Blackstar Artist 10 AE Review
Blackstar Artist 10 AE
Price: $759.99 MSRP
by Pete Prown
Tube-amp lovers know that low-watt combos are among the hippest tone-boxes in the land, as they can provide the sweet spot between home jamming and studio recording. In fact, rock trivia buffs know that classic guitar tracks like “Layla” and “Stairway To Heaven” were cut using tiny amps that delivered major tone. Blackstar is known for their big, muscular amps, but now has a series of tubular 10-watt charmers, including the Artist 10 AE. Let’s warm up those valves and check it out.
Designed to deliver more of an American tone (i.e., vintage Fender), the Artist 10 AE comes with a single ECC83 preamp tube—popularly known in America as a 12AX7—with one 6L6 power tube offering 10 watts of output. Its controls are simple, but effective, including a master Tone, Gain, digital Reverb, and a Drive button that kicks on the overdrive and is also foot-switchable. This circuit is based on Blackstar’s HT Overdrive pedal and takes the Artist 10 AE from clean and overdriven to heavy, gnarly crunch, giving the amp impressive versatility considering its size.
This 1x12 Blackstar has a single Celestion Seventy 80 speaker loaded into a semi-wide cabinet, which helps conjure up a bigger tone than a small-box combo.The cab has a half-open/half-closed design, striking a balance between airier Fender tones and the heavy rock thump of a closed-back cabinet. There are also three speaker outputs for more output options, as well as an effects loop for your time-based and modulation stompboxes. Also look for a recording out/speaker-emulation jack. One debit is that all these jacks are mounting underneath the rear chassis, rather than conveniently located directly on the back. The whole amp measures 16.5 x 18.6 x 9.8 inches, and weighs 32.4 lbs.
"the amp barked like an old-school Class A amp..."
On the job, the Artist 10 AE provided ample volume for home and studio use, covering an array of cleans and overdrive textures. The single 6L6 tube yielded its famously glassy tone and beefy cleans, though with 10 watts under the hood, the amp treads into overdrive quicker than would an amp with more wattage and, accordingly, higher headroom. In shorter order, the amp barked like an old-school Class A amp, yielding plenty of dirty tones that can cover everything from rockabilly and ’60s psychedelia to the Rolling Stones and AC/DC.
When you activate the Drive channel via button or footswitch, suddenly the Artist 10 AE takes on a much crunchier persona. There is plenty of distortion and sustain for your heavier axe moments, though we do recommend using a quality shielded cable to keep any extraneous noises and feedback under control. As the 6L6 makes for bright, brash tones, you may want to ride the Tone knob to keep the EQ on the warmer side.
Based in the U.K. and built in Asia, Blackstar makes amps that range from small combos to giant, stadium-shaking stacks. In that light, the Artist 10 AE is clearly made for the guitarist who doesn’t need buckets of volume, but doesn’t want to sacrifice tone. It’s a feisty lil’ fighter that will make you smile as you dial up the gain and drive, and its reverb is rich and complementary. While the 1x12 amp market is crowded with competition, the Artist 10 AE will appeal to players who want a full range of clean to tube dirt, yet in a tidy, portable package. Another perk is that it reacts well to external stompboxes, so if you have a favorite overdrive pedal, this Blackstar will likely love it. No question, this combo is a rocker.