Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Best amps you've ever owned or played through.
Best amps you've ever owned or played through.
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2462 posts
Jan 08, 2018
5:47 AM
I know this is one of those things that just never dies and people bring up all the time, but I'm looking to get an amp that will cover the bases for most small to medium sized gigs.

I've not had much experience with amps and I'm trying to save myself the trouble from running through tons of amps to find the right one.

I got a nice 5e3 thinking it would do the job, but it's a pretty horrible harp amp, imo

I want an amp that I can use a considerable amount of the volume without having to fight feedback.

What are some of the best amps you've played for Chicago style blues harp?
73 posts
Jan 08, 2018
6:16 AM
Honestly, as a gigging musician who plays small clubs/restaurants, I can never understand when people say they need more than what the Kalamazoo Model II brings (5-8 watts). If there is a line-out to the PA, and/or an SM57 parked in front, shouldn't there be enough power? Is it possible everyone is playing way too loud, or playing with guitarists who are playing way too loud?
Perhaps it is just because I cannot afford one of the big-boys, but if your tone is solid, I don't see why you'd need more power (unless it is for a Festival).
My 2 cents, for what it's worth...

2463 posts
Jan 08, 2018
7:48 AM
I have a Zoo model one and it's a joy to play. I never even use a VC with that amp because it doesn't feedback. It's great. I wish I could find a larger amp that would act the same.

I think with a duo MAYBE it would be enough. Surely miced or line out to PA it would work fine but then your at the mercy of the sound tech (If there is one. ) or your stuck with how it's set until you can take a break to adjust it , if not.

I think the idea is to have enough power to be self contained.
323 posts
Jan 08, 2018
8:35 AM
How about the HarpGear Double Trouble? (is that about the size you are thinking? 18 Tube watts? larger than your Kali but not too big?).

Last Edited by TetonJohn on Jan 08, 2018 8:35 AM
2465 posts
Jan 08, 2018
10:09 AM
Well Teton the double troubles I have heard, I've never really been impressed with. I do love the 2x10 setup.

I have a nice 2x10 cab and was kicking around the idea of building a tweed Pro / super/ bandmaster style head. They are all essentially the same circuit with different speaker configuration. Wonder if anyone has experience with any of these?

A 4x8 or 4x10 seems like too much to drag around to smaller gigs, even if it does break up at lower volume.
1895 posts
Jan 08, 2018
10:12 AM
If I was going to start from scratch and had some scratch - I would buy a Fender 4x10 bassman
Its heavy but you wont be outgunned and dont need to mic it

Right now I have a zoo 2 .a Gibson Skylark and a Fender Princeton with the attenuator--
I really dont want to play any louder than those will go
They handle a Shure commando pretty well with trebles turned down

Last Edited by Goldbrick on Jan 08, 2018 10:14 AM
The Iceman
3433 posts
Jan 08, 2018
10:30 AM
When Brian Purdy was taking harmonica lessons with me, he would preview his HarpGear amps - they sounded great right from the amp and also, the line out pushed through my BOSE system had the exact same beautiful sound - so his magic seems to be independent of the speakers used in the amp. Best sounding blues harmonica amps I've played through to date.
The Iceman
104 posts
Jan 08, 2018
10:35 AM
Goldbrick speaks the truth. People spend time and money on amp mods, EQ pedals, etc., line outs, trying to make their little amp work for them.
Just save up and buy a Fender Bassman or Bassman clone. A 3x10 would work too. It's a Chicago Blues sound but is surprisingly versatile, and as for lower volume situations you just have it on 1.5, no need to mic it, use good cupping/mic technique to get some breakup...the crowd will hear you and you'll hear yourself way before feedback. Can play clean too. I currently use a Weber kit of a Bassman 4x10 and it rocks. I set it up behind me and plug and play for 80% of my gigs.
I also have a Fender Pro Junior and it's a very good amp for small to medium gigs. Preamp tube swap to 12ay7, and I put a Weber sig 10 in it because the Fender speaker in there was a trebly guitar speaker, or at least I thought so back in '96 when I bought it and my technique wasn't so good. I have had it 12 years and it's great. You could mic it but for most situations it will suffice.
The funnest amp I have played through was a Fender Super Reverb at an outdoor gig once...it was not really a Chicago Blues sound but it was rippin'! Earth shattering!
Some folks on this forum swear by one of the Peavey Blues amps with a 15" speaker.
4628 posts
Jan 08, 2018
11:27 AM
you already have a 210 cab why not one of these
2442 posts
Jan 08, 2018
11:35 AM
I had Steve Clark at Sligo Amps build me a replica '59 Bassman some 9 years ago and it was a great amp, if heavy. It had a nice mix of speakers for both low and high end breakup. It could be run as a 2x10 easily for smaller venues. Why did I let it go? It was too heavy for casual play and the cash tied up in it was best used elsewhere.
I had a Peavey Delta Blues 210 on loan for a while. Pretty good amp for harp.
Wife and I had Fender Vibro Champs for a while which were great in a small room but turned out way too distorted in anything but the smallest venues.

