Monday, January 31, 2011

Blues Jam

I like this video clip from the Ziggies blues jam last night: Dan Solem tearin' it up on harp, Todd playing his cigar box guitar, Bubba on drums, and Cal on bass. All of them belting out a fun tune, "High Heeled Sneakers."

Dan is playing a Sonny Jr 410 amp, about 3 years old, and a JT-30 mic with a Shure CM element.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Club Sound

I've played in lots of clubs over the last several years, and a couple days ago I played a club with the best sound system/sound guy I've heard in a long time. It was in Cervantes' Other Side in Denver. The photo above was shot during load-in, with the sound guy walking toward the booth.

There is not much that sounds better to my ear than a great harp amp running though a great system. The tone was glorious; rich and full. I could hear myself perfectly through the monitors, every nuance, so my dynamics were easy. I never had to strain or try to feel my way through.

The monitors were old EVs from the 80s: Loud and Heavy! I own the same beasts and I love the sound but hate the weight.

In the top photo you can barely see my Mission Chicago 32-20 amp peeking over the monitor. The amp was on a milk crate and it was mic'ed up with a Shure SM57 on a stand. It wasn't lined out. There was a slight feedback issue if I stood directly in front of the left monitor, so I moved to the right a bit and everything was cool.

Fans who follow us from club to club raved about the sound. So did my bandmates. This was off-the-chart good. Too bad all clubs don't sound like this...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gig Flyer - The Blues Allstars

My Gig Rig

In my website traffic statistics I noticed a Google search for "what kind of harp does Rick Davis play?" Here's the answer: Hohner Special 20, Marine Band Deluxe, and Crossover harps. At this time all my harps are stock, out of the box.

Here is the rest of my gear, going down the signal chain:

2- Front and Center mic w/crystal element

Thanks for asking...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tube Showdown in VHT Special 6 Amp

Here are three videos that illustrate the sonic differences between three preamp tubes in the VHT Special 6 amp.

Harp players often change the preamp tubes in amps, almost reflexively... They want to quiet the amp down a bit to control feedback, and they want to warm up the tone slightly. All too often the harp player will rely on advice -- often bad advice -- gleaned from Internet harp forums or from other players. I wanted to do a test everybody could hear and make their own judgements.

I chose the modded VHT Special 6 amp because it is a Class A single-ended amp, which makes it a perfect test bed for a tube test. The circuit is simple yet sounds so sweet.

The tubes I chose were the stock 12AX7 that comes in the VHT amp, a NOS JAN Philips 5751, and a NOS GE 5965. The 5751 has about 70 percent of the gain of the 12AX7, while the 5965 (12AV7) has about 40 percent of the gain of a 12AX7. Both are thought to be warmer than the standard tube. The 5965 is quite similar to the 12AY7 tube many players use.

In these videos the audio is normalized to a common level, so you will not be able to hear the changes in volume from one tube to the other. I wanted too focus on tone rather than volume. NOTE: The back panel is off the amp in all three tests. Here are the amps setting for all three tubes. The pull boost was not on:

First, the stock 12AX7 tube: There is nothing wrong with the tone of this tube. I like its punchy, gutsy feel. You could leave this tube in the amp and love the tone. It is loud but just a touch bright without being overly harsh. Cuts through the mix like a hack saw.

As many of you know, the JAN Philips 5751 tube is my favorite preamp tube for harp, and I think it stands out here. It sounds fuller and warmer than the 12AX7, with a broader more complex tone. Breakup sounds more pleasing to me. It sounded as loud as the stock tube.

The 5965 tube had a rather large drop in volume, and the sound was kind of lifeless and un-dynamic. It was the darkest sounding of three tubes. In bigger, more powerful amps this may be okay, but in a 5- or 6-watt amp it just sacrifices too much punch and power.

Both the stock 12AX7 and the 5751 sound great in this amp. Either one is a good choice, but I give the nod to the 5751. What do you think?