Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The challenge for many blues CDs is to broaden the appeal for the traditional blues format without wrecking its roots. This new CD from Little Boys Blue, a band from western Tennessee, hits the mark. And it is all tied together by JD Taylor’s smoky harp playing. This is a fine blues album.
Of the 11 tracks on the CD nine are original, written by JD Taylor and his son Alex who plays guitar in the band. Their version of “Death Letter Blues” is swampy and fresh, and their take on Muddy Waters’ “Can't Be Satisfied” has a wonderful Delta feel. The originals range from traditional blues to Cajun to Memphis blues to one song – “Howling for You” – that sounds like slow, greasy Southern rock. I love it. JD Taylor’s blues harp is the real magic in this album. His command of his tone is remarkable, and his phrasing is like a conversation with a Southern gentlemen: It has a certain drawl and a clever humor that will keep you listening. My favorite cut is “Go Back Home,” an original slow blues song with two guitars, horns, a B3, and JD’s harp and voice. Like all the songs on this album the rhythm section is solid. The record has a good pro recorded sound. I recommend it to all blues fans, and particularly to those who are blues curious. If you are a blues harp player you should have this disc on regular rotation. “Bad Love” from Little Boys Blues is available at iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. -Rick Davis Sheridan Wyoming USA

Friday, July 31, 2015

Watts Up With That?

Let’s talk power for a minute. An amps output is measured in watts, which generally determines how loud the amp can play. The Memphis Mini produces an honest 6 watts of power when measured accurately. Not all wattage claims are measured the same way.

We run a 120Hz test signal into the amp while it is driving a dummy 8 ohm load. Much of the sound of a well-played blues harp is low, so we use a low test signal. We send the amp’s output to a dummy load – not a speaker -- so the impedance is stable across all frequencies. A speaker will change its impedance unpredictably as the frequency and volume change, so getting an accurate wattage reading will be nearly impossible.

The standard method is to increase the power until audible distortion occurs, and record that level as the nominal watt rating for the amp. But since we are using a dummy load there is no sound. We take the measurement to a higher level of accuracy: We record the watt rating at the first visible appearance of distortion of the sine wave signal while viewing it on an oscilloscope.

You might wonder why we measure the clean signal when amps are usually played with lots of great sounding distortion. Good question! The method described above is the only way to arrive at an honest number that can be used to compare one amp to another. There are ways to juice up the signal and make grossly exaggerated claims about watts, but that does consumers no good at all.

Not all the breakup we love comes from the sine wave distorting its shape. It starts with the element in your microphone and ends with the cone in your speaker. A good vintage style tube amp rig is an organic thing with many moving sonic parts, including the rectifier tube and tone caps. Understanding wattage ratings helps the consumer make better choices.

Okay, so what does all that stuff mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that a 12 watt amp is twice as loud as a 6 watt amp. In fact, it would require a 60 watt amp to deliver a sound that is perceived as twice as loud as the 6 watt amp. I know, it sounds crazy but it is a fact. As with many things we perceive, the measurements are logarithmic. The 12 watt amp would be perceived as barely louder, and an 8-watt amp – for example – would be no louder at all.

Of course, all this talk about amp volume depends on the sensitivity of the speaker. The Memphis Mini uses a Weber Signature ceramic speaker that is efficient and punchy. Six solid watts into a high quality speaker like the Weber make the MM amp surprisingly strong. It happens every time the MM is played: People are amazed at the bigness of the tone.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Amp Myths Debunked

Printed Circuit Boards 
The only advantage a printed circuit board has over a hand wired PTP circuit is that it costs a lot less.  If you were to put a LOT of money into a PCB you could probably make it perform as well, but then you will have lost the only advantage it has.  PCB's are used in cheap amps for one reason only, to make them even cheaper.

That's why the Memphis Mini is hand wired point to point on a turret board.  No printed circuit boards.

Mounting Pots and Jacks on the Circuit Board
Cheap amps that have the pots and jacks mounted on the circuit board instead of the metal chassis are well known for developing noise and reliability issues.  The mechanical forces are death to component connections, particularly the thin fragile traces of metal on printed circuit boards  But it is a cheap way to make cheap amps..

That's why the Memphis Mini has the controls and jacks mounted firmly on the metal chassis, not the circuit board.

Small Transformers
Tiny transformers do not make a harp amp sound better.  They might give a guitar amp a sparkly singing quality, but they kill  the low frequencies to do it.  That's just not what we want with a good harp amp.  It takes some bigger iron to deliver the punch and volume you get with the MM amp.  Custom amp makers including Meteor, Sonny Jr, Harpgear, Mission and others use oversize transformers for bigger tone and more bottom end.

That's why the Memphis Mini uses oversize transformers

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

1951 Fender Champion 600 5B1 Two-Tone -- SOLD!!!!

This is an amazing unmolested vintage Fender amplifier.  Everything is original, right down to the leather handle and the old 2-prong electrical plug.

There are no cracks, tears or rips in the tolex , and the grill cloth is perfect.   I have never seen a 64 year old Champion 600 in such perfect shape.   I have done nothing to it, not even cleaning off the patina.  It has been sitting in a closet for at least 40 years.  No mouse turds or insects.  It is time-capsule find.

The amp plays perfectly.  The pilot lamp glows.  There is no hum or static, and there is no smoke or smell.  The sound is pure vintage Fender tone. 

I decided to leave it a perfect example of the era rather than making any upgrades or changes.  I will leave it to the new owner to decide if he wants to change the plug or replace the caps.

