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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Booster?
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1598 posts
Oct 31, 2019
7:59 AM
There are a couple of specially made boosters for harmonica, and I´m sure they are excellent but just a little bit pricey.
So I wonder, is there anything out there with a slightly more modest price tag that´s been tried successfully with the harp?
The Iceman
3952 posts
Oct 31, 2019
2:27 PM
what's a booster for harmonica?
The Iceman
1599 posts
Oct 31, 2019
3:04 PM
Here´s one for instance:
But don´t ask me about the tech specifics -- I know naathing, like Groucho used to say.
2023 posts
Oct 31, 2019
3:35 PM
Have you tried to adjust your graphic eq pedal to suit your sound and add gain as a booster when you step on it and turn it on?

I usually keep it simple and just set my mic volume partially down and turn up the mic volume to boost when I want. A pedal can do work. I follow the rule Keep It Simple...

Doug S.
357 posts
Oct 31, 2019
9:33 PM
What issue are you trying to fix? What are you trying to achieve? This might help with suggestions.
1600 posts
Nov 02, 2019
6:51 AM
Sorry for being difficult here, but I thought all of you guys were completely on the ball when it came to tech stuff!
What do I want from a booster? Pretty much what Ronnie S gets here. I sometimes gig in really small rooms and my 5W tube amp doesn´t bark att low volumes and it would be attractive to get around that:
2026 posts
Nov 02, 2019
8:12 AM

The need for a booster?

Doug S.
358 posts
Nov 02, 2019
12:43 PM
Martin said:
"I sometimes gig in really small rooms and my 5W tube amp doesn´t bark att low volumes."
So, I think that is helpful in clarifying things. That is typically a problem with playing through larger amps (or the PA), so any tool for helping with that might help you. Anything that merely "boosts" the signal from your mike will just make you have turn the amp volume knob down to compensate. I think this is part of the confusion with using the term "booster," (could be wrong -- no claim to being "on the ball").
(I have put LW Harp Octave in front of a big amp to get the sound I want at lower volume; some use LW Harp Break or Attack for this. I have never tried one, but the device that is supposed to get you the exact sound of your cranked amp at lower volume is an "attenuator.")
I'll let others say more now that the need is clarified.

Last Edited by TetonJohn on Nov 02, 2019 12:49 PM
129 posts
Nov 03, 2019
1:52 AM
To answer the OP: Mosky XP booster.
I think its an Xotic clone, Cheap as chips.
I like it - drives my little 5W tube amp along nicely.
1705 posts
Nov 03, 2019
6:04 AM
Our tools are about getting a really good signal out into whatever space we're working. The same ideas happen with car stereos or our audio systems at home. I'm using a board to Max the quality of the signal and then it goes to an amp or the pa. Everything in the chain has to be quality.
As said above, I also use an Xotic EP and right after it is a LW Octave - for volume and FB control. Those two things make the delivery of sound far more efficient for me - amp or pa. I also use a carbon copy delay because I think it's really clear and clean. I don't use any distortion effects. Except attitude.
1601 posts
Nov 03, 2019
7:22 AM
Many thanks! I usually save treads that´s valuable in a separate MBH folder on my HD, but I hade a computer breakdown a while back and lost quite a lot of stuff. And now, rather stupidly, I didn´t search the archives.
Christ, where´s my memory?
955 posts
Nov 03, 2019
10:45 AM
Martin said "Sorry for being difficult here, but I thought all of you guys were completely on the ball when it came to tech stuff"

Not me, I'm the complete opposite!
My first ? Is why?
I have more than ten tube amps built or modded for harp of different wattages and I dont have that issue with any of them.

I am old school, I don't like 99% of pedals for harp and find them useless.
Guitar, that's a different story.

A good amp built or modded for harp don't need pedals. They are built or modded in such a way that there not needed.
Now if you like all that fuzzy sound effects psychodelic crap like a certain pro player does, that's cool and I respect that. We all have our own taste.

Is it real blues? Hell no!

If your amp does not do it, maybe you need a different amp? There's so many good inexpensive small harp amps out there. A booster will most likly add feedback if your pushing the amp with the pedal.

