Saturday, May 8, 2010

In Defense of the 1x12 Harp Amp

I’ve seen a few remarks online by harp players maligning combo harp amplifiers that have a single 12-inch speaker. They take it as a given that the 1x12 configuration is known to be inferior for blues harp.

WTF are they talking about?

David Barrett has a Museum of Vintage Blues Harmonica Amplifiers at his Harmonica Masterclass website, and the most common configuration of all the amps listed is 1x12.

The list of legendary harp amps with a single 12-inch speaker includes (but is not limited to):

-Ampeg Reverbrocket
-Ampeg Jet
-Fender Tweed Deluxe
-Gibson GA20
-Gibson GA40
-Premier 120
-Silvertone 1432
-Silvertone 1482
-Kendrick Texas Crude

Indeed, the Masco PA amp that Little Walter was believed to have used had two 1x12 cabinets.

The Kendrick Texas Crude has been unfairly maligned by a certain competitor, which may have started this weird canard. I’ve played the Texas Crude and it is a beast: Loud, crunchy, and soulful, and remarkably feedback resistant.

Certain 12-inch speakers are well suited to harp tone. They have a great balance of fat lows and punchy mids, more so than other single speakers. Smaller speakers sound too pointy, and larger speakers sound too woofy. Amps with multiple speakers often cost much more then single-speaker combo amps, and they lose the cohesion of sound that emanates from a single driver. There is a very good reason so many classic harp amps are 1x12: They sing.

When I asked the question on Harp-L last year I got many different answers about the best speaker configuration for a gigging harp amp. Two very well known gigging pros replied with something like, “Just give me a good 1x12 amp.” I agree.

UPDATE: I thought of another great vintage 1x12 harp amp: The Flot-A-Tone amp my friend Al Chesis owns. Two 6L6 power tubes, great tone.

1 comment:

Mike Lynch said...

I use a '70s-something Fender Pro Reverb with two 12" Eminence speakers, and it sounds just fine, thank you very much!