Blackstar Fly 3 Review – You won’t really believe your ears!

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Blackstar Fly 3 - The special "Union Jack" version of the amp.
Special “Union Flag” Edition

In this article, I’ll tell you why the Blackstar Fly 3 is an excellent choice for a practice amp, whether you are a beginning guitar player or a pro. I’ll also explain the difference between the available models and accessories.

Read on to see why this might be the perfect choice for you, especially if you need a portable amplifier or are on a budget.


Who Is Blackstar?

Blackstar Fly 3 -A photo of the Blackstar logo.

Blackstar is a company based in Northampton, England. It was founded by Bruce Keir (technical director) and Ian Robinson (managing director and former chief design engineer at Marshall). The company is run by a group of musicians and former Marshall amplification employees with over 50 years of combined experience. It was officially launched in 2007.

Blackstar makes guitar amplification equipment and effects pedals for boost & overdrive, distortion, modulation, reverb, and delay. The company has been endorsed by artists such as Neal Schon, Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, Warren Haynes, and Leslie West.


Blackstar Fly 3 - Photo of the amp.
Classic Black Edition

What Is The Blackstar Fly 3?

The Blackstar Fly 3 {AKA Blackstar Fly 3 Mini Guitar amplifier) is a lightweight practice amp designed to be portable and usable in a variety of situations. It can run on batteries or a power adaptor. It was designed to sound great and be affordable for beginning guitarists of all ages.

It has two channels (clean and overdrive) as well as a tape delay. The Blackstar Fly 3 can emulate the basic tonal characteristics of American and British amps. The amplifier has a line in for jamming with MP3s and a headphone jack for noise-free practice.

The amplifier can connect to an optional extension speaker cabinet to double the amp’s power and give it stereo capability (more on that below).


How The Blackstar Fly 3 Works

The Blackstar Fly 3 was designed to meet mobile guitar players’ needs that take a guitar and practice (headphone) amp on the run for work or fun. It is also an ideal amp for new guitar students who do want to spend a lot of money on equipment at the beginning.

The amplifier’s sealed housing was mathematically modeled to produce the sound characteristics of a wooden speaker cabinet. The specially designed “linear” full-range single three-inch speaker eliminates the need for an electronic crossover, which can detract from the tonal characteristics of the amp.

You only get the amplifier when you buy the most basic Fly 3 package (the Blackstar Fly 3 stand-alone unit). Blackstar recommends that you run the amp on 6 AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries. The power supply is not included but is available for purchase separately.

In this configuration the Blackstar Fly 3 amplifier produces 3 watts of output power.

The Blackstar Fly 3 can give you up to 55 hours of battery life, depending on playing conditions.

Blackstar Fly 3 Control Panel

The controls on the Blackstar Fly 3 are fundamental and logically arranged (see the control panel photo above).

From left to right, here is a list and brief description of the components of the control panel.

  • Input jack (1/4 inch) – This is where you plug in your guitar.
  • Gain control – Adjusts the gain level of the pre-amp.
  • Overdrive switch – Adds overdrive or distortion, depending on the gain and volume control settings.
  • Volume control – Adjusts the volume level of the amp.
  • ISF EQ – This is Blackstar’s patented EQ that allows for continuous adjustment of the amp’s overall tone. A setting of zero will give an “American” amp tone, while setting it on 10 will give a “British” amp tone. You can use any setting in between zero and 10 to get a wide variety of amp tones.
  • Delay level – Sets the amount of analog delay for the amp.
  • Delay time – Sets the length of analog delay for the amp. Note that delay level and time can be adjusted to emulate the sound of an analog reverb.
  • Power switch – Turns the amplifier on and off.
  • MP3/Line-in jack – A stereo jack that lets you connect an MP3 player or laptop to the amplifier to play over a jam track background. Note the Blackstar Fly 3 Bluetooth amplifier allows you to make this connection wirelessly.
  • Emulated output and headphones jack – This stereo output allows you to send a “speaker cabinet” emulated output to an MP3 recorder or a digital recording studio. It can also be used as a headphone jack.

Blackstar Fly 3 Specifications

Here are the specifications for the Blackstar Fly 3 amplifier.

ComponentSpecification
Power3 watts, 6 watts with extension cabinet
TechnologyAnalogue
InputsGuitar input and Stereo MP3/Line Input
OutputStereo Emulated Line-Out/Headphone
ChannelsTwo channels (clean & overdrive)
SpeakerOne “linear” three-inch speaker
Dimensions6.7 inches (W) X 5.0 inches (H) X 4.0 inches (D)
Weight2.0 pounds

This is a video from Blackstar that demonstrates the basic operation of the Blackstar Fly 3 amplifier.


