Microphone Test

The aim of this article

Often, harp players are concerned with amplification, and of course, the microphone is one of the elements that determines the final sound in amplification. It's not easy to find one's ideal microphone, and also not very clear why different mics produce different sounds, and different secondary effects (like feedback...)

Before explaining how we went about doing that test, we need to clarify what exactly we're trying to test. Amplification can be seen in two different ways :


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  • As an end in itself, the aim being to be heard above the other musicians in the band or in a large venue. The issue here with harmonica amplification is similar to that of voice amplification. It is possible that a specific harp sound occurs, but in that case it is a secondary effect of the amplification.
  • In the course of a quest for a specific sound. The aim is not only to be heard, but also to alter the natural harmonica sound to get a specific colour. The sound that results then fits to the player, the style of playing or sometimes just a specific piece of music.

In the early days of amplified blues, the dubious quality of PAs meant that vocal amplification was usually insufficiant to amplify the harmonica properly above amplified guitars and drums. Some post-war harp players therefore tried other ways of amplifying their playing, especially through guitar amplifiers. Little Walter, of course but also Snooky Pryor and other players of that era pioneered this approach. Beyond this need for a loud sound, they found a specific ring that they worked on to forge their musical identity.

This is the idea of the current article. It assumes that you not only try to make yourself heard, but also want to produce a special kind of sound, different from the natural harmonica sound. This sound of course does not come only from the microphone but from the various elements that compose the link from player to listener. These are the elements we can distinguish :

The player himself : It may seem over-easy in an article about harp amplification to state that the main thing is the player. But it's true. Equipment will never miraculously make you sound good if you don't sound good acoustically. No need to dwell on that point : work is the answer...

The microphone : is what we're going to talk about at length here.

The amplifier : The answer to the question 'which amp to choose ?' would necessite a whole article at least. Let's just say that harp players usually favour valve amps which tend to have a warmer sound, but that current technology certainly allows for other alternatives with the proper equipment. Let's just remember that it's the mic-amp configuration that will determine the final sound and also side effects like feedback.


L'Ampli à Lampes
31 bis, rue Victor Massé
75009 PARIS
Tel :
01 42 81 04 08

L'Ampli à Lampes agreed to let us in their shop and lent us the equipment for this test. Marco and his team were really nice to us and very efficient. They sure know a lot about the product they specialise in : valve amps.

The aim of this article being the microphone testing, we decided to keep a stable environment for testing ie. all the microphones were tested on the same amp for all testers. The amp we used was a Fender Blues Junior, a model that is widely available, relatively cheap and still powerful enough and apprecialted by many harp players.

Technical aspects are not all that determines the quality of a product so we decided to split the study in two, one part being the technical and 'objective' descritpion of the microphones tested, and the other being a purely subjective test with a few professional harp players who tried the microphones and gave their opinion on each model.

As a bonus, one of our more technical minded collaborators detailed instructions on how to build you own microphone (and a cool looking one it is too) for a little over $8 ! We tested that one alongside the others !