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ron aJul 21, 2010 5:46 PM GMT
I finally bit the bullet and ordered a $69.95 jt30 roadhouse from musician's friend. I also ordered a mullard 12ax7 and a groove tubes el84 to begin experimenting with the other tubes and vintage alnico speaker i have inherited from a guitar playing friend. I am in quite a dry spell right now with my music. A little cheap gear always perks me up and gets me playing again. I will spend hours practicing and replicating sounds, licks, playing scales over and over with new combinations of tube/mic/speaker/etc. I will make recordings to compare, change mics i record the sounds with..the whole nine yards. It always worked for my other instruments.
I have reached the end of my ibuprofen bottle mic tweaks and it has proven to be a jam-worthy mic right into the PA. Now it's even better, but I really want to start the jt30 journey. A 70 dollar shell and workable element seems like a good place to start.
The end pill bottle mic turned out to be an 80's era CB mic element from a Realistic desktop power mic. On the plastic film diaphragm, I placed a 1/4inch strip of blue painter's masking tape to knock down high frequencies that were generating some feedback. This took several tries with different sizes of tape and now it's almost as feedback resistant as my samson vocal mic mod. I also drilled six 1/8 inch holes in the bottle cap and coverd them from the inside with the blue tape. A single tiny slot in each hole with an exacto knife lets my harp in and little else, except breathing, of course. The element is suspended in the bottle neck with electrical tape, so the rear vent hole is nearly in the large part of the body. You can feel the bottle resonate on low notes and the air behind the gasket is a significant increase from the fixture i used to have that element in. Big tone difference too. The mic gives a wide variety of tones, but still lacks the deep, dirty, low-honk tone I hear with Dave barret, for example. except with low harps, where it begins to approximate that. Overall, it's a very hot, usable mic that tends toward the trumpet tonality...as all my mics seem to, unless I really cup VERY tightly and nearly swallow the harp. Do you suppose my trumpet playing has influenced my tone?
The valve junior head is a smoking little guitar amp with a single or double 12 inch jensen speakers. I am still looking for the magic tube combination and mic technique to get one specific tone i lack on harp. I nearly have it, but not quite. What I do have is plenty of tonal variation with minimal gear. It's not a huge deal, but makes me want to experiment with it. There is absolutely nothing extra needed for guitar in my opinion. I even prefer it without any pedals, the tone is so good and so versatile.
As I wait for the next band to come along, it's back to playing music for me and my own enjoyment for awhile. I have gotten into a unique kind of rut. I love to play live, but find playing at home pretty dull. I practice for technical improvement and to learn new licks, riffs and phrasing ideas, but playing live has me hooked. The new roadhouse mic and tubes just give me some experiments to run that require lots of consistent and technical playing. I'm looking forward to it..maybe in the next couple of days...while I'm on night shift,...i can get it started after the stuff arrives. I will play acoustic harp tonight at work if my machine schedule allows it with a decent product run. That is where I made significant progress in my first six months. Then work fell off and we were on reduced schedules. Fortunately, my live playing opportunities increased. Right now it's exactly the opposite.
At worst, Saturday and Sunday should be good harp mic days. There's no praise team at church this week because of VBS...more motivation to play at home after church. Thanks for reading my gear ramble. Oh, I painted the ibuprofen mic gunmetal gray and sharpied it with the words "you gotta be kidding me." The jam leader had a lot of fun with that as we played last thursday to a very happy crowd.
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Last night I did more playing as I tried to stay up in preparation for night shift tonight and tomorrow. The growl of the Astatic is definitely deeper note for note than both my homemade mic and my modified vocal mic.
I did this comparison on three adjacent channels of my pa board and compared input gain requirements, spls set the same and pfl gain levels set the same. No amount of eq could match the three mics for tone. The astatic is the clear winner for the deep dirty sound with grit when tightly cupped. I also added an amp model and a small delay later on my board effect generators to see what was possible. The astatic became a growling Chicago tone monster. The other two simply didn't. I used an active di for the jt30 and set all the Pfl levels and correctly and SPL to match over a wide range of notes on my A marine band. It is the closest thing to removing all the variables I can do. I also repeated this with my valve junior using two 12 inch speakers and no effects whatsoever, like the dry run on the board. At no time did any of the three mics produce an unusable tone that would distract me from playing my best in front of an audience. In fact, with my board, I would skip the tube amp altogether if i was running sound for my own band. It's that good.
I'm sure the audience couldn't care less and would like any one of them. On a song like Chicago line, though..the astatic is the hands-down winner for deep dirty train honk, from a player point of view.
I agree tone is in the player, but the Chicago sounds (the many and varied Chicago sounds) we hear on recordings benefit from a variety of gear choices that actually make some of them possible. Do an A-B comparison with an SM57 and a JT30 of any vintage sometime. There is an undeniable tone difference, note for note and using the same player/amplifier combination. Both are good, but they are different. Chords even sound different. I have been fortunate enough to be able to do this very thing at jam night. It's the reason i decided to try the jt30 roadhouse in spite of some of the web speculation on its tone. If you are implying tone will be identical with all those variations of amp/mic/playing technique...i'm not buying it. You said "almost" But you are clearly implying it's close enough. I'll buy that for you, but not identical and only an individual can decide for themself if that is true. Just presenting another gear option for those who don't think so. I'm not advocating someone buy this and stop practicing.
