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Amp v. PA

Back to the Gear Room

Andrew T
Jan 15, 2010 3:42 PM GMT

I have been lugging a big Fender guitar amp and a case full of chords and stuff to jams and gigs only to wrestle with feedback and find that I wasn't being heard very well be everybody in every room. Recently, out of frustration, I set down my bullet mic mid-way through a solo and grabbed an instrument mic that was plugged directly in to the PA. The volume and clarity killed that of guitar amp! It makes me wonder: is there an inexpensive light weight overdrive pedal I could pick up for harp and jaust take an SM57 and a single pedal to jams and get a gritty Blues tone that way without messing with heavy feedbacky pos amps??

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Comments (13)

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Jan 16, 2010 3:27 AM GMT
Tony W Replied:

Hey Andrew T, I don't know if you got my vibes but I hear ya loud and clear. If you got the chops, the bad ass tone that everyone talks about, and want to be heard, then why not go through the PA? My next gig is Tuesday and my plan is to plug in the low Z blues blaster into the PA and I am not going to tell anyone. My heavy, super feed back prone (no matter what I do to it) harp amp will be there but I am not going to use it. I like dirt/grit what ever you want to call it but I can get that anytime I want without an amp that breaks up??. The thought of an acoustic amp was there for moment but my band already has a PA so it is a low budget option. Won't be plugging in any pedals because you can make basic adjustments at the board.

Jan 16, 2010 3:30 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

I haven't tried it myself, but the pedal might be featured in this thread:

I love the sound of an old mic into an old tube amp, and I use a Lone Wolf Harp Tone Plus pedal which cuts almost all feedback.

Jan 17, 2010 2:21 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

What would be an example of an acoustic amp? I keep seeing this term here, but I don't know if I've ever seen one.

Jan 17, 2010 4:36 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Joe - A Roland keyboard amp would be a good example of an acoustic amp. A Bose Tower would be another. They are designed to provide a lot of amplification without distortion.

In the broader topic - I caution all you "play through the PA" people. There's a reason pros like Musselwhite, Wilson, Piazza, Hummel, Estrin and many more continue to play through tube amps. The sound is NOT the same as ANY combination of stuff through the PA. It is what some people want to hear. I've messed around a lot with stuff through the PA. It can work - but it is DIFFERENT. If you like it, go for it. But do not expect it to be a replacement for a good tube amp.

You also have to be EXTREMELY careful playing through a PA not to get too loud. I have experienced PAIN many times when inexperienced (and even some experienced) harp players play through the PA - played poorly/insensitively you can easily generate ear-splitting pitches and volumes. Watch people wince. This is particularly a problem when you pick up a mic that was just used for vocals.

With all that said - it absolutely CAN be done, and done well. You can play straight through the PA using the vocal mic - Kenny Neal gets better tone out a plain jane set-up-for-vocals SM58 than any other player I know. But he is a rare exception. It takes years of practice, just like getting really good tone out of a tube amp does. You can add doohickeys up front - tube amps, delays, all kinds of processors and effects - including amp simulators - to get a more distinct sound. It will not sound like a '59 Bassman, a Cruncher or a Super Reverb. Period. But it might sound good to the audience and to you and there's nothing wrong with it.

So try it! What have you got to lose?

BlowsMeAway Productions
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Jan 17, 2010 4:40 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Oh, and Andrew - you didn't say which amp you have, but if you have a typical Fender guitar amp that hasn't been re-tubed to lower the gain significantly from its guitar-oriented default setup, you should look into that. Guitar amps, especially anything over about 15W, then do be feedback monsters when used with microphones instead of guitar pickups. Simple tube substitution can help, A LOT.

Ultimately, though, given the same amount of power and speaker surface area as the guitar player, he wins. He sucks if he does because it shows he doesn't care as much about the music as he does about his own ego, but he can.

BlowsMeAway Productions


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Jan 17, 2010 1:17 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

I am at present using a keyboard amp which I also DI into the PA. I now have a an EQ pedal and a Delay pedal and a Tube Pre-Amp. I would love to just use a great harp amp but there are other considerations.

I play Sax and Keys as well so I always want to keep the amount of gear I lug down. The sound I am getting has been getting really good comments from not only punters but also other critical musos (some very harp unfriendly musos at that).

But why not go straight into the PA from my tube Pre Amp? Well, this is the other side of the equation, if you go straight into the PA youa are at the mercy of whoever is mixing. I have done too many gigs where the harp and Sax is the very last thing mixed and you do not get the monitors you need.

I now even put the sax into my keyboard amp. I know I will get theon stage sound I need. Some sound engineers are not happy about this because they loose control over the individual instruments. But bad luck. I have learnt to have some ownership over my own sound.

I have played directly into the PA with vocal mics for years and sometimes the results have been great but often they are not. I do not care if you are James Cotton, your sound will not be good with a reallybad sound engineer.

Jan 18, 2010 3:39 AM GMT
John P Replied:

I like playing through my SWR Baby Baby Blue acoustic bass amp. Solid state but with a tube preamp and very sophisticated EQ for almost total control over tone shaping. NOT a tube amp sound, but that's not what i'm after. This amp gives me a thick, deep, dark tone very close to the sound i hear in my head. 120 watts and does not feedback. Love it.

Jan 18, 2010 8:11 PM GMT
John P Replied:

I should add that before i started using the SWR, I would usually play through the PA.

Jan 19, 2010 10:10 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

I picked up a new 57 just to put my money where my cyber-mouth is and try a different approach at the next jam (Wednesday night). I'm just going back to PA style and if I'm not diggin that; I also have a boom stand so I might dial in a solid tone on my Fender Blues Deluxe at a lower volume then mic it...

Jan 20, 2010 6:23 AM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

I love to have amp with me because sound guys are hardly understand what I hear in monitors. So sometimes I like to use amp as a monitor even if I don't need distortion sound. I like to split signal to tube amp, slightly overdriven and to PA which give me clear sound with huge bottom.

If I play rock or blues tunes and I need distortion I plug LoneWolf Harp Attack. It sound ok to PA (worse than real tube amp) and it sounds really great to big sh*t solid state guitar amps or bass amps. To be honest I like tone with harpattack to big solid state guitar amp better than real tube amps.

Sometimes I happy when I split signal to amp boosted by my Boss GE7 eq and to harp attack to PA.

Jan 20, 2010 8:05 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

That is an excellent idea, using an amp as a monitor. That definitely helps you hear what is going on! Lone Wolf Harp Attack is a pedal, right?!?! I am hearing a LOT of good things about it!!! I think I am ready to try one out. I might leave the green bullet at home for a while and use my 57 as well...

Jan 20, 2010 12:19 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

I hate green bullet microphone, very feedback prone, dirty and muddy. SM57 is one of the best! Try harp attack!

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