Last Edited by Harpaholic on Nov 03, 2019 10:46 AM
4138 posts
Nov 04, 2019
1:44 AM
I tend to mostly agree with Harpolholic here. What mic and amp combination are you currently using Martin? Are you happy with your acoustic sound? What sound are you looking for?

On the rare occasions I play amplified harp these days I either use just a 5F1 Champ clone, a VHT Special 6, or more often than not a Harp Break or Harp Attack pedal direct into the board. Mics I'll use are either a Shure Slim-X 777, Shure 245, Shure 545, or an Astatic JT30 with CM element. Never had any problem getting a good amplified sound with any of that kit.
131 posts
Nov 04, 2019
5:54 AM
Didn't we discuss this a while back?

I use mine for dynamics: Set the amp pretty clean for comping etc. Step on the Booster for hairy solo.

All that can be done with technique I guess but a booster makes up for some of my shortcomings.
1602 posts
Nov 04, 2019
9:48 AM
@bublnsqueak: Yes we did, as dougharps pointed out, but as I said above, with my dead computer went all my saved treads. And I was too lazy to search the archives, which is a sin of omission that I plead guilty to and will pay my panance, ´cause then I would probably have found the earlier tread.

@Kingley et al: Amp is a 5W tube thing. Electro Voive, or other lo-Z mic, like 545 or Audix (rarely touch the Bullets these days), impedance converter, reverb, delay -- that´s about it for blues gigs.
Acoustic tone? Well, half decent -- although it´s hard to be your own judge (and I never play acoustic -- not too wild about acoustic harmonica).

What I´m looking for is break-up at a much earlier volume stage. (Dougharps and other´s suggestion to use an eq pedal gives at least my amp a little to harsh sound, IMO.) More distortion W/O having to drive the amp up with higher volume.

And I would have followed bublnsqueak´s advice and bought one of those Moscys like yesterday if I had found a good source for them.
359 posts
Nov 04, 2019
10:42 AM
Lone Wolf has a great return policy -- you might order a few of their pedals to see if one of them makes you happy -- and then return what you don't want to keep.
OR, if you live near a music store that sells pedals, bring your gear and test out a few different types of pedals -- should learn something from that -- real life beats internet advice. :-)
1603 posts
Nov 04, 2019
12:05 PM
Thank you, TetonJohn. I´ve got a music store right here, on the very street where I live. Nice people and all that, no heavy metal kids, but I sincerely hate testing stuff there (regardless, I have to do it occasionally) and usually leave them with nothing but a headache. But right now I saw on their home page that they´ve got a ... booster! In the neighbourhood of $50, but that I think I can manage, should it turn out to be a nice thing.
133 posts
Nov 04, 2019
3:59 PM
Break up at lower volume.
I fitted my 5W with an L pad attenuator. Here: https://www.esr.co.uk/electronics/loudspeakers10.htm
Even cheaper than the Mosky.
It allows me to turn down the speaker whilst always presenting the correct load to the amp (I think they are all for 8ohm speakers)
I can push the amp as hard as I like with any volume level I like.
I can't see why all little harp amps aren't fitted with these as standard (LW didn't have one I suppose)
4139 posts
Nov 04, 2019
9:23 PM
An attenuator would probably be better than a booster. As it would allow you to get closer to the breakup qualities of the amp when played at higher volumes that you like at much lower volumes.

Other than that, playing technique is as always the place where the biggest change to ones sound will appear. Learning to dirty things up acoustically when needed is what will make the biggest difference to any amped sound, along with proper cupping of the mic. Probably not what anyone really wants to hear when they are looking for a gear solution to a problem. However the realisation that the single biggest and best gear available to any player is working on their acoustic playing techniques, is a game changer on so many levels.
1606 posts
Nov 05, 2019
5:37 AM
@bublinsqueak: Thanks for the tip. I don´t exactly get the specifics here but I´ll surely ask my tech guy and send him the link -- before Brexit! Sadly I´m one of those unfortunate SoB´s that have a hard time even changing a light bulb so I´m gonna need some qualified help. The price here seems completely reasonable.

