Good point Jerry. In my case, since I was trying to imitate a harmonica and attempting to get the tone and breakup for a Chicago Blues type sound, a small Fender tube amp seemed to make sense. I have used a high fidelity (When was the last time your heard that term?) clean JBL, two-way, powered PA speaker for about year. It sounds as smooth as stereo speakers and it works well for my clean sound.
My main problem is every week I change my mind on whether I want a clean sound or a dirty sound. (“Acoustic” harp or “amplified” harp as they say in the harmonica world.) As soon as I am happy with a clean sound, I will listen Howlin’ Wolf or Little Walter play a $5 harp into $5 1950s public address microphone running through a $10, 5-watt tube amp with the volume on 10 and lust after that sound as well. Then, I dial in a dirty sound and when I get it, I miss the clean sound.
I must say that the clean sound usually wins and that is where, with further exploration this week, I have ended up. So am going to delay an amp purchase again as I already have a good clean amp. Maybe as some point I will purchase one of the little harp-specific amps by Mission Amps, Harp Gear, Memphis Mini, Lone Wolf Blues Company, etc. because I just can’t resist that Chicago sound sometimes.
Right now, I am enjoying all the timbre variations and sound effects I can get from my range of melodicas combined with playing techniques and a very simple setup. I have even purged my preamp from my rig, and I now simply use an SM57 mic and a LWBC Harp Delay straight into my JBL powered speaker. It is loud and gives me a full, rich, and slightly rounded sound which I can mute and twist using microphone and playing techniques. I can even get a big bottom end and slightly gritty sound by playing really loud and smothering the mic, coaxing slight distortion from all the elements in signal chain: the melodica, microphone, delay pedal, and the amp. Together that may be enough dirt for me. I need to perfect the technique.
Anyhow, I appreciate everyone’s input and perspective. It all helps.