Thought I’d post some honest gear reviews. I get a bit fed up with gear reviews that just big everything up and never mention any shortcomings. So, buckle up ….
I bought the Blackstar Debut 10e for use as part of a practice rig, along with a cheap Squier Bullet Mustang.
Firstly, the general concept and appearance is brilliant, with a nice vintage vibe, but with a modern twist. The simplicity of layout attracted me as well, just a volume and tone knob along with a control for the delay, all with vintage style chicken head knobs, plus two low-profile push buttons, one to change from clean to distortion and one to activate the delay. The overall vibe was a bit like an early Fender Champ.
One thing that gives this amp the edge over much of the competition at the price point is the delay. Very few amps in this price range have reverb or delay on board.
My initial impressions on plugging the guitar in and playing were pretty good. The clean sound was nice and warm, and a touch of delay made for a very nice sound. The distortion sound was good and meaty, with plenty of drive, but on playing with it a bit more the problems started to appear.
My first issue is that the ISF tone control actually appeared to make very little difference to the overall sound. If I was being kind, I'd say the effect of turning the knob through its whole range was “subtle”. But to be honest, it may as well not have been there at all. Blackstar say the control changes the characteristics from a US to British tonality, and that may well technically be true, but there's no real discernible variation in the sound. You certainly can't use it to boost your highs.
The next issue is the way the volume control works when the distortion is switched in. Rather than acting as a drive control, so the more you turn it up the more drive you get, it is just a volume control, so the actual distortion sound remains the same. The only way to back off the distortion amount is to use the guitar volume, which is kind of OK, but as soon as you back off the volume, you get the accompanying drop off in highs, and by that stage I was beginning to feel that the sound was a bit muddy in any case. I'm certainly not about to go fitting a treble bleed cap in a brand new guitar just to compensate for the amp's shortcomings!
My final gripe is with the delay. The single knob controls both delay time and depth, so once you find a delay you like you can't actually control the amount of it you get. For me, they would have been far better off providing a good quality reverb sound and allowing the knob to control the amount of reverb, just like a spring line would work on the kind of vintage amp this little unit is trying to ape.
Of course, I know I am being picky. This is an amp made to a pretty low price point. I paid £59 for it, and for most users it will probably be a first amp. The changes in the way I'd like to see the drive volume and delay control operate probably wouldn't occur to a novice user, and by the time they are on the path to true enlightenment, they'll be moving on to a more grown-up amp. If anything, the way the volume works for distortion may be better because a kid living with parents will still be able to get full on distortion at a low volume.
So, I'd say, if you're just looking for a little amp that's a step up from the little battery-powered "toy" Marshall's and Fenders on the market, then this is for you. If you think you're getting something with a vintage vibe, and which operates the way an old Fender Champ would, then you'll be disappointed.