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Q: What brands of Harmonica are there?

A: There are many brands of harmonica, but the biggest ones are: Hohner,
Tombo (Lee Oskar and Ultimo), Huang, Suzuki and Hering. These are German,
Japanese, Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian, respectively. Most extremely
cheap (toy) harmonicas are made in China — BB

Q: Which one is the best?

A: All offer a variety of harmonicas in different price/quality classes.
Hohner and Lee Oskar are probably the most readily available. If you want
to become a serious player you have to try out different types of
harmonicas from different brands in different keys and see which ones suit
your style of playing — BB.

Also, from “Harp ratings” 13 Mar 93 RL:

——————–
DIATONICS:
HOHNER MARINE BAND:

Fine harps that have a well-deserved reputation. Not my favorite due
strictly to personal tastes, but good sound. Take a good look at the combs
before you buy one _ sometimes they’re misaligned, I suspect due to the
rigors of shipping (Hohner has earned a rep for quality
instruments over the decades).

HOHNER SPECIAL 20/PRO HARP:

My favorite Hohners. Nice ‘n’ loud, and the plastic
comb makes it easier to fly all over the harp when you generally use the
lipping style, as I do. Only difference between the two that I can tell is
the black covers on the Pro Harps. BTW, if you wear glasses and play on
stage a lot, those black covers can be nice: I’ve had stage lights bounce
off chrome harps and into my glasses, creating a rather unpleasant and
unexpected “rainbow effect”
(grin).

HOHNER GOLDEN MELODY:

Sounds good, long lasting. I’m not fond of the ones in the
low keys – they don’t bend very well and aren’t terribly loud, in my
experience. I don’t like the shape but many people do. It’s a good
instrument by and large; I’m just not terribly fond of it for personal
taste reasons.

HOHNER BLUES HARP:

Lots of beginners buy ’em for the name. Too bad. Not a good harp.
Allegedly easier to bend notes on this harp but I’ve never seen much
difference. Plays (too) quietly. Again, not good on low keys (something
true, to one degree or another on most Hohners, I have found). Save your
money. If you like wood-bodied harps, buy the Marine Band.

HOHNER BIG RIVER:

A new Hohner, clearly aimed at people who like Lee Oskars. A
little bigger than any other 10-hole diatonic I’ve seen. Big sound
chambers. Very loud. Seems tuned a little more brightly than most Hohners
I’ve used. Replaceable reed plates, ala Lee Oskar. Nice, nice, nice. I
really like these and have been adding them to my “gig
kit,” but I could do without the goofy word “Hohner” printed on the side of
the comb that faces the audience. Enough advertising already. Also,
somebody at Hohner needs to think up better names for their harps.

LEE OSKAR:

You can’t go wrong with these harps. Nice sound, nice construction,
replaceable reed plates, good feel in the hand. Highly recommended for
beginners and great harps for pros. I like the minor keys, too.

HUANG SILVERTONES/STAR PERFORMERS:

These are Chinese clones of Special 20s and Golden Melodies,
respectively(at least in appearance). I like these more than most players,
although they are very, very bright and I’d avoid the high
keys (E,F), which sound screechy. Recommended highly for beginners in
particular because they cost half as much as other pro harps and are of
much better quality than “beginner harps” such as the Hohner Pocket Pal.
Notes bend easily; harps don’t last as long as Hohners or Lee Oskars. I
still own piles of these but they’ve largely been consigned to the “backup
harp bag” now.

SUZUKI FOLK MASTERS:

I kind of like these harps, too. They’re more expensive than Huangs but
cheaper than Hohner/Lee Oskars. Kind of small but surprisingly loud.
Construction of covers seems a little cheap, but they seem to last OK. I
like their sound but they’re ugly little suckers — end “harp ratings” 13
Mar 93 RL

Many play the Hohner #270 Super Chromonica 12 hole or #280 64 Chromonica 16
hole (extended range). Others like the Toots Hard Bopper #7539 (thicker
reed plates) or Mellow Tone #7538; the Super 64(X) #7582 or 7584. The
Larry Adler #7574 and Amadeus #7544 are the higher end, better
materials/workmanship. The Koch chromatic 980 is a special design
chromatic with a slide separating two Richter tuned diatonic harmonicas
tuned a 1/2 step apart, thereby giving access to all the chromatic notes,
but in a familiar set up to diatonic players.

A relatively new model is the plastic covered Hohner CX-12 that provides a
certain sound and feel that many players really like. Some find the tone
not to their liking; some find the hole spacing uncomfortable.

There are less expensive Chromettas (8, 10 and 12 hole), but they are
talked of much on the list.

The Hering chromatics represent a good chromatic value since they are made
in an old Hohner factory in Brazil. They use a different mouthpiece with
round holes which some people prefer to the Hohner.

Huang makes the Professional 1248; Suzuki makes a 12 hole Leghorn. There
are positioned to be good value, but not competing directly with the higher
end Hohner — HA