The concept of the practice amplifier has truly come a long way in recent years – it was something that seemed like it couldn’t be improved upon. Why does it need to sound great or have any advanced features? It’s just practice, right? It seemed like there was no need.

But the practice amp is the amp you will spend the most time with – you’re gonna be practicing a great deal more than you will be playing onstage. And deep down, we all know how soul-crushing it can be to sit in front of a garbage little amp with no effects or tone to speak of for hours at a time while trying to focus on playing well and learning. Well, it’s 2017, and there’s no excuse for playing a Gorilla practice amp anymore – enter the ID:Core Stereo 20 V2.

The ID:Core line of amps are Blackstar’s foray into the world of digital modeling amps, mostly in a practice size. One of the many advantages of going digital in a practice amp is the ability to use full-range speakers which cover the complete frequency spectrum, rather than midrange, honky guitar speakers, which means that when you run your mp3 player through it, it sounds like it’s coming through a stereo rather than a megaphone. The Stereo 20 is a true stereo amp, with two 5″ speakers each powered by an independent 10 watt amp, which means your effects come through in stereo as well. This also means that each channel can have a different cab sound that matches it, rather than being limited to the sound of the speakers in the amp (although the IRs for each channel are set and you cannot change them).

The Stereo 20 has a ton of useful features onboard that make your practice sessions more productive and enjoyable. There are 3 kinds of effects that you can apply simultaneously (Modulation, Delay, and Reverb) and within those categories there are 4 different types of each effect. You can easily do basic tweaks to them on the front panel and save them to one of the channels for later recall, or you can use the Insider software to go more in-depth editing the parameters of the effects and amp EQ. There is a footswitch jack so you can recall the patches you create and save (and backup to your computer), and a simple onboard tuner that is a great deal more accurate in the software.

For $149, (about what you would have paid for one of those old timey crap practice amps I described earlier) just that would have been more than enough. But the Stereo 20 does more – with the USB port, you can turn the amp into an audio interface for your computer to record direct, monitor, and re-amp, all direct through the USB connection using your DAW or the included Presonus Studio One (Blackstar Edition) recording software. This might not seem that cool if you’re already deeply invested in the home recording world and you have an interface and all that, but if you’re just getting started, having this feature built in for recording demos and ideas you have while practicing is really clutch. The ease of use is also a big factor for people who don’t want to have to be tech heads to get a good sound to tape.

It also features a direct in jack for your mp3 player or other audio source that outputs the sound without it going through the amp sound or effects, allowing you to jam along with the song without it being distorted, delayed, or otherwise changed. This also means you can just use it for casual listening of music and even a mini PA if you want.

All of this adds up to an incredible amount of value in a tiny, very affordable package. The practice amp of the future is helping your practice session instead of hindering it, and the limits of what you can do with it are few. If you’re looking for a fun, easy to use and powerful practice mate, you’d be remiss in leaving the the Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 20 V2 off your list.

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.

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  • Nice review. Practice amps have come along way from when I began in the 70’s and affordable too. If I had one of these amps when I started out I would have played more and be a different player than I am today.

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