My personal collection of mics and elements consists of about 30 microphones which are mostly Shure bullets, and some of the various models of the Astatic JT30 which have different model numbers from the early Astatic years. You may be able to see the subtle differences between the various models, or maybe not. The early models such as the model A, 30, A30, W30 and W80 are slightly shorter than the other models, and you'll notice they are slightly more pointed at the rear of the shell as compared to the other models. I didn't research the Astatic mics much so I can't tell you the periods in time that the different models were used. I do know that the early models were made in Youngstown Ohio, and the later models were made in Conneaut Ohio. The models that I say appear to be slightly shorter may not even be shorter in fact, but if they are, we're talking a fraction of an inch, maybe a millimeter or two at the most. The end of the shells that are more pointed give them the appearance of being slightly shorter, whether they actually are or not. Whatever the case, I prefer the more pointed shells myself.
You should be able to notice the bottom part of the shells, the part where the tags are attached, are deeper on the early models than they are on the later models too. The JT31 in my collection is like this and was called "The Spokesman" model. These early mics all have more detail in the chrome grilles than later JT30’s. I don't know if the later mics were just chromed with a much thicker layer of metal on them making the detail less noticeable or what the deal is, but the early models definitely have much better detail on the chrome grilles. The new grilles being used on the latest version of the Blues Blaster seem to have lost almost all the detail, and are slightly deeper than the older grilles.
The other mics in my collection are examples of some of the more popular mics used by harp players that are all original, such as the EV 605 and the Astatic model 30 "biscuit" and the T3. The rest are some of the lesser known models, and mics that I have customized in one way or another. I look for examples of mics that are in mint, or near mint condition to add to my collection.
All the chrome mics I have were plated at a local bumper shop that also does some specialty plating, and the mics that have been painted and customized were done by me.
My collection of elements consists mainly of examples of the Shure CR and CM elements made in different periods of time from early 1949 to the Mexican made CM's and the present day model used in the 520DX. Most of them are in my favorite mics that are not all original. My oldest example of a black label CR is dated 2-49 which was stamped over with 3-49 in yellow ink. I have examples of others up to late 1953. I have a total of 15 elements made in 1949 which is the first year of production of the controlled reluctance transducers.
I have a rare 1949 Shure model 520 that is all brushed nickel finished. The all brushed nickel model 520 was made with the old early 40's style smaller version shell, (which were only used for the older crystal 707A’s and other crystal mics and certain dynamic mics as far as I know) and is all original with a black labeled 99A86 CR element dated 6-49. This is a very rare version of the 520 that I believe may be a special model offered to employees or Shure executives upon the introduction of the 520 in 1949. It is the only model 520 that I have ever seen to this day that was made with the smaller shell, and the only one I've ever seen that does not have a green shell. Where it came from, and who originally owned it is unknown, but who it will be buried with is not! It also has a unique tag being dark blue and silver as opposed to the usual green tags on all the others. As far as I know, this style 520 was never offered to the public. This is the only actual 1949 model that I have owned, but I have seen others that were the usual green color and were the full sized shells.
The 1949 models that I've seen did not have the 39K resistor across the element leads like we're used to seeing on all the models after that. I do own two all original 1950 models that did have this resistor on them.
Probably the rarest mic I'll ever own, the small shell 1949 brushed nickel 520 Controlled Reluctance 520 mic. I've never seen another like it and as far as I know, the 520 was never offered to the public with an all brushed nickel shell that is the early 1940's smaller version, which was used mainly for the crystal mics. I believe this one may have been a special version offered to Shure executives upon the introduction of the 520 in mid 1949. The element in this mic is dated June 1949. The tag is navy blue with embossed lettering. I have no idea who the original owner was but I do know who it will be buried with! I'll have pictures of many other mics on the mic picture page soon.
