Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Little Fatty Anti-Feedack / Tone Pedal



Lose the Feedback -- Dial in the Fat Tone

Our newest product for pro harp players: The Little Fatty pedal.

-Reduce feedback
-Fatten your tone
-Dial it in to your taste
-No batteries or power supply needed
-Only $50

The Little Fatty will help you get good harp tone through a high gain guitar amp and let you dial in the fat sound you crave. It does not require any batteries or power supply, and it has only one knob for setup.

Pro touring players often use rental amps available in the towns they play. That means they are usually faced with playing through a high gain guitar amp such as the Fender Deville. The Little Fatty allows any player to get workable blues harp tone through an unruly beast of an amp. The Little Fatty will calm the high gain spikes and warm up the highs that otherwise lead to screaming feedback. Use the FAT control to dial in the tone you want, from thick low end to singing highs or anything in between.

It is not intended for use with a good harp amp, such as our Memphis Mini or Memphis 20, or other fine custom harp amps. It is meant for use with a stock guitar amp that has not been "tubed down" or otherwise had the gain reduced.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jake Friel playing the Stage 5 Amp in Memphis



This is Jake Friel at the Memphis Blues Amps Jam on Beale Street in Memphis during the International Blues Challenge.  Jake get great crunch and punch our of the Stage 5 Amp.

Playing my Stage 5 Amp



This is me noodling around with my Stage 5 Amp. I love the sound of this bad boy. Great volume, punch and presence, with colorful overtones and a nice breakup on the leading edge of the notes. Some folks have wondered how the amp sounds in the hands of a more modest player; a player unlike Ronnie or JD or Jake. Well, I am that modest player, and playing this amp makes me smile. -- Rick Davis

Friday, April 20, 2018

Jake Friel Jamming On Beale Street with Stage 5 Amp



The Stage 5 Harp Amp in Memphis juke joint late night jam, January 18, 2018. Jake Friel playing.

You can buy that amp for $229 at https://www.stage5amps.com/

Big Tone from Al Chesis on the Stage 5 Amp



Al Chesis & The Delta Sonics at Westminster Brewing Company in the Denver metro area. Al is playing the Stage 5 amp, standard model. Excellent tone, and listen to the bottom end when he goes to the big chromatic harmonica. Amazing! The amp is not lined out or mic'ed up to the PA. You can buy the Stage 5 Amp exactly like this for $229.

Ronnie Shellist plays his Stage 5 Amp



Ronnie Shellist is playing the RS signature model of the Stage 5 Amp. Amazing tone and punch, only $299. All the details are at the website:https://www.stage5amps.com/

JD Taylor demonstrates his signature Stage 5 Amp



Vizztone Label Group recording artist JD Taylor discusses and plays his signature model Stage 5 Amp, tuned for Beale Street juke joint blues. $289 at https://www.stage5amps.com/


Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Soul of a New Machine



The Stage 5 Amp began in a phone conversation between Bruce Collins and me a few months ago.  Bruce is one of the best tube amp techs on earth, and we’ve been friends for about 10 years.  A few years ago I helped him develop the excellent Chicago 32-20 line of harp amps and he helped me develop the Memphis Mini amp.

We were talking about…. Amps!  Chatting about the harp amp market in the $200 to $300 range.  There was nothing out there with the tone and performance you need in a harp amp meant for stage use.  I mentioned the Monoprice Stage Right amp as a platform, and that is where it all began.  I ordered one that day.  When it arrived at my shop in Wyoming I tore it apart and began modding and testing.  I spent hours on the phone with Bruce trying different circuit changes.  Bruce had ordered a Monoprice amp as well, and when his arrived in Denver we began the serious work of transforming that modest little amp into a blues harp beast.

The Monoprice amp is very well made, and it uses vacuum tubes for tone generation.  Its low price is largely due to its use of printed circuit boards which are assembled by robots.  All the amps we’d made in the past were hand wired point to point, a technique that is preferred by many players but which is also necessarily more expensive.  Our project became a proof of concept:  Can we create a low-priced amp based on a PCB platform that delivers the organic tone and reliable performance needed by gigging players?

Out of the box the Monoprice amp is terrible for blues harp.  In fact, it is one of the worst amps I’ve ever heard.  But the amp responded spectacularly to circuit mods designed by Bruce Collins and component changes I tried.  What followed was a LOT of the modding-testing-playing cycle.  It slowly became the Stage 5 Amp.

