Blackstar promises “a new level of sound quality, features, and performance” from updated HT MKIII series tube amps – now with CabRig IR tech as standard

Blackstar HT MKIII Series
(Image credit: Blackstar Amplification)

Blackstar has revised and upgraded its super-versatile HT series of tube amps, with the MKIII models arriving with the British guitar amp brand’s onboard CabRig technology, a new look, under the hood refinements and in 20, five and one-watt configurations.

The digital reverb has been revoiced for the MKIII edition of the amps. There are USB-C connections across the board. But it is the addition of the CabRig tech, bringing the HT MKIII amps in line with Blackstar’s St James and Dept. 10 Amped models, that has to be the 

headline upgrade, making recording that bit easier. Players can save their favourite three cab, mic and room settings down to presets on the amp, making edits via Blackstar’s Architect software. All three amps have load protection built in for silent recording and practice.

The HT MKIII Series comprises the 20-watt HT-20R head and combo, the five-watt HT-R5 and combo, and the HT-1R head and combo. In either format, the HT-1R is very cute but it’s no toy. 

The smallest of the bunch, it makes a very handy tube platform for home use, allowing you to dial in plenty of crunch without too many decibels, with that USB-C connection allowing you to send stereo audio channels to your DAW for recording direct. 

Its siblings in the series, however, make similar accommodations, with power scaling allowing you to run them at 10 per cent power for more friendly practice volumes. 

The HT series has always been compact but has never lacked for features. These are no different. All are two-channel designs with two voices per channel. The voices present players with significantly different amps sounds. The channels and voices are footswitchable across all three models. 

That said, the HT-IR offers the most straightforward feature set. Its front panel has dials for Reverb, an EQ that is provided by Blackstar’s patented ISF feature, which offers a US-style of EQ at one extreme, British at the other, plus Volume and Gain knobs.

Blackstar HT MKIII Series

(Image credit: Blackstar Amplification)

The OD-select toggle switch selects between clean and overdriven channels, and you’ll find the 1/8” headphones/lineout on the front panel, alongside 3-way CabRig presets switch, and there’s a 1/8” line in too. Around the back of the amp, you’ll find the USB-C connection, a 4 to 16-ohm speaker output, and a footswitch input. 

The HT-R5 and HT-20R have got a bit more going on at the back, with a trio of speaker outputs (two at 16-ohms or one at 8-ohms) with a balanced XLR output plus 1/4” line out/headphones output and the 3-way CabRig presets switch. There is also the all important footswitch input, and an effects loop with level switch (+4dBu/-10dBV) for inviting your pedalboard to the party.

Around the front, the larger HT MKIII series models have more comprehensive EQ options. The overdrive channel has an ISF dials, Bass, Middle and Treble, with Volume and Gain dials plus the Voice toggle switch rounding out its controls. 

The clean channel has the Voice toggle switch, plus Volume and Tone. The reverb and master volume controls serve both channels, with the power scaling toggle switch handily located beside the on/off switch.

The HT-R5 has a single ECC83 preamp tube with a 12BH7 in the power amp. The HT-20R has a pair of ECC83s with a pair of EL84s in the power amp. The HT-1R has a single ECC83 in the preamp, an ECC82 in the power amp.

As for the matching cabinet options, Blackstar has rolled out the HT-112OC MK III 1x12, which has a semi-open back design, a 50-watt, and a Blackstar-designed 12” driver. The HT 212VOC MKII cabinet is rated at 160-watts and is loaded with a pair of 12” Celestion Seventy-80 speakers.

The combos have a similar complement of speakers, with the super-compact HT-1R housing an 8” Blackstar-designed speaker, the HT-5R has a single 12” Blackstar-designed speaker while the HT-20R has a 12” Celestion Seventy-80. 

The HT MKIII Series is available now, priced from £379 street for the HT-1R head to £799 for the HT-20R combo. 

For more details and specs, head over to Blackstar Amplification.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.