Monday, June 30, 2008

Review: Harp Gear Double Trouble

[The Blues Harp Amps blog sends a big "Thanks!" to Joe for his generous contribution of this review.]

About four years ago, I started playing the harp again after laying off for a number of years. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a lot of harp players. There are almost as many Blues jams. I started hitting a few of them. I was able to try out a lot of different amplifiers.

In the past two years, I've owned several amps. Each of them had their own good and bad points. Tonally, I didn't have any issue with any of them. The main challenge that I had was finding a balance of volume and portability. Some amps were not loud enough. Others were too loud and not very portable. I found a good balance by picking up a Harpgear Double Trouble.

It's a killer amp that packs a surprising punch and is extremely versatile. It has a lot of great tones available in a nicely sized package. It's a righteous balance of portability, tone, volume and feedback resistance.

Portability - This amp is about as wide as a tweed Champ and about almost two feet tall. In the standard configuration, it features two 8" Weber Alnico speakers that are mounted vertically in the cabinet. I am going to guess it weighs less than twenty five pounds. It easily fits in the passenger seat of an average car. One can easily carry the amp in one hand and a suitcase full of harps in the other hand.

Tone - The tone control is incredibly useful. Leave it turned off and you'll get a nicely distorted tone. Turn it up and the tone cleans up nicely. You can dial in as much high end as you wish. The higher the tone control is set, the better the amp punches through the mix. It's a very useful control.

Volume - This amp has two 6V6 power tubes delivering 18 of the loudest and most useful watts around. In the stock configuration, it gets pretty darn loud. It is much louder than a Pro Junior or a Blues Junior. It isn't quite as loud as a tweed Bassman, but it can be very loud. It sits very comfortably on a chair. It's been played in some really loud places. I haven't been in a situation where I or the audience couldn't hear it.

Feedback Resistance - Battling feedback is a problem for most people playing amplified harmonica. One of the nicest features of the Harpgear Double Trouble is very feedback resistant. Feedback doesn't usually set in until the amp is close to the end of the sweep of the volume control. Depending on the microphone, it can be as high as 8 on the volume control. (Which is very loud.) Rarely, have I ever needed to turn it up that loud.

This amplifier sounds good with every microphone I own. A few months ago, some of the people on the Weber Harp BBS where posting sound clips of their amps on youtube. I contributed a couple of this amp with a couple of different microphones.

The first clip is a Shure 545 dynamic microphone plugged into input #1, volume at 6, tone on 10. Hohner Big River Harp key of A.

In the second clip, I am using an older MC-151 equipped Hohner Blues Blaster plugged into input #1, volume at 8, tone on 0. Hohner Big River Harp key of C.

Finally, another nice feature of the Harpgear Double Trouble is that it doesn't cost as much as a house payment or an annual IRA contribution.

[For more from Joe visit
Joe's Blues Blog.]


Captainrealestate said...

I also own a Double Trouble with an upgraded 12" Cannibus Rex (Brian recommended when I purchased it) and love it. I upgraded the preamp tube to a 12AX7 Telefunken and now I can only turn volume up to 2. I love it as it is loud, great tone and very portable. I also have a Harp Gear II that I use for gigs that require less volume. I have had them both for over a year and I don't take any of my other vintage amps out to gigs anymore. If I need more volume for outside gigs I just line out to the PA. Bob "The Captain" Boyd, Texas Tide Band

ianc said...

On my Double trouble amp input 2 has far more output than input 1. Is that the case with yours?

I cannot get my amp any louder than 4-5 before feedback sets in using input 2 and a mc 151 crystal jt 30.

Anonymous said...

I've owned a double trouble for about a year and a half and have found it to be a great sounding amp for it's size. I've tried it with many different mics and a few different tubes. The only real downside of it is it suffers from quite bad tube rattle and is no less resistant to feedback than most amps. All in all a handy little amp to have for smaller gigs

Joe said...

Input 1 appears to be the higher gain input on on my amp.