The amp I've used the longest- and it's more a duo amp than a full band amp due to low power- is a Silvertone 1482. 12-13 watts, 12" speaker.

Don't know if that helps you but there it is.



2466 posts
Jan 08, 2018
11:53 AM
Goldbrick i'm already on the fence about the bassman. The weight is the major complaint with those, but it's an easy resell for sure.

I agree with Tomaxe that alot of folks spend more money than its worth to make a little amp work.

I kindof want the one and done amp. That's why I was thinking a head could be a good comprimise. I could Bring 2x10 for smaller gigs and the 4x10 for larger ones.

1847 I have looked at the 101 reverb
Looks nice. I've heard some great sounds come out of those quilter 8s.

J bone ANY food for thought helps right now...lol.

I really would like to play through a few amps before making up my mind, but it's not that easy. Only guitar Center around here and they have crap. Might need to look up some local guitar shops in Philly and take the drive.
106 posts
Jan 08, 2018
11:54 AM
Yes, a 4X10 combo is heavy. You may be the guy with the biggest amp in the room, and for someone who is just starting out to play live and still working through things, that can be intimidating. That's the bad news. The good news is: you won't be that pain in the ass guy who needs to mic up the amp, be near the monitor, tells the band to turn down, etc. And harp amps never get as loud as guitar amps.
You could invest in a little hand cart.
2813 posts
Jan 08, 2018
1:03 PM
For small to medium-sized rooms, I have two amps. The Harpgear Double Trouble which is absolutely perfect. It's loud for it's size. It's feedback resistant and it's very toneful. I love the 2x8 config. I also own a Mission 32-20 with a 1x12. It's very toneful and almost as loud as my Super Sonny. It's about the size of a Blues Jr.
128 posts
Jan 08, 2018
2:06 PM
Best amps I own are an early 40's Masco A-17 (yes, it's so old they weren't using the MA designation) and a 1947 Silvertone 1300. Both great for small to mid-sized venues.

If I got it right you don't want to lug a 53 lb. Bassman (I made the same decision a year ago) and you have a 2x10 cabinet, which I presume you like. In that case I would recommend contacting Skip Simmons (www.shipsimmonsamps.com). Talk to him about which vintage amps he has on hand to pair with your 2x10. He may come up with interesting possibilities you've never considered or heard of - a Bell 3715, a small Bogen PA, or a Sonola combo amp (originally designed for use with an accordion) . He has a stock of interesting old amps he can rebuild.
13 posts
Jan 08, 2018
2:15 PM
Im my opinion, based on I had played/onwned
Small amp: Harmony H-304A, Kay (same model that Adam use), Fender Harvard
Medium: Serrano Harp Emperor (2 x 10"), Fender Bandmaster (3 x 10"), Premier 120R (1 x 12")
Big: Fender Concert (4 x 10")
1673 posts
Jan 08, 2018
4:00 PM
There is also the Harp Train 40 head,if you want to go that way.
You seem to have doubts that the 'Zoo will cut it in a duo.You must be playing with a really loud guitar player.The more you play out,the more overly loud guitar players you will find.I've been in situations where even a Bassman was struggling. I've learned to avoid those players. Makes life(and harp playing) much easier.
Greg Heumann has a line out mod for the 'Zoo. That's another option.
2467 posts
Jan 08, 2018
4:56 PM
Great options.

