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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Checking out for a new amp + Epiphone VJ question
Checking out for a new amp + Epiphone VJ question
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2 posts
Mar 22, 2018
10:57 AM
Hi guys

I need some help here. I´m looking for a new tube amp and almost going crazy checking the web, as I´m not really sure about which one.

The thing is that I´m going to start doing some gigs with my band and the one I have is an Epiphone VJ with the Bitmo trio kit. We won´t probably do big clubs so I thought about a 10w or 15w.
Would that do? Which one would be best? After checking lots of websites and forum and thinking about my budget, I came down to Laney Cub, VHT 6 Special Ultra, and what about VOX AC10 Custom? Are there any others around that price.

And now that I´m at it I have another question about my EVJ. Best speaker to swap the eminence it come with and should I change the tubes to upgrade it?

Thanks in advance
5333 posts
Mar 22, 2018
1:35 PM
Hi Pepthevet
I don’t know how to advise you about whether those amps will be loud enough.
None of them will be all that much louder than your valve jr.

The vox is probably the most difficult of the 3 to work with.
The cub 10 is a great little amp and so is the VHT. The Laney is probably the most versatile at a range of Volume, the VHT may actually be the loudest and depending on what you like may just have an edge in sound but so much of that depends on other factors

They would all have a bit more projection than the epiphone, due to the 10” speaker but not a great deal

When I jam with my band in a studio, I can sometimes make do with an amp like that. But there are other times when I hear the recording and realise that while I could hear the amp I’d actually had to drive it so hard that the good tone was gone and it was all just one dimensional and buzzy like a kazoo.

If you are thinking of playing gigs with drums you CAN do it with an amp that size but really would need to mic the amp to PA or run a line.

Something more like a blues jr with 12” speaker would likely be more practical and represent a significant step up in capacity over your valve jr

A Princeton Reverb is also kinda getting there but a bit more $$ maybe for a new one at least

About speaker for the valve jr, another tough call but good on you for asking.
I’ve had 3 valve jrs and have kept one as a head. Usually I use it with a 2x8” cab I built with a pair of Weber vintage series 8A100-O

They are tough and crunchy sound, different to the Weber signature 8” I have in my Champ 5F1 clone. I like that sig8 up to a point but the breakup can get very fuzzy and lose all definition very quickly whereas the vintage series keep it together a bit better I think. They are not particularly loud speakers though.

I do think the valve jr goes best if you can plug it into a separate cab with a 12”. I sold my combos mainly because they were redundant anyway; I had around 10 amps in that class. But I kept the head because it gave me options of plugging into various external cabs and has 4, 8 and 16 ohm taps

If you post your questions up on the main page (maybe you already have, I haven’t visited there yet!) I think you’ll get a much wider range of responses. Then you’ll just have to work out who knows what they’re talking about ;) but there will be people who have used a lot of different stuff.
With speakers it’s tough because it’s quite expensive to do a lot of experiments in a short time
3 posts
Mar 23, 2018
2:07 AM
Thanks SuperBee.
I think I´ll stay with the EPVJ for a while before getting a bigger one. One of my mates at the band has a Blues Junior, so I´ll try it on our next rehearsal.

By the way, any advice on what tubes are best for the EPVJ? Should they be bought as a matching pair or are ther any best option from different brands?
Thinking about getting an Jensen P8R Alnico Vintage 8Ohm speaker so I can improve my amp in general. In case I need more volume, I think with a mic would be enough for what we are planning on doing in our gigs.

Anyway, thanks again for your reply

Cheers !!
5334 posts
Mar 23, 2018
5:36 AM
I’m curious whether you’ve played much harp through that VJ.
I just refreshed my memory of the bitmo mods, they remind me somewhat of the mods I made to one of my combos, which resulted in a great guitar amp but kinda unworkable with the harp due very gainy and feedback-prone.

Tubes: the Vjr has 1 EL84 power tube and 1 12AX7 preamp tube.
I ran JJ EL84 tubes and I don’t recall what I had in the preamp, maybe an ehx but could’ve been anything. The vjr can be quite tough on power tubes.
The one I’m still using has been converted to 6V6 but on reflection I think I preferred the combo I sold in which I’d installed ‘alnicomagnet’ mods. When I get around to it I’ll rebuild the one I’ve kept, reinstall a mk3 pcb. I might step up the output transformer as well, or maybe not.
4 posts
Mar 23, 2018
7:59 AM
When I bought it, i was first recommended to get a HB GA5. I couldn´t find one and found out that it was actually a clone of the EPVJ. That I found and at a good price. And came with the mod. Even thoigh I´ve been learning (not playing) the harp for 5 years now, never had the chance to play with other musicians until now, so that´s why I´m trying to find out more about amps and stuff.
You are right, it has a lot of feedback but because I play at home and the place where we rehearse is not very big, I didn´t have much of an issue with it. Probably would be best to get a more harmonica-friendly amp. Found a VHT 6 special combo ultra at a very good price.
I´m going to keep the VJ at the moment. Never done any mods, so I think this could be a good start.

