Blackheart Handsome Devil

Vesperado

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Got mine second hand for a decent price. Having read some threads it seemed like a good mod platform stocked with quality parts. I did some work on it. I didn't like the trebles as they were awfully shrill. The presence control was unuseable, too. I found a mod kit online which altered the tone circuit after that of a Plexi, and other inexpensive parts/mods. So I installed a valve recto with a standby switch in the front, already the sound was improving.

Upon jamming one evening the volume died out and no sound. I put my hand on the PT and it was pretty cooked. After some searching I found a Hammond PT which fit the spec. I placed the order and while it was on its way modified the tone circuit with the Plexi "tazmanian"mod. I sourced the parts myself. Once the tranny arrived I replaced the old one, and installed a NFB control next to the OT, topside. I also fitted a rocker-style power switch next to the power jack on the back, this way I have all my tone options on the front panel. I then wired in an 80mm fan on the rear panel cover to expell the heat from the recto and power valves.

How does she sound? Like a power house with tons of volume. What is nice about this amp is it makes for a great pedal platform. I found that running a JJ 5751 in V1 makes it so. I can get this amp to sound like a JMP, my JCM2000, or (get this) a Dual Rectifier. That is how versitle the mods/controls are. Who would have thought one triode gets you there? That stock shrillness is long gone. So here are the results on how I do it:

JMP: GMR Little Plexi; Yamaha OD-10mII
JCM2000: Maxon SD9; Marshall Guv'nor mkI
Dual Rec: GMR BC Dallas > GMR Little Plexi; Maxon DS-830

I pretty much run the EZ81 recto valve all the time. 15W mode sounds the best, and boy does this amp breathe! The NFB control I set to where it's raunchy enough to emulate what sound it is I'm after. For cleans, she can get pretty darn chimey. I would like to install a choke, but space at this point seems to be an issue. Still sounds really fat and sweet, and can CRUSH and THUMP when I set it up "Dual Rec" style.

If anyone claims EL84 amps sound mid-rangey and lack in bass, ignore them. My amp is proof it can hold its own (and at times I think it can outperform my TSL in variety of sounds). Think about that statement.

I also have not touched the stock Blackheart cab. It's perfect. I find myself plugging ito it MORE OFTEN than plugging into the 1960A with my TSL, it's got the perfect freq response thing going on. I need to try acquiring a 4x12 with these puppies, probably would put the H Creambacks up against the wall, literally.

Still love my TSL, especially now that I have it as it was originally designed to operate, that is with ZERO ISSUES. But whenever I want that FATNESS and SWEETNESS I get it from my 15W amp. And the crushing authority she dishes out with that DS-830 in the front (cannot seem to get it with my TSL) my neighbors must wonder: "What, he's got a Mesa Boogie, too?!"
 
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Vesperado

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Finally with the winter break am I able to get back into my gear and tweak to taste.

I installed a "mid shift" switch on the front panel, so now I can switch between the 22n and 10n values. I also replaced the stock Chinese speaker with a 2001 Celestion G12-T75 'Ipswich', the range of tones are much more manifold now than as before; the stock speaker (Eminence 1216B 'ROHS') was choking the upper freqs and had a resonance which could not be conditioned. The 'tube ooze, super-sensitive string response' tones I can get now with my G&L ASAT Classic are phenomenal!

The amp shines like none other when playing it through my 1960A Creamback loaded cab (those speakers are now broken in and sound so much better than new). The TSL-100 does not get as clean as this amp can. It is what it is. The T75 saves my ears a little on mid freq overload, so it serves a good purpose for practice and prolonged composition. But that 1960A just rings with joy!

I think it might be good for me to share how I use it in case anyone might be curious. When using compression the Silicon Diode rectifier is your best bet. This keeps the volume and dynamics steady. All other applications: EZ81 tube recto. The sag, bloom, dynamics, etc. which this delivers are wonderful and bring the guitar in my hands to life. The Mid Shift mod I did allows me to get Fender-like chime, cleaning up the woof and girth of the signal. This allows for tight and focused pick attack. When switched to Taz mode, I get that thicker Plexi bottom for a useful grind. Who would have though only 12nF difference would have done it?

I prefer the 5751 in V1 as this amp is my 'pedal platform'. The volume is not wanting in any way either, there is plenty to push some serious air out of that 1960A.

I took some careful consideration over heat dissipation with the amp. I kept the old PT mount for this very reason; the new Hammond sits upon the old mount, raised over half an inch above the chassis. This affords better air circulation. To boot, I installed an 80mm AC fan right in front of the same, expelling the hot air to the outside. The EZ81 is an inch from it's side, so its heat is likewise expelled out. The chassis, after hours of playing, is somewhat warm near the PT, but never gets hot. The PT also only gets pretty warm, but never hot. I cannot say the same thing concerning the TSL: the PT is mounted directly on the chassis, and both the chassis around the PT and the Main Board Plate get hot, even with two 120mm DC fans expelling air behind the same. I drilled some vent holes on the steal plate, which help a little, but that's another amp so let's move on.