It is an understatement to say the Stage 5 Amp project has exceeded our expectations.  The amp is loud, punchy, warm, and responsive to the players technique.  You can make it moan or rip, depending on how you push it.  We loaned Stage 5 Amp #002 – Bruce’s development prototype – to several pro players who all were effusive in their praise and enthusiasm for the amp.

Your can own the Stage 5 Amp for $249.  It comes with some great features useful for the gigging player.  It has an extension speaker connection so you can drive an external speaker cap.  I’ve test it with a 4x10 cab loaded with Jensen speakers and it sounded monstrous…  Unbelievably loud and detailed tone.

It also has a button on the front panel to reduce it from 5 watts to about 1 watt and still retain the great tone; very handy for home practice.  There is an optional Line Out to connect directly to the PA system (or to another amplifier).  Sorry, we had to charge a few bucks for that option, but it is well worth it if you get a lot of stage time.

We are proud of the Stage 5 Amp, and the value it offers to harp players of all levels.  The amp is very solid.  It’s internal circuit boards are robust and well made.  We fully expect the amp to be reliable and consistent.  We are happy to offer a high performance amp in the lower-priced market segment.

Friday, January 12, 2018

David Barrett's Small Harp Amp Reviews

David Barrett has been running a review series for small harp amps at his website www.BluesHarmonica.com, and it is still ongoing.  The Memphis Mini amp was included and got good reviews:  David said he could recommend the amp to all levels of players from students to pros, and that he would buy it himself.  We thank him for his generous review.

One measurement really jumped out at me:  Peak Volume in Decibels.  The MM amp was the second loudest amp in the review at 111 decibels.  The only amp that topped it was the Fender Blues Junior at 113 db.  The Blues Jr makes nearly 3 times as many watts as the MM and you would expect it to be significantly louder than the smaller MM amp.  At only 2 db the difference would probably not even be perceptible.

The Sonic Pipes Windy City amp – which is very similar to the MM amp – was measured at only 106 db.  That means the MM amps is about 1.5 times louder to the human ear.  (Differences in perception are logarithmic, not linear.)  That is a huge difference.

The Sonic Pipes Windy City amp is weaker because they decided to use a 6SJ7 single pentode tube in the preamp section, when the amp they are modifying was actually designed to use a dual triode 12A tube.  The 12A tubes actually are two tubes in one, with half of it managing the mic input and the other half managing the recovery of volume lost by the tone control.  The Sonic Pipes Windy City amp has no second gain stage to do that, so the volume is lost and the amp is significantly weaker.

Volume level in small amps is extremely important.  You need to be able to hear your amp on stage among the other musicians, and you can’t always count on the sound tech to get it right in the monitors.  That 5 db deficit can be the difference between playing a great set or flying blind.  Nobody wants to have a weak amp behind them and have to grope their way through a solo.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Jerry Portnoy


In 1979 my brother Jack and I decide to go see Muddy Water’s Blues Band at Dooley’s in Tempe AZ. Muddy’s harp player that day was Jerry Portnoy, and I was stunned by his tone and phrasing. I got a chance to say Hi to Portnoy, shake his hand and gush some praise. That show had a big impact on my devotion to the Chicago blues harp sound, from that day to this one.

So, I was a bit stunned when Jerry Portnoy emailed me out of the blue a few weeks ago with questions about the Memphis Mini amp. He said he was interested in a “smaller stage amp with a big sound.” He’d seen info and videos about the MM amp online and was impressed. Since he is a blues harp legend I offered to ship an amp to him on approval. Jerry called me an hour after it arrived and offered his enthusiastic endorsement.

This is his own quote: “My Memphis Mini gives me that classic Chicago sound in a small lightweight cabinet. I love it!”

It is indisputable that Jerry Portnoy knows the classic Chicago sound for amped blues harp.

In all his great career with Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton and the rest, Jerry Portnoy had endorsed only one amplifier: His Victoria 45410 “Bassman.” And now he has chosen to endorse the Memphis Mini amp.

Jerry sent me a photo of himself with the amp and I posted it to Facebook to announce the endorsement. The post has more than 500 likes as I write this, an incredible level of interest for the arcane world of harp amps. I’ll have video of Portnoy playing his MM amp soon.

It has been a long and winding road from that day in Tempe when I watched blues legends on stage at Dooleys to this day when that same harp player – who has had more impact on my blues harp sound than anybody – has become an endorser of the sound of my Memphis Mini amps. The circle is complete.