Lflisboa which bandmaster do you have? Tweed? I'm interested in the tweed pro/super/bandmaster circuit. I think it would be just Right to build as a head to go with the 2x10. The problem with all of the amps is .... I've never played through any of them. It's ask here say abs others opinions...lol.

TucKater I didn't mean that the Zoo wouldn't be good for a duo. Just that that'd about all I see it being good for wot being miced or line out.

Like you said,I don't want to be the pain in the ass that has to mic his amp up.

I just want to set up and roll.

BnT I do love my 2x10 cab. I had thought about a head from skip. I think a head of some type is the way to go. I could always use different cabs for bigger / smaller gigs

Thanks for the food for thought everyone.
I still don't have clue. I need to play through a few of these first.
5181 posts
Jan 08, 2018
5:31 PM
Tweed super Was where I had thought I was going when this Sonny Jr came along.
There’s another design I’ve seen, named janamp (is it Jim Rossen design?) and I was planning to build this from a PA head I have.
The funny things about this, I’ve read the Janamp was at least partly inspired by the Sonny Jr I & II amps, and that those SJ models (unlike the later bassman-inspired SJs) were largely based on 5C4/5D4 Fender designs.
But, I’ve also heard that Sonny 1 was based on a Masco and I haven’t followed up on any of this in a sensible way, like mapping my Sonny 2 and comparing it to a schematic of the amps in question.
However, if you take Bruce Collins’ word for it, the first 2 SJ amps are very similar to those Fender tweed supers. This should be encouraging as this SJ2 is pretty cool. Yeah it’s a big amp but really it’s 2 mid size amps in one cab. I could easily see this as a head but I’m not about to break up my amp. I may well go ahead with my janamp plan though.
That design iirc has 2 separate preamps, one using a pentode and the other using triodes.

Apart from all that bullshit, I was actually pretty happy with that Deluxe Reverb I used last week. I think I’d prefer that to a Princeton Reverb but I’d want to do some A/B time before I signed off on that call
4629 posts
Jan 08, 2018
6:17 PM
yesterday we used a blues deluxe 40 watts one 12 inch speaker, with a lone wolf tone + sounded great.

later we switched to a blues jr. no complaints at all.
225 posts
Jan 08, 2018
6:29 PM
If you want something smaller than a bassman that you don't have to mic for medium size venues, you might enjoy a Sonny Jr. Cruncher or Super Cruncher. Good sound quality and harp friendly/feedback resistant. I don't own one but have played through one owned by a local guy around here, and it's a really nice amp.
226 posts
Jan 08, 2018
6:33 PM
If you're considering a Blues Jr., I'd suggest playing through one first. Some guys swear by them, and I think there are some mods you can make to improve them for harp, but the ones I have played have not been my cup of tea.
2443 posts
Jan 08, 2018
9:47 PM
This whole issue I am glad to say I have had resolved. I'm settled into a duo where we just don't play loud, ever. 12w single 12" amps and a nice Yamaha 4 channel p.a. to deliver vocals. We can do a medium room easily.
I do miss working with bigger bands sometimes but really, if I'm honest, my music needs are well taken care of. I do NOT miss agonizing over how to hear myself and be heard or schlepping a half ton of amp around. I'm frankly too old for that! Our amps and p.a. fit in 2 big totes. Duffel bag for stands. Guitars, harps, and a cable and mic case and we're in.

We savor street gigs and farmers market since we don't amp up at those. For venues that need sound, that's what we get paid for, to bring a decent volume without running off customers.

It certainly takes all kinds to fill the stages and air waves, and I say more power to all of you. I've found my slot and it only took about 20 years!




92 posts
Jan 08, 2018
9:56 PM
Memphis Mini and the Mission Chicago 32/20.
693 posts
Jan 09, 2018
5:50 AM
I find that this cuts through the mix pretty well, even when the band is loud.

Of course, load-in and load-out are a bitch.