@Kingley: Yes, playing technique inevitably comes up in these contexts. And I probably stink in a terrible way, but at least I try. When it comes to cupping I´m not 100% of the conviction that good sound/break-up equals really tight cupping, and that´s because I have actually played on amps that have taken in more dirty sound at lower volume -- but that´s not my tiny 5 W Chinese "Tweed-Tone", as it´s called. It´s insufficiently fat, to my ears. (Also, I deliberately loosen my cup quite frequently when playing.)
I don´t have many videos but here it is in a duo context from a year or two ago and, well, it kinda works ... but for some of our numbers I would certainly like being able to push out more raspiness at lower volumes. Telephone recording, of course; and one blatant mistake in my solo that starts at about 1:30! (Spit in the machine.)
When I´m in a band (blues-), that "broader" sound becomes even more important when you´re backing at low volumes and filling out those empty spaces.

As you can see, this is a small room (art gallery) and I´m probably on volume 5 or something, and that´s the limit for this kind of gig.
4140 posts
Nov 05, 2019
6:09 AM
From what I can gather the Tweed-Tone amp is basically a copy of the 5F2 Fender Princeton circuit. If that is the amp circuit, or if it's based on the 5F1 Fender Champ circuit (the only real difference between the two is the Princeton circuit has an adjustable tone control). At 5 on the volume it should more than enough crunch for any gig. At 7 it should be on or near feedback. My suspicion is still it's technique that's the main problem and not volume. I have a Joyo (Chinese made) 5watt champ clone. I changed the speaker out for a Jensen, changed the rectifier to a 5Y3 and have either a 12AX7 or a 12AY7 in the preamp (depending on my mood at the time). It has more than enough crunch around 3 and at 7 is a bit too ratty sounding for my liking. Your amp is basically the same circuit from what I can gather. So my suggestion would be maybe try changing the rectifier and preamp if they aren't already a 5Y3 and a 12AX7/12AY7. If that doesn't work then I refer you back to the answer of technique. Learning to dirty up your sound acoustically makes a huge difference to what sound comes out of an amp. An attenuator might help, but I'm convinced that technique would help much more.

Last Edited by Kingley on Nov 05, 2019 6:10 AM
1607 posts
Nov 05, 2019
6:47 AM
Thanks Kingley for the quick response.
Maybe you´re right about the Tweed-Tone--Princeton specifics. I´ll try to look into that. I only know that my tubes were replaced to something a bit more harp friendly.
I´ve heard good things about those Jensen speakers and that might be a way to go.
When it comes to volume I can push this one all the way up to 10 without feedback. Then it quite naturally barks a bit more, but it´s not the fat raspiness that I can get out of other amps, I promise.
And on the technique question, well, I can only say that I more or less always practice with a dry microphone, and that´s something of a necessity since I live in an apartment that´s very poorly soundproofed, and I can and must dampen my sound quite a bit or I´ll get evicted!
4141 posts
Nov 05, 2019
7:07 AM
"When it comes to volume I can push this one all the way up to 10 without feedback."

I suspect there might be a 12AU7 in the preamp slot if that's the case. They are about as much use for harp as a used teabag in my experience for small single ended champ style amps. I'd swap it out for a 12AY7/12AX7. Both can be bought very cheaply from eBay. They are easy to swap you simply pull the preamp valve (the small valve inside the amp. Some times they are inside a small metal case which just twists and pulls off and they are usually situated on the right hand side of the amp when you look from the back. Swapping out to one of those values of valves will give you far more presence, create earlier break up on the volume dial and increase the harmonic tones of the amp circuit significantly. Than a 12AU7 will ever do.

Last Edited by Kingley on Nov 05, 2019 7:09 AM
1608 posts
Nov 05, 2019
7:41 AM
That sounds promising! Will get right down to it, as soon as I´ve secured the proper help.
Many thanks.
134 posts
Nov 05, 2019
7:42 AM
Where are you Martin?

I know that the chances that you are in Elmswell near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK are quite low. But if you can get here I will fit an attenuater to your amp for the price of a pint of beer.

