to, and I couldn’t pick a favorite out of the two. That being said, the ISF knob sounded best on “British” the whole time to my ears.
The effects are rolled over from the ID:Core series to my ears, since we still have those huge reverb and delay sounds. The modulation has a really lush chorus that I like as well. The effects are top notch and sound amazing in stereo on recordings. The sound is just so wide and large when you add reverb/delay. Getting some killer Vai tones was easy with the tap tempo delay.
The tube response knob is subtle when it comes to changing the sound. I honestly didn’t mess with it much, because I liked the EL34 sound the best. Which is no surprise to me, since that is exactly what I like in a tube amp. While subtle, I can see this function being really important if you plan on recording direct with this amp. The different tube models can change the way you layer tracks, without a doubt. This way you can use the same setting when recording layers, and just adjust the knob to make sure the sounds are out of phase.
This thing is LOUD as hell. 50 watts usually doesn’t mean much when it comes to solid state powered amplifiers. But the Blackstar Silverline Special sounds more like 40 watts of tube power than 50 watts of solid state…if that makes sense. It will push air, for sure. The Celestion Speaker is a nice addition, and it has a really “even” frequency response. This amp would have no trouble in a band situation unless your drummer is Dave Grohl .
Overall, I love this amp just the way it is. But you can also edit it using the Blackstar proprietary software. I tried this just for the review, because I didn’t think any of the sounds needed to be changed. I have owned the first Blackstar ID:Core amp for years, and it hangs out on my desk. I have never really used the software much.
Blackstar Silverline Special: Architect Software
With the Blackstar Silverline Special, I can see using this software if you plan gigging with the amp and using the footswitch. The preset banks are all great in my opinion, but you can definitely go in and do deep edits. The first part of editing, is the amp EQ. This can be done from the face of the amp, so that’s not very important.
But assigning different banks and effects can be a huge tool for playing live. You can change all of the sounds to match what you need for your gigs, and EQ yourself to fit in with the band better. This amp sounds great alone, but needs some mid adjustment to fit into a band situation. Just turn up the mids on each channel and you should be fine!
Then you have all of the standard choices that modeling amps usually have when it comes to software. You can change out the effects, adjust their levels, and even set up the noise gate to be less pushy. I always had a problem with my Blackstar noise gate, and it’s cool to be able to turn it down. By default setting, it can choke out solos and single notes.
The rest is speaker adjustment, and I really don’t think you should mess with this setting. I experimented with it, and I could not get a sound that was better than the presets. I ended up restoring the amp to the factory default. It’s a cool feature, and may come in handy for recording.
The Architect software is essential if you plan to gig this amp. Setting up your custom patches is easy and intuitive. All you have to do, is go through the different gain stages and tailor your sound based on your songs and setlist. I made both clean channels to have different reverb settings, and switched out some effects. Does this sound really simplistic?
That’s because it IS very simple. People who use extensive amp sims and the like will probably be really underwhelmed with the software. You can’t deep dive into a million pedal combos or anything of the sort. But at the same time, this is a great feature for people that just want an amp. This is precisely what the Blackstar Silverline Special excels at: Being an amplifier.
Blackstar’s Silverline Series guitar amplifiers combine high-end digital flexibility with stunning boutique style and guitarist-friendly controls. This Silverline Special 50W digital amp/speaker combo features a unique dual patent design, with a high-powered SHARC processor to deliver uncompromising tone for every playing style. Using patented TVP technology, the Response control delivers the dynamics, sag and break-up of 6 classic valve power amps. Combined with 6 unique Blackstar voices, ISF tone shaping and studio quality effects!
Blackstar Silverline Special: The Verdict
I am constantly surprised at how far amp modeling technology has come over the last few years. It really is amazing what solid state amps can do these days. The Blackstar Silverline Special is a great example of just how much can be achieved with modeling technology. But this is not just an amp modeler, per se.
This is an amp to gig with and record with. While it definitely uses modeling tech, that is just how it gets it’s sounds. This is an amplifier first and foremost, which is a really cool idea. You don’t have a million options like you do with the Fender Mustang, but do you really need all of those options?
If your answer is “no”, then this is the amp for you. It has a simple setup that can be used from the second you plug it in the first time. The restrictions on just how much you can edit this amp is also a good thing to me. I would rather have 6 really amazing tones than 200 mediocre ones. This is exactly where Blackstar excels.
So if you are in the market for a great amp for the stage and studio, the Blackstar Silverline Special is one of the best options for under $800. Just keep in mind that it does have limitations, but it makes up for that with stellar sound.