Monday, May 18, 2015

Harp Train 10

I have one of these now. It's called a Harp Train 10 produced by the Lone Wolf company and is designed specifically for us harp player (duh, thus the name). I've written a word or two about the harmonica specific pedals they produce, particularly the ones I have...the Harp Break and Delay. I also have their Terminator pedal that opens up a harp mic by matching the mic output and amp inputs better electronically and also has an output jack to allow connecting two amps in tandem or feeding direct into a p.a. But, anyway, this is about the amp.

I bought this for three reasons: 1. It was made by Lone Wolf 2. It had the cheapest price tag of any amp designed for harp players (ordered mine the first day of sales and it arrived for less than $350) 3. I decided I wanted a new amp, as in NEW amp.

That's right. I've never owned a new amp. All my amplifiers were built prior to 1965 (a late '30s Bell Sounds, a '60s era Silverstone 1483, a '60s era Kalamazoo I, ditto for the Sears XL, and Voice of Music amp from an old record console). All were amps that I dug into and modified to be more harp friendly, so I wanted new for a change. It's not like I needed another small amp, because the Voice of Music and Kalamazoo covers that well, but did I say I wanted new for a change. I've come close to pulling the trigger on new before, but always backed off.

First thing I did was A/B the HT10 with the Kalamazoo I (my go to amp for great tone). First impression had me leaning towards the 'Zoo in terms of tone and volume. The longer I played the amp, and it could have been a matter of speaker and tubes breaking in, the Harp Train began to edge it out. Considerably. Had to reverse my opinion pretty quick. I did stick my harp mic at my boom box and drown the amp in Little and Big Walter, James Cotton, Muddy Waters, etc, etc for a few hours to loosen things up. The amp proved to have way more meat and bottom end than the 'Zoo, leaving the latter sounding a bit more tinny in comparison. Great tone! They both have ceramic 10" speakers in them, but the HT10 speaker came alive. The Harp Train 10 has two knobs. One called Loudness and one called Balls, which is a boost knob according to their website. It's that boost knob that takes the amp out of the one trick pony realm, which is basically what you get with the 'Zoo or a variety of small amps like the Champ. I'm thinking they incorporated a lot of what they stick in their pedals like the Harp Break where you twist a knob and get something different going on.

I played around with the Balls knob vs Loudness for quite awhile. One up, one down, the other up, the other down. Different strokes for different folks on that account. Different tonal palette with each move. Not sure about the website claim that it's probably being the loudest small amp on the market, but it do get loud. That being said, I did read a user mentioning that setting the Loudness knob just shy of 4 and the Balls on 3 that he was on the verge of feedback and complained that a harmonica specific amp should be able to exceed that. I played through an old Green Bullet with a hot CR element and an Astatic crystal and could ease up to 5 with the Balls on 4 before fighting feedback issues, but I understand the point he makes. It was substantially loud, but then again that was playing at my house. I have a Greg Heumann volume knob on the Green Bullet and reduced it and did get the amp blasting up around 6 without a noticeable drop in tone. Couldn't really tell if it got louder.

This past Friday I took the amp out to gig with a trio that I play with at an outdoor gig. They play a few blues tunes, but mostly '60s stuff. We're just two guitars and a harp, so there's no competing with a bass thumping and drums. The lead singer decided to go electric, he usually plays acoustic, so he was playing through a Peavey Delta Blues amp. The lead guitarist goes through a p.a. rig, owns the equipment, mics everyone up, and keeps the stage volume relatively low. I set the HT10 volume at around 4 and the balls on 3 to somewhat match the Peavey's volume. The HT10 rocked it. My bandmates loved it's tone.

I'll play with these guys at a small venue next month. Small is the optimal word. I've taken the 'Zoo and set it for the tone I want to project and they've rejected it as being too loud. After playing around with the  HT10, I do believe that it'll do low volume with good tone. We'll see and I'll report back.

