GEAR 2021: Blackstar has announced a signature guitar amp for Bones UK and Jeff Beck guitarist Carmen Vandenberg. The CV30 is a 6L6 valve 30-watt combo with classy art deco design nods built for riff heavy rock n' roll and "industrial blues tones".
Vandenberg is a longtime Blackstar user, and particularly partial to the Artist 30. The idea here was a combo that could deliver outstanding clean chime and shimmer, with the heavier riffage that has become a hallmark of Vandenberg's playing.
Alongside a pair of 6L6s, the power stage uses two ECC83s. The two channel combo features four voices; American Clean, British Clean, Classic Overdrive, Modern Overdrive.
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Channel 1 features Volume and Tone; Channel Two offers Gain Bass, Middle, Treble and Blackstar's patented Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) – the idea is 0 is a tight, percussive American tone and 10 is a woodier British character with more midrange crunch – shifting the three-band tone stack as you move between. Essentially, you can tailor your tone with it on Channel 2 to a fine degree - and as we noted with the Artist 30, that is a glorious thing in itself.
These two channels cover a lot of ground. And Blackstar says of Channel 1: "The Volume and Tone controls offer just the right amount of adjustment on drive level and treble frequencies to drive the power amplifier to the optimum level, depending on your style and sound preference. Here the emphasis is on signal integrity and hence the nuances of your guitar, pedal and playing style will cut through with brilliant clarity."
The CV30's speaker is a 1 x 12" Celestion Seventy-80 and a two-way footswitch is included.
In the video above we ask Carmen all about the CV30 (£899) and have included some excerpts below too…
How does it feel to have your own Blackstar signature?
“Oh my god, it’s such a concoction of emotions. It’s so bizarre that it actually happened and I’m so excited about it. This is one of those dreams that I never thought would come true… it’s just so far out there.”
What kind of features were you after and how did you explain it all to the Blackstar team?
“A lot of it was designed by them. I’ve been playing their amps since 2017. They caught one of our shows, which opened up the conversation and I was stoked they wanted to work with us. I really liked the tone and fell in love with their amps. How this signature came about was pretty insane… I never expected the phone call! It really was mindblowing.
"I have to say a lot of it was down to their team, they knew how much I loved the Artist 30, which I’d been playing for a few years. I went over to the headquarters and they dialled it in even further, based on the tones I was already using and playing with. They mocked up different versions of what they thought I would like. It was a beautiful platform that they laid out for me, having analysed my style, my playing and my sound.
"There were different bits and bobs, with different speakers connected. It was a case of trying out all these different tones and seeing what I liked. So they did most of the work, finding the right foundation for us to start building on.”
The Blackstar-patented ISF control has proven to be a very popular feature… we see you kept it for your signature too!
“It’s a feature I’ve always loved. It’s up to each player to decide where they want to set it. The beauty of using it in the studio is that you can keep changing it all the time – you have all that versatility and all those options. We definitely wanted to keep that, because it’s a feature I really love.”
What kind of things are on your pedalboard right now?
“One thing I love about this amp and Blackstar in general – you can always get a great base sound to build upon. Blackstar amps give you that, a really rounded clean tone or the way I use it, which is with the gain pretty low around four o’ clock. That’s my clean tone, which has a bit of bite to it! I’ll use things like an Earthquaker Devices Fuzz or the J. Rockett Archer overdrive on top of that to add even more punch.
"I like playing around with different octaves, so I’ll quite often use a POG. There are a few tricks here and there to thicken the sound. It’s all about experimenting but the main thing is to have an amp you feel comfortable with. You want the source of the sound to be right before you build on top of it. If you’re not happy with the tone without pedals, you’re just going to be covering it up… that’s what I love about these amps. They sound great alone and then take pedals really well.
"My pedalboard is changing, we’re getting into the second album and I’m playing with new sounds… but the crucial element is always the guitar in your hands and the amp you are plugged into!”