By Michael Kohn 10/11/11   A few years ago Blackheart debuted the all tube, 100 watt Hothead. Pretty cool considering that up until then they had stuck to low wattage amps. When the BH100H’s first hit the streets they were going for $900. Last year I saw that they were being blown out for $500 (No offence, but I think most guys that have close to a grand to spend on a new amp aren’t going to buy a Blackheart.) Since they were such a good price I couldn’t resist! The Hothead has some cool features. The power section uses a quad of EL34’s. The preamp section uses six 12AX7’s. There are two Class Operating Modes, Class AB and Class A along with Pentode (full power) and Triode (half power) modes. This gives you the capability to run the amp at either 100, 60, 50 or 30 watts. Class A mode mimics true Class A operation by operating the power tubes in cathode bias. You can really change up the feel and dynamics of the amp by using these different modes of operation. There are two channels, Loud and F’N Loud. Each channel has its own EQ section. There are global Master Volume and Presence controls as well. Both channels share a switchable (Series or Parallel), tube buffered effects loop that can also function as a foot-switchable boost. There is also a ¼ inch line out for direct recording. The Hothead has DC powered filaments in the preamp section that really helps keep things quiet. Overall, I’m impressed. The price belies the quality. The amp has ceramic tubes sockets and the PCB is high quality with thick copper traces. The amp was made in Korea and is vastly better quality than the Chinese made amps we see from companies like Bugera. The guys a Blackheart have a good sense of humour as the PCB has a message printed on it that says, "So now you have proven you know how to use a screwdriver to take the chassis out of the cabinet, but do you know what you're doing? Well do you?" Ha! When I received the amp it was loaded with a quad of the JJ EL34's and six JJ ECC83S's. There are some cool tones to be had. The gain structure of the amp is voiced for Classic Rock but it also does Classic Metal and Punk well. I dig EL34’s but knew I could upgrade the tone with some KT77’s. This helped increase the amps low end response and really helped the F’N Loud channel sound punchier and more aggressive. To help out the clean tones I put a Gold Pin ECC803S in V1. This really added some chime and richness. After a year or so I got the itch for some new tubes. I decided to try the new JJ 6550’s in place of the KT77’s. The amp has around 470 plate volts so I set the bias to 50mA. (Running the amp in Class A Mode made the bias shoot up to 90mA!) The 6550’s are killer sounding tubes. The lows are deep and solid. They serve up a big, fat clean tone with a lot of detail and sparkle. When overdriven they have a really open, raw and gritty breakup. If you’re looking for a quality, feature laden all tube amp on the cheap then the Blackheart Hothead is a great choice! Michael
Blackheart BH100
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