So, hell yeah, I'm glad I got something new for a change. One thing I don't care for is having to pull the chassis to change tubes in the amp. I don't have a problem with the Sovtek tubes supplied in the amp, but I'm one of those curious guys who likes to see what a tube swap may do (over the years, I've grown fond of particular brands) and I'll have to unscrew and screw back into wooden cleats to do that. Not that big of a deal. I've got a NEW amp and it rocks it. 'Nuff for now. Check 'em out at:


Anonymous said...

Hi enjoyed your review of the Harp train 10 amp i am thinking about getting it , but here's the thing im a Amature player play with 6 to 8 bands and do as many Jams as i can to get better i use a new Green Bullet mic , im 70 years old so not goin be workin the harps to hard ..Ha just wonder what you think about , for small venue's and jams where they dont crank it up to loud , can i be heard with this Amp ? saw that Lunch Box thing 200 watts , but what kind of sound you goin get ? This amp is great lookin and looks well made , can it compete on its own or will i have to go thru PA , and then will i get same tones etc , any help you can give me Thanks Terry Wolfman Baldwin on FB Spokane Wa & My You Tube Channel or email

Ricky Bush said...

Hey Terry--I think I've answered your questions on Facebook, but I stick this in here. I've yet to play the Harp Train 10 outside of a low volume trio gig, so I can't answer about the amp keeping up in a jam situation where the volume might get wonky. The HT10 seems to have substantial volume for a ten watt amp with a single 10" speaker. The only complaint I've heard has been in terms of feedback creeping in around 5 on the volume. I swapped out the 12ax7 for a 12ay7 and it solved the issue for me. The new batch of HT10 addresses the problem and has reduced the feedback scenario.

Boaz Kim said...

Hi Rick. I also have the HT10 from the first batch, but I bought mine used. I love it, and understand the complaints about the feedback issues. The thing is, I'm not sure if the other newer harp amps of a smiliar size would get feedback at the same volume or not. The HT10 is definitely louder than some other amps of it's size.

The feedback is not much of an issue for me. I use a Harp Shield and volume control.

When you switched tubes, were you actually able to play with more sound with more headroom? How much did the tone change? LW must have used 12ax7's for a reason.

Ricky Bush said...

Hey, Kim. Thanks for dropping by the blog. I've been meaning to post at update on my experience with the HT10. I swapped out to the 12AY7 because I attended a particular jam frequently and got left behind in the volume wars. I was able to get the volume up a few notches on both the Balls and Volume knob. The tone does change, but not in a bad way at all.

BUT and this is a big one for me. I play most often with a foursome in a small coffeehouse gig. We are all amplified except for the lead singer, who plays acoustic, but the amplification is kept low due to the size of the room. Complaints for the band was that I needed to lower the volume of my HT10. The problem with that was that if I dropped the HT10 volume and balls below 3, the tone dropped flat. I used my HT Harp Break to recover that and it seemed to work okay.

THEN and this is a big one also. I know the outstanding harp player, Ian Collard, and he had posted a video on FB of practicing with his new line up of Collard Greens and Gravy. His HT10 was sitting elevated no far behind his head and sounded stupendous (of course, much of that is Ian). I asked him if he was using the original HT10 and was it stock. Yes to both. He said that he had both the volume and balls knob barely cracked and that he had both his HT Reverb and HT Delay in line.

I immediately swapped the 12AX7 back in and voila...the tone was way better at low volume. Balls and Volume just slightly past !. Sooo, since the loud volume jam no longer exists, I've haven't reverted back and am very pleased with the tonal palette at low volume. I did play an outdoor gig with the same bandmates and cranked the amp a bit more, but our lead guitarist is a master at miking us up and no one plays loud anyway, so the HT10 rocked the p.a. and it had the tone that Randy and company intended the amp to have. So, I learned a lesson there. Amp gets dull at low volume with the 12AY7. The higher gain tube will stay and I'll fight the volume wars on another day...or just avoid the hell out of them. I need to post this up on the blog.

Ricky Bush said...
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