A new toy arrived this week, the bottle ‘o blues microphone and Smokey Amp.
If you want to play amplified harmonica it can be an expensive business, a Green Bullet Mic could set you back over £100, a reasonable solid state amp another £150 – 200, and I’m not even going to start on valve amps!
With the bottle of blues mic and Smokey amp you have a complete practice setup for less than $100, yes thats right 100 dollars, a little over £50 pounds.
First the microphone. The mic is built by Jim McBride in Georgia USA. It is basically a plastic spice bottle with the element built inside and a volume control on the neck. A dynamic element is used to give smooth distortion, the volume control allows control of feedback and the connector is a 1/4″ jack.
Having tried a Green Bullet mic the first thing that struck me was how much easier it is to use the Bottle o Blues. Being lighter and smaller you can cup it much more easily. You can hear the mic in use at youtube
The second part of the package is the Smokey Amp. It is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, in fact for a small fee and if you supply the cigarette packet the manufacturer will make it in that pack for you. I bought the package offered by Jim which is a rugged polycarbonate body. Absolutely no controls to worry about, it is powered from a 9v battery. To switch on you plug in the Mic, disconnect the mic and the amp is powered off. There is an output that you can use to attach to an external speaker cabinet or to use the Smokey as a pre amp into another amp. So a 9V, 1W amp you can put in your pocket, but you will be amazed at how loud it is. The combination of the mic and amp produces nicely distorted sound that you can hear in an example of it in use with a guitar.
From order to delivery to the UK was 7 days by US Postal Service.
As a cost effective way of getting into amplified harmonica playing I can thoroughly recommend this setup offered by Jim at the Bottle ‘O Blues website. Check it out, the site has pictures, testimonials, audio samples and reviews.
If you want to go for the customised Smokey amp in a cigarette pack then contact Jim via his website, or you could try smokeyamps.co.uk or the manufacturer themselves at smokeyamps.com.
Remember it’s only a mic and amp, it only amplifies the sound you produce, in the end the overall result is down to you and how you play acoustically, but as a cost effective entry into playing amplified this is as good as it gets in terms of value for money.
A second mic is on my shopping list, just in case the one I have goes missing or gets damaged.