Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Lone Wolf Harp Break
Yipee Ki Yi Yay II! Randy Landry, over at the Lone Wolf Company, has been in his mad science lab again and has another winning pedal to help us harp players achieve the tonal nirvana that we all seek. This time, though, I've got my hands on his latest creation called the Harp Break--and the best part is that it was FREE! Followers of my posts here have read my glowing reports of his inventions and possibly listened to the linked demos. I've been very, very tempted to buy one or more of his gizmos, but my playing out days are so limited that I've just haven't done it. My loss.
He ran a contest for the new Harp Break and I won--I didn't have to play harp better than anyone, he simply drew my name from his hat. Luck of the draw, thank goodness. The Harp Break is a distortion type pedal designed to add grit, grind, and fat to an amp that's a bit too clean sounding or to plug directly into a p.a. for a tone that has more mojo or just to twist a little variety into your favorite harp amp. Click on the link in my opening sentence and check out his site and scroll down to the Harp Break in the sidebar and take a listen to the demos. Houston harp whiz Dave Nevling shows just how well the Harp Break performs through his p.a. at a live gig and Ron Sunshine puts the pedal through its paces plugged into a Fender Bassman Reissue. I'll let that web page fill you in on the pedal's details and I'll fill you in on what my impressions are here.
First off, it is very simple. I like simple. The Harp Break has three knobs--drive, volume, and bass boost. Plug and play baby. The true bypass feature makes for seemless A/B testing. The first thing I stuck it to was my Ol' Smoky amp (described in one of my very early posts). It is a Bell Sound 3725 p.a. amp, driven by two 6L6 tubes, that I rejuvenated quite some time ago, but never really got it to produce the tone that I wanted. Enter the Harp Break. Using my JT30 style 5 meg crystal mic to push my harp notes, the Ol' Smoky suddenly sprang to life with the pedal. The volume increase before feedback was significantly substantial--the presence jump out at me and the bass boost gave it more whomp. That really caught me by surprise. I played around with the drive knob and it added or substracted the amount of grit that I wanted it to put out. The only trick is to balance the drive with the volume to avoid too much clipping or feedback. I wound the volume wide open and eased the drive knob up to get some great tone and then I backed the volume down and wound the drive knob up to get something slightly different going on and achieve a bit of tonal variety. I got what I liked best with the bass boost up 3/4, the drive a bit past a 1/4 and the volume up at slightly less than 3/4. The Ol' Smoky was smokin'.
I pushed this all through a couple of less than optimal 10" speakers, just to see if I could get a decent tone from them for a change--and they came alive with the Harp Break. Once I plugged the rig into my 4x10 cab with Webers, I had a tonally different animal on my hands. It rocked!
My experimental session moved on to my old Voice of Music amp with two 6V6 tubes, which also had something lacking in the tone department. Again, the first thing I noticed was the volume boost. The sound just leaps from the speakers. The Harp Break transformed the amp from one that was so-so into a blues harp amp that I enjoy playing now.
I then put the Silvertone 1483, which I heavily modded for harp, through the test. Of the four channels, I've got a couple that are set up more for crystal or ceramic mics and they need absolutely no help getting the vibe going. The 1483 gets my favorite tone when plugged into those with a crystal mic. I can't play my controlled reluntance or controlled magnetic microphones through those because the tone gets clipped too hard and chops the notes off. They sound decent through the other two channels,especially it I tack my J-Phat impedance matching box into the signal chain. So, channels one and two were excellent candidates for the Harp Break to work its magic. And, man, did it ever. Those channels rival my crystal mic inputs when the Harp Break kicks into action. The bass bomp from the cystal channels always seemed to be missing on channels one and two--not any longer. Now my CR/CM mics can get those cranking with the Harp Break cranking. Oh, and my crystal mics are just as awesome through those channels, because the pedal performs the same buffered impedance matching as my J-Phat.
Okay. That's my story. Not the end. Just the beginning. The Harp Break got me off my butt and has me practicing like I should have been doing all along. Long live Lone Wolf. I thought Randy would have run out of ideas for pedals by now, but he just keeps coming up with winners. Check 'em out. Anyway--