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What makes an amp the best Harp Amp?

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  • #16
    56 Years OF Harp

    Hello Lovers If Harp Amp Heaven :

    When I finally got around to a harp amp my first was a little Gibson Skylark , took out the old 8"Jensen ( still have it ) and stuck in a 8" JBL and man what a beautiful difference .
    Sure the squawk and stuff diminished , personally I like that . The harmonics were affected too in my opinion again in a favorable manner . Over all performance was great . I like the jazzy side of harp's sounds , the warm sweet side .

    My style is rather eclectic ...

    .......With 56 years of music it can be no other way , don't care who you are .

    Horizons broaden one's palette with more color so's to speak . I'll do Ellington and turn around and do Dixon jump to Hank Williams and then to Van Morrison for some jazzy rocking soul blues . Then I rock-a-billy it some too and am sure glad I did and do cause 12 years ago I hooked up Chan Romero ( go ahead and google his name ) my rock-a-billy living legend , I get to play with him regularly .

    I had a great big @$$ X2 12" Celestians in a 60 watt Marshall - same over all sound as the little Gibson Skylark . Loved it used it - abused it - it was perfect save the fact I'm getting older and it appeared to be gaining weight and would not go on a diet .

    Then .......

    Coming home form San Diego after gigging I passed the Carvin factory when it was in Escondido ( now it's in San Diego ) and stopped in and asked if I could come back when I had time and audition my Marshall next to a X-60 tube amp ( 60 watts ) and was told sure .

    I came back a week later side by sided them and spent a whole afternoon ( yep from about 1:00PM till they asked me to leave at 5:00PM ) and sold that fat @$$ Marshall ........

    It's now 17 years since that occasion and that Carvin is still cranking serious stuff .

    Some where a few years ago I ended up with a Gretsch OLD TIMY Electrophonic - - Oh Yeah - - Class A with a electromagnet and not a ceramic or anilco wrapped around the speakers voice coil !

    This is one serious squawk and raunch to the max , in a league of it's own . Love it as much as the Skylark for different reasons .

    All these tube amps really give out the vintage vibe for real in the audio spectrum that they excel in . Big difference is the physical punch that diminishes from going down in power and speaker area size and that's about it . I can get feedback Doppler waves ala Jimi Hendrix on them all .

    After years at it and going pro in 77 on a harp I have played through many amps - Bassmans - Supertwins - with any and all the so called must have's in tube designs and wattage's and they are all good and wonderfully great .

    But in the final it's the lips - lungs - and love - that make it happen .

    I can be comfortable with a great P . A . too and rip Paul Butterfield's Mojo , and then jump on a jazzy piece like Howard Levy on a 10 hole doing chromatic chops to get the notes on Lady's A Tramp or nuances to Hoagy Carmichael's " Giorgia " all on a P . A . and get it done right and tight .

    I can ( I know some are reading this and will say " ¡ no way ! " ) get Doppler feedback on a P . A . too heh heh heh .

    I think amp makers these days are turning out fantastic stuff , the kind of stuff that is showing up in younger harp player's quivers and that truly is a great and good thang because it means the music is not only being played , it also being taken to new territory's and that I really love .

    Besides the amp thang .......... I love acoustic harp amplification too and have only these types of recorded examples to demonstrate and since this is about amps I won't post them .

    One is a patriotic ditty written and sung by my man Chan and the other 3 examples are unplugged live youtube vid's with Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos - Eric Burdon WAR & Animals - Mark Guerrero (got me da gig heh heh ) friend and guitar man extraordinaire and me .

    Any one want a listen say so

    Well that's a little of my experience(s) I hope some one finds worth wasting time reading heh heh heh .

    I had a little miracle after waiting 36 years - 3 months and 11 days and now all my harp amps double up for guitar amps now ! I love my tube amps !

    Easy Blood Brothers Of Wind Power :

    Hurricane Ramon


    • #17
      I like the Kendrick "So-Lo" theory on his guitar amp. Switch to cut power down for private practice. Headphone jack,I know it is hard and maybe darn near impossible uness you also provide the headphones, but you ask for the ideal amp. Mine would need headphones to keep the dogs quiet during practice.


      " Is anything easier done than said?"


      • #18
        Gerald describes a head phone hook up for a tube amp in his book "Tube amp talk for guitarist & tech". But for harp, you have to consider that it is an acoustic instrument, even if you can't hear it with headphones on, everyone else can. After a point there's not much need for a super quiet harp amp, because it would be overpowered by the instrument.


        • #19
          I feel sorry for you Bruce. It may not be easy to have the harmonica world's best-known troublemakers as advertisement. I know several players refrain from buying a good harmonica amplifier to a nice price from you because of him. He has written their speeches as if he had been an important part in the development and calls it "our amp".
          Its no good for your business.


          • #20
            I'm not sure what you mean, "even if you can't hear it with headphones on." Even when I practice acoustically, the sound I hear is diffferent than someone standing in front of me. I like to practice with the bullet mic in my hand and if it is not turned on it is weird sounding, in my head. So, if I run the mic into my solid state Fender, add a little delay, and listen to myself through the headphone, I get a better idea of the sound I project.
            I think!

            I may be all wet here but since I like the headphone sound of stereo SO much better than open air, it makes since to me to have a headphone option on the tube amp as well.

            I just saw a YouTube with Kim Wilson in a studio setting and all the musicians were wearing headphones while they were playing.

            The Kendrick "So - LO" not only has the headphone jack (admittedly for guitar) but it also has the selectable output wattage.



            • #21
              I don't think I would ever offer a headphone output... it's just never asked of me but line out jacks are and I do a few of those kinds of mods to existing amps too.