Thanks for all the information. Being a newbie in all this tube-amp-mod-world and trying to get clear by spending hours searching the web, your two posts have been very revealing
5335 posts
Mar 23, 2018
3:45 PM
Can relate.
I owned a HB GA5H
The ‘H’ is for ‘head’
They are Epiphone valve jr in almost every way. Not really a clone, more of a rebadging. There is just one difference. Maybe 2, as I think they use a different speaker to the ‘Epiphone’-badged amp.
The difference is a tone stack. The valve jr (there are 5 versions of the Epiphone valve jr: mk 1, 2, 3, the head and the hotrod) has just a power switch and a volume pot, whereas the hb ga5 has a tone control.
This has quite a big impact on the amp and in one way makes it a good prospect for harp, but there is also a downside. The particular tone circuit they used works by bleeding off a lot of the signal to ground. This simultaneously makes the amp easier to use for harp but also the sound is less lively, somewhat dulled.

Your valve jr has been modified to provide more gain, which is great for certain guitar styles but is kind of the enemy of amplified harmonica.

The basic conflict with amplifying harp through guitar amps comes from the signal strength. A microphone can produce a much stronger signal than a guitar pickup. Maybe as much as 5 times more. So guitar amps are designed to amplify this signal from a pickup which may be .2 volts. Maybe the first gain stage is designed to amplify that 25 times, up to 5 volts. When you plug a mic in and hit the first gain stage stage with .8 of a volt, suddenly the thing is kicking out 20 volts.
Usually that signal goes to a volume control and maybe a tone stack before going to the second gain stage. The second gain stage is designed to cope with that signal anticipated from the first stage, knocked down a bit by the tone stack and volume, maybe it’s expecting to see 3 volts. You can turn the volume way down low and cut the signal from your mic down, but the signal voltage varies directly with how hard you play, so when you consider that 25x factor in stage 1 it doesn’t take much more input to boost the signal hitting the second stage into the red zone again.
These numbers I’m using are pretty loose but just trying to illustrate a principle.
There are 2 main approaches to dealing with this.
You can attenuate the signal from the mic before it reaches the amp, or you can restructure the preamp.

The lone wolf mojo pad is an example of an attenuation device you can put between mic and amp. People seem to like it.
A volume control on your mic can do the job too. If you have a properly-functional volume control and run it around halfway you might find that’s all you need to do.

I’ve mainly taken the other option and built preamps designed for the full mic output. That’s kind of fun if you like that sort of adventure, but you end up with a ‘harp amp’ and that’s a harder resale situation than guitar amps

Last Edited by SuperBee on Mar 23, 2018 3:48 PM
5365 posts
Apr 07, 2018
6:12 PM
Funnily enough my original modified valve jr just came up for sale. I bought it back. I’m gonna do some more work on it.
5 posts
Apr 10, 2018
7:35 AM
Hahaha !!! That´s a good one!
I got the Mojo Pad Plus and it works for me. As you said,there was too much gain and as soon as I turn the volume up...FEEDBACK !!!. But not now.
I´m swapping tubes as well (going for Mullard 12ax7), and changing the stock loudspeaker for a Weber signature Alnico. Really want to get the best out of the little VJ. Mainly to play at home, so I can work on my tone being amplified.
5368 posts
Apr 10, 2018
7:57 PM
That’s great. I’m glad the pad did the job. I think I’ll pick one up also.

When I sold this Vjr which I just bought back, I was worried the purchaser might find it too high gain for his situation so I took a leaf from Randall Lone Wolf Landry, and took the cathode bypass cap from stage 1 of the preamp. That made the amp a lot more controllable but personally I’ve grown tired of that sound. When I get it back I’m gonna reinstate that cap.
Or, alternatively I’m thinking of rebuilding it for guitar and sending it as a gift to my friend in Queensland.
Or, I might keep it and try a bigger output transformer to see if I can get some more volume from it. I think it could stand some more clean headroom. Might be good through a 12” cab or perhaps a pair of 10”s
I haven’t been playing with solder much since getting back into playing harp regularly and I’m beginning to get the itch.
5373 posts
Apr 14, 2018
11:22 PM
I replaced the cap. What a difference. It gives a lot more gain and reduced the volume knob sweep to just about 9 o clock. Somewhere between 9 and 10 o’clock I suppose. It’s loud and aggressive at that; louder than I could get it without the cap. With the cap removed I could turn the volume to almost 2 o’clock but wasn’t really getting more volume, just more distortion. This sound has greater definition and clarity, louder and I expect will have more ‘cut’.

The sound without the cap is more like the sound I’ve begun to think of as the ‘lone wolf’ sound, because it reminds me of the harp break and the LW epi Vj mod (which I’ve implemented on another amp). It’s a softer kind of clip, quite acceptable in its own way. The ‘alnicomagnet’ sound is more ‘in your face’

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