Thursday, April 10, 2008

Review from Greg Heumann: SJ 410

When I started playing I chased amps like everyone does. I soon realized there were a lot of amps with cool names like "blues junior" that actually didn't sound very good for harp. I was taking lessons from Dave Barrett at the time, and although he recommended some amps I bought and rejected, he also introduced me to the Sonny Jr. amps. I decided I didn't want to chase amps forever, and that I never wanted to use my equipment as an excuse for any shortcomings in my own playing, so I decided to bite the bullet and get the Four-Ten, knowing it was an excellent choice. I never looked back. That amp GOT me gigs. I now own a Cruncher too - it is wonderful with more edge and definition, and I like it for smaller gigs, but ultimately, nothing fills a room like 4 Tens!

For those not familiar with the SJ410, it is modeled after the original '59 Bassman, but has several tweaks specifically for harp players. It has 2 Webers and 2 Eminence speakers, one of each has a ribbed cone and the other is smooth. this way any strangeness of any particular speaker isn't amplified times 4, but instead is smoothed out but the unique nuances of the other 3 speakers. The amp has a special 5 megohm input for crystal element lovers. Most importantly it is made with hand-picked transformers, paper/oil caps and is point-to-point wired. The difference between this amp and an off-the-shelf Bassman is immediately noticeable.

SO - my main gig rig is the Sonny Jr. Four-Ten. I add a Dan-Echo delay pedal and nothing else. I prefer to play through my wood-shell bullet mics. I've played every mic everyone raves about. Thank to my business I get to see a lot of mics, even rare and expensive ones. My wood mics sound great, are comfortable to hold for long gigs, and they're pretty! I think they sound as good as any mics I've ever played. Plus I might as well promote the stuff I sell - so why not?

I set my amp up with a 12AX, 12AU, 12AU tube set in the normal, bright and phase inverter positions respectively. Originally I followed the "Dave Barrett" ultra-dark tone settings, but over time I have evolved to want more edge and definition. I now like to run with the normal and bright channels bridged. I set the Bright volume at 5 or 6, and then set the Normal volume at whatever the gig calls for - for large venues this is usually 8 or so. Bass is on 10, treble on 6, mid on 2 1/2.

I also play Tenor and Baritone sax in my band, and when I'm not playing harp, I like to set my harp mic in a rack just under the SM57 mic I use for the bari. the SJ410 picks up the bari through the harp mic and adds a great punch to it, as well as helping me to hear it on stage.

[Greg Heumann is a fine harp player and mic/amp tech. Visit his website at]


Rick Davis said...

Greg, I certainly agree with you about the Blues Junior amp. I had one for a couple of years and just never liked the harp tone. I played one at a blues jam recently and was immediately reminded why I was so dissatisfied with mine.

They are a high-gain, boxy amp unsuited to the kind of blues harp tone many of us prefer. Even after modding mine with various tubes and tweaks it still sucked. I think my little '47 Gibson BR-6 sound a lot better.

Thanks again for sending this article. While I don't share your enthusiasm for the "SJ" amps, I do love your tone. I suspect you would get great tone playing any good amp.

Anonymous said...

what up with the disappearing content and the now locked topic?

Rick Davis said...

I took down the negative stuff about Gary Onofrio because he asked me to. I made my point, and it is done.

I still cannot recommend his amps, however. Other people swear by them. Opinions differ; such is life...