Last Edited by garry on Jan 09, 2018 5:51 AM
1548 posts
Jan 09, 2018
7:54 AM
Toys toys. We mostly love this quest and that's why it never ends. Reading the thread just now I started talking myself into a Double Trouble, and I have 25 vintage amps.
The experience offered in this thread is pretty amazing. Lot's of players that know what they're doing -and spent LOTS of time and money figuring it out. These days I go PA or 4-10 (Brown Concert). The problem we have with amps is often more about actually hearing that sound than actually getting it. In a live situation the good stuff gets lost. Especially for precise playing. Given that the good stuff (tone) really comes from the player I've found the PA to be completely satisfying. I have worked hard to refine my pedal board and it's really working now. I want clear crisp tone through the system. I don't use a pedal for distortion but my mic breaks nicely. I have a harp break but don't use it -sounds digital to me. I use an exotic ep and its response with the PA is very focused.
So my suggestion is your own pa via a powered speaker with pedals.
Barley Nectar
1337 posts
Jan 09, 2018
8:03 AM
I played my 68 Bandmaster into a Tremolux style 2x10 cab w/Ragin Cajun and P10P, this past sunday nite. Used a early Shure 545 set to hi Z and an Arion SAD-1 delay. Our drumer has an electronic kit so we are not real loud. We were in a soft room. In chnl 1 the BM sounded lush and very controlable. Nice n clean in a FAT sort a way. When we had a couple of guest guitarest up, things got loud. Bumped the V on the BM and the thing just CAME ALIVE. WOW, what a sound! Everything it was before but better and fatter. Not one hint of FB the whole night. I had never played this particular setup and am very impressed.
A few other notable amps: 59 Sano HiFi with the big 15. Fender Champ II from the '80's, 59 RI Bassman w/ Blues or a real one, if your rich. Lectrolab R500c. The 5F10 Tweed Harvard has fixed bias and is very much like the 5F11 Tweed Super, And if you wana do big shows...A Fender 75 with a 2x10 extention cab. Whatja say??

Last Edited by Barley Nectar on Jan 09, 2018 9:35 AM
Little roger
209 posts
Jan 09, 2018
8:45 AM
“I do love my 2x10 cab. I had thought about a head from skip. I think a head of some type is the way to go. I could always use different cabs for bigger / smaller gigs“

I have a Masco MA 17 head which I was lucky enough to buy from Kim Wilson. I can run it through a 1x 12, a 1x 10 or a 2 x 10 cab. Whilst this does offer different sounds and colors, the 2 x 10 is not massively louder than the 1 x 12. It is louder but don’t assume it makes the 15 watts sound like 40. Still, it is cool to be able to swap around.

313 posts
Jan 11, 2018
4:56 PM
Have Dale at Megatone build you a 30-50w head, with whatever options you want: Headphone jack, multiple speaker taps, etc, etc., it’ll be the most versatile sounding, non-feedbacking, flexible rig you can find. Then, use it with whatever cab configurations you want.

It won’t be cheap, but it will be one and done.

But I think we’ve had this conversation before, you and I.....

“Hear me now and believe me later.” - Hanz and Franz
356 posts
Jan 13, 2018
10:12 AM
My personal favorite that I've played through is the early 60's Ampeg ReverbRocket..thru the accordian jack. I love that sound.
771 posts
Jan 13, 2018
11:52 AM
Kalamazoo Model 2, '61 Gibson GA6 Lancer, Sonny Jr. Super Cruncher, Sonny Jr Avenger. I own all of these after many years and many amps including quite a few tube PA heads and various combos. Horses for courses.

To the list I would add a Masco 25 with original clamshell speakers. I truly great amp but impractical. I sold it to a harmonica museum but wish I still had it. Also right up there is an original '57 Bandmaster that I had the opportunity to play through twice. Arguably the best amp I've ever experienced but extremely rare and hideously expensive. You're looking at $7,000-$10,000.

Oh, one more. Bit of a sleeper. The reissue '63 Vibroverb. Only made for a couple of years. The brown tolex one. Can be had for around a grand. Swap for some decent tubes and a set of Webers and it's killer. Used one for many years running the harp through the Normal channel and the guitar through the bright. Great tremelo if you happen to also play guitar.


