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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > What makes for a good harp amp?
What makes for a good harp amp?
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Bob E
8 posts
Sep 10, 2020
7:15 AM
Seems like I often hear it said that good harp amps aren't very good for guitar and vice versa. So, what attributes do you look for in a good harp amp?
6805 posts
Sep 10, 2020
8:44 PM
I don't really agree with the premise but I get it.
It's overly-broad IMHO. It comes down to the guitarist taste in music as to what they consider is a good amp.

Some amps I think are very good guitar amps are among the very best harp amps.

Probably the most widely coveted stage amp for harp players is the Fender Bassman. Despite the name, it's an excellent guitar amp. Maybe not for all styles though.
In a slightly earlier era, the Super Reverb was very popular as a stage amp for harp players.

Currently in small/mid-size amps, the Princeton Reverb is widely held to be among the very best harp amps. It's also a revered guitar amp.

Small harp amps are very commonly based on the 5F1 tweed Champ design, which has a very solid history in recording studios.

None of these are super high gain pre-amp types of amps. They are all pretty old designs, going back to early 60s and before.

Pre-amp gain is a really big factor.
Guitar amps designed for use in music styles which emphasize a kind of guitar sound which requires truckloads of gain are gonna be a handful for harp, because it makes it very difficult to control feedback.

Voicing is another factor. Harp players taken as a group probably favor low end response and shy away from bright trebly sounds. Whether that's a valid concept I think is questionable to a point, but you probably don't want something with a heavy emphasis on bright at the expense of lower mids.

I suppose speaker size is an important consideration too. Personally I don't mind 8" speakers, nor 12", but I know many harp players believe 10" speakers are best for harp.

The basic problem with amplified harp is to be loud enough to hear yourself play while not feeding back

I think this is quite achievable but it's not a one size fits all situation

Last Edited by SuperBee on Sep 10, 2020 10:24 PM
3251 posts
Sep 10, 2020
9:44 PM
All good counsel Bee. Having owned all 3 amps mentioned they all fit in one slot or another.
I had a replica '59 Bassman built when I was flush once upon a time and it was great with loud bands. Hard to lug but great tone and major volume. I actually was banned from putting it on stage a couple times I took it to jams. I could in fact unplug 2 speakers but it was still a big force on stages. I ended up letting it go since I was not working with big bands and it weighed about 45 lbs.
I had a '63 Princeton tremolo amp for years. Single 10, about 10 watts. Great tone, low volume, no future on stage with drums and guitars unless a sound guy really knew how to mic it into a p.a. channel.
A few years back Jolene and I got 2 Fender Vibro Champs from late 70's/early 80's and what great living room/recording amps! But useless in even a medium room.

My picture of at least part of the issues re: guitar amps vs harp amps is, most amps built are designed for guitar pickups and yes, high gain to boost the sound. But most harp mics are a very different frequency and will react badly and loudly to high gain. I proved it many times over.

I've had about a dozen amps personally and played through maybe 2 dozen more at one time or another. Most were not great for harp due to the feedback issue. It is indeed a complex issue. What would be the purpose of the amp? Small room, small band, bigger room, bigger band? Practice? Actually playing out? Recording? What kind of mic is planned? Any pedals in the loop?

There are some nice purpose built harp amps out there. And those mentioned by Bee are pretty good right out front.

My rig is as follows in the duo I've been in for years: We both have vintage Silvertone 1482's. 12 watt, single 12" speaker, fairly light, good tone. I replaced a 12ax7 pre amp tube with a 12au7, which tamed the gain some. I use either a pretty hot Shaker dynamic mic or a modded from low impedance to high impedance Electrovoice M43U NOS military mic. I have a couple of Shure 585 ball mics, high impedance, which to me are a good sound as well. I run one pedal, a Lone Wolf Harp Delay, to fatten the sound a bit more.
Here again I've used many mics over many years. Vintage crystal mics are great as are the hot old controlled magnetic dispatch type bullet mics. What I've ended up with are fine for what I do these days. I'm not averse to using a p.a. channel on some stuff too, with a Shure sm57 or right into the Shure Beta58 vocal mics we use. Our p.a. has some pretty good effects.

So maybe you have even more questions than answers now, but it's all relevant and the answers you can find will help you sort out what you need to do what you want.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.




Last Edited by jbone on Sep 10, 2020 9:49 PM
240 posts
Sep 13, 2020
5:47 AM
These days, there are so many great amps built for harp players specifically. I have used 2 of them extensively:
Harp gear 2 - great amp, expensive.
Stage 5 - great amp, not expensive.
If you buy an amp from one of these 2 companies you are guaranteed to at least like it. If you don’t love it both of these have good resale value.
1128 posts
Sep 13, 2020
5:10 PM
Low gain and big bass

Harp Train 10 is a very good amp also
Sorry for any misspell, english is not my first language.

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