The price is $1150.  No trades.  The amp is offered AS IS with no warranty.  Payment through PayPal.  You can contact me via FB message or email at bluesharpamps@gmail.com.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Big Iron = Big Tone

I was talking to an very well-known and respected amp maker about the weird notion that smaller transformers are good for tone. Here is a quote from the conversation:

"A slightly bigger output transformer with the proper impedance, turns ratio, leakage inductance and parasitic capacitance.... will always be a better choice unless you are tuning for a junky, cheap ass sound."

There you have it. That's why we use beefy transformers in the Memphis Mini amps.

A Review Comparing the Memphis Mini amp and the Harp Train 10 amp

In this amp category, the Memphis Mini is the best. It is far above the others.

I have finally been able to compare it to the Lone Wolf amp I have read and heard so much about from my recent customers.

The two amps do not compare to each other. Really nothing! Their sound and their tone are very different.

Lone Wolf has a less toned sound, more plain.

With respect to power and volume, the MM would tend (and I mark my words to not offend anyone) to overwhelm the Harp Train.

The MM is worth every penny, and the Lone Wolf is way too expensive for what it does. You can get better, more powerful amps for the same money or less
The MM is very seducing and I can see why people like it. It makes you feel as if you are on Beale Street in the 40's. The tone is wonderful! And it makes average players sound good and good players sound great. It is very powerful as well. More power and much more guts than the Harp Train.

--Nicolas Fouquet


(Nicolas Fouquet is a French-born harp player from Limoges. He is the son of a famous French guitar maker, Claude Fouquet, grandson of a Jazz Musette soprano sax player, and great grandson of a Spanish flamenco guitar player. He is a respected harp tech and well known for his expertise on harmonica playing, amps, and mics.)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cost vs Tone

Two years ago when I first began researching the idea of producing a small harp amp I considered importing a finished amp from China using all Chinese parts  and selling it as a low priced bargain amp.  I talked to several vendors in Hong Kong and Shenzhen and tried some examples they sent me.  But I gave up on that strategy over time because the tone just was not there.  Yeah, there are ways to save money and build a less expensive amp, but at some point you just have to face the cost vs. tone conflict.  Which do you want more?  Low cost or killer tone?

To get to that low cost you have to make some pretty serious sacrifices.  Printed circuit boards are WAY cheaper than hand wired circuits on a turret board.  But, the PCBs are built with the cheapest components possible which are soldered by robots.  Cracked solders and noisy connections are an issue.

Chinese counterfeit power and preamp tubes are notorious for poor tone.  And Chinese speakers lack the warmth and character of more familiar brands.  All the bargain amps I tried had a common sound I didn’t like – a kind of metallic tone lacking in warmth and overtones.  I hear that today in harp amps imported by other companies.   I just didn’t want to put my name behind an amp that sounded like that.

The MM amps are all hand wired and soldered, using turret boards.  No printed circuit boards.  The power tube is an Electro Harmonix 6V6.  The preamp tube is a JJ 12AU7.  The speaker is a Weber Signature smooth cone ceramic.  The tone is warm and colorful, rich with overtones.  The breakup sounds natural.  No gimmicks, just pure vintage tone.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The MM Delay Pedal will begin shipping soon

Here is a photo of the final production version of the MM Delay pedal.  They will begin to ship on April 12.  Only $69 with free shipping in the US.  The pedal has a very nice slap-back effect; really fattens up your tone.  Or you can set it up to do an echo effect.  Very well built.  Check it out HERE.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Coming soon: The Memphis Mini Blues Harmonica Delay Pedal

In this video Nic Clark plays the new Memphis Mini Blues Harmonica Delay with the Memphis Mini amp. it's a warm sounding digital delay pedal built to our specs. The delay tails have a nice organic decay. True bypass, metal housing, very well built. Introductory selling price will be $69 with free shipping in USA.

I shot this video at Ziggies in Denver before the Sunday Blues Jam. The club is kind of dim and the camera is a little shaky and low res but the audio is good. It gives you a very good idea of the sound of the new MM Delay in a small to medium sized club.

This is a great sounding delay for a player who wants to get his tone a little wet. I think less is more with delays (as with most effects). In this video the three controls (Level, Delay, and Repeat) are all set at the 9 o'clock position, giving the tone a nice fat slap-back sound. The pedal has the capacity to get more of a Space Echo sound if that is what you're into. The delay intervals can be dialed in from 25ms to 450ms, and the number of repeats from one to infinity.

As I mentioned above the pedal housing is metal. It feels very solid. The controls rotate smoothly with a good feel, and the On/Off button is hefty with a solid click. You can power it with a 9v battery or power supply, which are not included.

There are lots of delay pedals out there, some of which are way over-priced. This MM Delay is a lot like the Memphis Mini amp: It sounds great for a lot less money. It's a quality, no-nonsense addition to your rig that won't break your bank. $69 delivered is a very fair price.

The roll-out date is coming soon for the MM Delay and we will begin taking pre-orders, so stay tuned!.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Set your Memphis Mini amp up in the PA mixer

This is how you get great sound when playing the Memphis Mini amp using the line out to a PA system. This photo is the channel strip on the house Mackie 808 mixer at the Ziggies Blues Jam last night. It's simple, and it gives you a huge lush sound with no feedback: A little signal to the monitors, none to the effects, Highs and Mids rolled off, Lows boosted. That's all there is to it, no pedals or gimmicks or gadgets, it takes about a minute to set up. The amp was on a chair behind me, the settings on the amp were Volume on 5 and Tone on 5.