Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review: The Black Heart BH5-112 Little Giant


My really good friend recently acquired a Blackheart "Little Giant" amp and has been kind enough to let me test it out, and really put it through its paces. So I figured I would share my experience with all of you...

The Blackheart BH5-112:

This little amp is made by some small company that apparently deals/distributes through Crate. As a result you have a somewhat "boutique" lo-watt amp that has mass distribution through all sorts of surpising retailers, from Guitar Center to probably Best Buy. Also, the amp comes equipped with the contract-binding "Crate" logo, cleverly tucked just under the tolex on the amp's control panel. While I admit the "Crate" badge is a significant bummer for me, it's pretty easily overlooked on this cool little amp. Okay, I get it, enough about my personal amp's the spec's:

-5W, Class A power (switchable to 3W) by 1xEL84 and 1x12AX7
-1x12" speaker (Eminence, specially designed)
-EQ controls - Bass, Middle, Treble - (very unique for these lo-watt amps)
-Volume control
-4, 8 and 16 ohm speaker outputs (a super cool feature)
-on-off switch
-I think that's about it
-oh yeah, semi-open back (screened)

As you can see, there's really not a whole lot to this amp. However, this little amp has a lot of really nice tube tone...

So with only 5 watts, I figured this amp would have a substantial amount of "breakup" (aka overdrive). And with the 3W setting, I was certain that this breakup would be even more intense, so of course I was jumping at the chance to fire this thing up! I decided to use humbuckers, so I tested it out with my Epiphone G-400 and started out in the 3W setting. I set the volume at about 9 o'clock (or about 25%) with the EQ set from flat with a little more bass and probably 70% treble. Here the amp had a really nice clean tone. There was subtle, subtle breakup, but nothing that you would notice without your ear right up to the speaker. I noticed a little harshness in the hi's and it intrigued me. So I rolled the hi's up more and added a touch of volume, and sure enough, I was getting a nice chimey AC30-type sound...pretty sweet. After playing around with that sound for a little while, I reset the EQ to where I had it before and then cranked the volume (about 90%). Here, I got a really nice crunch, especially with the humbuckers. This overdrive was a lot like "Glycerine" (you know, that Bush song). So some pretty cool tones so far.
I reset all of the controls back to my default and then flipped the switch over to 5W. Immediately I noticed an increased in presence from the hum of the amp. At the lower volume I got a nice, more dominant clean...not like a Twin, but more like a dirtier Fender; maybe a blues jr. When I cranked it up on the 5W setting, I got a nice open, brighter crunch than the 3W setting. The crunch was actually pretty "emo" sounding; nice bite, plenty of thicker overdrive. While this overdrive was not tight distortion, it was tighter than the overdrive on the 3W setting. Pretty surprising crunch from such a small amp!
I was pretty impressed with this "Little Giant"; it seems to really capture hot tube tone in a more concentrated environment. This amp is a perfect practice amp, but I think it would really shine in the studio!

With that said, there are of course some draw backs, like with any amp. First of all, this amp doesn't push air. So you're not going to get that all-encompassing, rush that you get when you play a higher-watt tube amp. So remember just because this is a tube amp, don't expect the really thumpy low's and uber-stinging hi's out of this amp. I will say though, this amp is surprisingly loud! I was really impressed, especially for it's size. However, in a band setting, I didn't think it would be able to keep up with bass and drums, but I was wrong! This amp, when cranked, can match volume with almost any practice situation! Pretty impressive for such a small little guy! But even though it is "loud", don't think it's going to keep up with your buddy's Deluxe, because you will be on 8, he'll be on 3 and you will be looking around the room for a mic and a PA system. The only other downside I can think of is the lack of feedback. I just figured that if I had the amp cranked fully, I would get a decent amount of feedback. I did manage to get a little harmonic feedback with my headstock against the amp, but not as much as I had expected. My buddy said he got quite a lot of feedback out of it though, so it may have just been my position to the amp, or different pickups or something, I don't know. But that's it, no big complaints. This is really a great amp!


Thanks for reading,

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