Of course I will have to buy you one after that, and it will all get silly from then on but we should do it!
1609 posts
Nov 05, 2019
9:36 AM
@bublinsqueak: Your kindness moves me. A most gracious offer, but the fact of the matter is that I´m in Gothenburg, Sweden. Not an impossible distance but still ... (Would have loved to see the cathedral, and then positively *insisted* on buying the beers!)
360 posts
Nov 05, 2019
10:59 AM
Martin, do confirm (or dis-confirm) Kingley's hunch on the 12AU7. Should be VERY easy to do (you don't even have to turn it like a lightbulb!). It's possible you won't even need to remove it -- see if the tube value is visible with a flashlight. If you do have to remove it, just put it back in with the pins line up with the holes in the socket. Probably best to shut the amp off -- tube will stay hot for a little bit, so be patient for a minute or so.

Last Edited by TetonJohn on Nov 05, 2019 11:00 AM
1610 posts
Nov 06, 2019
5:57 AM
Kingley´s hunch disconfirmed:12AX7. Or at least I think so: 12AX7 is followed by AC5 ... and then I
can´t see anymore, but 12AX7 is clearly visible.
I´ll look into the attenuator strategy.
4142 posts
Nov 06, 2019
7:42 AM
Martin if you can turn this amp up to 10 on the volume as you say without feedback and aren't using any kind of noise gate. Then there is something seriously wrong. Either your mic and impedance converter aren't attenuating a hi-z, signal into the amp,. Or I'd say there's something wrong with the amp. I've never come across any 5 watt amp with a 12AX7 in that can be turned up to 10 without screaming with feedback in my life.

Is this the amp you're using this one?

Or maybe this?

Last Edited by Kingley on Nov 06, 2019 7:52 AM
1611 posts
Nov 06, 2019
8:26 AM
@Kingley: Yes, that second one it is!
And yes, I do use a kind of ... feedback blocker. (A home made product, built by a fellow Swede.) I thought I mentioned that before but forgive me if I didn´t. It does steal a little bit of the volume, and without it the amp starts to howl at around 8 or so when I use the EV or Audix mics.

I´ve been busy with it this afternoon and I´m completely convinced this machine needs some additional gadget to give it a satisfying grunt at lower volumes. Unfortunately my Joyo AS does not work at all -- feedback way too early. The combo sounds great at volume level 2 or therearound, but that is unacceptably low.

Well, I will proceed with the matter.
Many thanks for pointers here, much appreciated.

Last Edited by Martin on Nov 06, 2019 8:27 AM
4143 posts
Nov 06, 2019
8:47 AM
None of the videos I've seen online of people using the Sonic Pipe/Windy City amp have seem to have any problems getting an overdriven sound at reasonable volume. I'd try taking every pedal out of the line first and using a hi impedance mic directly into the amp instead of a low z mic and impedance adapter. You say this has had work done to make it more harp friendly. Was that how it came from Sonic Pipe or have you had other work done on it since buying it?

If the amp is how it came from Sonic Pipe and you're using a hi impedance signal into the amp, then the only answer to the conundrum is harp playing/ mic cupping technique. Not the answer you want to hear I know, but the answer none the less. I suspect that by throwing more money at this you still won't be happy with it. I don't think (if the amp is stock) that more/different things inline are the answer to the issue you're experiencing.
1612 posts
Nov 06, 2019
10:23 AM
Tweed-Tone is, I believe, a thing that comes in many shapes and guises. It is an inexpensive little thing (relatively) and various names comes upon it. (Mine, for instance, says nothing about Sonic Pipes; in the States I think -- but I´m not sure -- it´s sometimes called Memphis Mini.) The work done on it was an exchange of tubes, I think.

It was given to me as payment for a couple of gigs, so it´s hasn´t cost me penny, but of course I tried it out first, both w/ bullet and lo-Z mics. And I prefer the latter -- also, they give more volume.

But of course you´re right about throwing money: that´s is always rather carefully considered when you have my wallet. But there´s is a certain bite that is lacking here, and I´ll have to experiment more. Maybe some combination w/ the Harp Octave could be interesting ... but rest assured, I´m no pedal fanatic and ideally a small delay, mic and amp has a big attraction for me, when it comes to blues.

I´ll check out those videos, thank you, haven´t thought about that.

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