Blackstar is relatively new to the scene, forming in 2007 and founded by a group of ex-Marshall employees; it is a British company with a steady following in the music world. Blackstar is known for producing and manufacturing guitar amps, carry-on guitars, and effects units.
The brand is supported by prominent international musicians, including Ozzy Osbourne and The Manic Street Preachers yet their products have highly affordable price tags compared to other brands like Marshall and Fender.
If you’re thinking of buying the Blackstar Fly 3, we have all the details you need to make a more informed purchase.
We will be looking into all the features of this guitar amp, how well it performs, and its pros and cons. We will also investigate some alternatives that are available today.
Firstly, let’s look at the key specs of this amp.
Key Specifications of the Blackstar Fly 3
|Power||3-W solid state (upgrade to 6-W stereo with Blackstar Fly 103 1×3″ extension cab)|
|Speaker||1×3 inch Blackstar Design|
|2 Channels||Clean & Overdrive|
|Inputs||Guitar Input, MP3/Line Input|
|Controls||Inout, Speaker Emulated Output, Delay Level, Delay Time, MP3/Line Input, Overdrive Switch, EQ (ISF), Volume, Gain|
|Dimensions||170 x 126 x 102 (mm)|
|Latest Prices||See here|
Core Features of the Blackstar Fly 3
Battery amps are an excellent choice for guitarists who travel a lot and want to practice on the go, with an amp that’s powerful enough to fill an arena. The Blackstar Fly 3 can be entirely battery-powered, with six batteries (preferably rechargeable). Or, when purchased as a combo pack, it can use the included power supply.
We’ve discovered that, when playing at low volumes, you can expect 50 hours of play when using the batteries. For full blast volume, this reduces significantly to four hours. Quite a difference – and quite an incentive to reduce the volume!
Construction and Quality
We are truly impressed with the build quality of the Blackstar Fly 3. A lot of mini amps can have a flimsy, fragile feel to them and often appear more as toys than amps. However, the Fly 3 is solid.
Yes, it is made from plastic and not solid wood, but it has the feel of a genuine guitar amp – with a superb finishing touch of a metal grill over the speaker.
It’s a small, inexpensive amp, and some of this shows in the construction; for example, to control knobs are plastic and of moderate quality level. But, the jacks are solid with no wobble, and the top panel has a crisp, fresh look resembling a much more expensive product.
We found a higher level of quality than we expected overall and feel that the Fly 3 is a step above many other mini amps for this alone.
The Blackstar Fly 3 comes with a tape delay effect with tape delay level control, and if you’re as into delay as we are, you’ll appreciate that it’s one of the most useful effects in a musician’s toolbox. Delay creates a sense of movement and space in a track to help expand and define the character of your sound.
Many musicians who produce music online will look for delay plugins to recreate what the Blackstar Fly 3 is already capable of.
MP3 / Line Input
A fantastic feature, the Blackstar Fly 3 can be used as an MP3 speaker, or indeed as a general speaker for a computer or MacBook. It can also be used for practicing guitarists to play along to backing tracks, and the headphone jack allows for practice to be silent when needed.
Record with the Emulated Output
The emulated output provides the ability to record directly to your computer or run tracks through a PA. Again, the headphone jack means this can be a quiet venture. This feature couldn’t be simpler to use, you just need to connect the audio input of your computer, chrome book or laptop, to the audio output of the amp, and you’re good to go.
Many online programs enable easy editing and have tons of features. We have previously written of the best digital audio workstations to help guide you – and some are even free to use.
Compatible with an Extension Cabinet
You can transform the Fly 3 into a stereo mini amp when pairing with the Fly 103 extension cab and get 6-W of stereo sound. The Fly 3 can also be connected to portable speakers or computer speakers when traveling too.
Blackstar Fly 3s ISF control works in conjunction with the Tone control. This feature allows for players to select the exact tone signature desired. Fully CCW is more of an American characteristic with a more aggressive middle and tight bottom, and fully CW is more of a British characteristic; less aggressive and more ‘woody.’