I've played music long enough to know better than that on any instrument. A player's style always comes through, but tone is definitely affected by gear. It's the reason i recorded all my settings as i tweaked them on my digitech pedal. Those are just different amp models with the same amount of delay.
Why else would anybody chase tone on the harmonica via gear after playing for dozens of years? People do it. Why buy a $250 microphone? Why have gear preferences? Why doesn't everybody just use the PA? Adam Gussow has even remarked on different amps he might eventually try or how one sounds after he does try it. Buddha uses a pedal board. Both of them have tone is above reproach and use gear beyond simple PA. People review amps and mics all the time.
"Tone is in the player" is a start and essential, but it is NOT the whole story. It simply isn't. It is a very common reply whenever someone asks a gear question or makes a review though. It begins to read like condescending advice after awhile. I have typed it myself on another forum ( a live sound forum) and believe it is a sound basis for a player's amplified tone, but not a reason to deny the use of good gear or imply it makes no difference.
It's a pretty moot point after a player becomes happy with their own acoustic tone. When that happens, they may want some different gear to try. This is a review of a piece of gear that doesn't get reviewed much and is a killer value right now, even as a project mic.
I've seen a graph on another site that is taken from the mouser site as speculation of the Blues blaster element and what it probably sounds like and why. This is not that kind of review, regardless of the clear similarities in the two mics..paint and connector excepted.
I have been playing nearly a year and a half. In the first six months, i played at work and home as much as possible to prepare for a blues/bbq gig that was only three months after i started playing. I continued the assault on the instrument based on the results. It went extremely well, paid well and I received many positive comments, including some from the sound guy who runs these events all the time. The band I was in was very happy with my progress as well. I was doing it for them anyway, as i was a percussionist/vocalist for them first. We continued to play out over the next year until our singer got too busy...for money and to great crowd response. Now I play for me and to please the crowd.
Obviously my tone will continue to develop, but it is good enough to tell the difference in equipment. There is a harp player in town here who is very good in the chicago blues style. He doesn't really play anything else and he remarked on my tone the first time he heard me as "You have that vibrato going that I could never quite get...how do you get that valve junior to sound like that? I sold mine. Who are your influences?" The fact that a live crowd makes me play my best can't be denied either. If they like it, it's good. Period.
While my tone tends to lean toward trumpet more than sax sometimes, it is a tone that pleases the crowd and gets smiles and dancing going. Now I have the sax-like dirt too.
I am happy with my acoustic tone and my amplified tone. I also play guitar, mandolin, trumpet, bass, drums and percussion. There is no instrument including the human voice that i not affected by gear choice when it comes to tone. I play a variety of harmonicas from different manufacturers and even my wife can hear tonal variations in those. I tongue block some, but not exclusively.
I was looking for a very specific tone quality i hear on a specific Dave Barrett recording to use in a few select songs. It does, in some cases involve tongue blocking, not always. This new mic brings me close enough to the tone I was looking for. I can play the music on the other mics and it sounds fine. I wanted the tone i was hearing on the recording. Now i have it. I'll make some comparison clips when I get off night shift. My energy level is just too weird with this body clock at the moment.
Today I made this recording of three mics straight into the board. There are no effects whatsoever and i decided not to bother with the beta 57 after hearing the samson dry into the board. I will use the beta as a cabinet mic for the next test to show proximity effect with the speaker, etc.The clip uses phrases that are essentially identical, as best as my ability could do on one take. I don't think they are far enough off to matter much fior this comparison. Each phrase is repeated with first the samson, then the bill bottle homemade, then the astatic. At some times, i decided to simply play along and let whatever happens happen do finish out the progression, but i kept is simple. The identical phrases are obvious enough that you should be able to hear the differences in the mics. I made every effort to keep the recording levels the same and use no appreciable vibrato or cupping differences, since I'm not trying to overdrive a tube amp here. This is straight in...using appropriate impedance matching for the astatic roadhouse. Special 20 key of A. The cup is not tight at all on any of the three mics. The recorder is boss br1180cd then transferred to audacity and converted to mp3 format.http://www.toofiles.com/en/oip/audios/mp3/mictest.html
just the jt30 roadhouse with a bassman amp model in the digital recorder unit and a touch of delay, still keeping it simple to hear tone..no amp, no speakers...straight in.
Actual wav file..better than the compressed mp3. This is the way the original recording sounds on the jt30 alone.
Here's one of the roadhouse mic alone cabinet mic'd with my studio mic 24 inches out from the dual 12 inch cab. Epiphone valve junior unmodified head with mullard 12ax7 and groove tubes siver series el84: There is some noise from audacity that I haven't been able to figure out yet..it may be because I'm transferring these from a different device, but the tone is the same if you can ignore the occasional crackling in the track.
Here's a clip I made some time ago with the samson vocal mic, digitech rp80 modeler and valve junior, recorded to a jam track played out into the room at the computer speakers. The mic is samson c01 studio condenser and the board is a behringer 1202fx. I play a little acoustic then switch on the singing machine wireless which is what i've been using as a gig rig for some time until now. You will hear the trumpet-like tone, i think. So, it's : Singing machine wireless/samson r21>digitech rp80>valve junior head>2-12 inch jensen cabinet (behringer amp removed and front hole covered).
With the Astatic, i think I can duplicate this tone closely enough and also add the real grit and dirt and dirt I've been missing for the CHicago blues numbers, without the wireless and maybe even without the pedal..that remains to be seen live..
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/9632496/minor blues jam track_minor blues jamtrack.mp3