Choosing an Amp
The Crate Limo
The AER 60
Crate amps are a respected
name. AER are new to North Americans but they make a superb
amp. There are lots of other good brands out there. Watch
out for the boy guitarist rigs that sell excessive features,
sexy geejaws, and lousy sound. Look for combo amps designed
for acoustic and base instruments as opposed to just acoustic
guitars. The Crate
Taxi combo amp is one. The Crate
Limo another. The AER
Compact 60/ Mobile from Dusty
Strings is yet another.
Amplified harpists have lots of favourite amps for their Celtic
harp music. I prefer the Taxi simply because it is battery
powered (very long life) and it has a unique body shape which
adapts well to many amplification positions. The sound is
not all that bad either for the price. More recently I have favoured the Limo with its superior sound.
The AER line has a wonderful
wonderful tone and have many more features than the Taxi,
notably the option for a phantom powered condenser microphone.
As in all sound gear good sound is more pricey.
Best way to choose an amp is to take another harperisterer
with you, plus your widest octave range harp and listen
to the amp yourself while they play harp music through
the offered amps. If nothing else you will make the
salesman work for his commission. If you can not discern
the sound differences, do more listening research until
you can. Choose a pleasant clean sound to your ear.
Your ear loses discernment ability very quickly (10-20
minutes). Be patient, take a long break away from noisy
environment and reconfirm choices with fresh ears before
buying. Ask about resale value and opportunity. Alternately,
there are always used amp dealers around, find one you
trust personally and wait for a deal to pop up for a
Some things to consider - What purpose
do you intend to use the amp for? - For example...
Amp used as a single point source beside harp
versus creating big volume to fill a room?
Does the physical size/ volumes/ looks fit your
shtick as a harpist? (important at weddings etc)
Can you lift it? Now and in 10 years?
Will it fit in car?
120V versus battery? (safety, busking, outdoors,
Does it need a pre amp for your pickup?
Do you want to use a vocal microphone?
Background noise from amp circuitry?
We use the older wooden version of the Crate Taxi (Ebay?)
with an added speaker stand socket spider on the side so that
it can be used on a speaker stand. Crate has recently discontinued the 30 watt version of the Taxi entirely but they are still available on eBay.
Limo Pros: Battery lasts
forever, point source sound in any location, fast setup,
pickup preamp built in, uses dynamic vocal mic, great
for weddings - outdoors - mini concerts, good to great
sound depending on how used. Works best when used only
to double or triple harp volumes. Has a speaker stand socket.
Limo Cons: You got to like yellow
(Looks great under white linens or beside a black harp in
a jazzy/upbeat marketing setting), will not fill a larger
space well with sound for concerts (we use a sound system
for that), has a very narrow sound dispersion which gives
uneven sound distribution up close. It is good however for
focusing sound in front of harp, throwing sound a long distance
or bouncing music off ceiling.
Limo Safety: A major grouping
of non-industrial electrocution fatalities in the USA is comprised
of musicians. A good percentage of the musicians were no different
than you. The Taxi circumvents all this as it has none of
these safety concerns (battery).
60 Pros: Same uses as the Taxi except it is 120Volt.
Very strong sounding amp with tonnes of base and volume. Very
clean warm evenly distributed sound. Can use condenser microphone
plus a pickup and pre-amp. Lightweight. An optional socket
allows mounting on a speaker stand. Top quality looker. With
the addition of a second AER 60 plus some outboard gear a
very nice small sound system can be created.
60 Cons: The shape of the amp is a cube which makes
it difficult to tilt it back and bounce the sound off the
ceiling (a handy trick for larger groups - make an angling
frame for it). Extra 120V extension chord placement etc complicates
set-up process. The AER Mobile with its battery circumvents
this but weighs over 30 lbs.
Baggs Para-acoustic DI/Pre-amp: To overcome the
squeals and squawks when using the amp in close quarters
with a harp use a pickup (Alfredo
Ortiz/Barcus Berry) and pre-amp with an equaliser
DI). The AER will accept either a dynamic or condenser
mic for the harp. You will need more distance between
the harp and the AER when using a mic. I recommend using
a small mixing desk (Spirit
Notepad) beside the harpist and the amp at some
distance from the harp.
I find the Taxi marginal for microphone use (SM58
but the AER is excellent. Dusty
Strings Harps sell both the AER 60 and a harp sound-hole
condenser mic (The
Harp Mic) that mounts behind the soundbox. The AT4041
is an outstanding condenser microphone to compare against.
Condenser mics can pick up a gnat's fart at fifty paces so
be prepared to learn your craft well before doing public performances.
The Harp Mic will be less obvious as compared to a mic and
stand. It may be problematic in some circumstances, however,
as it may or may be in a disturbed sound field between your
body, harp and amplifier. I have yet to try one out in battle
so that is just a hunch! You need to consult with Dusty Strings
as to the effectiveness for your application.
use 120 Volts: Buy a three prong circuit
tester at the hardware store and test every circuit
for ground. We get a 5-10% ground/ miss-wiring failure
rate (where you would least expect it too). Never play
with the outlet ground removed/ not present. Never play
on damp/ wet ground. If you are playing for dollars
you are carrying a very significant commercial safety
liability, for financial piece of mind use a GFCI
shock ground protector. I would use one under any
circumstance anyway. An additional surge protector/
RFI is needed for digital functions (digital reverb)
or else the fridge motor in the kitchen may "crash"
your amp with distortion or worse.
I use with a Limo:
DI - the
XLR output goes into Limo channel 1 (I use a Radio Shack Lo Z to Hi Z adapter)
Ortiz/Barcus Berry pickup
1 x 6' unbalanced phone
2 x 25' unbalanced phone plug cables
1 x phone plug to phone plug connector (Neutrik)
- makes 50' cable with above
Panasonic CD player with line output jack - goes into
Limo channel 2 or in the RCA connectors
This allows for Limo
play in close or at a distance to create a stereo
I will add your knowledge and experience to the “mix”
if it can add to the effectiveness of these articles.
The rest of the Celtic Harp Amplification Series is