Seydel, Suzuki and Hohner have all added new models to the ever increasing possibilities for the diatonic harmonica player!When I was a kid, way back in the Dark Ages, there were only Hohner harps available in those old outdated brick and mortar stores, and essentially only the Marine Band and Blues Harp were available as choices. Then the Special 20 came out, but now there are brands and models galore coming out from Seydel, Suzuki, Hohner, Lee Oskar and Hering. Recently we have seen the the unveiling of the Seydel 1847 series, the Suzuki Manji, Olive, and the Hohner Crossover. All are excellent harps with their own characteristics. They all have bolted assembly rather than the old Marine Band style nails, but each have their own characteristics.
The Seydel 1847 Series
Seydel is the only company to come out with stainless steel reed harmonicas. They have named this line the 1847s after the date of the start of the company. The 1847 Classic features a sealed wooden comb and the reedcovers are wide open in the back, copying what has been done for customized harps. The 1847 Silver has a solid poly comb and is also way open in the back. The 1847 Noble has an aluminum comb and also the open back. The less expensive 1847 Session Steel features an orange ABS comb and is not as open in the back, following the design of the Seydel Session. I love the responsiveness of the stainless steel reeds! They respond as fast as you an play and also bend and overblow extremely well. The Session Steel is a great buy, but the reedcover design does allow as much sound projection as the other models. Comb material is much debated among harmonica players, and the probable conclusion is that comb material is not much of a factor, but comb structure is, and by that I mean a solid material like wood, poly, or metal will have a different sound than a hollow material, like molded ABS. Still, the Session Steel is my favorite harp in the $60 range. The stainless steel reeds reportedly are longer lasting, but for me the great response is what really commends them to the player.
The Suzuki Manji
Suzuki also got ideas from the customizers for its new Manji model, named for the founder of the company, Mr. Manji Suzuki. They may have also gotten some ideas from the Seydel 1847 Silver. The Manji features a wide open back for maximum sound projection and a solid poly composite comb that includes wood fiber. The reeds are phosphor bronze for longer life. I like the Manji and I have also found it overblows very easily. You can't go wrong with this model and now replacement reedplates are available.
The Suzuki Olive
This is a model that combines features from several other Suzuki models. It has the hybrid poly with wood fiber comb of the Manji, just in a darker color, Manji reeds, and it has the reedcovers of the Promaster, but made with a process which gives them a pretty green hue. The tuning is Compromised but a bit more in the Equal Temperament direction. This is another fine offer from Suzuki, not radically different, but it is an interesting addition that is great to play and it provides another good choice for a quality harp.
The Hohner Crossover
If you are a dyed in the wool Marine Band player this is the harp for you. The sealed bamboo comb won't swell up or warp like your old Marine Band and the bolted assembly makes it much more air tight as well. It also has the wide open back and has a great sound projection. The Crossover is a great choice for the traditional Marine Band player, but I don't find that it overblows all that well, even after adjusting the reed gaps for overblowing. Bends and blow bends are fine. If you are a traditional player and don't use overblows, and that would include about 90% of even experienced and competent players, then overblow ability doesn't matter. I think it's strength is the great sound projection.
The Hohner Rocket
What the crossover did for the Marine Band the rocket does for the Special 20. The back is opened up, the design is more ergonomic, and the harp is more air tight. This is a great new harp from Hohner and you should try one!
So there you have it. These new models all have their relative strengths. The Session Steel, Manji and Crossover are all in the $55-$67 price range. If you want quickness of response and overblowing capacity and are less concerned with volume, go with the Seydel Session Steel. If you want a good combination of responsiveness and sound projection try a Manji. If you want more volume, traditional Marine Band tone, but are less concerned about overblows, go with the Crossover. If you want all of these features rolled into one harp, then shell out the $89.95 for a Seydel 1847 Classic or Silver or the $109.95 for a Seydel 1847 Noble.
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Guide created: 03/11/11 (updated 07/04/14)