Vintage Harp Mics

I’ll be honest, I’m not enormously knowledgeable or experienced with harp mics or playing amplified in general. With The High Hollers I play acoustic into the same vocal mic I sing into. That said, it’s an area I’m working on and I confess to getting a bit tingly about vintage mics.

I own two Astatic JT-30 style mics. I love the art-deco styling on these shells. They look great and make me want to pick them up. Neither of them have their original innards though. Both contain elements which would have started their life in Shure mics and are a little newer than the shells.

The element, by the way, is the bit that turns the sound from your harmonica into an electric signal to feed into the amplifier. They are sometimes called cartridges. The type of element in these mics is called controlled magnetic and they’re very popular with harmonica players. I’ll do a post about the different types of mics and elements harmonica players typically use another time. I’m not actually sure the vintage of either of my elements. I should really look that up one day.

Even though both mics have the same type of element and similar shells they have very different sounds. These vintage elements have their own characteristics and no two sound identical.

This Astatic shell is called a model 30 and I think it’s from the late 1940s or so. The element in this one has a fairly tame output and a very warm and round sound. Pretty bassy. It’s great for when I want a less distorted, less aggressive sound.

This Astatic JT-30 shell is from the late 50s/early 60s I think. The element in this one has a stronger output and a much raspier, more distorted sound. This is my go-to mic if I’m not playing into the vocal mic. With a loose cup I can get a good clear tone, and with a tight cup it gets pretty bassy and gritty.

And now to the reason I started writing this post in the first place.

I don’t get a massive amount of gear lust these days but this mic posted for sale on got me checking my bank balance. If I could justify the purchase I’d find it hard to resist.

The shell is beat up, sure, but I love the look of these brown JT-30s and the condition is reflected in the price. James Waldron at simple mics has a great reputation and I’m sure this mic has it where it counts.