Friday, February 25, 2011

Ronnie Shellist endorses the Super Cruncher Amp

Bad Amp, Good Amp

A few days ago I spotted a used Ampeg J-12R reissue amp in my local Guitar Center store, for only $300. I knew it was an EL84 amp (an amp design using EL84 power tubes), a design whose tone I dislike. But I was curious about it and hopeful it might be the EL84 amp that finally changes my mind. I mentioned it to a harp-playing buddy - Gary - and the next thing I know he has the amp in his house. I was eager to head over there and put the amp through its paces.

It was awful. The worst ghost notes I've ever heard in a harp amp. Check out this video.


So, Gary returned the Ampeg amp to GC (ya gotta love their 30-day return policy) and picked out a Fender Hot Rod Deville 410 amp instead.

Now, that's more like it! This is a new amp but last year's model (not the newer "III" version.) It was marked at $799 but Gary got it for about $700. Four 10-inch speakers, 60 watts, very muscular sound.

This is the same amp Kim Wilson uses when he plays big venues, except he uses TWO of them. Kim uses an ART tube preamp to warm up the tone a bit, so Gary tried his Behringer tube preamp. It worked very well. The -20db pad got the signal under control and the preamp drive gave the tone a bit more color. Nice rig, for not much money.

The downside, of course, is the bulk and weight of the amp. It weighs 53 pounds, which can get old real fast. The pluses for the amp are its good tone and very powerful presence, which makes it ideal for loud blues jams. (Are there any other kind?)

I like the amp with the outboard tube preamp. The last time I played a Deville was several years ago and it was a feedback demon. I've been wanting to try the amp again since hearing Kim Wilson wail through a pair of them last summer at a festival. I know he used an AFB+ anti-feedback pedal, and his volume was absolutely enormous. Playing in Gary's house it certainly seemed that the Deville had plenty of volume before feedback for normal gigging. Gary plans to bring the amp to the blues jam I host at Ziggies in Denver on Sundays, so I'll thrash it out there and report back. So far I'm impressed.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Champ Amp at Band Practice

The audio is from band practice the other night. Recorded on a Zoom Q3 sitting off to the side. The little Champ was singin'...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Comparing Performance Volume Before Feedback in Mid-Sized Harp Amps

A friend who is a very good working harp player wrote to ask my opinion of one specific issue when comparing the Mission Chicago 32-20 amp and the Sonny Jr. Cruncher: Performance volume before feedback. Here is what I wrote back to him:

Good question, but I don't really have a definitive answer. The Cruncher amp is quite good, actually, despite the overblown claims made for it. Some guy on Harp-L a few days ago said his Cruncher sounded better than a 6x10 HarpKing. Please...

The Mission is slightly louder overall, and has slightly better feedback performance (and much better tone), but both amps are meant to be lined-out on loud stages. They are both compromises between volume and bulk. It is possible to overwhelm either amp on a really loud stage.

I find when I raise the amp up on a milk crate it makes it a lot easier to for me to hear. Both amps get lost when they are sitting on the floor. I don't tilt the amp back because pointing it at my mic can increase the feedback potential.

It's always a battle. Bigger 4x10 Bassman-type amps have better perceived volume for the player, partly because the top two speakers are elevated. But many of us dislike the weight and awkwardness of these beasts, so we put up with the compromises in a smaller lighter amp.

As I wrote in my blog recently, the sound is glorious when the amp is mic'ed up by a good sound guy and run through a really good system. Even Rick Estrin's 100-watt 6x10 HarpKing amp gets mic'ed up when he plays clubs in Denver, the same clubs I play. It just sounds better that way.

Sorry this does not answer your specific question. The Mission 32-20 and Cruncher amps are similar in volume and feedback resistance (and physical dimensions). The differences are in tone and price.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lionel Young Band at the IBC

Denver's own Lionel Young Band, winners of the 2011 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nic Clark Advances to the Semi-Finals in Memphis

15-year old Nic Clark and his band Another Kind of Magick advanced all the way to the semi-finals at the IBC in Memphis. Everyone in the band is under 17-years old! Memphis is buzzing about them.

I hear Nic also won the Blues Knowledge Bowl at the IBC. Quite a week for Nic.

Here is a video of Nic playing at at blues jam at Ziggies in Denver last year. I should have lots of video of Nic in Memphis in a few days.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Colorado Blues Society Elections

The Colorado Blues Society is holding elections for Officers and Board Members. If you are a member you can vote online at this link.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Memphis Maniphesto

UPDATE: The Lionel Young Band WINS the IBC Competition in Memphis!

Local blues maven Honey Bee Sepeda is live-blogging the trip to Memphis with Colorado Blues Society's International Blues Challenge winner, The Lionel Young Band.

Lionel Young won the national IBC title for solo/duo acts a couple of years ago, and now he's going back to win the band title. He's a great player and entertainer. My band Roadhouse Joe lost to Lionel's band in the finals of the IBC hosted by the Colorado Blues Society last summer.