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Question about 520DX and preamp?

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:57 am
by FunkyStickman
I just got my 520DX and I'm playing the snot out of it, really having fun (playing with Blues Harps and Special 20's). I was cruising some sites and read from "Harp On!" that the Shure 520DX (the newer ones) aren't hot enough to really sound right through a guitar amp. They also push the Harp Commander preamp... priced at $400... and I'm just not feeling that. I could get the same thing with a wood cabinet, real tubes, and a speaker from BrianP for close to the same price.

Here's my question: Do you guys really think the 520DX needs a preamp to be used/sound "right" with a stock guitar amp? Wouldn't a simple boost pedal work, if that were the case?

Just from listening, I think the 520DX sounds great on my Fender Ultimate Chorus, and even on the clean channel it gets a touch of breakup (which, on a solid-state Fender, is nearly impossible) without cranking it past halfway. It sounds as loud (actually louder) than my guitar at the same volume setting. My ears are telling me it's all good. Am I missing something? Or should I remain ignorantly in bliss?

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:13 am
by thebluesbox
Your mic is fine, I can make a regular vocal mic sound just as fine as any crussy old bullet dude!

The amp is the ticket, I dont think you wanna get into all the preamp/pedals/effect proccessor etc etc search thats a long drawn out money pit. As far as the HC IMHO 'no offense if you have one', but who needs all that? Im a less is more guy, the simpler the better, they didnt have all that back in the day and who do we model our playing styles after? The good old days right? All that other stuff is just that stuff, besides who needs a pedal that cost as much as an amp, really the only pedal you should need for harp is maybe a delay or chorus anything more is too much, just my 2 cents.

To get a nice mellow over driven sound you need 3 things.
1.) A decent tube amp, and old smaller one works best, anything to huge just gets loud and you never play it that loud to break up.

2.) A mic, it can be a GB, a BB, a shure sm58, or a radio shack recording mic.

3.) Your chops makes the end result, make sure your playing is progressing and always getting better, the amp and mic only make louder what you already have so good tone really comes from your playing, the amp and mic make a difference after that.

I think you dont need anything besides maybe a cool new 'The Blues Box' amp with a bogen chassis :-) so you can stop playing on that solid state fender......... other then that your bullet should be fine just work on your playing and most of all if you like what your hearing dont worry about all the hype, some people get so darn technical that even the color of the paint on your mic would make a difference in tone to them.

Harp on! and let me know what covering you want on your Blues Box amp :-)

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 12:21 pm
by FunkyStickman
I feel where you're coming from. I know a lot of people who are "tone freaks" and I'm just a poor working musician, I don't have the money to go searching for the perfect tone. And yes, I've been eyeing your amps... I could really use a smaller practice/gig amp. The Fender is the same size as a Twin, 2X12, 130W = heavy.

When I bought my Fender, I worked in the town's only music store. The owners were almost like family to me. I sat for weeks playing all the amps they had, including Peavey Classic 50's, Fender Twin reissues, Hot Rod Deville's/Deluxes, my Chorus, and a few others. This was before the COSM amps got real popular, circa 1996. The Fender Ultimate Chorus is (was) a true stereo chorus, it sounds very similar to a Danelectro CoolCat hooked up to two Fender Twins. Hooked up in stereo to my Addverb, it makes the most incredible Leslie sound you can get from a regular guitar amp.

I don't know, maybe I've grown attatched to it over the years, but I still think it sounds fantastic, and I've had several people think it's a tube amp from just hearing it. I still think it's the best sounding solid-state amp I've ever played to date (the original Ultimate Chorus, not the DSP version they made later on). I'm not trying to be an elitist snob, seriously! I love this amp. Tell you what, I'll try to post some audio/video of me playing it, and you can be the judge.

Here's some Harmony Central reviews of it.

Almost everyone there says the clean channel is to die for... and I don't play shred metal, so if the drive channel can get a nice overdrive sound, I'm good.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 12:43 pm
by jeffl
I agree with the Bluesbox in general. I use a 5-6 yr. old 520DX Green Bullet, with a $40.00 delay, and it sounds fine thru either of my tube amps. I own a Harp Commander also, but I almost never use it. Its best use is when plugging straight into the mains on stage when you don't have your amp with you. The only thing I can say about your solid state amp is that playing bullets thru SS amps at higher volumes on stage can result in more feedback issues than tube amps create, so if you haven't gigged with it yet, be sure to have an alternative in case that amp's unusable in certain situations.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:39 pm
by thebluesbox
Hey im not knocking your solid state too bad, I was just poking. Because I know that you can get just as good a sound out of a good SS amp as a tube amp sometimes. If your bullet gives you too much feedback like jeff says you can always play with a vocal mic, a bit cleaner but it will allow you to crank it more and get some overdrive still.

