Reply To: Amp for Blues Melodica



I have had my new Vox AC10C1 amp for a few days now and thought I would give you my initial impressions.

First let me correct a statement I made about the amp after I tested it twice in Guitar Center. I said the amp could provide a clean and dirty sound. When I got the amp home, I found out it does NOT do a really clean sound. The clean sound I heard in the store, was relative to the dirty sound. When I did an A/B comparison at home with my super clean JBL two-way powered monitor, it was clear that the clean setting on the Vox was nowhere near squeaky clean. There was still a lot of tube tone in the sound, not to mention the frequency response was completely different. The Vox has tons of midrange. Deep lows are hard to find unless you muffle the melodica.

But fortunately I did not buy this amp for a clean sound. I bought it for grit, and in that regard it excels. It is perfect for the dirty blues sound I am after. In fact, it blows my mind how good this amp sounds and how responsive it is to my playing technique using the Hohner Piano 26/27/32 series instruments held against my chest.

In the end, this is the setup: an Audio Technica condenser shotgun mic, a Lone Wolf Blues Company Harp Delay pedal, and the amp. That is it. I get a Chicago Blues sound like you won’t believe. Will post a recording as soon as possible.

Here are a few interesting observations after making A/B comparisons with various melodicas and using the condenser mic, the delay pedal and the Vox versus the JBL powered monitor. The Hohner’s sound great with the Vox while my Suzuki and Yamaha melodicas sound terrible with the Vox.

On the flip side, the Suzuki and Yamaha sound magnificent (smooth, lots of body) with the clean JBL monitor. And that is without tone controls or other EQ adjustment: just the mic—delay—JBL. The Hohners sound terrible through the clean JBL. No wonder I have been struggling for a year and half to get a good gritty sound using the Hohners and the JBL monitors. Can’t do it without a dirty tube amp unless you use pedals, which I have done with some success.

The Vox amp and setup described above is only good for one thing: mimicking the sound of a harmonica in the Chicago Blues style. I don’t believe it will fit, nor will you like it, for any other purpose. But when I put on a Muddy Waters recording and play along, there are many instances where the melodica is indistinguishable from the harp. Further refinement of my technique is all that is left to do.

One side note. The Yamahas and Suzukis sound great with the JBL monitor and that is what I will be using with my acoustic “popular music” trio, that includes a female singer with a clean voice and an acoustic guitarist playing a Taylor with a clean sound as well. Within this setting, I must use a clean melodica sound.


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