My collection of crystal mics consists of a 1964 vintage NOS Shure 707A that is all original and is probably the best sounding crystal mic I've ever had. I also have a 1943 version 707A with the smaller shell that I had chromed. It had its original crystal in it but it was not at full strength although it was strong enough to be usable. It deteriorated over the years and needed to be replaced. I also aquired a rare version of the 707A from a guy in Europe that has a light gray colored tag of which I've never seen before and to this day haven't seen another. It was made in 1946. I also have a 50's version of the 707A that is still usable but slightly weaker than the 1964 model. I've had numerous 707A's over the years, but I sold all but the most pristine condition mic's.
My other crystal mics consist of an all original Astatic model 30 "biscuit" that is in absolute mint condition. It is in good working condition as well with it's original crystal. I also have a few biscuit's that I re-finished and loaded with CR elements. Other all original crystal mics I have are a 1972 Astatic model JT30 with a very strong, and one of the best sounding MC151 crystals I've ever heard, and a 1994 Hohner Blues Blaster that also has a very good MC151 crystal element in it. That was the last year that I heard a really good current production MC151 crystal. I bought more in the years after, but none have sounded anywhere near as good as the one I bought in 94. Luckily I bought 2 replacement crystals in 94 from the Astatic corp. that sounded just as good. Those are now in a couple of the vintage Astatics that you'll see in my collection. One is a model A, JT30 style mic from the Youngstown era that is a fairly rare model. I also have an Astatic model JT40 mic which looks the same as a JT30 but has the more pointed style shell that some of the early Astatic's were made with. Another Astatic crystal mic I have is a 50's model T3 with it's original model 111 crystal element.
One of my JT30 style mics also has an Aiwa (Japanese) crystal in it that is probably the closest thing I've ever heard to a Shure 707A crystal. I believe I got it in a JT30 mic that I bought on eBay. Another crystal mic in my collection is a NOS still in the box Shure Slim X model 777S, from the 50's. It has a surprisingly big sound for a small mic, but it's not quite as good as the crystal bullets that I have. Some people say that the Slim X is the mic that Little Walter used. There is a well circulated publicity picture of him with a Slim X in his hand which is why I think this "rumor" started. From the tapes and stuff that I have seen and heard, I believe Walter, Sonny Boy (both of em), and the rest of the early greats used whatever mic was available to them at the time. None of them needed any help getting their tone!
The only dynamic mics in my collection are: an American model D40. It is all original and has a surprisingly big bold tone to it, but it's a bit on the heavy side and not real easy to handle. I also have an all original Electro-Voice model 605 that has great tone and a fairly decent bottom end. It's not as gritty as the Shure CR's or CM's, but has a tone close to those without the grit. I recently added a NOS EV 605 still in the box to my dynamic collection. It's not one of the older models that have the metal tag. The last ones made just has a sticker on them for identification, kind of like the latest Astatic JT30's which also used stickers rather than the metal tag's with the mic's model number on them. The others are a Shure PE 585V, which has a built in volume control, and a Shure PE565 Unisphere I. These mics don't have the gritty tone of the Shure CR's and CM's either, or any of the good crystals, but they do have a decent tone if you're playing rock or country harp, or any other style where you don't want the gritty Chicago sound, or if you want to use a mic that you could use for vocals as well as harp. I also have a Shure model 430 Commando, which is a smaller version of the controlled magnetic transducer mic that has a decent tone, but I would say it's a bit thin and weak as compared to the full size CM mics.
I also have a few mics that I'm not sure what company they were made by, mainly odd looking shells that aren't seen very often on the auction sites. I also have 20 different models of the mic first introduced by Shure Brothers in 1949 as the model 510. These are die cast metal, sort of rectangular shaped mic's with a small flat base so it can be stood up on a desk or flat surface, and some models have a on-off switch built into it that can be used as a push to talk switch, or can be pushed up to keep the mic on. These mic's were all made by Shure Brothers for many different companies, and thay had many different model numbers although they all look the same except for the color and company logo on the front of the mic. They were used with reel to reel tape machines, or other audio devices that had recording capabilities.
I will be putting pictures of my mic collection on the "Microphone Pictures" page.