I had a few solid state Ideas I wanted to custom build with but people are so bent on tube amps I would have a hard time convencing them that they sound good for harp.

but yeah if that works for you and it sounds good thats all that counts bro!

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:22 pm
by FunkyStickman
Thanks for the input, guys. BluesBox, I saw one of your solid-state amps on your site, #002, correct? Nice looking piece, and at less than $300, would be along the lines of what I could use/afford. It wouldn't be immediately, mind you, I did just spend about $200 on a mic and some harps. I don't seriously think I could use a tube amp, unless it's small. I'm too rough with them.

I'm not one of those guys who swears by tubes, or certain pickups, etc. I've played saxophones for most of my life, and despite what the "purists" say, most of the tone comes from the player's mouth and the mouthpiece/reed. Guitars are the same way, just with strings and pickups. I'd expect the same with harps.

So far, I've not had problems with my amp giving feedback. As long as you're not stupid with the EQ, I actually have to try to get controlled feedback with my guitar. With the mic, it's not a problem unless it's on the dirty channel.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:52 pm
by thebluesbox
Yeah I did one SS amp and it took a while to sell cause it wasnt a tuber and that scared me. I would make another upon request or order it sure was a nice little rig. Im sending you a PM in a minute ok?

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 2:06 am
by angerboy
Mr Stickman, don't believe everything you read, especially don't believe everything you read on the Internet. You bought one and you like it. There is no need to buy anything addtional.

If you aren't careful, you'll have a Kinder AFB box, a Harp Commander, a bunch of delay pedals, a bunch of amps and microphones, all sorts of other unnecessary crap and a much lighter wallet.

The 520DX is a pretty decent dynamic microphone. I don't own one, but I've used several different of them during my time. They can sound pretty darn good.

Your statement, "priced at $400... and I'm just not feeling that. I could get the same thing with a wood cabinet, real tubes, and a speaker from BrianP for close to the same price." If you know how to solder, you can build your own 5F1 clone for about $400. $460 will get you a custom harp amp in a killer cabinet and one of the best Alnico speakers on the market from Ted Weber.

Of course, that would disagree with one of the first books that I read on harp playing nearly 25 years ago. It said that you needed a Twin Reverb to play amplified and be heard.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:25 am
by FunkyStickman
It's very tempting... I love to build stuff, and it would be an incredible project, but I definitely don't have the time to do one right now. Maybe later this year. I'm pretty much going to work with what I have for now, and save my money for more harp keys.

Thanks for the help, crew. I'll try to get some audio up soon.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:43 am
by angerboy
Dude, it's only like 25 or 30 parts. Check out:

Check out the 5F1 or 5F2H.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:10 am
by FunkyStickman
Well, here's a few thoughts after playing on the mic for a week.

First off, my A Blues Harp seems to have "broken in" from playing it so much. It's blowing freer (just a little) than when it was new. I need to play my other keys to see if they loosen up a bit too. The Special 20 sounds fine as is.

Second, I'm definitely having fun! I'm having a tough time keeping the mic seal when I'm playing on the high end of the harp, which is odd... I should be able to move the harp either way, but it falls comfortably more to the right. I'll keep practicing.

I haven't had issues with the mic giving feedback, and I've gotten it cranked up fairly loud... no complaints there. I did manage to drop the mic and give it a nice ding.... rats! Still sounds great though. :)

Lastly, I have only one complaint so far... Playing with the mic cupped makes my face sweat like crazy! Breathing all that hot air in there for 15 minutes or more makes my hands perspire like you wouldn't believe, even when I stand right in front of my shop's A/C unit. Summer is just starting, this could get bad... Well, maybe it's not so bad. I'm not sweating more than I normally would when I'm rocking out on guitar, or playing a tough piece on the sax. Just feels kinda funny all over my face!

Sorry if that's kinda too much information, but I'm sure I'm not the only person who deals with that.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:24 am
by angerboy
You might want to experiment with the way you cup the microphone. Pick up Hummel's or Gary Smith's DVD's. They discuss the nuances of various microphone cupping styles and the differences on tone. They are fairly inexpensive and worth every cent. To get an audience with one of those guys for an hour would cost you much more than both DVD's + shipping.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:25 am
by angerboy
One more thing, don't try to catch that microphone using the cord. The wires inside are very thin and break easily. They can be a pain in the ass to repair.