The new Blackstar Dept 10 range of pedals are all driven by an internal ECC83 triode valve, running at more than 200V internally. But do they sound any better than pedals without valves?
Blackstar Dept 10
Blackstar has launched its new Dept 10 series with the Dual Drive, Dual Distortion, and the smaller Boost pedal. The theory is that the internal ECC83 valve, running at 200V, should give you greater dynamics, sensitivity, breakup, and harmonics, as it is running at a much higher voltage than many simpler valve-based effects, and is in line with a real tube amp in many ways. Thankfully, all three effects can be run from an external 9V power supply, so you don’t need to worry about fitting them in with your current setup.
Blackstar Cab Rig D.I.
Both the Dual Drive and the Dual Distortion use Blackstar’s Cab Rig D.I. technology, making them quite flexible. You can use them with your amp, or a powered cab and record with them acting as valve interface for your DAW.
The Dual Drive and Dual Distortion pedals give you crunch/overdrive plus a clean channel, so you can use them just like an amp. You also get the Blackstar ISF tone control, which goes between American and British voicing, plus a three-band EQ. Both pedals also offer low latency USB and XLR outputs, a stereo 1/4 jack Cab Rig output on side, plus an effects loop. So they are pretty flexible in terms of connectivity.
Architect & Virtual Cabs
The onboard Cab Rig simulator technology is accessed via the USB output and gives you access to digital processing that reproduces the sound and feel of a mic’d up guitar cab. Blackstar has added the free Architect software for full control over the Cab Rig simulator, to allow you to tweak your virtual setups. You get access to 250 mic and cab combinations, a choice of microphone type and axis, as well as room mics and master EQ for each virtual cab. You can then save three Cab Rig patches onto the pedals via the three-way toggle switch.
Dept 10 Boost
The Dept 10 Boost pedal is a much simpler affair. It offers a Class A gain-stage and a James-Baxandall EQ, essentially giving you an extra gain stage for your amp. It also has a built-in buffer / line driver, which should be great for longer signal chains.
Should you go valve?
We have seen a lot of valve-based effects pedals over the years, and it is often hard to hear a musical difference between them. I usually find that it comes down to ‘feel’ with this style of pedal, as they react in a more amp-like fashion. The official demo videos sound good, but I’m hoping we can hear some user reviews soon, as that will tell us far more about these new Dept 10 effects.
On paper, they certainly have a decent feature set, so hopefully the tones will stack up as well.
RRP – Dept.10 Boost GBP 159, Dual Drive and Dual Distortion GBP 249
More Information on Blackstar
Blackstar Dept 10 Demo Video