My amp collection is fairly small. I started off with a Fender Champ that I sold years ago and I wish I hadn't. I also owned a Fender Blues Deluxe, and I also had a Fender Blues Deville 4X10 that I thought might make for a good harp amp, but found that I didn't like the way the tone controls work together and the way they affect each other. It's not a bad harp amp, but it definitely makes for a better guitar amp. Right now I own a Fender tweed Blues Jr., a 1996 Fender 59 Bassman Reissue, and a 4X10 amp that I built myself based on the Fender 5F6-A circuit, with my own modifications that I spent day’s on end and countless hours working on to come up with the final modifications. I also modified the reissue Bassman and the Blues Jr. to my taste.
I recently added another tweed Blues Junior 60'th Anniversary Issue to my collection. It comes with amber shellac coated tweed that gives it an orangish color which is pretty cool, and they finally put a good speaker in this amp. It's a Jensen C12N speaker which is a very efficient speaker which gives the amp very good volume, and it's tone for harp isn't bad at all either. Certainly 100X better than the stock speaker that Fender's been using in the Blues Jr. since it's introduction, which is a terrible speaker for harp. I really believe that the stock speaker is the only reason that many harp players who have tried a Blues Jr. didn't like it. I honestly believe that the Blues Jr. is one of the best small amp's for harp as long as it has a good speaker in it and the right modifications.
The Bassman reissue I practically rebuilt completely. There aren't many parts in it that I didn't replace. You could probably count them on one hand. I didn't change the values of 90% of the parts, but rather upgraded them to top of the line components, including the output transformer. I did however change the values in the tone circuit to suit my taste as I did to the amp that I built. Both of my 5F6-A amps have a nice warm vintage tone, and both have a loud and punchy mid response with plenty of natural distortion when pushed hard without the nasty squealing feedback. The custom amp has much more gain to it and the tone is not as clean as the reissue. I modified it quite extensively as you can read about in the section titled "My Bassman Experimenting" on the "TONE" page.
My first Blues Jr. was not very impressive at first, as all stock. There are 2 versions of the Blues Jr. amp circuit. One is the pre 2000 model that has the green circuit board, and the other is the newer version, post 2000 that has a cream or tan colored circuit board. My first Blues Jr. is the older version with the green board. The 60'th Anniversary Issue of course has the newer circuit. These older models have a different tone to them than the newer ones, more reminisent of the older Fender amps. They also have a fairly noisy reverb circuit that adds feedback when turned up. Fortunately, this can be fixed with a simple modification.
It took me quite a while to get it to what it is now which is a tone monster hidden behind its small size. It doesn't rattle the windows or annoy the neighbors, but it does have plenty of volume to gig with at small clubs if mic’ed, but more important, it's tone is killer. The amp has been extensively modified with upgraded components, again including the output transformer, and many of the tone caps have been replaced with different values. I also have installed the "Bill M Clean Boost Module" which does increase the amp's overall volume without affecting its tone.
The main part of this little tone beast is the 1956 Jensen P12RC Professional Series speaker, that I got on eBay a few years ago. The speaker was not advertised correctly and didn't have any of the #'s on the frame in the description. I had no idea what model the speaker was. The poor soul who sold it didn't answer any of my emails, or anyone else's either I assume, which is why I won the auction for all of $16 + shipping! His loss, my gain! I had no idea what it was until I opened the box and saw a mint condition P12RC. The speaker looked like brand new right out of the box. I got lucky for once in my life!BOING!!!!
Previous to this speaker, I had tried a vintage P12S, and P12Q Jensen's, and a couple other oddball speakers in it as well as the stock speaker. One note was all I needed to blow into this speaker to know that this was the speaker I had been looking for. This speaker blew the other 2 Jensen’s I tried previously, right out of the cabinet. No comparison at all. It had more volume, and it's tone was about as sweet as it gets. The previous two Jensen’s actually didn't sound too bad tone wise, but the amp had less volume and sounded thin. This Pro Series Jensen speaker has the best tone for harp that I've ever heard from a vintage Jensen. The volume about doubled from the other Jensen’s as well, indicating that it is more efficient than the others I tried.
