America retired Soundwave's toy around 1986 or so. But Japan wanted to still get some use out of him, and so they re-released him in black as "Soundblaster." That sentence of setup only really exists so that I can tell you that in the Hong Kong-produced English dubs of Japan's Headmasters cartoon, in which Soundblaster appears, he is called "New Soundwave." That is his actual name. And that hilarious fact is the only reason I'm not completely bored out of my mind owning this toy. (I bought it nominally to get the new Mini-Cassettes he comes with.)
Soundblaster (aka New Soundwave) is Soundwave with his blues changed to black. No other deco is changed at all. No new stickers, nothing. Let's face it. That's not a very striking change. You can achieve the look with a Soundwave toy by just squinting at it in dim lighting. So colors-wise, he's not a very compelling redeco.
What does make Soundblaster stand out is the one molding change done to him. Instead of the original flat cassette door, Soundblaster's door is an extruded box, making it possible to fit two Mini-Cassettes into his chest at the same time. This is neat and it is also ugly. He's already a giant mini-cassette recorder, but now he's one with a weird-ass bulbous door.
This "Encore" version of Soundblaster (meaning this is at least the second time they're reissued him) has some additional changes done to his deco versus the original reissue, which was a more faithful recreation of the vintage release. My favorite change is the conversion of nearly all of his stickers into tampographed deco. It's a little anti-climactic to pull Soundblaster out of the packaging and not get to put stickers on him, but I think it's worth it in the long run to not have stickers drying up and peeling off. Some of the converted sticker deco works way better as paint, like the tiny analog time stamps on his upper right chest, since you're not covering over sculpted detail with a flat decal.
However, TakaraTomy didn't take the opportunity to "fix" some of his deco in the conversion from stickers to paint. See, original Soundblaster's stickers were unchanged Soundwave stickers, meaning there are these areas of blue that are meant to be continuations of Soundwave's blue surfaces. But even now, those parts still remain blue, even though now they're painted on. Durp.
Another thing they changed was the paint on Soundwave's face. It's an attempt at show-accuracy, so not only does he now have red eyes instead of the original yellow, but he also has the rest of his face painted silver, as well as larger portions of his "sideburns." This makes him more different from Soundwave than before, so I'm in favor of it.
Mostly, I'm in favor of him being New Soundwave. And coming with the super-exciting two new tape guys who I'll talk about tomorrow.