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I'm interested in playing the (diatonic) harmonica with the distorted sound they use in many rock and blues bands (Jason Ricci is one example among many others).

From what I understand, how you hold the harmonica together with the microphone (as long as you're using a bullet mic) is what matters most to get the sound right, but I've heard a few people say that a valve amplifier is needed.

I currently have a Laney AH-100 at home that I use mostly for keyboards and guitar, and I was hoping to be able to use it to get the sound I want on the harmonica. Is it possible, or do I absolutely need to buy a valve amp?

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A valve (or tube) amp will give you the best tone. Tubes distort differently, and more pleasantly, than transistors do---this has to do with which overtones the distortion emphasizes. While solid-state amps have gotten much better over the years at mimicking tube distortion, they're still not really there yet.

Obviously, you already have an amp you can play around with and see if it sounds okay to your ears. If so, great. But if not, I'd recommend a small, class-A tube amp. A vintage Fender Princeton, say, or a Deluxe Reverb would be ideal. If you need a bigger amp, a Bassman combo would be great, or a Vox AC-30 would work well. Peavey makes some pretty nice, reasonably-priced smaller tube amps that would be worth considering as well.

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