What is it?
Blackstar Amplification's new Silverline series is a future-forward range of guitar amps that promise boutique valve tone through digital technology.
There are five amplifiers in the series: the 20-watt, 1x10" Silverline Standard combo, the 50-watt, 1x12" Silverline Special combo, the 100-watt 1x12 Silverline Deluxe combo, the 100-watt, 2x12" Silverline Deluxe Stereo, and the Silverline Deluxe 100-watt head.
There is a Silverline 212 speaker cabinet to match the series, and, like the combos, it is loaded with Celestion V-Type speakers.
The controls are consistent across the series. From the compact Silverline standard to the Deluxe Stereo, the tone setup is identical. On each you will find six Blackstar preamp voices, with six response settings for emulating different valve power sections, and 12 "studio grade" onboard effects.
All this is powered by Blackstar's SHARC DSP and TVP technology. It is a setup hat allows the Silverline amps to model the response of KT88, 6L6, KT66, EL34, 6V6, and EL84 valve power sections.
There are also some signature Blackstar features, such as the ISF control, which sits among a newly designed tone stack. The ISF control lets you play both sides of the Atlantic, with the American side offering the tight focus and clarity you might find in classic US amps, and the British side packing a little more wood and heat. Of course, your sweet spot might be somewhere in the middle.
As for the digital features, you've got a cornucopia of connectivity options that will suit home recording or gigging. There is a speaker emulated output, a headphone jack, MP3 inputs and USB for direct recording or reamping. Connect through USB to access the INSIDER software which allows for deep-editing of your tone and saving and sharing presets.
The amps have 12 programmable presets, 128 when using the footswitch. There is a lot of amplifier here.
A rotary dial selects from six different preamp types.
The Silverline uses Blackstar's TVP (True Valve Power) tech to emulate the response of six different valve types.
There are a dozen onboard effects, divided into three sections – modulation, delay and reverb.
Performance and verdict
The Silverline series might have presented the opportunity for Blackstar to model classic valve amps of yore and traded upon well-established tones. Instead the preamp models here are updates from Blackstar's ID series. There is Clean Warm and Clean Bright, the self-explanatory Crunch and Super Crunch, and the OD1 and OD2 voices for more high-gain applications.
There is plenty of scope for tone-sculpting. The ISF feature remains a hugely important part of Blackstar amp performance. The six-way rotary selects your valve type. The are three buttons for modulation, delay and reverb effects and a controls for choosing effects and the effect's level. All of this is a cinch to navigate. This might be a next-gen digital amp but you don't need a degree in electronics to fathom the Silverline's tonal potential.
The two clean preamp voices offer plenty of range, with the Clean Bright having a little more gain, and that tight bass and treble voice you might expect from Fender amps. It partners nicely with singlecoils while the Clean Warm will really flatter a set of humbuckers.
Crunch and Super Crunch are were things get interesting, and the Silverline's touch-sensitive dynamics come into play. Both cover the spectrum of low to medium-gain blues and rock tones. OD1 and OD2 both heap on an extra layer of saturation. The OD2 has a mids-forward voice that will really work well with a Tele or Strat.
Use the Insider app and you can reconfigure the emulated phones/ line out and mp3/line as an effects loop send/return.
Using USB, you can record direct and reamp, plus access remote patches, firmware updates and storage via Blackstar’s Insider app.
Things really get interesting when cycling through the TVP-modelled valve types. The level of compression and drive gradually eases up as you go though the modes – EL84, 6V6, EL34, KT66, 6L6 and KT88. The EL84 offers the most compression and drive, with KT88 setting having the most open tone.
The acid test is whether or not these react to your playing as the real thing. They do, and that's what makes the Silverline both a viable option for today's player and also a marker that cutting-edge DSP tech can deliver a performance that is good enough for all but the purists. Even then, a blindfolded taste-test would be interesting; guitarists are superstitious beasts, and the power of suggestion has us hearing faults where there are none.
Ultimately Silverline feels like a living, breathing valve amp, albeit one with so many options and none of the attendant reliability and maintenance issues. Through the matching 2x12 cab it sounds huge. Those looking to go down that route might also want to consider the 100-watt stereo combo option. Whichever you choose, you will be rewarded with great tone, state-of-the-art connectivity and a versatility that even the best valve amps can't match.
MusicRadar verdict: The Silverline Series offers incredible value and exquisite digital tones and functionality. Looking for a state-of-the-art digital head for stage or studio? This is a no-brainer.
The web says
"There definitely seems to be a greater immediacy from both amps here than we’ve experienced with Blackstar’s prior digital designs, which further adds to the impression that Silverline is a culmination of ideas rather than a stopping point on a journey."
"What sets Blackstar’s Silverline Standard apart are its attractive amp and effect emulations, its modest price, and a control panel that’s ergonomic, easy to understand, and just plain fun to use"
- PRICE: £449
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Digital modelling preamp with 100W solid-state power amp
- OUTPUT: 100W RMS into 4ohms
- VALVES: None
- DIMENSIONS: 240 (h) x 583 (w) x 222mm (d)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 9.6/21
- CABINET: MDF
- LOUDSPEAKER: Optional matching 2x12” Celestion V-Type 4-ohm mono/stereo cabinet
- CHANNELS: 6 fully-programmable voices, 12 onboard memory slots
- CONTROLS: Voice select, gain, volume, bass, mid, treble, ISF, output stage response select, effects select, effects level, resonance, presence, master volume. Channel, bank, manual select
- FOOTSWITCH: Not supplied. A latching footswitch switches between channels 1 and 2; FS-10 foot-controller gives access to all channels/effects with 128 memory slots. Also accepts MIDI in
- ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Patented TVP output stage emulation, patented ISF EQ shift, built-in tuner, USB for direct recording remote control and firmware updates via Insider software app. Emulated headphones/recording out and mp3/line in (can be switched to effects loop send/return using Insider software), MIDI in
- OPTIONS: FS-10 foot controller (£69)
- RANGE OPTIONS: Matching Silverline 2x12” cab as tested (£399). Silverline 20W Standard 1x10” (£369), 50W Special 1x12” (£429), 100W Deluxe 1x12” (£579), 2x100W Stereo Deluxe 2x12” (£749) combos