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amps: old guitar vs. old p.a. vs. new harp

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Oct 14, 2010 6:47 AM GMT

I'm just wondering if anyone here has had or played through old guitar amps, old p.a. tube amps as well as newer dedicated harp tube amps, and can offer opinions on what you liked and didn't, and why you ended up with what you have.

Since I play guitar also, all of my amps are shared. Most are old amps made for guitar, but I have one old P.A. amp, a fifties Dukane. Since its circuit is very close to a Tweed Deluxe, it is practically a guitar amp, and while I like it for harp, I like it better for guitar.

I've never played through a newer amp designed for harp.

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Comments (6)

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Oct 15, 2010 5:09 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

All of the good "newer amps designed for harp" are based on old designs. What they have to offer is more power. The Sonny Jr Avenger is amazing in that it can give you a LW sound, it breaks up like a vintage amp with a single 8" or 10", but it is capable of going very, very loud.

I don't care for new amps. First of all, printed circuit boards are there for one reason only - to reduce cost. They are FAR more problematic and subject to breakage than point to point wired amps. And as far as I'm concerned, if it has transistors it just doesn't sound as good. I know there are some really good solid state amps, but for harp? I've yet to hear one.

Oct 15, 2010 7:24 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

Thanks, Greg.

I have one tube amp that has circuit boards, too, and I'm planning to sell it. The amp tech here doesn't like to work on anything other than point to point amps, and I trust the amp guy, as well as you, Greg.

I suppose I should add that the amp isn't one I play much, anyway, but the circuit board are part of the reason for the sale.

Oct 16, 2010 4:05 AM GMT
Jay T Replied:

I wish that I had purchased a dedicated harp amp [designed for harp] before I bought all of the other amps of all types. I could buy a pretty nice Sonny Jr or Meteor or Harpgear amp for what I invested in other amps before I finally took the plunge on a Meteor. That said I still love my '60 Brown Concert. It seems that most of us try to find something cheaper first moving slowly up the learning curve until we finally see the light and by an amp designed for harp. Good luck on your journey.

Oct 18, 2010 2:16 AM GMT
Maka M Replied:


I have GAS and tend to 'accumulate' interesting amp projects (then don't have time to finish them). In the tube amp collection, I've got:

Johnson T25R. 'Modern' tube guitar combo. 25W, reverb tank, 10" speaker, 2 x 12AX7 preamp, 2 x EL84 power amp, SS rectifier, PCBs.

Amp from a mid 60's National electric piano. Point to point wiring, ‘unusual’ tubes (pre, power and tube rectifier).About 7W I reckon.

Old (late 50s or early 60s) Australian stereo tube amp Playmaster Unit 2 – 10W per side, all tube, point to point wiring.

The Johnson is currently running 12AY7s in the preamp to manage feedback.That seems to be a recurring theme with guitar amps used for harp.

All three amps give quite different sounds – I have a number of cabs (I’ve got cab GAS too) I can use as extension cabs with the Johnson or as cabs for the National.For the Playmaster stereo amp I usually run each side into half a 4 x 8” quadbox.

The sound varies with the cab(s) used and of course the mic makes a lot of difference (yep, mic GAS too).I’ve got dynamics (all sorts, inc SM58 and 520DX) and crystal (inc a CAD 50VC), but currently nothing with a CR or CM element.

These are all relatively low power amps – more comparable to a ‘Zoo II than a Sonny Jr Cruncher (which I had at my place for a harp workshop once – wow!).

These day’s I’d recommend starting real cheap (Bottle-‘o-blues mic into a Honeytone or Pignose 700) to learn amplified harp and microphone technique (and figure out what sort of sound you really want), then get a boutique (i.e. made for harmonica) amp and matching mic.Then there’s no need to ‘tame’ the guitar-focussed amp characteristics that lead to feedback, and yo can get something with the power you need for your sort of gigs.Or get a RP355, a Richard Hunter patch set (yep, got that too) and a clean keyboard amp.Then the options are almost unlimited.

It all gets down to what you want (which unfortunately for me seems to evolve with time) and how much you’re willing to pay for it.




Oct 20, 2010 6:40 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

I apologize if my original post was confusing. I'm very satisfied with what I have, but I thought that it would be interesting to have a discussion with the rest of you. I'm sure that I'll have a chance to play through a newer harp amp at some time, and I bet that I'll be impressed. Since my amps are set up for guitar, I did have problems with feedback before I bought a Kinder AFB unit, which is amazing, and makes it very easy to get a good volume before feedback from my guitar amps.

Maka, I have tended to accumulate gear, too, although with the exception of mics, it arguably may mostly be for guitar. I have a bunch of old amps, all dearly loved. My favorite for harp is a 1960 or 1961 Tweed Champ. For me, it is five watts of sonic bliss!

Oct 20, 2010 12:26 PM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

up until fairly recently, most amps were for guitar, bass, or keyboard. that meant doing some mods to get the frequency response more friendly to a harp and mic. in recent years a host of amp builders have begun making dedicated tube amps specifically for harp.

i started out with a ss crate amp and a lavalier mic. very unsatisfying. then a early '60's fender princeton. satisfying but very low powered when stacked up against the usual guitar amp. in between i had a pig 7-100, very hard to use as a harp amp unless the right mic was used. i lost the princeton (never take stuff to a pawn shop that you want to keep). got a small alamo capri amp which sounded good but just didn't cut through out live.

for the past 8 years or so i've had a silvertone 1482, modded for harp. pretty good, great tone and breakup but a single 12 just won't cut it out live with a band usually. creeping volume disease! but it is great for the duo project. wife has the same amp for guiter.

i got hold of 2 danelectro's, a dirty thirty and nifty fifty. both ss amps. got them for wife to play guitar with. she prefers the silvertone. both very difficult to use as harp amps.

i had steve clark with sligo alps build me a '59 bassman replica a couple of years ago. modded for harp, different speakers and a 12au7 in pre 3. jumped the norm and hot channels and this amp totally sings, plus with 4 10's it WILL cut through the mix. i may still swap power tubes and put better pre amp 12a's in it but it's excellent just as it is and why mess with success?

the caveat i always remember is, no matter what amp one uses, or mic, acoustic tone is square one. an amp will make a bad sounding player sound bad, just louder. i never hesitate to step up to the p.a. mic if necessary. and there are plenty of songs i do which sound great with a cleaner response that a p.a. will provide. it's not ALWAYS about the breakup chicago smooth brown tone.

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