I recently bought the Blackstar Fly 3 Mini and I have to say that it made a really good impression on me. Although I got it mainly for testing, I’m pretty sure that it’s gonna stay with me for a while.
The biggest advantages of Fly 3 Mini are portable size, amazing tone and quite a high versatility. It’s not that powerful, but in the world of mini amps, this is a pretty clear winner for me.
And that’s why I decided to create an in-depth guide about that tiny combo. It will be an unbiased review, so I won’t hide any flaws from you. I even recorded a few sound demos just for you so hopefully this will be a really helpful resource.
Here’s a quick sound sample. Yeah, I like reverb! Let’s use it as a warm up. You can also watch my in-depth video review here.
About Blackstar Fly 3 Mini
We already established that this tiny monster sounds good, but why exactly? Well, I broke it down into a few different sections.
As you can see on the closeup photo, the amp has quite a few different controls on it. That includes Gain, Volume, EQ and Delay. You can also switch between clean and overdrive with this tiny black switch between the first two knobs.
I’d say that even a complete idiot would be able to figure out how to use it. It’s very very straightforward, so if you’re worried that it’s going to be complicated, that won’t be a problem at all. But you can always check out the manual!
You can also use the line in to play your own backing tracks or the headphone output to practice quietly. It’s super useful if you’re a dad and you want to make sure not to wake your kids up!
Infinite Shape Feature (ISF)
Third control is a very important one, but if you’re a guitar noob, you’ll probably have problems with figuring out what it does. The EQ features the patented Infinite Shape Feature. Here’s an official quote from Blackstar:
The patented ISF control allows you to choose the exact tonal signature you prefer. Fully counter clockwise has a more American characteristic with a tight bottomend and more aggressive middle, and fully clockwise has a British characteristic which is more ‘woody’ and less aggressive. This leads to a very familiar, musical response.
Long story short – it gives you access to even more tones. And that’s a very good thing! Here’s a video about ISF if you want to dig deeper.
You will need six AA batteries or a 6.5V power adapter to use the Fly Mini. Yeah, I know – it’s a lot of batteries and it’s an extra cost, because most of the time they’re not included with the amp itself.
Here’s a photo of how it looks like inside (in case you don’t know what are AA batteries).
In my opinion, the build quality of that combo is very nice and it deserves a solid 8 or even 9 out of 10.
I’m not a huge fan of its appearance though. There are better looking mini amps out there. It’s totally subjective, but when I compared that combo with Fender Mini 57 or Orange Crush Mini, the Blackstar seemed a bit lame. Maybe I’m just used to the classic aesthetic!
But it’s not only about the looks – it’s also about the quality. The Fly 3 is made of of plastic and it feels quite heavy, especially with the batteries inside of it. It certainly doesn’t feel cheap at all. It’s probably one of the heaviest mini amps that I tried.
So don’t be afraid about the fact that it comes from an Asian factory – it’s not a problem at all. Also I’m not sure what are your thought on it, but I have a feeling that Chinese folks really improved their overall quality control in the last few years.
To make things as easy and transparent as possible, I recorded a few sound samples for you to hear. That includes the clean tone, overdrive/distortion and built-in delay effect.
I’m a big fan of distortion in that thing. Mini amps tend to sound like crap with overdrive, but this one is somehow different. I’m sure that you’ll agree once hear some of these samples.
Let me know in the comments what you think of that tone. For me it’s a solid 9 or even 10 out of 10. Remember how small that thing is! The sound with pedals is also great.
Demo 1 – Clean Tone
Demo 2 – Dirty Tone
Demo 3 – Delay Effect
Pretty good for a cheap amp, huh? If you want to hear more tones, you can always check out my full video review below.
Extension Speaker Mod
What’s interesting, you can get an additional speaker cabinet and use it together with this amp. Whether you decide to buy it straight away as a bundle or after a few months, the option to do so is there.
Not many amps have that option available, so it’s definitely an interesting thing. It will give you a bit more punch. I might get it for myself eventually and if I’ll do so, I’ll definitely update this blog post.
As of now, I can only recommend you checking out some videos on YouTube just to have a brief idea of what it is and how it looks like.
Let’s be honest – it’s not the cheapest small amp out there. You will be able to find a more affordable gear, but it doesn’t mean that it will be on the same level.
Yeah, you could probably get something like Marshall MG10 or Fender Frontman 10G for a similar amount of cash… I guess it all depends on what kind of amp you’re looking for. These two amps aren’t portable, so that’s a pretty big difference.
