The Lone Wolf Harp Delay

When it comes to music, I’m from the Alton Brown school: No single-use tools.  I don’t own any harp-specific amps, the minor modding I perform on equipment doesn’t affect its usefulness in using it for other instruments, or it is very easily reversible; and I generally avoid anything labeled ’boutique’ on general principles.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, my trusty old Danelectro DanEcho bit the dust after a decade of faithful service. In all honesty, I had a love/hate affair with the DanEcho. When it was good, it was very, very good…but it could be very persnickety in many rooms with the harp. And with some mics, it sounded just awful.

Harp players rely on echo/delay/reverb pedals to provide a little ‘thickening’ of tone, perhaps to provide a slapback effect for some songs, and/or to roll off the high end of a harp a bit. The problem with most delays are 1)They’re designed for guitar, and a little bit goes a long way with harp, so a tiny touch of a knob can bring you from Harp Heaven to Echo Hell, and 2)There can be impedance-matching problems with a microphone and a guitar pedal, particularly if the harp player uses a crystal element. I generally use dynamic elements, so I don’t notice it as much, but it definitely shows up in ‘darker’ rooms.

Still, I’ve muddled by over the years with pedals designed for guitar. I’ve used a Boss digital reverb/delay, a Yamaha Magicstomp, the DanEcho and even a cheap Behringer digital reverb pedal over the last few years alone. I never got things right with the Boss; the Yamaha could be wonderful but was hard to dial in; the DanEcho was a workhorse; and the Behringer, which sounds surprisingly good, eventually took a role as a cheap backup.

But when the DanEcho blew, I decided to replace it with a Lone Wolf Harp Delay. This has been getting great reviews from harp players, but it violates the Alton Brown rule: It’s really designed to be used only with harp. It has a buffered input designed for high-impedance microphones, not guitars, and it has a narrower range of delay than the typical pedal, spread out over a wide spectrum. You can really dial in very small changes.

I tried it out tonight and I must say, my initial impressions are very positive. It is built like a tank in a solid metal box with heavy-duty switches, pots and jacks (the jacks are all-metal with ceramic mounts, which you generally don’t see in pedals any more). The circuit board is neatly laid out and contains high-quality resistors, capacitors and ICs mounted in sockets. The tone is excellent, with none of the low-frequency loss that sometimes plagues guitar pedals used for harp. It really makes an amp sound big (but take note, novice harp players: If you don’t have good acoustic tone, all of the tools in the world won’t fix your problem). The dials are big, obvious and simple to use for anyone who has ever touched a delay in his or her life.

You’d never use this for guitar. You’d have an impedance mismatch and you’d probably want much more flexibility out of a delay/echo pedal. It’s a single-use tool for harp, and there’s not that many of us around who need that tool. But I’m certainly pleased with this pedal, and I’m going to have to make an exception to the single-use rule.

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