Friday, November 13, 2009

HarpGear Double Trouble

I put a 8F125 from Ted Weber on the bottom of the DT and a Weber Sig Ceramic on the top.  A couple of years ago, I ordered a Ceramic Sig S, and just last night I realized that the speaker is not the S!  My receipt says I ordered the S, but the speaker is not the S.  Oh well, I love it!  However, I ordered the 8F125 as a beefier Ceramic S.  Thankfully, the 8F125 is darker than I would have thought.  Works for me…but I could have ended up with two feedback prone speakers.

With only 2x8 and 18w, I like the ceramic mix.  The 8F125 has more bottom, but seems to be the same volume as the Sig.  I couldn't get a 8F125 or the like to fit in the top speaker slot…one 8A125 and one 8F125 might have been sweet!

I tried 2 AlNiCo, 1 AlNiCo with the Sig and then the 8F125 and then the current combo.  The amp seemed to feedback at the same point regardless of combination.  For each combo I placed the amp in the exact same spot.  I then stood in the same spot with the mic a foot off the grill on one speaker.  I then turned the volume up until the first squeal (tone on 10).  I then did that for the second speaker.  There was the same feedback volume (4) on the dial within a 1-2mm twist of the volume knob for each speaker.  Next I set the volume on 7 and tone on 6.  I then stood about 6 feet away from the amp and played to check tone and feedback.  I switched speakers out and then repeated.  Eventually I added a BBE Two Time in line.  The delay seems to be warmer/darker with this amp than the Fenders I've tried it with.  That is a good thing.  It really sounded excellent…but bare in mind this is all being done in the family room.  I think the room tends to create feedback more than most stages, but the amp will surely sound different at a gig.

I decided against the stock AlNiCo for the simple fact I decided a while back I don't like buzzy speaker distortion (couldn't replicate it with an AlNiCo in a Vibro Champ).  I am not saying that speakers or bad of the DT should come with different ones.  It might seem strange, but for harp, I am not a fan of lots of speaker distortion.  I like compression, but not the sound of an 8” distorting.  I don't think the DT is any louder now, but it does have a bigger bottom end.  Neither ceramic speaker seemed to fart out even with a Low F harp and tone all the way down.

Also, this amp is going to be used at a range of volume levels.  I think the “cleaner” ceramic speakers make the amp more consistent sounding from low to high volume.  Some players are going to prefer the smoother sound of the stock speakers at low volumes and the all out nasty flavor of the speakers when cranked.

I still have JJ 6V6 tubes in there with a GE 12ay7.  I was too lazy to monkey with rolling tubes as I have a limited number of 6v6 and 12ay7 tubes and time on my hands.  This week I'd like to try a Mullard 12at7 and JAN 5751, but I have a strong feeling I'll keep a 12ay7 in there.  The stock tubes may sound the exact same, I don’t know, but I have really liked the JJ’s in my other 6V6 amps.  I use a SM57 and can sometimes use hotter tubes and still be ok.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Amp

I bought a HarpGear Double Trouble this weekend.  Wow.  It was amazing.  I will write a large review soon.  I had a DT a couple of years ago and don't remember it kicking that much tail.  I did a full five-piece gig with the amp on 4...I could turn up to 8 without feedback.  It is easily three times louder than either of my Champs.  In fact, I sold the SF Champ and have the Vibro Champ for sale as well. 

I did the gig with the stock speakers and tubes, but have already subbed in some JJ 6V6 tubes and a GE 12ay7.  I plan on testing some Weber ceramics in the amp too.  The AlNiCo speakers are fine, but with the amp cranked and a low F harp, there was too much speaker distortion for my liking.  However, a lot of harp players enjoy that sort of breakup.  My preference has always been for ceramic.  I think the bottom end is tighter and the sound of the amp has a better spread.  AlNiCo has always seemed beamier to me.

But I am not an expert!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Check out the killer tone!

I was offered a Princeton Reverb Reissue for my Vibro Champ and a bit of cash.  Very tempting after seeing this vid.  The amp in this vid has 1x12 instead of a tempting!  I have some sweet tubes on hand for the Reissue, but would most certainly want a Weber 10F125 over the stock Jensen RI.

My bud Dave is trying to bring a Double Trouble to my gig tomorrow.  I am going to try and A/B the amp with the guitar player's Princeton Reverb.  Volume vs feedback will be the deciding factor.  I wish my Champ was loud enough for all my gigs!  On occassion, even with a good monitor, it won't be enough.


Casually I was asked about the harps I use on a forum today.  I use almost all Golden Melodies.  I have four Suzuki Firebreaths that I use as well.  I have a lot of "backup" harps that are typically GM's, but I also have a set of Suzuki Bluesmasters and Lee Oskars.

I am an overblow player, so the reeds on the GM's are sweet.  I like the out of the box feel of the FB's, but I've found I have to dampen the reeds to OB.  On fast runs, there usually isn't an issue.  If you listen to Leave Your Light On the end of my solo has a 6OB held with a "Chris Michalek" vibrato.  I have a tricky time doing that on a FB without dampening.

I do take time to work on my harps.  Tuning and reed replacement has been tricky, but I am getting better.  I try to tune to 443khz.  Draw reeds tend to flatten as you play, and the 443khz is what most my harps have been stock. I emboss, arc, and gap all the reeds, however, I've typically could get away with just tinkering with a few reeds. 

When I play, I don't blow too many harps last a long time.  I think this has to do with breath control.  I play some fast stuff from time to time and like to have the reeds be quick.  I feel that my tone and playing is much better when I don't breathe with a lot of pressure.  When I did the gig minus guitar, I noticed a huge difference in my technique.  The air pressure I played with was an all time low, and it really made playing a lot smoother and toneful. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I am not going to lie.  I've been through a lot of amps.  I rolled gear like crazy when starting out because I was to naive to realize you could do things like use different tubes and speakers.  I also had awful mic technique and was still trying to dial in my own style.  Then I got a Kinder AFB+ and got really bad because I could plug into just about anything.

I unloaded a totally awesome HarpGear Double Trouble and Bassman Ltd a while back.  NiteRail went on hiatus and I wasn't really gigging beyond really small rooms with my own band.  I ended up with a Vibro Champ and an Allen Old Flame, which is a fantastic 2x10 blackface inspired amp.  However, it has a master volume which isn't always great for harp or the Kinder.  I just sold it.

So now I have two Champs that will end up being underpowered for some gigs.  I need at least a medium amp.  I am thinking of trying to pick up a used Double Trouble.  I can't think of anything else around the volume.  I don't want to lug a 4x10 around.  Really, I am not that tone obsessed.  For me, it is always a matter of being able to hear myself over the drums and guitar.  Ok, almost always the guitar.

I LOVE the sound of a SF or BF Champ, but they can't always cut it at a gig no matter what the set up.  The only amp my guitarist plays is a Princeton Reverb now.  That's all I got to go up against.  And I have no problem using an amp stand or having the amp tilted up in front of me.