Review: Blackheart Little Giant Half Stack

The Little Giant Half Stack guitar amp from Blackheart consists of the BH5H amp head and BH112 speaker cabinet. The name implies monster sound contained within a small half stack style package.

FEATURES: The front of the amp head features an ON/OFF switch, 3W/5W selector switch, bass, mid, and treble controls, and input jack. This hardware is heavy duty – there is nothing that feels cheap and it inspires confidence in the overall quality. My only minor complaint is the input jack. I like to feel a nice positive ‘ka-chunk’ to make me feel like I’ve got a solid lock into my gear. With this input jack the cable slides in a little too easily and I feel like the slightest tug will pull it right out. But hey, call it a safety feature. The back features 4, 8, and 16 ohm speaker outputs. Driving this Class A amp is a 12AX7 preamp tube and EL84 power tube. The closed back cabinet houses a 12” Eminence speaker and has two 16 ohm parallel speaker jacks on the back.

Construction: The materials are rugged and feel like they can take a real beating. It’s also damn good looking. The head and cabinet feature black-and-white checkerboard style fabric outlined with thick white binding that is implemented as actual material rather than a low cost paint job. Black tolex covers both pieces. The cabinet seems to have a smoother covering on it whereas the head has a stickier almost rubber-type feel. I wouldn’t call this a significant feature, but I actually appreciate this texture as it puts a little grab on my guitar when I lean it against the amp head.

The Blackheart logo adorns the front of both the head and cabinet. This is totally subjective but while I do think the logo is pretty cool, there’s something about it that takes away from the perception of the amp as a serious ass-kicking piece of gear, almost like it’s trying to be cool for cool’s sake. But like the attention to detail in construction, the parts providing the base for the logos are cut in three levels which is added attention to detail. Both pieces have heavy duty carrying handles on top.

SOUND: This amp is like three amps in one. At 3W with the volume set midway or below, it’s very clean. Beyond midway to full volume the amp begins to break up naturally providing tasty crunch. Switching over to 5W and dialing the volume back to midway maintains similar crunch but with more ‘oomph’. Finally, going whole hog with the volume cranked at 5W pushes crunch into distortion.

The 3-band EQ is very effective in dialing in a variety of tones. Given the size of this amp and the fact that it’s powered by one preamp and one power tube, I’m impressed by how warm it sounds. I found myself experimenting primarily with the bass EQ to dial in the amount of warmth and roundness. The amp sounded great until I thrashed around at full volume in the 5W setting. That’s when lower frequencies started to warble and growl. But by turning the bass EQ down and adjusting my pickup selection I was able to tame the beast.

Volume-wise you can get enough good character out of this Little Giant at lower volumes for practicing at home without terrorizing your neighbors (unless you want to) and it’s also loud enough that you can get your jam on and rehearse with it with a band so long as you’re not trying to compete with full-sized gear at full volume. The key is in understanding at what levels the amp breaks up into various degrees of distortion. If you want to distort at neighbor-friendly levels, you’ll likely have to turn to pedals for this.

THE ROUND-UP: This is a great sounding amp in an attractive conveniently sized package. I’m impressed by its versatility in consideration of its basic features. My wish list would include a gain control to get a handle on the overdrive, a standby switch if only to make it feel more “legitimate”, and a headphone jack because I want to crank this sucker in my apartment at odd hours. For right around $300 this is a great buy!

THE UPS: High quality construction. Attractive, Great organic sounds from clean to crunch and beyond. Great value.

THE DOWNS: Full volume at 5W gets growly. No gain control.

THE ALL AROUNDS: A very cool package that won’t bust your budget or your ear drums while still allowing you to rock like a star. A fun amp all around that inspires playing.

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