The Big Review: Blackstar Debut 50R – the best entry-level pedal-platform amp?

The Big Review: Blackstar Debut 50R – the best entry-level pedal-platform amp?

We all remember our first guitar amp, don’t we? You know the one… that little black thing that constantly buzzed, and made your catalogue-ordered Strat copy you got for Christmas sound like it was being played through two empty bean tins tied together by string. Ah, memories. Ok, it wasn’t quite that bad but British amplifier giants Blackstar decided to make sure those days can never return in any shape or form when it launched its Debut range; a line of amps aimed specifically at beginners.

READ MORE: Blackstar Amped 2 review: Has Blackstar finally given guitarists the perfect all-in-one rig solution?

Many popular entry-level amps are often modelling amps; containing numerous bells and whistles to tinker with to your heart’s content. This can sometimes cause manufacturers to sacrifice pure tone in favour of cramming in dozens of effects and wacky possibilities, most of which are seldom used. With the release of the Debut 50R, Blackstar has taken a more conservative approach when it comes to loading an amp with effects, instead opting to create an all-analogue amp based on its award-winning high-end flagship releases.

Attempting to imitate the classic HT-20R MkII clean sound, the clean channel on the Debut 50R sounds jangly and bright, even without the bright button enabled. This thing rings as clear as a freshly Mr Muscled patio door. Boasting impressive headroom, the Debut 50R’s clean setting is an excellent pedal platform for its wallet-friendly £199 price point, even breaking up naturally when pushed. Stick an overdrive pedal in front of it, and sprinkle in some of the onboard plate or hall digital reverb, and you’re away.
The amp’s overdrive channel is based on the St. James 6L6 modern British overdrive, and it is meaty, to say the least. Blackstar confirms its Northampton-based design team has gone above and beyond to implement a MOSFET (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor) preamp that’s “virtually indistinguishable” from the valve originals. Whilst that may be a stretch as the overdrive seems to lose detail fairly quickly as you up the gain, the sheer power and depth of the sound here are without question. The Debut 50R is a real monster for its price, and has all the presence needed for us guitarists to be nuisances at band practices, and obnoxiously loud at gigs.

The power reduction button makes a welcome return here; switching to a 5W output ensures you can keep those thick low ends even at housemate-friendly volumes. The line-in input allows for solid playback, and the line-out/headphone output includes Blackstar’s decent cab emulation for home recording sessions.
The Debut 50R is truly a world away from the aforementioned first amps of yesteryear, as not only is it an ideal bedroom amp, but it’s equally at home on the stage. The quality of sound and useful options at your disposal for an outrageously fair price makes the Debut 50R one of the undisputed kings of entry-level analogue amps on the market.
Key features
PRICE: £199
DESCRIPTION: All-analogue solid-state 50-watt amplifier, made in China
FRONT CONTROL PANEL: Clean channel; volume, clean/bright button, Overdrive channel; OD button, gain, volume, EQ: bass, middle, treble, ISF, reverb (plate/hall) button and level, 5W/50W button, power on/off button.
REAR PANEL: Line out / phones, footswitch in, line in, effects loop
SPEAKERS: 1 x 12” custom designed speaker
DIMENSIONS: 33.3 x 48 x 56.4cm
OPTIONS: Black and Biscuit grille (review model), Vintage Cream and Oxblood grille.
CONTACT: Blackstar Amps
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