As I do with anything that delivers great harp tone, I tried to get all the info that I could about these Pro Series speakers from anyone who knows about why these speakers sound good. Any factual information about them, but nobody has been able to tell me much about these speakers other than not many were made, and that they were only made for a couple of years. I don't even know how true this is. The speaker has a bronze colored frame and is the typical looking vintage Jensen basket frame, alnico magnet and a strange looking see through dust cap about the size of a quarter. The dust cap appears to be half paper, and the center is what looks to be a very fine cloth mesh. I had previously thought it was possibly brass mesh, but closer inspection with a magnifying glass shows that it is finely woven cloth.
The sticker on the magnet frame is chrome, black and red. It says, "Jensen Professional Series Speaker", "Specially Designed for Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Use". The #'s on the frame are P12RC-C6160 220641. I'd like to know what makes this speaker different from the regular vintage Jensen speakers. If anyone has any accurate information about these speakers, I'd really love to hear from you. About all I know about it is that it was likely made for a juke box or some other commercial use which would explain why it's more efficient than the standard series speakers. It needed to be louder in a commercial setting.
Anyway, I was close to giving up on my Blues Jr. until I put this speaker in it and got the mod's right. All I can say now is, "WOW"! I knew this amp had good potential, and it turned out to be even better than I ever expected. It's by far the best tone I've ever heard from an amp of this size and wattage. It's not necessary to have one of these Pro Series Jensen's to greatly improve the tone of the amp. I have installed a few regular vintage P12R's in other Blues Junior's that I've worked on, and they do sound very good as well, but not quite as good as the Pro Series model. I would highly recommend any Blues Junior owner who wants to use the amp for harp to install a vintage Jensen P12R in place of the stock speaker. The stock speaker is much better for guitar, but it's not very good for harp at all.
I would recommend that you DO NOT use a P12S or a P12Q either. The P12R is perfect for the 15 watt amp. I plan to have a custom cabinet made for my Blues Jr. that is slightly oversized to get the most out the 12" speaker, and have it made from real wood. I can't imagine why Fender used compressed paperboard or whatever it is for these and some of the other amps they made that could have really benefited from a well made wood cabinet. Must have been $$$.
Close up of the Blues Jr. board with the Bill M Boost Module. It does give the amp a much needed volume boost but it's not a huge boost. It is enough though that I would say it's worth the $40. Picture on the right shows the open back and the 1956 Jensen Professional Series speaker that gave the amp truely amazing tone.
My 1996 Tweed Blues Junior
The Harp Fanatic amp during it's early stages of testing and modification ( rather crude as it is the prototype). I experimented with just about every type of component available from expensive audiophile parts to cheap carbon comp resistors. The cheap parts proved to be "cheap". This amp is made with Riken carbon film resistors that look like blue carbon comp resistors but are as quiet as metal film resistors and have the warm tonal qualities of the old carbon comp type. Unfortunately, the Riken resistors are available in now limited supplies and are no longer in production. You can see them in the Blues Jr. too.
Finished Harp Fanatic cabinet getting the speaker transplant. The new cabinet is taller and deeper than a 59 Bassman cabinet but has the same style panels. The speakers are fastened with stainless steel T inserts. No studs sticking out to puncture your speakers. The Baffle is made to the same specs as the 59 Bassman and is finished with amber shellac. There are six 1/4" antique finished bronze studs fastening the baffle to the cabinet which is 3/4" light mahogony. You will have a choice of wood types to have the cabinet made from. See the "Tone" section for more on this amp.
The custom 4X10 amp that I built from scratch based on the Fender 5F6-A circuit I will be offering to my harp playing comrades as a truely top of the line boutique quality harp specific amp, built with only the finest components available and with strict attention to fine detail and workmanship. I will be calling it the "Harp Fanatic" and you can read more about it on the "Tone" page under the "MyHarp Fanatic" title.
Enjoy the pictures of my collection, and feel free to email me at GRBULLETS2@AOL.COM with any questions you may have concerning anything on this site. Thanks for visiting!