The HT-Dual has one tube, two channels, Channel 1 (Clean or Crunch), Channel 2 (crunch to high gain), two push down switches, one guitar input and two outputs, one direct out with speaker emulation, one amplifier out.
Gain 1 and 2: Sets the gain level for channel 1 and 2.
Gain 1 push button: Sets channel 1 gain type to clean or crunch.
ISF: Controls voicing from “British” to “American”
Level 1 and 2: Output volume level for channel 1 and 2.
The HT-Dual is powered by a 16 V adapter which is also included.
The Blackstar HT-Dual is basically a two channel tube preamp in a floor pedal. My initial impressions upon unpacking the pedal is how sturdy and solid it is. The HT-Dual comes in a metal box that feels solid as a brick. Only complaint about the construction is that there is a bit of play on the gain and level second channel knobs which might have come loose during shipment, but it is definitely something of concern, especially if you plan to gig with this pedal. The HT-Dual sports a vented metal enclosure on top to allow for the tube to breathe. The single 12AX7 tube is lit by a LED behind the tube. The box contains an adapter for the unit and a manual with suggested settings which come in handy when you are getting started.
To get a feel for the sound of the pedal, I ran it through several amps: a clean Fender Princeton solid state amp, Orange Tiny Terror, Peavey Classic 50 power amp, Marshall JCM900 and direct into the board via its speaker emulated output. On each one of these amps and running direct into a recording interface, the HT-Dual retained a unique pleasantly analog character. I was able to dial in great sounds on all of these amps and probably the biggest surprise to me was that the HT-Dual sounds great plugged in the input as well as the fx return on a tube amp.
This is essentially a 3 channel pedal, since channel 1 can be switched between clean and crunch by pressing the channel voicing selector. When it is set on clean, the pedal produces a sparkly clean that moves towards a little breakup with the gain set to the right. When the crunch is on, gain settings on the left provide clean sound with a little breakup, similar to slightly pushed blues amp. Moving the gain to the right gets more in British rock sound territory, similar to an AC30 and towards 60s and 70s hard rock sounds (think Thin Lizzy, AC/DC). Channel 2 overlaps with the crunch channel on lower settings and it goes into further gain when moved to the right. Whether you need a “woman tone” or a Santana lead tone, this channel has it. If you need a punishing high gain tone - it has that as well. Channel 2 dishes out Brit Rock, sustaining blues lead tones, hard rock rhythm, mid to high gain lead tones and can take you all the way to thrash and speed metal (think Anthrax, Slayer). If you need to tweak the tone further, the 3 eq controls (shared by both channels) are responsive, yet musical and the voicing control knob (ISF) could provide a range of voicings that can further customize your pedal’s response. The HT-Dual retains its tube character at all settings, and even in extreme gain settings there is enough definition to the attack that the sounds don’t get mushy or washed out, but remain punchy and solid. Fans of the most brutal of black and death metal will probably find that the gain of this pedal is a bit subdued to their taste but there is plenty on tap for all the other genres.
For direct recording I found the HT-Dual’s speaker emulated output to be very well voiced. It transferred the tube quality of the pedal to tape. For recording I still prefer to capture the sound of a speaker being pushed in a room, but as far as emulations go, this one is very good!
When it comes to live performance, the HT-Dual has two switches, each one of these turning its corresponding channel when pressed once. When pressed twice, it bypasses the pedal. The switching on this pedal is very smooth, no pops or cracks were audible and the switching was instantaneous. According to Blackstar, these are buffered switches and I have to say that they work flawlessly.
The shared eq and ISF settings might be a problem for some players in a live setup as you will have to compromise by finding a common ground for both channels. It didn’t seem an issue for me as I usually like to set my amp on clean and dial in a crunch and gain that tones that are similar in voicing. An extra switch with a lead boost would also be welcome addition as it would cover more ground live. Considering the price and features, the HT-Dual covers a lot of ground and could easily be the only overdrive/distortion pedal that you’ll ever need.
Whether you are looking to increase your amp’s current channels, get a guitar preamp for direct recording or add some tube flavor to your sound - the HT-Dual has all that covered. This pedal has lots of great tones, it is unique in both design and sound.