Since the first year Dennis started playing harmonica,he was experimenting with gear. After his initial "vintage microphone" purchase from a local player went sour, he took it upon himself to find, collect and rebuild vintage bullet microphones for harmonica.
Not long after, he was being asked to repair microphones for other East Coast blues harp players...and the rest is history! Now, Dennis has been rebuilding and customizing vintage microphones for amateur and pro harp players worldwide for over 25 years...but let's take a look at HIS gear of choice...
Dennis plays HOHNER harmonicas exclusively! Years before Dennis endorsed Hohner Harmonicas officially, he still played them exclusively, after starting out with one, then trying all of the other brands and models, and he found there was no comparison to Hohner.
"Even nowadays, when there is so much competition, and there are other good harmonicas on the market, I've found that no other harps come close to the sound and feel of Hohner Marine Band style harmonicas - which includes the standard 1896 Marine Band, Marine Band Deluxe, Crossover and Thunderbird harmonicas."
That's Dennis on the retail box of the Hohner Crossover model harmonica, and the Crossover is his diatonic harmonica of choice, along with the Marine Band Deluxe...below are all the models he plays:
- Marine Band Crossover
- Marine Band Deluxe
- 1896 Marine Band
- Super 64 X chromatic
- 270 Deluxe chromatic
- Ace 48 chromatic
- 270 chromatic
Vintage Crystal Microphones
From his early days of experimenting with and customizing bullet microphones while still in high school (which included staying after hours and chopping microphones in shop class!) Dennis loved the variety of tones and textures with some of the classic vintage bullet microphones.
"While I love basically all vintage bullet microphones for their aesthetics, I strongly prefer and only use crystal microphones to perform and record with. The classic sounds of amplified harmonica from the Chicago blues records of Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, George Smith, James Cotton and so many more have such a big sound and tone to them. When I first heard Little Walter's "Sad Hours" I was amazed that what I was hearing was a harmonica! The texture and overtones were just amazing to me. When I started experimenting with vintage microphones for harmonica and really started discovering good crystal microphones, I was instantly hooked on the sound and tonal possibilities.
"For looks and tone, it's tough to beat the Astatic JT-30 bullet microphone. One of the earliest vintage bullet mic designs, and still the standard worldwide for amplified blues harmonica playing."
I have several I use regularly, and I rotate them and sell them occasionally. These are two of my favorites...A decal logo early 1940's Astatic JT-30 with Astatic crystal element, and a classic late 1940's rivet tag Hammertone JT-30, with a Brush-made crystal element.
"The Turner Challenger is one of the coolest bullet microphone designs ever made in my opinion. With it's space-age looks and slightly smaller body size, it's one of my favorites to use, and I find the fin on top makes it easier to hold, since the body itself is a little smaller than most bullet mics.
These are two of my favorites...a custom leopard print (Thanks PJ) with a European crystal, and one of my own "vintage satin" Challengers with a vintage Japanese crystal inside.
"I have many other favorites, but I have to include my Shure bullet microphones here. The "other" standard by which all bullet mics are compared to. While the Green Bullet is known for an extra crunchy sound, I prefer the tone of crystal elements found in many Astatic bullets and in some of the early Shure bullets or other Shure mics like the 707A.
Here are two of my favorites...one of my own "vintage satin" small shell bullets with a Brush crystal inside, and one of my "custom chrome" bullets with an Astatic 151 crystal inside"
Custom Mogami Cables
"Years ago I never understood that a cable could make much of a difference, I figured it was all hype just to get people to spend more on the same old cable you could get at any music store...boy was I WRONG!
A number of years ago I started experimenting with cables and testing them out with all different types of vintage bullet microphones for harmonica. I clearly heard a difference between the cables I tried, even though most of them were supposedly "high quality" cables. After all my testing, I found specific cables by Mogami sounded the best for amplified harmonica, with the strongest signal, best tone, and longest life. In recent years I have been able to get custom cables made to my specs (specific connectors, lengths and cable types) and make them available to my customers on BadAss Harmonica. These are type exact cables I use myself on tour, on stage, and in the studio.
Custom Gold Cables
"These are the best cables I have tried for my vintage microphones over the years. I recently went through some more testing of other "custom cables" for harp mics and guitars, and these were still the clear winner. I use these on the road, and on stage for every performance.
I now have these available, custom made to my specs on my BadAss Harmonica website...
Custom Overdrive Cables
"For those that need the absolute BEST, I recommend the cables that I use in the studio for recording and for all of my microphone demo purposes - a custom-made Overdrive cable. These are quite a bit more expensive and only truly make a difference if you use a CRYSTAL or CERAMIC microphone. However, if you do use those type of microphones, you will not find a better cable and a stronger signal for your bullet harp mic ANYWHERE!
These are also available custom order through my BadAss Harmonica site now...
"I have played in so many studios, on countless stages, and through so many amps over the years. I definitely know what I need to get my sound across with a band on stage, and have come to have several favorite amps for blues harmonica over the years.
"From the first time I heard Rod Piazza use one of these amplifiers, I knew it was something special. I resisted getting one for a while (mainly since it was beyond my budget), but after borrowing one from a friend, I knew I had to get one.
I have both the 4x10 and 6x10 models....and they are each different, but act basically the same. The 4x10 version is the loudest 4x10 amp I've ever tried for amplified harmonica, and the 6x10 is even more powerful, which comes in handy when you are on tour and play on stages of all sizes and need to be heard on diatonic and chromatic harmonica with a full band.