Curious about the prices? There are a lot of options out there. You can try Amazon, Guitar Center, Sweetwater, Thomann or even your local music store. Facebook groups are great too. Sometimes finding used gear is even better for your wallet.
But let’s say that you’re a broke ass college student and you really care about every cent that you spent. Can you still afford it?
IMO, the money shouldn’t be a problem in this case. In the world of amps, this is cheap gear. Maybe in the world of mini amps it’s a bit more pricey than usual, but it’s all about the quality.
I wouldn’t say that this amp is overpriced. Definitely not! I’d say that the price is just about right. You get what you pay for – and that’s what really matters in the end!
For those who want to learn more about the nerdy details like specs, here’s a little table. And yes, it’s a very lightweight combo!
|Number of channels||Two|
|Additional Features||Delay Effect|
|Weight||Around 1 kg|
|Dimensions||17.5 x 13.6 x 10.7 cm|
|Power Supply||Batteries or 6.5V power supply (usually not included)|
By looking at the dimensions on the photo above, you can easily notice that this amp will pretty much fit on the palm of the hand. This means that you can take it with you absolutely anywhere.
It will probably be too big to fit into pockets of your jeans or jackets, but in the end.. who carries guitar amps in their pockets? That would be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?
The point I’m trying to make is that no matter how small amount of space you have in your room (or car), you will always find space for this tiny beast.
Pros & Cons
If there would be a thing called ‘Mini Amp Awards’, Blackstar Fly 3 Mini would most certainly be very likely to win it. It has a lot of pros, which include:
- Relatively low price
- Very simple to use
- Separate channels for clean and overdrive
- You can use it with headphones
Unfortunately, it’s not an ideal amplifier either. I came up with a list of a few things that you potentially won’t like. That includes:
- No reverb effect
- It’s not the cheapest mini amp out there
- Batteries or power supply are usually not included
- It’s not designed for perofrmances
Mini amps usually come without batteries, so that’s a pretty normal thing. But the lack of reverb or even chorus effect is very noticeable. I’m not a huge fan of delay so it’s just.. meh. You’ll most likely use it from time to time, but it’s not as relevant on a daily basis as you may think.
Who Is It For?
I’d say that the Fly 3 Mini was mainly created either for two groups of people: absolute beginners or a bit more intermediate players who are looking particularly for portability.
If you’re looking for your first amp, it will also be a good choice. If I were you, I’d actually go with a solid-state amp, but this Blackstar will still work well.
The relatively low price also means that it’s suitable for folks who don’t want to spend too much money on gear. Amps tend to be quite expensive, so it’s definitely a good choice for those with a tight budget.
So if you’re a teenager with no money or an adult with other financial responsibilities, don’t worry at all – this combo won’t drain your wallet.
Fly 3 Mini vs Similar Amps
I took it all even one step further and I directly compared Blackstar Fly 3 Mini with three other popular amps of that size:
- Fender Mini 57
- Orange Crush Mini
- Marshall MS-2
The results were pretty clear. I already knew that Fly 3 sounded the best out of all of them. And what’s important, it wasn’t only my impression. The viewers of my channel also agreed with me on that. I mean, look at these comments!
Don’t get me wrong – these other amps aren’t that bad either. But when you directly compare their tones, it’s clear that they sound a bit like toys, while Blackstar sounds more like a real amp.
It’s all about the sound quality and the depth of tone. When you combine it with portability, affordable price, solid build quality and high versatility – the final result can’t be different. So ladies and gentlemen, the Fly 3 definitely won that small competition!
Fender Mini 57 vs Marshall MS-2 vs Blackstar Fly Mini vs Orange Crush Mini
If you want to see that video, here it is.
I have to say that I had a lot of while while testing this tiny combo. I especially enjoyed comparing it with other amps of similar size
Would I recommend it? Absolutely!
But again, it all depends on what are your needs. Among the battery-powered mini amps, this is probably the best thing that you can get for the money.
It’s not the best combo in the world. You won’t be able to use it for gigs, rehearsals or studio sessions. But it wasn’t made to be used in these scenarios. It’s just an amp that you can take anywhere with you. And that’s the beauty of it!
So if you still don’t know whether you should get it or not, just listen to the video shared above. I think that it proves that among the combos of that size, you won’t be able to find anything better.
If you end up with actually getting it, leave a comment under this article and share your thoughts with me and my readers. The community will really appreciate your opinion! Perhaps it will help someone with making the right choice.
Thanks for reading my blog! If you want to read more of my in-depth reviews, they’re available in the Gear Reviews category.