Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ryan McGarvey sits in with The Blues Allstars

Only a Few More Days to Participate in the Amp Poll

The survey of harmonica players about the amps they use is ongoing until June 1, 2011. This will be the first scientifically conducted, unbiased poll of its kind. I encourage all players to take part in the poll. Your information will be completely confidential.

To participate in the poll please email the answers to these questions to


-What amplifier do you use most frequently in a performance setting, either Jam or Gig?

-What amplifier do you use most frequently for recording?

-What amplifier do you use most frequently for practice?

-How many amplifiers do you own that you use for harmonica?

-Thinking of the amplifier you named in Question 1, did you buy it new or used?

-Do you earn more than 25% of your income directly from playing harmonica?


-What is your age?

-What is your gender?

-In what state do you live?


You can find out a bit more about the survey at these links:

Your opinions are welcome! We don’t want any amp to be underrepresented in the survey, so please take a moment to fire off an email to

June 1 is the last day poll submissions will be accepted. Shortly after that we will begin publishing the aggregate results. It will be very interesting, and we’d like very much for you to be part of it.


-Rick Davis
The Blues Harp Amps Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tony Smith blowin' some blues

Tony is playing an Astatic crystal mic into a 1962 Fender brown Deluxe amp. This is at Chef John's in Jupiter FL on Apr 22. Nice tone!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ryan McGarvey at Ziggies Sunday Blues Jam

No harp content here (except you can see my Misssion amp on stage), but I wanted to put this up on the blog anyway. Ryan McGarvey played a blistering set with us at our blues jam at Ziggies last night.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I'm trying a pair of 5881 power tubes in my Mission 32-20 harp amp, in place of 6L6 tubes. It seems punchier, more "forward," slightly more grunt. I'll try 'em for our show at The Toad Tavern Spring Blues Fest this Saturday, see how they sound in a big room. I predict major blues honk. Should be fun.


The 5881 tubes have slightly more grit and sparkle than the warmer 6L6 tubes. Punchy and loud.

UPDATE: At first I was dubious about these tubes. Now I'm thinkin' they are badass. I'll roll with them in the amp for a while...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thoughts on the Harp Amp Poll

A few thoughts on the harp amp survey I am conducting. I know some players may be skeptical of the results because I have a well-known bias in favor of a particular amp. But so does everyone else, and that is exactly what the poll sets out to measure.

My company is frequently commissioned to conduct polls about issues or candidates (or products) where I personally have a preference, but it has zero bearing on the outcome of the survey. Interested parties often run “horse race” polls so see where they stand among their competition. That is exactly what this poll is all about.

I have no idea how the survey will come out. As the poll responses come in they are entered into a database system that is suitable for statistical analysis. Nothing else will be done until the poll closes on June 1 after which no further responses will be accepted. At that time we will calculate the margin of error and announce some preliminary results.

It may take some time to publish the full results. There are some values in the data that will yield interesting cross tabs with the demographics. I am looking forward to learning more about harp amp players in general and their preferences.

This poll will be completely unbiased, anonymous, and as accurate as mathematically possible. As far as I know, this is the first survey of its kind. The Blues Harp Amps blog is proud to conduct and publish this poll.

If you would like to participate in the poll please click here.

Email from Italy - Mission Chicago 32-20 Amp

Ciao Rick,

just a brief note to let you know that this amp is really great; Bruce Collins did a wonderful job; apart from the cosmetics (that I like), the amp is very flexible and this is the feature that I like best; today I received some tubes I bought to try a few substitutions; I swapped the rectifier with a 5Y6GT and the 6L6s with a pair of EH 6V6; as expected the power decreased proportionally but the tone became deep brown (too much for my taste !!); however, it is interesting with fixed bias, deep off and pre-amp switch in "no boost" position; then I tried the original GZ34 with a pair of tung-sol 5881 RI and ... wow ... big power and organic crunch; using this pairing the deep switch really works (night and day) and sweeping the tone controls I achieved great tone results; this amp is a winner, I don't understand all the negative discussion about you, mission amp etc. This amp is versatile, sounds good and is under-priced for its cathegory.

Thanks for introducing me to this amp


You're welcome, Gianandrea. I haven't tried the 5881 tubes in the amp, but I surely will now! The Tung Sol RI tubes are among my favorites; nice warm tone.

As for the negative discussions... It's mindless noise from those who feel a deperate need to defend their own purchases. I ignore it.

Spring Blues Fest

Mission V-Front 5B4 Super - (Updated)

I was visiting Mission Amps in Denver last week when Bruce Collins asked me to plug into a guitar amp he was ready to ship to see how it sounded with harp. It sounded sensational.

The amp was a clone of the late 40s - early 50s Fender Super, with the distinctive V front and chrome prow.

Very interesting amp: The front end is 3 octal NOS 6SL7 GT preamp tubes. The power section is two cathode biased 6L6 tubes with an NOS 5U4G coke bottle recto tube. It makes about 24 watts. A very old-school design, and very similar to my 1953 Masco ME-18 amp. No wonder I liked it so much.

The speakers are two Weber 10-inchers: a 10A100 and a 10A125.

I immediately loved the tone. It is so Chicago: Warm sag with a mellow crunch. The tone oozes like honey.

Contact Mission Amps for more info.

Four Eights

Here is a cool little amp: The Gibson – Maestro “Accordion Amplifier.” Al Chesis of the Delta Sonics uses this amp for lower-volume gigs in smaller rooms. At his happy hour show at Tony’s Bistro in Denver last night the amp sounded really good.

I believe it is a Gibson – Maestro GA-45 amp. It has two 6V6 power tubes for about 14 watts, and FOUR 8-inch Jensen speakers.

I caught a short video clip of Nic Clark sitting in and blowing through the amp. I used my phone for the clip and the audio is very poor; my apologies. But I think you can get the flavor of the amp’s tone nonetheless.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Harp Amp Survey is still open

The Harp Amp Survey is open for another month. Please take a moment to respond to this questionnaire. We do not want any amps to be underrepresented in the poll.

Qblues Sizzle Reel

This promo for a BBQ & Blues series on the Travel Channel includes a few seconds of me playing harp. Dan Treanor appears as well.