Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
Which guitar amp: Gretsch G5222 vs Blackstar HT1
Over the last few years, there has been a huge increase in the number of low-wattage valve amplifiers designed for practise and recording. Ranging generally from around 1 to 5 Watts, these little amps are not just affordable, but they let you dial in those saturated vacuum tube sounds at (almost) neighbour-friendly volumes. We thought we’d take a look at a couple of quite different amps in this category: it’s time for Gretsch G5222 vs Blackstar HT1 in our ‘which guitar amp’ showdown series!
Gretsch G5222 vs Blackstar HT1
If you come across the Gretsch G5222 and Blackstar HT1 browsing the product pages on a website, where you maybe just see the amp from the front and the price, apart from the 50s throwback versus the modern cosmetics, you might put these amps down in the same category. They are both small, portable valve amplifiers that cost about the same and don’t give you any onboard reverb, but as soon as you look at them from another angle, things get very different…
Take a look at the loudness specs and the number of knobs! The Gretsch G5222 -which is actually the same amplifier as the Fender Champion 600- gives you 5W of power, the Blackstar HT1 -as the name might suggest- gives you just a single Watt. However, the Blackstar gives you more controls on the amp to shape that 1W into the sound you want at the volume you want. So, making your mind up is already starting to get more complicated.
G5222 vs HT1: Cabs and cones
The HT1 comes equipped with an 8″ speaker, compared to the 6″ speaker in the Gretsch. The difference in speaker size doesn’t cause as great a difference in sound as you might think -the Grestch certainly doesn’t sound insipid, but there’s no denying that the HT1 just pushes that bit more air around, but that’s not where it ends with these little amps, as we’ll discover later…
Despite having a larger speaker, both amps are around the same size, and both are incredibly portable. You could quite easily pick up one in each hand and walk them around a few streets for those casual practices and jams, and both should fit in that corner in your living room or bedroom without being too obtrusive. If you already have your guitar rig set up in one room, then it’s easy to find a wee nook for one of these elsewhere so you never have to go too far to get plugged in when inspiration strikes!
G5222 vs HT1: Jacks and sockets
Starting at the bit where you plug your guitar, you get one input on the HT1, but two on the Gretsch, at high and low sensitivity allowing you to match the input with the output of your pickups. Skipping straight to the end, both amplifiers allow you to use an external speaker instead of the speaker in the combo, but the HT1 makes it easy for you with an accessible socket on the back, for the Gretsch, you’re going to have to get inside it to unplug the internal speaker.
The major difference in these amps are the bits in the middle. The HT1 has an auxiliary input for your mp3 player or similar, and a speaker emulated output for plugging in headphones or for running straight to the desk or your audio interface for recording. The Gretsch gives you… neither of these.
G5222 vs HT1: The sound!
And this is, naturally, where we end up. Truth be told, both of these amps sound great. The Gretsch G5222 is a single-ended class A amplifier, which is the most pure and direct type of amplifier you can get. The Blackstar is a class A/B amplifier with a solid-state phase splitter and a push/pull output stage, but don’t think that the tone loses out because of it.
Set clean, both of these amplifiers sound very immediate and touch-responsive, letting you control a lot of the sound with your playing dynamics, just like a good amplifier should. Neither offers a huge amount of clean volume, but that’s not really the point. Where they differ is in the control of things, if you want to push that Gretsch into that wonderfully smooth overdrive, you’re going to need to crank the volume. Now, you’ll get there faster with humbuckers than with single coils, but it’s still going to start to get noisy.
With the master volume control of the HT1, you can wind up the volume for the crunch you want, then dial back the master to get it at the right volume, there is also the drive button for even more gain if you want it, and you can get quite close to metal territory with it. The ISF EQ control is also a nice addition, quite subtle -in a good way- but you can really hear what it does to your mids.
Gretsch G5222 vs Blackstar HT1: Which guitar amp for you?
As with everything, it’s going to come down to personal preference and all I can do is offer my own highly subjective opinion so take it with a pinch of salt; your best bet is to take both of them into a demo room with your guitar of choice and see which one chooses you.
What I would say, is that if I was looking for an amp for general practice, I would go with the Blackstar HT1. The master volume control makes a big difference here, and the mp3 input is just a very handy thing for playing along to backing tracks etc. If I wanted something just to keep in the corner of the living room for immediate guitar-based good times, I would choose the Gretsch. It looks good in that vintage cabinet wrapping and really just sounds the business, and the single control means you just play instead of endlessly tweaking for that perfect tone.
Thanks for reading through this blog article. If you’re in the market for a little amplifier, why not follow this link and get a little special offer too?