Blackstar Fly 3 Models

This Blackstar Fly 3 is available in 4 different packages, which can help you get the most out of the amplifier in terms of stereo sound, volume, and the instrument you play. Listed below are the purchasing options for this amp.

Blackstar Fly 3 - Photo of the amp.

Blackstar Fly 3 (amp only)

This is the classic version of the amp-only that was discussed above. You get the basic 1 speaker 3-watt mono sound unit. It can be configured to stereo sound by adding the extension cabinet. It does not come with the optional power adaptor but is ready to run on battery power.

This is a great way to purchase the amp, especially if you are on a budget because you can add the extension cabinet and power adaptor later on if so desired.

Blackstar Fly 3 Bluetooth

Blackstar Fly 3 - Bluetooth Edition control panel.

The Blackstar Fly 3 Bluetooth is the same unit, except that it has built-in Bluetooth capability to wirelessly connect to a sound source like the MP3 player on your smartphone or a laptop. It still has the MP3/Line-in jack to use as a wired connection, if you wish.

If you look closely at the photo on the right, you can see the Bluetooth light and button to activate it and pair to devices just to the left of the guitar input jack.

Blackstar Fly 3 - Stereo Pack edition of the amp.

Blackstar Fly 3 Stereo Pack

The Blackstar Fly 3 Stereo Pack (AKA Blackstar fly 3w guitar combo amp pack) is for those guitar players that want a full stereo set-up right from the start.

It comes with the amplifier and the Blackstar Fly 3 extension cabinet that plugs into it. It also includes the power adaptor, so there is nothing more to buy. In this configuration, the power is boosted to 6 watts of stereo output.

Blackstar Fly 103 Extension Cabinet

Blackstar Fly 3 - The model 103 Extension cabinet.

The Blackstar 103 Extension Cabinet is available for those guitar players that originally bought the stand-alone Blackstar Fly 3 and are looking to upgrade the amp to stereo sound and more power.

This cabinet comes with a pre-attached cord that plugs directly into the back of the Blackstar Fly 3, which makes the extension cabinet the slave unit.

You may need the extension cabinet, as an afterthought, to boost the output power to 6 watts for outdoor use or if you decide to connect it to your laptop to use as a set of powered stereo speakers.


Blackstar Fly 3 Bass And Acoustic Amps

Blackstar also makes Fly 3 amps specifically for bass and acoustic guitar. Both these amps have their own electronic design, which is completely optimized for the two instruments, just like the Fly 3 guitar amp. They are each 3-watt amps and can connect with an extension cabinet to double the power and provide stereo output.

Blackstar Fly 3 Bass

Blackstar Fly 3 - The control panel of the bass amp.

The Blackstar Fly 3 Bass is a 2 channel (clean and overdrive) amp designed especially for bass guitar players. It has a continuously variable mid-cut EQ, a “Sub-bass,” and a compressor, all of which help control low-frequency dynamics.

The EQ can create a 400Hz cut, while the compressor can boost the lower frequency output and sustain. The amp also features a harmonic generator set by the sub control to add an additional low-frequency tone. The tone is mixed together with the normal signal to create a perception of bigger low-end girth.

This amp can connect to the Blackstar Fly 103 extension cabinet.

Blackstar Fly 3 Acoustic

Blackstar Fly 3 - The control panel of the Acoustic model.

The Blackstar Fly 3 Acoustic has a “Shape” button, which provides two switchable EQ shapes. Shape one gives you a flat response, while shape two gives a mid-cut with boost from the treble and bass controls.

The amp also has a built-in echo effect, which replaces the delay on the standard amp. The echo level and echo time controls can be adjusted to add a natural ambiance to the guitar’s sound.

The Blackstar Fly 3 Acoustic connects with the Fly 103 Acoustic powered cabinet.


Blackstar Fly 3 Features And Benefits

A photo of a circuit board.

Blackstar Fly 3 amps can save you money by allowing you to buy just what you need. You can always buy the power adaptor and extension cabinet separately, should the need arise.

Using the single-cabinet amp running on battery power, you can take the Fly 3 just about anywhere, like camping or anyplace else that space and electricity are in short supply.

The amps are available in several graphic designs, including standard (classic) black, the “Union Flag” design pictured above, cream, green, and “vintage,” among others.

Blackstar technical support and service seem to be more than adequate. Everyone there is friendly and willing to help, and why shouldn’t they be? After all, they are also musicians.


What I like About The Blackstar Fly 3

An image of someone giving a "Thumbs Up."

Both the clean and overdrive channels sound great and can give you the sound you want by adjusting the EQ and gain. You can go from American chime to British crunch to full-throttle distortion in the blink of an eye.