              Mission Harp Amps - home

              Mission Amps
              Denver, CO. 80022


              • #22
                The So Lo 7 headphone jack doesn't care whether you are playing a harp or guitar, selectable outut wattage is common on high end practice amps, usually via a switchable resistive attenuator, or "L" pad.

                My point was that you are better getting used to what you sound like, without an amp & developing your tone without anything "flattering" the sound (which may be difficult to replicate on stage/at jams/through other players gear - if you get it down "at source" you'll still make a goodsound through other gear), when I practice (& most folks I know), I might cup a mic but it won't be plugged in. Headphone jack is more understandable for say a strat, because there is very little acoustic sound from the instrument. Even if you play cupped into an amp with a headphone jack, your dogs will still hear your harp, if not what's coming out of the phones.

                It is usual for studios to supply headphones so performers can monitor themselves, especially when using powerful stage type amps in a confined space (like they are in the Wilson clip - looks like a brown Super to me). Back in the day at Chess Malcolm Chisolm, however, stated that they avoided headphones at all costs because it made the singers sing flat.


                • #23
                  Originally posted by MWJB View Post
                  Back in the day at Chess Malcolm Chisolm, however, stated that they avoided headphones at all costs because it made the singers sing flat.
                  As far as I know this is true. Back in those days they couldn't just patch in a digital reverb, but nowadays, adding reverb to the singer's headphone mix helps a lot. It doesn't work for every singer, but it worked for everyone I've ever recorded with, which isn't saying a lot mind you.

                  If you have a singer that can't use headphones, multitrack recording gets tricky.
                  "Enzo, I see that you replied parasitic oscillations. Is that a hypothesis? Or is that your amazing metal band I should check out?"


                  • #24
                    Doing a "Van Gogh - one phone on, one phone off - usually helps me.


                    • #25
                      Back to speaker question...

                      As I also hear and read much about speaker config in harp-amps since years, I'll try the "exotic" way too now, and mix speaker sizes in my 71' Fender Super Reverb.

                      The amp is already "harp-modified" so it doesn't matter to be less original anymore...

                      Instead or three of four 10" speakers I ordered one Weber 12A125-O, and two Weber 8" AlNiCo Signature, which I know from my HG2.
                      So the Configuration will be: on 12", one 10" and two 8"s. I was satisfied with the sound till now, but I expect , that the Super will deliver and combine even more Bandwith of the Frequencies.

                      After finishing that modification - I will report the effect here


                      PS: please apologize my english - I'm from Austria


                      • #26
                        Spritty wrote: "but I expect , that the Super will deliver and combine even more Bandwith of the Frequencies." Well mixing 10"s of differing frequency responses (some dark, some bright) will do that, without changing speaker sizes. Going for different sizes of cones has more effect on projection & spread of sound.


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Bruce / Mission Amps View Post
                          My plan so far is; 25 watts, two 6L6s and two preamp tubes.... a mix between a Masco 18, tweed 5F4/5E5 and a GA 6 Gibson and with a variable line out.
                          Originally posted by Bruce / Mission Amps View Post
                          I think the hard Chicago boogie players like the colder fixed bias tone.
                          I think you're right, Bruce. If my memory serves me correctly, there's reproduction of a tweed super that serves as the house harp amp at a local nightclub that's owned by a guy who plays a polka-dotted guitar. Its the fixed bias / 6L6 version of the circuit.
                          "Stand back, I'm holding a calculator." - chinrest

                          "I happen to have an original 1955 Stratocaster! The neck and body have been replaced with top quality Warmoth parts, I upgraded the hardware and put in custom, hand wound pickups. It's fabulous. There's nothing like that vintage tone or owning an original." - Chuck H


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by bob p View Post
                            I think you're right, Bruce. If my memory serves me correctly, there's reproduction of a tweed super that serves as the house harp amp at a local nightclub that's owned by a guy who plays a polka-dotted guitar. Its the fixed bias / 6L6 version of the circuit.
                            Ha ha ha... OK, guess we know who that is.
                            Done the harp modded tweed 5F4, 5E5 and 5F7 a few times.. this one is different.... 1x12.
                            What I ended up doing is now called the Chicago 32-20. Some you older blues cats might rememebr that Robert Johnson song.
                            It does have fixed bias and cathode bias switching and runs two 6L6s at about 420vdc.
                            It makes about 30-32 watts in fixed bias and about 20-22 watts in cathode bias.
                            The deep switching is really a plus but was very tricky to implement with out killing the very life out of the amp.
                            I just recently started putting an spst on the first preamp triode stage's cathode bypass cap as I actually liked it with or without too much to not do it.
                            I'm sticking with that 12" Eminence hemp cone Cannabis Rex for now ... it just seems to work really well with this configuration.

                            Mission Harp Amps - Blues Harmonica Amplifiers - home

                            Mission Amps
                            Denver, CO. 80022


                            • #29
                              I know there are many great sounding amps for harp that have 12A?7 preamp tubes, but I have a Fat Dog Model 1a amp that is the sweetest sounding harp amp that I've heard so far, and it has octal preamp tubes (a 6SJ7 and a 6SN7). Also, the most coveted Masco amps (MA-17 and ME-18) have octal preamps.


                              • #30
                                Not disagreeing with you but, the trouble with octal preamp tubes (if they don't necessarily sound great in a specific amp) is that there are fewer plug in alternatives. With a noval socket you can sub four or five alternatives. Gary Onofrio's cathode biased SJ1 & SJ2 amps were based on a MA17 type topology and they certainly had that 50's PA vibe, he used 9-pin preamp tubes.

                                No matter how much homework you have done on the circuit, it's still useful to have options, especially when faced with a selection of mics with differing outputs.

                                The vast majority of stage amps used for harp have 12A#7 tubes.


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