For a compact, portable guitar amp, you may not expect great volume. But this battery-powered mini amp packs a punch with a big tone – even at the lowest volume setting. The ISF means that you can change the sound infinitely, giving endless possibilities for the tone of the amp. With the tape delay effects, you can make the amp output resonate during play.
If purchased from the brand’s website, all products come with a one-year standard warranty with the ability to extend to three years. Purchasers have to register for the extended warranty online, and components like fuses and valves only have a 90-day warranty from the date of purchase.
How Does the Blackstar Fly 3 Perform?
We appreciate that the amp is small, it’s battery-powered, it’s not manufactured by a major player in the industry, and its retail value is low. So, you’re probably not expecting great things from the Blackstar Fly 3, but here’s where you’re wrong. According to a large number of guitarists, this mini amp really does it all.
Obviously, 3-W into a 3-inch speaker isn’t going to shatter any glass, and we can’t expect a tsunami of low-frequency oomph – however, for solo bedroom playing, it is more than adequate. The sound is also very clear, very pure: very Blackstar.
By turning up the Gain, you can expect some pleasing crunch and thickness; there aren’t any plasticky buzzes or rattling, even at high volume settings. To obtain the dirty version of the same sound, you would engage the OD switch – this won’t be fizzy or extreme but overdriven.
If you’re looking for the best amps for metal music, the Blackstar Fly 3 isn’t your jam. Its rock sound is lightweight, but it really is an impressive amp, given its dinky dimensions.
Turning up the Gain brings some pleasing thickness and crunch, and there are no rattles or plasticky buzzes even with Volume at full. Engaging the OD switch takes us into a dirty version of the same sound – it’s not extreme, and it’s not fizzy, just overdriven.
Pros of the Blackstar Fly 3
For its retail price and capabilities, we love the Blackstar Fly 3. Here are our favorite aspects:
Did we mention this is a low-cost amp? It takes some getting over when you compare it to amps that cost so much more, for so little more! For newbies, learners, or home players, the Blackstar Fly 3 is an ideal amp that won’t break the bank.
It is also worth mentioning again, that Blackstar was founded with many ex-Marshall employees, who use their knowledge and experience to create great products but at more affordable prices. There’s also a really useful official forum where people can ask questions, share tips or discuss Blackstar products with other enthusiasts.
Weighing around the same as a bunch of bananas, the Blackstar Fly 3 is certainly a portable amp. Its highly compact size of 170 mm x 126 mm x 102 mm means it will fit snuggly in any rucksack or satchel, removing the need for amp cases that incur additional expense.
The tape delay on its own is enough to sell the Blackstar Fly 3, but the other features such as the MP3 / line input in addition to this are an added bonus. Users cite that this is a simple, not overly-fussy amp to use and claim that the features are useful, easy, and adaptable.
We are old hands at researching instruments and equipment, so certainly not new to finding negative ratings and high levels of criticism for some of the products we investigate. It has to be said that verified purchasers of the Blackstar Fly 3 are all incredibly thrilled with this portable amp on a variety of different platforms.
Guitarists, from bedroom players to street performers, can’t praise the Blackstar Fly 3 highly enough. With musicians who have decades of experience claiming it to be ‘the best amp they have ever purchased’ and others calling it a ‘game-changer,’ positive vibes are flying high for this low-cost guitar amp.
Taking advantage of a pro coverage plan will gain you up to 5 additional years of added financial protection. This is available on the Blackstar Fly 3 at Guitar Center.
If you’re looking to purchase the Fly 3 from Reverb, similar additional coverage is in place. For purchases of the Fly 3 on Amazon, you’d have to contact the individual seller for their warranty information. However, Amazon does support returns for products that arrive faulty or damaged.
