Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wezo Megatone ME-18 amp

David Barrett doing a demo of the Megatone ME-18 amp.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Big Tone from Two Amps

Last Sunday at the blues jam my band hosts at Ziggies in Denver I used two amps: My 1953 Masco and my Mission Chicago 32-20. I ran the mic into the Mic 1 input in the Mission amp and then jumped a cable from the Mission’s Mic 2 input to the Masco. I turned them both up half way and let ‘er rip.

The wait staff at the club immediately started waving their arms and shouting, “Whoa, that it too fucking loud!” I’ve never seen that kind of reaction to any harp amp at that jam.

I was pushing 55 vintage watts via four 6L6 tubes into two 12-inch speakers, and the tone was enormous. Think of a Fender Twin Reverb tuned for harp. Now, that was fun!

The Masco is a 20-watt cathode biased vintage amp with the characteristic sag and crunch. The Mission is a 35-watt amp switched to fixed bias (the bias is selectable on the amp) with its stiffer, punchier sound. Together they made a huge complex tone with lots of texture. Feedback was not a problem unless I did something stupid.

The downside to this rig, of course, is carrying and setting up two amps instead of one. For now I plan to use both amps in bigger venues and outdoor shows. The sound is such a kick in the ass I can put up with the extra hassle.

Notes: The Fender amp in the picture is guitarist John Goggin's wonderful little 1968 Princeton Reverb.

The mic input in the Masco is right in the front, where the Phono volume control once was.

Livewire cables seemed to be popular at the jam that night, eh?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Harp Amps Gigging Musicians Use Most

The Harmonica Amplifier Survey conducted by The Blues Harp Amps Blog earlier this year revealed some fascinating information about amp preferences. As we drill down in the data we find more interesting stuff.

For example: One of the questions asked in the poll was, “Do you earn more than 25% of your income directly from playing harmonica?”

We put a lot of thought into this poll question. It was decided that players who earn at least 25% of their income from blowing harp are serious gigging players who might make different amp choices. The survey demonstrated that they do indeed have different performance amp preferences when compared players who answered “No” to this question.

Earn LESS than 25% of income from playing harp (top 5 amps):
maker -- pct

FENDER -- 28
SONNY JR -- 14
MASCO -- 5

Earn AT LEAST 25% of income from playing harp (top 5 amps):
maker -- pct

FENDER -- 41
SONNY JR -- 11

Fender amps took the most dramatic jump when moving from the amateur group to the pro* group, gaining 13 points in the poll. HarpGear amps had the second biggest increase among pro players with a 9 point increase. Mission amps jumped 4 points in the pro group.

The biggest losers when moving from the amateur to the pro group were Kalamazoo and Masco. (Remember, we are talking about the amp a player prefers most in a performance setting.) I think the reasons are obvious: The little K-Zoo amps put out about 3 watts on a good day and are more suited for practice and recording. I was a bit more surprised about Masco amps. (I own and play a Masco.) But judging from the list, pro players seem to prefer powerful fixed bias amps in performance settings. The lower-power cathode biased vintage amps such as the Masco may also be better suited for recording.

One thing that jumps out is that amateur players use Sonny Jr amps more than pro players do. Sonny Jr. amps dropped 3 points when moving from the amateur group to the pro group. Sonny Jr amps moved from second place in the amateur group to third place in the pro group, being passed by HarpGear amps as second choice behind Fender.

Pro – Don’t get heartburn about my use of the term “pro” to describe players who earn at least 25% of their income directly from playing harp. I know debates rage endlessly about what constitutes a “pro” player, but the use of the term here is ONLY to distinguish those who make more than others according to my arbitrary formul

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Results for the Harp Amp Poll


Data collected from April 17, 2011 to June 1, 2011

372 participants -- Margin of Error = 5.18% at 95 percent confidence.

26% of participants earn more than 25% of their income directly from playing harmonica. (PRO25)

97.4% of participants are male.

Average age of participants is 51 years.

Average number of amps owned that are used for harmonica: 4.5

53% of participants bought their performance amp USED.


Performance Amps
FENDER --- 32%
SONNY JR --- 14
(none) --- 4
MASCO --- 3
GIBSON --- 2
METEOR --- 2
PEAVEY --- 2
VHT --- 2

You can view the complete results by clicking here. (PDF)


NOTES: The poll results are interesting. A whopping 26 percent of the poll participants earn more than 25% of their income directly from playing harmonica. That number is much higher than I expected, and is probably a result of me promoting the poll in online forums that are frequented by gigging players. So keep this bias in mind as you look over the numbers.

This poll proves something we already knew: Harp players are older and overwhelmingly male.

This poll also shows that Fender is still the big dog among performance harp amps, particularly with gigging players. The Fender amp most often used in a performance setting is the Bassman RI. Most amps used for performance were bought on the second-hand market.

Many thanks to all those who participated in this poll.

Note: I'll be posting addenda to this article from time to time over the next few days and weeks. There is lots of interesting stuff buried in the poll.

UPDATE 06/04/11: A reader asked about amps that most often get used by a player in all three settings. Here are the percentages for players who use the same amp for performance, recording, and practice, and the amp they use:

Same Amp in all 3 Settings

Fender -- 36%
Sonny Jr -- 15
Harpgear -- 9
Masco -- 7

Others were, Danelectro, Kalamazoo, Epiphone, Mojo, Peavey, and VHT.

There were 91 participants who use the same amp in all three setting, but only 18 of them own just one amp. The average number of amps owned by players in this subset is 3.7.

UPDATE 06/04/11: Overall, harp players own 4.5 amps on average. Players who earn more than 25% of their income directly from playing harp own 5.26 amps on average.

UPDATE 06/09/11: Sonny Jr amps garnered an impressive 14% of the market for performance amps, behind only Fender. The SJ models break out this way:

Super Sonny -- 23%
410 -- 23
Avenger -- 19
Super Cruncher -- 17
Cruncher -- 13
Model 1 -- 5

The Sonny Jr amp was purchased NEW by 81% of those who used it as their primary gig rig.

UPDATE 06/24/11: Performance amp choice by age range.

Here is a table with age ranges, their percentage in the the poll sample, and the number one amp used in performance settings for each age cohort.

20s -- 4% -- Fender
30s -- 11% -- Fender
40s -- 14% -- Fender
50s -- 44% -- Fender
60s -- 24% -- Fender