Monday, September 27, 2010

VHT Post on Harp-L

The Special 6 popped up in a couple of posts on Harp-L.  Here is my two cents as posted on the "L"...

I don't have sound clips, nor the gear to get a good recording up.
HOWEVER, I was asked to play harp on several tracks for a band's
upcoming album.  I will post what I can from those sessions in the
next couple weeks.

FWIW, try sticking with the 12ax7 in there.  I've scoured the web for
anything I can find on this amp, and one item that comes up again and
again (if I was a techy type and could read schematics this is
probably obvious) it is mentioned that this amp is voiced "dark".
Meaning, the internal settings for the tone controls are heavy on bass
and light on treble.  I've heard it compared to a bass setting of 10
and treble of 2 on a typical tolex Champ.

I tried the amp with a full band - and we are a rock band - with a
5751.  I also did a brief solo performance in a gym full of 400
students.  In both instances, there was enough volume, but the amp was
way too dark.  I miked the amp for the band gig.  It had enough stage
volume except for our most loudest passages.  That room sat about
150-200.  It is all hard surfaces and not set up for music.  In the
gym I didn't even need to crank the amp at all.

This past weekend, we did an outside show that was full band but
pretty laid back.  We were in an enclosed area.  I had the 12ax7 back
in the amp.  Plenty of cut now.  I had the amp on low power with the
pull boost on.  It sounded like a tweed amp, IMO.  I didn't even have
the amp at 50% on the volume knob.  I had PLENTY of volume, even when
the drummer was hitting hard.

So I guess what I am getting at, is for stage volume, this amp can
easily do whatever a Pro Jr or under 10w type amp can do...bone
stock!!!!!!!  So for under $200 you can have an amp that is easily
giggable, especially so if you play in a low volume band.  I mean my
band will straight out rock and the amp has held its own.  I was going
to get an Eminence Ramrod, and probably still will, but the stock
speaker is fine - if you like a clean ceramic sound.  I did put a JJ
6v6 and Tung Sol RI in the amp.  However, the stock tubes are fine for
harp.  The 6v6 looked a little cheesy, though.

While I don't think the stock amp is quite as loud as a Princeton
Reverb, I picked it over a HG Rockbottom, Epi Valve Jr, Super Champ
XD, and Pro Jr.  I have no regrets.  This amp smokes for harp and even
has many of the "mods" guys would go after - no negative feedback
loop, larger OT, darker tone caps, tweed mod, etc.  My HG50 is THE amp
for me.  I get lots of compliments and I am able to get a fantastic
tone at any volume.  However, there are times where we play small
stage areas and room is an issue.  The VHT gets about as loud as the
HG50 on close to 3.  However, the 50w adds a lot more bass, and the
treble control adds a lot more bite - making it feel bigger and


***Again with the speaker, I contacted VHT.  It is allegedly rated at
97db.  It has a very flat frequency response and it takes some of the
ice pick highs out when used with guitar.  It was manufactured to be a
great speaker for recording guitar.  That being said, I plugged it
into my HG 50 1210 cab and the added bite from what I think are the
increased mids of the Cannabis Rex sounds absolutely FANTASTIC and
does make the amp seem louder and ENORUMOUS.  In fact, through that
cab, the VHT hit my typical stage volume.  I like the idea of trying
the Ramrod as Eminence thought it would be a good fit as did Mike
Wesolowski.  I think the Lil Buddy would be too dark. The Ragin Cajun
might work too.

So if money were no object, I'd look at the Classic 6 and get a
Cannabis Rex in there.  With $300, you could get the Special 6, retube
it, and get a Ramrod in there.

Friday, September 17, 2010

VHT at Rehearsal Notes

Again, I apologize for not having sound clips yet.  I am working on it!  I used the VHT Special 6 with a JJ 6v6 and JAN 5751 at rehearsal for the Mark Cameron Band last night.  With this rock group, it is all about dirty harmonica tone.  The band uses a full set of monitors when rehearsing and things can get sorta loud.  The guitar was going through a Marshall 2x12 combo (but was at a totally appropriate volume).  The bass and drums were full rigs and in the room we are in, it gets loud.

I was sitting right next to the bass player.  The VHT was several feet away and turned at me.  I had no feedback problems with the amp cranked.  I had no hearing issues when comping or playing anything laid back.  When I had to solo over the band's full volume, I did start to lose the amp in the mix.  I could hear myself, but not as well as I would have wanted.  A quick fix would have been having the amp closer to me or running it through my monitor.  All-in-all, I think it would work for stage volume anywhere a full-sized harp amp isn't needed.  Obvioiusly, it needs to be miked front of house, but I think it could keep up with an amp like a Pro Jr, Super Champ XD, or the like.

