Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Baddest Harp Amp on the Planet

Adam Gussow gushes about his 1956 Fender Bassman. You gotta watch this vid...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

D2F Amp Covers

D2F (Designed 2 Fit) amp covers are great: Well made, tight fitting, and padded. And, they are WAY less expensive than the covers some custom amp builders include with their overpriced amps to tack on a little more excess profit.

I've had a D2F cover for my Champ for a year, and I just ordered one for my Twin. Their website is here, and they have a large presence on eBay. Very highly recommended.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: Epiphone Blues Custom 30 Amp

Tried it. Didn’t like it.

I was interested in the
Epiphone Blues Custom 30 because it is switchable from 15 class A watts to 30 class AB watts. It has two 12-inch Eminence Lady Luck speakers, which sound great for blues harp in the little Epi Valve Jr. stack. It uses 5881 power tubes, similar to 6L6 tubes. The price is low, selling new for $549 everywhere.

So I went to
Rockley Music in Denver a couple months ago to check it out. They had five of these amps and were evidently having trouble moving them, so they offered it to me for $475. I plugged in my favorite bullet mic, fiddled with the gain and EQ, and tried a Bb harp.

Terrible. It reminded me of all the reasons I hate using guitar amps at blues jams: Shrill ice-pick tone with lots of feedback. I fiddled with the amp controls some more with no improvement. And this was in a rather large room using only the 15-watt setting. Maybe I could have taken it home, tinkered with the tubes and speakers and made a decent harp amp out of it, but I just didn’t have the patience for all that. Too many other projects.

Besides the terrible tone, the downside of the amp is its weight: about 65 pounds. I don’t really have room to talk on the amp weight issue since my
1973 Fender Twin Reverb weighs even more (especially with the Altec speakers), but the Fender is way more powerful (100 watts) and actually sounds pretty dang good for harp.

I have a pro guitar buddy who LOVES his Epi Blues Custom amp, but only after tweaking the crap out of it. (He installed Jensen Neo speakers to lose weight and improve tone, and he swapped the tubes for RCA NOS Blackplates.) Here is my advice: If you want to spend $500 on a harp amp, find a used Fender tube amp such as the Hot Rod Deluxe and swap a few tubes. You will easily get to a great harp tone the Epi Blues Custom (and many other guitar amps) just can't produce.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fender Twin Reverb Project

The Twin Reverb project amp is coming along. Here are a few pictures of its current state.

Details and sound samples will be added soon...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sabine FBX Solo 620-SL Feedback Exterminator

Feedback is a constant menace for amplified blues harp players. Walking around on stage with an open microphone in front of loud amplifiers is a recipe for speaker howl and audience complaints. We go to great lengths to avoid feedback, but the laws of physics and acoustics are hard to overcome.

One method of ameliorating feedback is to use devices such as the Sabine FBX Solo 620-SL Feedback Exterminator, which I recently gave up on. I was enthusiastic about it at first, but with real-world use over several months it lost its appeal. I used it less and less, and finally sold it when I downsized my gear collection a few weeks ago.

Yes, it did a pretty good job of targeting feedback and killing it, but it killed my sound, too. Imagine playing through a narrow-band EQ with your harp’s second or fourth draw tones rolled off by -12db… When you hit what you expect will be your killer tones, they are heavily attenuated to fight the feedback. Hey, I sound bad enough sometimes; I don’t need my best tones falling flat.

A more patient or careful user might get better performance from the Sabine FBX Solo. I did follow the instructions closely (they are helpfully printed right on the device), and I expected the performance to improve as I got to know the device better. But no luck.

The Sabine FBX Solo is not a magic feedback bullet for harp players. I’d like to hear from players who had better luck with it, but I cannot recommend it based on my experience.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Roland Cube 30X

As you may know, I have an affection for Roland Cube amps. Heck, I've even gigged with a Cube 30.

I bought this nearly new Roland Cube 30X for a friend, and I had it at my place for an afternoon before delivering it. I could not help myself... I plugged it in and fired it up, and played harp through it for an hour. What a great, fun little amp. Most of its amp emulations are too high-gain to work with a bullet mic, but the Tweed and Black Face settings are cool. The delay and reverb sound great. You can get a lot of fun tones (and considerable volume) out of this little amp. I paid $150 for it on Craigslist.