See how Blackstar is using new technology to emulate different tube responses in their new programmable amp.

You can fiddle with pedals and pickups all day long, but you'll never get around how crucial your amp is in defining your tone. Knowing what you're getting on the tail end of your tone chain is critical to knowing what guitar and effects are right for a given situation. With Blackstar's programmable ID:Series amps, the company uses DSP technology to give as much tone-shaping control to the player as possible through well-designed controls, a super-wide range of tones, and computer interactivity. Obviously, DSP is not a new approach for achieving a more manageable, versatile amp. But with the ID series, of which our 60-watt, ID:60TVP 1X12 combo is a member, Blackstar prioritized tube-like dynamics, versatility, and ease-of-use in modern recording situations. The result is an amp that gives you a lot of control over the sound that hits the rehearsal room, your audience, and your recording interface. But what's best is that, first and foremost, it's a pretty great-sounding amp across a very wide range of styles.

The Whole Enchilada
An amp is an animal of many parts. Functions like equalization are common to almost every amp. But effects, tubes, speaker types, and cabinet size vary from amp to amp. Like most good DSP-based amps these days, the Blackstar ID:60 enables a player to explore most of these variables in a single unit with varying degrees of realism. But rather than try to emulate specific amp types perfectly, Blackstar bucks DSP and modeling trends by letting players tailor their own sounds from more open-ended sounds, based on Blackstar voices. You may not be able to dial up a Marshall Plexi or Vox AC30 by name, but you can get in the ballpark and shape the tone to suit your needs—arguably a much more creative proposition.

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Though the Jacques Meistersinger is capable of deep and radical sounds, the pedal is suited to a less-is-more approach, and its transparency may find scores of players reconsidering their aversions to the chorus effect.

Though it has a way of alienating certain listeners and players alike, chorus shows up in just about every musical context—from jazz to blues, hard rock, and metal. Players from Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Cure’s Robert Smith, Rush’s Alex Lifeson, and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett have made the effect an integral part of their sound. Even for avowed opponents of the effect, it’s hard to not be intrigued by its promise of increased body and motion in your sound. But the deeper appeal may be the way it evokes everything from church organs to the rotary speaker sounds of canonical rock masterpieces like Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road.

It’s the Jacques Stompboxes’ capability to deliver these fundamental chorus sounds that makes their all-analog Meistersinger chorus so effective. Well, that and its use of rare bucket-brigade delay chips. Though it’s capable of deep and radical sounds, the pedal is suited to a less-is-more approach, and its transparency may find scores of players reconsidering their aversions to the chorus effect.

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The SLATXMGQ3-6 combines famed Jackson playability with EMGS and a sub-$1,000 price point for high-gain versatility.

Jacksons are rarely the choice of wallflowers. As a rule, they tend to be bold in terms of styling and sounds. If, upon first glance at the guitar shown here, you allowed yourself the notion that Jackson had toned things down a notch, no one would call you crazy. But in truth, the dangerous depths of the underworld lurk beneath the tranquil quilted top of the elegant-looking new X-Series Soloist—this thing facilitates devilish speed, devastating power, and ripping tones. If you’re looking for screaming, intricate lead tones or chugging, detuned rhythms, the EMG-loaded SLATXMGQ3-6 retains the heaviness and playability for which Jackson is revered in the hard-rock and metal worlds, all in a refined, classy package that’s super affordable.

A Beauty of a Beast
Despite its moderate price tag, the X-Series Soloist’s carved top gives it an expensive, dressed-up look, and the through-body neck construction contributes as much to the high-quality vibe as it does to overall playability. Its lines and curves flow beautifully, and the slim mahogany body, which is slightly smaller than a Strat’s, is light and exceptionally comfortable to play both sitting and standing.

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With decades of pedal after colorful pedal under its belt, Boss has covered just about every conceivable way to make your guitar sound different. But the BC-2 Combo Drive—a

With decades of pedal after colorful pedal under its belt, Boss has covered just about every conceivable way to make your guitar sound different. But the BC-2 Combo Drive—a milkchocolate- hued box that beautifully mimics the tones and dynamics of the venerable Vox AC30—is, at times, more like an amplifier makeover than a guitar effect.

From its crystalline cleans to its distinctive growl, the AC30 sound spans generations and genres, from the Beatles to U2, Tom Petty, Queen, and Brad Paisley. Boss touts the BC-2 as being capable of generating just about every tone from the legendary British combo, including its most distorted tones—and then some. And as our time with the pedal revealed, they’re not kidding. Even in front of a Marshall—another distinctly British amp—very natural shifts in picking nuance and response can leave you swearing that you’re sitting in front of an entirely different and very AC30- like amp.

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