Monday, September 8, 2014

The Heumann Element

I had the opportunity to play Greg Heumann’s new “Heumann Element” microphone twice at SPAH in St Louis this year.  The first time was at Greg’s booth in the vendor area.  He let me A/B it against an identical mic with a good CM element, playing into an amp modeler and headphones.  (They do not allow amps to be played aloud in the vendor area at SPAH.)

The amp modeler was set to “Tweed Champ” and although it sounded nothing like the Memphis Mini I was immediately impressed.  I know the sound of a CM very well, having been playing through them for years.  The HE element smoothed out some of the spikey overtones in the model and broadened the bottom end when compared to the CM while retaining the punch and definition.  I immediately knew it was going to play right into the wheelhouse of the MM amp’s tone.  I got excited.

Several of the talented “young guns” at SPAH later gathered in a room to try the Memphis Mini amp, and the microphone they used was a Nic Clark’s loaner from Greg with the HE element.  The results were beyond impressive.

The HE element has not come to market yet but I really hope that it does.  The supply of good vintage elements that are used most by good blues harp players – the Shure Controlled Magnetic and Controlled Reluctance elements and vintage crystals – is dwindling.  Another alternative is needed and it looks like Greg’s HE element is the next step.  That’s a big deal.

I know how hard it is to develop things like this… to negotiate with vendors and manage a tricky supply chain, to build a new product and make a market for it.  I hope it happens.  From what I know of the mic from my own playing and from hearing some great young players using it, I can give it an unqualified endorsement.  The combination of the Heumann Element wood mic and the Memphis Mini amp is sweet and nasty at the same time, one of the coolest sounds in blues music.