Cons of the Blackstar Fly 3
Here are some aspects we should make you aware of:
The Blackstar Fly 3 is a compact amp with a 3-W, 3-inch speaker. It isn’t going to blow your socks off. When you consider the Marshall Code 50 has a 100-W version and a 12-inch speaker, it’s really in a different league to the Blackstar Fly 3. There are much more powerful and significantly louder amps out there.
Want More Watts? Pay For More Watts
We can’t grumble at the retail price of the Blackstar Fly 3 – anywhere on the web. But, we can point out that the manufacturers are obviously aware of its low wattage and sell an extension cab separately for added power.
The Blackstar Fly 3 is made of plastic; there’s no solid-wood foundation like you get with other – more expensive – amps. The control knobs are too plastic, so if you want an amp that is aesthetically pleasing, the Blackstar Fly 3 can look more like a plastic toy than a serious instrument add-on.
When you’re playing at full volume, you will only get around 4 hours of battery time without an extension cab. This can be a huge negative for road trips, busking, or providing a night of entertainment. However, you could override this issue by purchasing rechargeable batteries and a Smart Charger to ensure you have charged/charging batteries on the go.
Are there any Alternatives?
Finding the best guitar amp for you depends on many things; as this feature is about a battery-powered mini amp, we’re going to look into the alternative amps that are relatively similar for fairness.
Boss KTN-MINI Katana-Mini Guitar Amplifier – Top Seller
The Boss KTN-MINI Katana-Mini Guitar Amplifier comes at a slightly higher cost than the Blackstar Fly 3 but has tons of features, making the higher price understandable. To begin with, the power is already 7-W, and the 6 Alkaline batteries are included.
This portable amp has a rich and full sound said to exceed other amps in its class. It is slightly heavier than the FLY 3, weighing 1.2kg and overall a bigger size: 230 x 116 x 181 mm.
There is an AUX input to allow for smartphone connectivity to jam along with your phone’s music library or stream from the internet. The Boss KTN-MINI amp also has a recording output with special cabinet voicing to give a real mic’d amp tone.
It isn’t feature-heavy, but it works well with metal music, producing some pleasing AC/DC tones – a surprise for a mini amp.
Roland Micro Cube
Coming in black, white, or red, the Roland Micro Cube would be recommended to others by verified purchases at Guitar Center. It’s a 3-W micro amp that is battery-powered, offering 25-hours of play at a time. It comes with an AC adapter and carrying strap.
We love that there is a chromatic tuner built-in and that it provides tones for any musical style, including heavy rock – thanks to the newly added Extreme amp to kick things up a notch.
The Roland Micro Cube also has a MIC setting, making it compatible with a voice microphone, and it has eight DSP effects meaning pedals don’t need to be purchased separately.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Blackstar Fly 3
Answer: The Fly Stereo Pack comes with everything you need, including the extension cabinet and power supply. It is currently on offer on the brand’s website for one month only!
Answer: If you were to purchase the Blackstar Fly 3 from a retailer such as Guitar Center, there is the option to take out a Pro Coverage plan, which gives added protection and steps in when typical ‘wear and tear’ coverage ends.
Pro Coverage often includes; 100% coverage for commercial use, accidental damage protection, repair costs for up to 5 years, and free shipping for returns or repairs.
Final Thoughts on the Blackstar Fly 3 Battery Powered Amp
The Blackstar Fly 3 isn’t the only amp on the market that promises to work well as both an amp and a mini hi-fi, but we would say it was likely the cheapest.
Once you’re on board with the 3-W, we don’t feel you could be disappointed with the overall performance of this amp. It has a lot going for it and tons of features you wouldn’t expect for the price.
The sound and power are adequate for bedroom playing, small venues, or street performers, and 50 hours of battery life, at lower volumes, is the most generous we have found for battery-powered amps.
Jodie is a trained classical guitarist. She is also a full-time blogger and loves to write about different types of guitars. Just give her 60 seconds of your time, and she’ll tell you all that you need to know about any guitar of your choice.