This amplifier’s three-watt power output produces a surprising amount of volume, even in a larger room or outdoors. As they say at Blackstar, this amp is “powerful enough to blow the windows out of any dollhouse.”

If that’s not enough power, you can always add the extension cabinet to boost it up to 6 watts and make it a stereo system on both the input and output sides.

In the stereo configuration, the amp can double as a sound system for your laptop or MP3 player or be used to send a 2 channel signal to your digital audio workstation.

I also like that the amp is analogue, not digital, which makes it more naturally organic sounding.


An image of someone giving a "Thumbs Down."

What I Don’t Like About The Blackstar Fly 3

I would have preferred that Blackstar include the power adaptor with the basic amp package and charge $10 more, but I realize that they were trying to keep the price as low as possible to make it affordable for everyone.

The amp can get a little noisy in the higher gain settings, especially when using the extension cabinet and the power supply. This is probably the most common complaint among reviewers.

A reverb function on the Fly 3 Guitar model would have been a welcome addition, although the delay settings can be adjusted to mimic reverb. It might be a little piggish to ask for overdrive/distortion, reverb, and delay in an amp of this price range, but I can dream, can’t I?

Blackstar Fly 3 - A photo of the amp's Power Supply
Blackstar Fly 3 Power Adaptor

Beware Of The Power Supply Voltage!

If you buy a power adaptor as an add-on, please buy it directly from Blackstar (PSU-1) or the actual Blackstar unit from somewhere else. If you decide to buy a third-party non-Blackstar power supply, then be sure to get the correct voltage with the proper pin polarity (center positive)!

The Blackstar Fly 3 adaptor is 6.5V 1.5A. Using a 9-volt power supply or the wrong pin polarity will damage the amplifier!

Blackstar Fly 3 - A photo of the Power Supply Label

Does The Blackstar Fly 3 Live Up To Its Name?

The Blackstar Fly 3 product line of amps gives you way more than you would typically expect to receive in this price range. Blackstar has set a new standard for a battery-powered amp this size. Sound quality and functionality make this a top choice among its competitors.

Blackstar has clearly produced another winner, worthy of their name and reputation. These people are most definitely serious about their sound.


Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, if you are looking for a portable practice amp with the sound to get the job done, then you should check out the Blackstar Fly 3.

It’s a great starting amp for someone on a budget, and the sound of the Fly 3 will encourage you to practice as much as you can.

This amp is a lot of fun, and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one. If your neighbors have been banging on the walls, plug some headphones into this little guy to treat them to the wonderful sound of silence before they come on over to introduce themselves.


A rock band of figures made from nuts and bolts.

Tell Us What You Think

Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this Blackstar Fly 3 review, have any questions about this product, or want to leave your own personal review. I will be happy to help you.

  • Do you already own a battery-powered practice amp, and if so, which one?
  • Have you tried or own the Blackstar Fly 3, and what do you think about it?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how to improve this amp?
  • Do you think this amp would be a good choice for the style of music you play?

If you are looking for a high-end combo amp, then check out Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo Review – Can You Say “Awesome”?

About Frank

Blackstar Fly 3

$64
9.5

Product Functionality

10.0/10

Support

9.0/10

Overall Quality

9.5/10

Pros

  • Small & Portable
  • Great Sound
  • Clean & Overdrive Channel

Cons

  • Can Be Noisy
  • Power Adaptor Not Included
  • No Reverb

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4 thoughts on “Blackstar Fly 3 Review – You won’t really believe your ears!”

  1. Thank you for introducing us to Blackstar Fly3. Your review is in-depth and you left no stone unturned. I  will be exploring this for my son, who is a beginner. I love that it is easy to move and go around with. It looks like it has all the necessary features one will need even if he is a learner. Thank you again 

    Reply
    • Hi Bogadi,

      Thank You for your comment!

      I think your son will be thrilled with this amp. It is very adaptable to any style of music, and the price is hard to beat for all you get.

      Please let me know if you have any questions about the amplifier.

      Frank

      Reply
  2. Wow, we have a lot of gear that comes through our studio (both our own plus that of our bandmates who practice with us), but I am completely unfamiliar with Blackstar amps. I wonder if it is more available and common in England and Europe since the company is based there? Seems like a pretty versatile little practice amp, which could be great for anyone who doesn’t want to lug around a gigging amp for regular practice days. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hi Aly,

      Thank you for your comments!

      Yes, I believe that Blackstar amps and effects are more commonly used in England and Europe but they are continually increasing in popularity in the U.S.A.

      The Fly 3 is an awesome little practice amp that can be micked or sent as a line-level signal to a DAW or house PA.

      You should check out their products if you get the opportunity, really great stuff!

      Frank

      Reply

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