EL84 push-pull are quite reminiscent of what an EL34 push-pull sounds like, perhaps a little more chimey and more reserved in the low end. You might perceive it being 'tighter'. The bias circuit on this amp is an auto-bias. All that is required is a matched pair of tubes. 115VAC translates to 331V plate volts on the current set of tubes. Not bad. Remember, this is not Class A operation. With those numbers I am producing more than the published 15W of output.

Regarding tubes, a quick word: JJs have NEVER FAILED me. I have had the same tube set in my TSL for over eight years now. I am confident these will last several years, too. I received my sets from reputable dealers, and those spare sets I bought should last a lifetime.

So there you have it: a solid performer of an amp. No opamps, no FETs, no SMT, no crazy components to produce a 'signature' sound; its ALL VALVE baby (Bob Zany voice)!
 
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Vesperado

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Some photos...

view
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Vesperado

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Update for those interested:

After attempting to run the heaters on AC to no advantage, I retrograded and improved the DC filtering for the heater bus. I added .1u caps in parallel with R32/33 and added 20mF 16V in parallel with C26. I replaced the passive rectifier, HY KBU 1506, with a GBU 2510, glass composite 25A 1kV type. The hash has been greatly reduced, and the front end now clips in good taste when cranked.

Next project, perhaps, might be swapping the Celestion for a Jensen Nighthawk. I say "might" because that Ipswich T75 is pretty much perfect for it, but in order to retrograde my 1960A with them, I need all four, unless for some reason the Nighthawk mixes well with the other three in there. The Ipswich (2001) speaker does EVERYTHING.

I find the best, and I mean BEST dirt pedal for this here amp is the GMR BC Dallas Silicone Treble Booster, especially when paired with the GMR Little Plexi. Between the two you can get Marshall, old and new, and Dual Rec tones off this amp/cab mini-stack. The next best, Nu-metal tones, is my modified Maxon DS-830. It absolutely CRUSHES. The Maxon SD9 and TS9 do wonders as well.

If anyone might consider getting this amp, they will need to modify it to make it pedal-friendly. Worth the hassle if you ask me, great little amp for the money.
 

ricksdisconnected

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use to see these things everywhere but somebody sure as hell is buying them up.
 

Vesperado

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Lol

Hopefully they will be put to good use. If I ever come across another I'll probably pick it up and fix it up...stereo awesomeness!
 

Edgar Frog

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Out of all the Crate's I've owned over the decades I'm still kicking myself for not getting any of the Blackheart's.
 

Vesperado

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Trying out the Jensen Jet Ceramic Nighthawk in the matching cab...not bad

Update: WGS Veteran 30. Goodbye Nighthawk.
 
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mtm105

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I’ve got 3. 2 KA and HD. Plus enough cabs for each. The Killer Ant, for some reason, is my low volume tone. Nothing compares to it. I had the 1W Blackstar and it sucked ass. I did the bitmo mod on 5W. Didn’t really like it. Sold it. I don’t like mods. Too flakey.

I lived in Nashville and literally waited for the KA to ship from China. It was delayed.

These amps are made with thick trace PCB boards, enough to compete with the best.( I think it’s funny how Crate logo is barely readable. ) I always kinda gravitated to Crate, for better or worse. Sorta found my tone there. I just bought work boots where now I look like the Reverend. lol

Anyhoo, I’ve got 7 other superior quality boutique heads. BH fits right in there with all of them, IMO. (Minus MIC principle). I recall seeing a pic of Allman Bros. studio once with HD in rear.

I emailed Eminence who told me the red speaker is roughly a Green Back clone, their Private Jack speaker tweaked.
 
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scozz

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I used to own a Blackheart Little Giant 5 watt head and a 1-12 cab,...just like your 1-12 cab. It came with a Eminence speaker as you described, I still have the cab but I sold the head.

I never really got on with the Eminence speaker so I changed it out to a UK Greenback. I currently use the 1-12 cab with my Dsl1hr.

Really nice quality amps and cabs for not a lot of money! I’m not sure why they were around for only a short period of time. Maybe their ridiculous Blackheart logo that was the cause of their demise! Haha!



I ended up removing the logo because I hated it!

 

Vesperado

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Thought I'd boast a little more on the amp. Had a friend over today, he was blown away by it. His remarks were that is was very open sounding and super responsive. I plugged it into both the single cab (Jensen) and the quad (T75). You should have seen his face when I told him the SC-250 had $20 pups installed...the authority this little guy has--with the volume on "1"! From chimey cleans to angry Fender 'ttude, from Marshall spank to Mesa grind, this amp is unstoppable. Best pedal platform amp: ever. Period.
 