The true test will be on stage with this group.  If there isn't a separate monitor mix on stage for me, I think I could still get by in a lot of places with the amp on a stand.  In a huge room, such as the Blues Saloon, I'd just use the HG50. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

VHT Special 6 and Fender Blackface Champ

There is SO MUCH to write about this amp.  I realize I will be skipping things and jumping around a bit.  One thing, and it is quite general, is how much this amp is like a Blackface Champ.  The stock VHT is similar to the modded Champ created by Rick Davis. Rick has stated he has $600+ into the amp.  Now listen, the VHT is only $200.  It doesn't have the quality that $600 will get you.  BUT, it is probably very close and a hugely cost effective way to get a sweet small amp that works great for harp OUT OF THE BOX.

The VHT has no negative feedback, which adds hair to the notes.  It also has a beefed up OT giving the amp a bigger sound.  The caps are different values than a stock Champ.  Meaning more bottom end and fixed amounts of bass, treble, and mids.  The Special 6 rocks a 10" speaker (lots more detail on the speaker to come), has a pull-boost similar to the "tweed" mod that eliminates the tone stack, and a tone control kinda like that on a tweed Princeton.  It essentially adds highs like the control on a Pro Jr.

The amp also has a half power switch, multi-ohm tap for speaker cabs, and both a high and low gain input.  I've been experiementing with all of these and will comment on them in future posts.

I am not a great amp-schematic guy, but for those of you who are, download it here.

VHT Special 6 Tubes

Ight, the stock tubes are a Sovtek 12ax7 - which is ok and used in the HG 50 from HarpGear.  The 6v6 is a generic model made in China.  They sound ok and are totally useable for harp.  For the $200ish you can get the amp for, you can pretty much plug and play.  The amp comes totally useable.

However, for around $30 depending on where you purchase, you can pick up a different preamp tube and 6v6 that will change the tone of the amp.  The preamp tube makes the biggest difference.  I use a SM 57 for my mic, and with a 12ax7 can easily run the amp at 2-3 o'clock without feedback.  This is quite a bit of the amp's volume.  The tone control is also useable at this point.  For said price, I picked up a Tung Sol RI 12ax7 and JJ 6v6.  The tone is clearer, louder, fuller, and the amp has more bite and bass.

Before doing any internal mods or switching the speaker, I suggest rolling preamp tubes to taste.  I have tried a 5751 which is pretty also makes the pull boost useable for harp.

VHT Links

Here are some links for those wanting to read up on what guitar players have thought of the amp.  There is some great information here that includes how it works stock, mods, and general info.

Excellent Review from Will Chen

Will's Interview with Special 6 Designer

Will's Special 6 Thread

TDPRI Mod Thread

The VHT Special 6 for Amped Harmonica

VHT Special 6 Amp

I’ve been slacking on blogging and in an effort to be more involved with harp players online, I am going to focus on my journey with the VHT Special 6 amp for harmonica.  I will outline as many details on the amp as possible in subsequent posts.  The amp rocks stock and I've found just about any info worth anything on the amp and will share that as well.

I ordered this amp from Rich’s Music Exchange in NY for $189 last week.  As far as I know, I am the first harmonica player to order/use one and talk about it online.  For comparisons sake, I've played and/or owned many small amps...

Vibro Champ
Epiphone Valve Jr
Super Champ XD
Pro Jr.

The VHT is my favorite!!!

The amp came in this past Monday.  Sonically, it is like a Blackface Champ on steroids!  I would recommend this amp to any and all harp players as a WONDERFUL point-to-point wired small tube amp.  I apologize for not having recordings already – I don’t have the gear as of now.  Below are details about the amp.

From the VHT Website:

Special 6 Combo

Boutique amp players will love the Special 6’s combination of handwired tube goodness, unique features and unparalleled value.  The mod-friendly Special 6 is easy to customize for home amp builders and tube amp enthusiasts.

The Special 6 gets its powerful tube sound from one 12AX7 preamp tube and one 6V6 output tube.  It boasts a footswitchable Gain Boost feature that significantly expands its range of tones -- it's the only amp in its class that excels at both clean and overdriven tones, and it's the only amp in its class to offer a footswitchable boost.  With the Gain Boost, players can instantly toggle between clean rhythm tones and overdriven leads, essentially duplicating the footswitchable functions of a 2-channel amp in an all-tube, handwired, simple, 2-knob package.

To further expand its range of tones, the Special 6 also features a High/Low power switch that enhances low-volume tones with extra-smooth richness (when in half-power mode). It's a great feature for recording, or for low-volume "bedroom" players.  In high-power mode, it's one of the few amps in its class that is loud enough to compete with a strong drummer.  The Special 6 combo is outfitted with a special high sensitivity 10" VHT Special Design speaker.

    * 6 Watts
    * One 6V6 Output Tube
    * One 12AX7 Preamp Tube
    * Volume and Tone Controls
    * Footswitchable Boost Mode
    * High/Low Power Switch
    * 10” VHT High-Sensitivity Speaker
    * 4, 8, and 16 Ohm Speaker Jacks
    * Mod-Friendly Eyelet-Type Board
    * Hand-wired In China

Model: AV-SP1-6