Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40: What is it?
Spare a thought for those trying to design a practice amp in the 21st-century. Once upon a time you could throw together 20-watts of Class D power, a three-band EQ and stick it in an MDF cabinet with a 10” driver and you’re done. Not now.
The rising tide of technological advancement has lead to a wholesale digital transformation for our guitar amps. To remain competitive in this environment you need to put together an array of cutting-edge features, somehow arrange these in an easy-to-use and compact format, and given that we are talking practice and not boutique, these amps have got to be affordable, too.
Blackstar, you’ll be relieved to know, is well aware of this, and its recently updated ID:Core series – now on version three – finds them offering a 10W 2x3” combo, a 20W 2x5” combo, and this 40W 2x 6.5” combo.
Like its siblings in the series, the Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40 combo arrives with newly voiced sounds, effects and comprehensive editing capabilities via the proprietary Architect software. It has a sealed cabinet housing a pair of Blackstar 6.5” drivers and sends 20W to each of them.
You can extend its functionality by connecting either the Fq-11 or F-18 footswitches (sold separately), but even before you consider the accompanying floor options there is a lot to be getting on with.
The control panel is busy but makes perfect sense. It has 1/4” inputs for your guitar and a footswitch, a USB mini-B socket for recording or editing via the Architecture software.
There is a line in/streaming input that cleverly sends audio in both directions via a conventional TRRS cable, allowing you to either use it as an auxiliary input for jamming along to external audio or for doing that and streaming the resulting audio to another source.
There is a headphone out for silent practice, which might cause a reflex blurgh! from players of a certain age who remember what it was like to play through headphones before emulation tech like the CabRig feature here that gives your headphones signal a realistic sense of space and sound like you are playing through a mic’d up cabinet.
There is a six-way rotary dial for choosing from Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD1 and OD2 amp types, with LEDs positioned adjacently to let you know which amp is active. Underneath this, there is a manual/store button for saving sounds.
Slap bang in the middle you have controls for gain, volume and Blackstar’s ISF tone control, then to the right of the panel are the effects controls, with Mod (modulation), Dly (delay) and Rev (reverb) buttons for selecting the effect type, a four-position rotary dial both selecting an effect and controlling one parameter, level control for the effects section, and a tap tempo button for the time-based effects. There’s also an onboard tuner that can be accessed by holding down the Rev button.
Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40: Performance and verdict
The Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40 is a big and bold sounding combo. The speakers are compact but lack for nothing when it comes to translating that power into a room-filling sound. Of course, everything here is digital, but there’s an organic tube-amp feel to the amp types that is yet more evidence that the algorithmic voodoo going on in these amplifiers is getting closer and closer to ‘the real thing’.
The six core amp types cover a lot of ground. Choose Clean Warm if you’re chasing headroom and an immaculate clean sound. Clean Bright picks up where this leaves off with a tone that can be pushed to breaking up.
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Modelling tones, onboard effects and USB connectivity for recording your playing, the Mustang makes for a great value practice amp.
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Fans of the Marshall sound no longer need to look to the competition for the best Marshall amp models - Code has them all, along with several others that combine for a limitless choice of sounds.
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Strip away the effects and the basic tones are full of character with great pick response. The Plexi and two variations on the AC30 are among the high points, organic and brimming with attitude.
Similarly, the crunch channels offer two similar takes on a single tone profile, with plain old Crunch your ticket to the denim-on-denim rock sounds of the 70s, while Super Crunch is voiced as though the Crunch channel has been modded by EVH. OD1 delivers a nice creamy style of saturation while OD2 is where the headbangers are going to have a ball, with all the gain anyone could need for a ritual face-ripping practice session.
EQ is handled by the ISF knob, which can take you from a fairly scooped US tone profile to a more mids-forward British sound at its other extreme.
Even without effects, you’d have a nigh-on bamboozling array of tones to work with, covering all kinds of styles, but we have effects, and they’ve been refined with great results. The Super Wide Stereo effect really comes into its own with the amp’s complement of plate, room, hall and spring reverbs, and there is no shortage of quality modulation and delay sounds to further sculpt your sound.
The Architect software makes it even more intuitive and covers all the essential activities. There’s even a randomise function if you want to take a Magic 8-ball approach to tone-searching.
One of the best ways to improve your guitar playing is to record yourself and listen back, and thanks to the USB’s four-channel audio, the ID:Core V3 Stereo 40 makes a most convenient and impressive recording tool that allows you to reamp your tracks. The Cab Rig Lite emulations are superb quality too.
Last but in no way least, the streaming function is a superb addition to a practice amp, offering a quick and easy way to deliver online performances or simply to record demo tracks to your mobile device. Just pop a TRRS cable in the Line In / Streaming jack and put the other into your phone, and you can send that audio live across your social media feed.
The only drawback is you have to disconnect the TRRS from your phone if you want to speak to your followers but the quality of the audio and the ease of set up is more than worth it. Better still, you can stream a backing track from your phone, play along with it, and livestream that, and should you need to adjust the volume on your amp the signal is unchanged for your audience.
Those averse to social media will still find this useful for sending quality scratch tracks to your mobile DAW or Voice Memos app or similar. It's a great way of jotting down a musical idea before you forget it.
Now, that’s exactly the type of feature we were referring to at the beginning – a modern, tech-savvy solution that delivers a real-world benefit to guitar players in quick time with a minimum of fuss. As practice amps go, this is up there with the best of them.
MusicRadar verdict: A generous set of features, easily accessed and complemented by some incredible tones, the ID:Core V3 Stereo 40 is a top-quality practice amp for the 21st-century guitar player. Great fun, serious sounds.
Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40: The web says...
"With the enhanced effects and software app, Blackstar’s upgrade to the ID:Core has once again put the company back into pole position. Aimed at all levels from beginner to seasoned pro, this is a highly compelling choice for studio, home and small gigs."
Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40: Hands-on demos
Dawsons Music & Sound
Blackstar ID:Core V3 Stereo 40: Specifications
- PRICE: $199 / £185
- ORIGIN: UK design, made in China
- TYPE: Digital modelling combo with stereo power stage and built-in effects
- OUTPUT: 2x 20W stereo
- VALVES: None
- DIMENSIONS: 336 (h) x 434 (w) x 185mm (d)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 6/14
- CABINET: MDF LOUDSPEAKERS: 2x 6.5” Blackstar special design
- CHANNELS: 6x fully programmable voices/memory slots
- CONTROLS: Voice select, gain, volume, ISF, mod/del/rev select buttons, effects select knob, tap tempo button, hold/store button
- FOOTSWITCH: FS-11 or FS-18, not supplied
- ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Cab Rig/headphones output, line in/streaming jack, USB for recording and connection to the Architect software editor, built-in tuner
- OPTIONS: FS-11 & FS-18 footswitches (both £39 / $49)
- CONTACT: Blackstar Amplification