This is a Guest Post by Guitarist, Jack Rowan
The Blackstar HT-Dist is a wonderfully versatile tube distortion pedal, particularly suited to Rock and Metal genres. Its biggest selling point has to be the sweet little ECC83 valve at its heart, which gives a very convincing likeness to the natural distortion and responsiveness of a full sized tube amp. Being able to see the valve glowing through the grill on the front is an aesthetically pleasing touch too. This is a great feature if you own a solid state amp and want the responsiveness of a valve amp without actually having to buy the real thing. Although the emulated output can sound a little thin, it is brilliant for recording straight to your computer for quick demo’s or even just for practicing at lower volumes through a home studio set-up.
This pedal has excellent tonal range, the 3-band EQ allowing for much greater fine tuning than the classic ‘Tone’ knob on most solid state distortion pedals. As with the Blackstar amps, their pedals also come with the unique ISF control. This can essentially be seen as an extension of the EQ, allowing the user to blend between American and British tone. Turn left for heavily scooped mids and a tighter bottom end, turn right for boosted mids and low end that can get a little muddy if you’re not careful.
Though the 3-band EQ and ISF give it more control, it could be a little daunting for the less experienced player. I highly recommend extensive experimentation with the controls to find your ideal tone. Naturally, it responds differently with each amp, but as a rough starting point I would set the EQ knobs to around 2 o’clock and the ISF in the middle.
I typically use this pedal in my live set-up in front of my Orange Rocker 30. By dialing in a nice crunch tone on my amp’s gain channel, I can then switch on the HT-Dist to effectively add another high gain channel to the set-up. As the Rocker 30 is very heavy in the mids, I prefer to have the ISF at around 10 o’clock to give a slightly scooped tone and tighten up the low end. Depending on the amount of gain dialed in on your amp, you really don’t need much on the pedal to here the difference. I have found this to be excellent for getting an ideal tone for high gain metal coming out of an amp built for heavy rock at best. By having the pedals ‘level’ higher than the amps volume, the pedal can then also be used as a great solo boost. The responsiveness of the valve means you can hear every nuance in your playing and every note in those big full chords. The cascaded valve gain stages allow you to access a wide range of tones, from light crunch through to full distortion lead as you turn up the gain control.
There are a couple of downsides to having a valve pedal; the 22v DC adaptor means no daisy chaining on your pedal board, and the valve will eventually need replacement after extensive use. On the upside however, having gigged regularly with this pedal for 2 yeas now I can confidently say that it is a very solid, well built piece of gear. With quite an intense live show it has been kicked and beaten about with little to no signs of wear and no effect on it’s output.
For serious players interested in a solid built, wonderfully versatile and responsive distortion pedal for rock/metal tones I highly recommend giving the Blackstar HT-Dist a try!
View this pedal on Amazon.