Last Edited by LSC on Jan 13, 2018 11:56 AM
437 posts
Jan 13, 2018
8:52 PM
Best i have ever played through..a '65 Fender Princeton.
Best amp i have ever owned...my current rig..L/W harp break,Boss GE7,L/W delay,BBE sonic Stomp into a VOX MV50(clean)
50 Watts and endlessly variable,maximum grit or any other variation i want.
Wish i had this rig years ago.
156 posts
Jan 14, 2018
9:20 AM
Music Man 65/30W. 2x10 spk. this has been the amp I mostly use for harp.ON 30w. the tubes don`t get hot but when it`s set up right I can turn it up to 9, and can honk as loud as the guitar with little or none feedback.no boxes just amp, and a shure 545 mic. for over 40 yrs. Also, when I`m playing in a low vol. set up I use a Fender Champ, they are wonderful.....

Last Edited by nowmon on Jan 14, 2018 9:38 AM
4638 posts
Jan 16, 2018
10:08 AM
i got to play thru a 410 bassman lined out to a 610 harpking.
the best part was the the band i got to play with.
Barley Nectar
1338 posts
Jan 16, 2018
4:38 PM
Woh, there's something i never tried. Lining out to a bigger harp amp...HMmm...Mic a Zoo into a Bassman...

Last Edited by Barley Nectar on Jan 16, 2018 4:41 PM
4656 posts
Jan 22, 2018
1:34 PM
IMG_1503 (002)
1 post
Jan 22, 2018
5:59 PM
Well hello to all members on the forum. My name is Keith Smith now known as Bluesman57 thanks to Dirtty-South Blues reg.process. qL5e2H
2 posts
Jan 22, 2018
8:40 PM
Have any of my fellow harp players played on or own a Troubadour 30 watt amp by Ibanez. I purchased the amp over a year ago and was blown away by the amp's dynamic sound and how loud this puppy can get. It comes with chorus and reverb. I especially like the amp because I can plug it into my cell phone, get on utube, and crank it up playing my harp along with artist like Muddy Waters, Sonnyboy Williamson, BB King, and of course the great and knowledgeable Adam Gussow. A great way to fine tune up your harmonica playing skills. I know for sure this little amp would be good enough for small to medium size venues. The question is would it be sufficient along with mic-ing it through the PA for large to extremely large venues such as The Voice of the Wetlands Festival held for 3 days every October in Houma, La. It was founded by Tab Beniot, a personal friend, who is a well known blues artist. I just recently came across a Peavy 115 TNT 600 WATT Bass Amp and was wondering if this amp would take me to a whole new level that would enhance my performance/skills or if would be a waste of my time and money. Specs on the amp are: 15 in. specially designed speaker, high frrquency tweeter with on/off switch, 7 band graphic EQ, High and Low Shelving Controls, Pre Shape Contour Switch, Bright Switch, Active/Passive Pick-Up Switch, Crunch Switch (adds tube-like crunch effect), Compressor with defeat switch, footswitch controls for crunch and compression, effects loop, master volume, DDT speaker protection, powered speaker output, and has a convenient kick back design. I only got to "test drive" the amp for a few minutes at low volume in a crowded local pawn shop. When I plugged it up at home the power cord on the back of the amp was slightly loose causing it to blow a fuse. It is a ceramic fuse which is basically like an old style car fuse. I picked the amp up for $200 and returned it the next day. It may be worth a heck of a lot more to me as a harp amp if I buy the amp back and have it fixed. The manager to the pawn shop will work with me regarding repairs. I am retired, don't have deep pockets but if repaired cheap enough I could still profit selling it to a bass guitarist. Prices trending $500 -$1300 ! Has any harmonica player out there ever played harp on this model Peavy? Could this amp possibly be the golden key for the sound I am looking for? Could it perhaps open a door just wide enough to discover a new dynamic level of signature sound??? . NOTE: I AM IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM ENDORSING ANY AMPS OR BRAND OF AMPS! OBJECTIVE ADVICE IS BETTER THAN SUBJECTIVE ADVICE. THANKS MEMBERS FOR LETTING THIS NEW KID ON THE BLOCK JOIN THE FORUM.h98HTp
3 posts
Jan 22, 2018
8:55 PM
Hope there is someone out there that has had some experience with the bass amp I mentioned.
1556 posts
Jan 23, 2018
1:02 PM
Welcome Bluseman57 -stay strong -serious advice "available" around here :)
Peavy 115 TNT 600 WATT Bass Amp?
I'd doubt it but there's only one way to know -and even then you won't know unless the mic and all other variables get along. Never a given.
Then there's that other variable that's pretty important...

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