Low Cost Battery-Powered Amps

Getting Started With a Harp Mic

Getting Started With a Harp Mic

In a previous post I gave you 3 reasons you should learn to use a harp mic:

:point_right:For the bluesy, distorted tone we all know and love

:point_right:To be heard among a crowd of people, and

:point_right:To be heard among musicians

There is a learning curve with playing amplified, because playing with a mic, especially a bullet-style mic, requires some changes to your technique compared to playing acoustic.

:one: In order to get that nasty, distorted, chicago-blues style tone, you want to get as airtight of a grip around the mic as possible. The airtight grip is part of what overdrives the mic giving that distorted sound. This takes practice.

:two: Hand wah effects are greatly limited. We have to rely much more on mouth position and much less on hand wah’s to get the tonal variations we want to play.

:three: Feedback - that squealing moaning sound that makes everyone cover their ears and grimace - is something that we are always trying to avoid. Finding the balance between a GRITTY tone, yet NOT FEEDING BACK is challenging and takes time and experimentation. Sometimes that balance requires us to become nimble with our mic’s volume knob.

The MIC I recommend for beginners, if you’re on a tight budget, USED TO BE the Bottle O’ Blues, but sadly they are no longer in business, although you may be able to find one on eBay or Reverb.com.

But thankfully I just got turned onto a host of vintage Japanese mics that are suitable harp mics for under $50! :exploding_head:

You can check them out in this video, and please do not hesitate to post any questions you may have about them here in the forum.

Otherwise, if you’re not on a tight budget, here’s my recommendations:

:arrow_right: The Hohner HB-52

:arrow_right: The Bulletini

:arrow_right: Shaker Mad Dog for those with small hands or only use of 1 hand

But what about the all important AMP?

Here’s a low-budget solution to consider: Low Cost Battery-Powered Amps.

All battery-powered amps share these benefits:

:+1: Lightweight

:+1: Relatively Inexpensive

:+1: Don’t take up too much space at home

:+1: Able to be played anywhere - even camping in a remote place!

To put these prices in perspective, a regular amp that harmonica players might use on a gig, like a Fender Bassman runs about $1200.

I checked out 4 super-cheap amps, and here are my takeaways.

:small_blue_diamond: Honeytone N-10 ($25)

Honeytone N-10

:zap: Runs on a 9V Battery

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. But at least the Honeytone can get you playing amplified.

It’s most effective to use with headphones, as it’s hard to get it at a nice volume without feeding back.

Using this amp with one of the vintage Japanese Mics can get you into the amplified harp game for as little as $50.

BUT it doesn’t have an aux input, to be able to listen to songs or backing tracks to play along with, which makes it less fun and useful for headphone use.

:small_blue_diamond: Orange Crush Mini ($75)

Orange Crush Mini

:zap: Runs on a 9V Battery

This 3 Watt amp has the nastiest, most nasal tone of these amps. Its big drawback is that it’s prone to feedback and it doesn’t have a big bottom end.

Since it has an aux in, it’s great for headphone use - plug in your phone or computer using an ⅛” cable and jam along with your favorite songs or jam tracks.

:small_blue_diamond: Blackstar Fly 3 ($75)

Blackstar Fly 3

:zap: Runs on 6 AA Batteries

This 3 Watt amp has a bit more bottom end than the Orange amp, and it’s a bit easier to get the volume up on it without excessive feedback.

This is the only amp that has an onboard echo effect which can be a LOT OF FUN.

It also has a “blues power” button which distorts things more, getting nastier tones, but making it harder to avoid feedback.

Also like the Orange amp, it has an aux in, so it’s also great for headphone use and jamming along with other songs or jam tracks.

:small_blue_diamond: Pignose 7-100 Legendary ($125)

Pignose 7-100 Legendary

:zap: Runs on 6 AA Batteries

This is a 5 Watt amp with a 5” speaker and so it’s just a lot easier to get it to a nice reasonably loud volume without feedback. If you are wanting to use a mic to jam with others and/or to be heard in small gatherings, this is definitely your best bet.

However, it has neither an aux in jack NOR even a headphone jack, so this baby is NOT good at being quiet.

Final Verdict

:dollar: On a shoestring budget a $25 vintage Japanese Mic into the $25 Honeytone amp gets you up and running with playing amplified for 50 bucks!

:headphones: To be able to play in headphones along with recordings, and have an inexpensive entrance into playing amplified without excessive feedback, I’d probably go with the Blackstar.

:dollar::dollar: And if you don’t care about use with headphones, and it’s affordable for you, I’d DEFINITELY go with the Pignose.

:dollar::dollar::dollar: And if you can afford $250 or more, check out the bigger Pignose options, the Hog-20 or Hog-30.

A great riff to first practice with an amp/mic would be any of the 5 Killer Harmonica Grooves, or:

The I Want Candy riff, punctuated with a -45 trill (because it sounds badass and requires no bending).

Here’s the tab:

-123 -123 -123 234 -123

-45 Trill

4 Likes

Luke and friends,
I bought a superlux bullet on Amazon for $99. I love it! Later I added rockville 20 amp with Bluetooth, dual inputs, earphone jack and echo. I think I paid $49 for it on Amazon. It’s a plug-in. But I I am having so much fun with this setup. I guess my point is that you don’t have to spend big $$ for a setup that you and others can enjoy.

3 Likes

My point exactly! Thanks for sharing.

I should check out that Superlux and put it up a Green Bullet. It’d be cool to check out the Audix Fireball, maybe shoot that out with them too?

2 Likes

I am on a personal crusade against the current green bullet, the 520DX. It is a completely different microphone from all green bullets that preceded it, totally inferior, yet Shure and Hohner keep acting like it’s the same legendary mike, and for $140. More than likely it will finish last in your comparison, it has a high almost tinny tone with not much grit and distortion. I’ll also point out that there’s a huge difference between the Pignose 7-100 and the Hog 20 & 30, much more sound and performance from the last 2 plus you’ll go broke constantly replacing the 6 AA batteries on the 7-100.

2 Likes

@KeefDeBluesHarpRobot Yeah, my point exactly on the green bullet. That’s why I was thinking I should review it. To prove how terribly shrill and prone to feedback it is, lol. And seeing that Superlux made me wonder if might even be better than a 520DX. Ever played one?

That’s cool to hear about the Hog 20 and Hog 30. I’m sensing another review idea… :thinking: (Anything to justify my GAS!)

You can get an AC adapter for the Pignose 7-100 so you don’t go broke polluting the landfill with dead batteries. :wink:

2 Likes

Superlux mic. Not sure if they have a US site.

1 Like

I have never used a Superlux, but the specs just provided would suggest not tinny and not alot of lows.

Hello @Dai,

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USA with UPS

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Here’s a guy who’s done David Barret’s course using a Superlux. This will give you an idea of the sound you’d get from it.

Here it is with the Joyo American Sound peddle.

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