Vesperado

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While I'm in my other amp, figure I'd get this one updated some. I have a Metro Zero Loss FX Loop kit to try out, so now I will have delay/echo capability with the amp.

The Bass is rather much on the amp, so I think I will replace the Cathode Bypass Cap at V1B, C4 (22u pol), with a .47-1u value, and throw it all on a switch. I am doing this as the FX Loop will displace the NFB control for good, so no more NFB; bass will now be regulated by the new bypass cap value.

If I can ever get to an o-scope I can correct the signal levels at the gain stages, I have a feeling they are a bit on the hot side...
 

Vesperado

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B112 is now loaded with an excellent WGS Veteran 30 16 ohm: an absolute rocker's dream.

I will be tweaking the cathode bypass caps off the 5751 in V1 this week, and installing the Metro Zero Loss FX Loop. Might slightly increase the Mid Shift Fat value a nano or two while I'm in there.

Amp should be perfect soon...
 

Vesperado

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I finally got around to it today, been busy with stuff:

C4 22u > 1u (or a .47u/.68u for less bass pass-thru depending on setup/taste). Stock value pretty much passed everything, and made it too boomy. Now it takes stomp boxes better, imo.

Fat Sw 10n > 12n (anywhere between 11-12n sounds good)

NFB > removed (adds a bit of volume with it; which I did not care for).

For those who want to try a NFB, here's what you can do:

100k pot between OT 4 Ohm tap and ground

- 5k shunt between R11/C9 and ground

- 5k1 grid osc. stopper between R11/C9 and wiper

...this amp really doesn't need it.

Installed Metro Loop Kit using the screen method, I used a 10k "decoupling resistor" (though you will need to check your voltage, every amp will vary). Signal tap between Treble Pot and R9. I removed the 4 ohm jacks and slid that PCB down to where the 8 Ohms are occupying those holes, and drilled one new hole for the Send jack, and occupied the original 16 Ohm hole for the Return Jack. Switch is next to the Input Jack on the front. Pretty transparent FX loop.
 
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Vesperado

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Metro FX Loop is rolling off the highs :/

Rolled a JJ E83CC (grid mesh) into V1 and a balanced Sovtek LPS into V2. Amp's now a Dual Rectifier into my 1960A...
 

mtm105

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Out of all the Crate's I've owned over the decades I'm still kicking myself for not getting any of the Blackheart's.

You owe it to yourself. I've got 7 boutiques. Handsome Devil beats all of them (almost). Made with high trace PCB. I've swapped pre-amp tubes, and the original Chinese sound better.

Amp builder went on with Magnatone and designed for Billy G. You cannot have a better resume than that.

Does OP suggest swapping PT?? I despise mods. But if PT needs quality upgrade, I'm open for suggestions.
 
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Vesperado

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You owe it to yourself. I've got 7 boutiques. Handsome Devil beats all of them (almost). Made with high trace PCB. I've swapped pre-amp tubes, and the original Chinese sound better.

Amp builder went on with Magnatone and designed for Billy G. You cannot have a better resume than that.

Does OP suggest swapping PT?? I despise mods. But if PT needs quality upgrade, I'm open for suggestions.
The amp requires more than just a new tranny, unfortunately. I bought this amp knowing it was inexpensive and having read some reviews on its being a decent mod platform. The only original components left in it are some Carling switches, pilot light, fuses, the unmarked OT, pots, ceramic sockets, tube retainers, the IEC, and whatever passive components were not upgraded/replaced from my tweaking it. The PCB is a pain to desolder, and to service the Main PCB you have to nearly disassemble the entire amp. The chassis ground is not the greatest as the chassis material could have been better.

As with any amp, mods are necessary, and just like any other, this one sounds pretty good once tuned up.

Not to burst anyone's bubble, but if they do not enjoy modding, I'd suggest looking for an entirely different amp.
 

Vesperado

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VR2 Treble bleed > piggyback a 500V 700p from wiper to EE.
Treble peaker is bypassable for clean tones.

Two amp tunings...

Mark IV Bottom:
C4 CBC Switch: .98u pol. 50V
C7 Mid Shift Switch: 12n 400V paper film
R5 Treble Peaker Bypass Switch: 470p 500V

Hot Rod 1959:
C4 CBC Switch: .63u pol. 50V
C7 Mid Shift Switch: 22n 400V paper film
R5 Treble Peaker Bypass Switch: 470p 500V

...look:


Switches (R to L): Metro FX Loop On /Off, 2nd Stage Cathode Bypass Cap Select, Treble Peaker On / Off, Mid-Shift Cap Select, Power: Plate / Grid, Standby: EZ81 / Off / FREDs + COG.
 
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