As well as chromatic harmonicas, Bends also make a range of standard 10-hole diatonics. They are all fairly traditional looking harps, but with some nice features that set them aside from some of the competition. I like the use of stainless steel for covers and rivets, clear stamping of each reedplate to indicate when it was made, what key it is in and whether it is blow or draw - really useful for those of you who accumulate drawers full of old reedplates to be scavenged for spare reeds! I also like the laser etching on the covers, which looks attractive and still feels smooth on the lips. I also love the form fitting cases used for most of their models.
The Prima is their entry-level model and features a traditional sandwich-style construction with stainless steel covers on a yellow ABS comb. The brass reeds are fixed to 0.9mm thick plain brass reedplates with stainless steel rivets and the reedplates are attached with seven Phillips head screws. Tuning is reasonably good and seems to be Just Intonation based around A=442. The tuning work was done using very light scratches and the reed adjustment is quite consistent. Overall construction is nicely airtight and the harp has a good lively tone and feel. Nothing hugely innovative here, but a good solid beginner's blues harp. The Prima comes in a blister pack and is only available in the key of C.
The Anima is quite similar to the Prima, but features a translucent ruby red acrylic comb and phosphor bronze reeds. Tuning on the samples I have is extremely good - Just Intonation rooted around A=443Hz, giving rich smooth chords. The reed adjustment should suit a wide range of players and when I lowered the gaps on mine a little, overblows were a breeze. The Anima is available in all 12 standard keys and comes in one of those nice form fitting zip-up case. It is also available as a 7 key set (G, A, Bb, C, D, E and F) as well as the Kit Duo, which partners an Anima in C with an Allegro chromatic (as reviewed here), both sets packaged in larger versions of those neat cases.
As you could probably guess from the name, the Bends Juke is another very traditional harp, reminiscent of the venerable Hohner Marine Band. It is similar to the previous harps, but has thicker reedplates (1.07mm) mounted on a nicely finished wood comb made of a dense tropical hardwood called IpÍ Tabaco). The covers are stainless steel and have Marine Band-style vents at each end, as well as being very wide open at the rear, helping give the harp a nice bright, clear tone. The reeds are phosphor bronze and appear to have been tuned lengthwise with some sort of rotary polishing tool, rather than those time honoured diagonal file gashes. There was some slight variation in tuning between the samples I got, but nothing too far out. They are tuned slightly sharp at around 444/445, with the draw reeds being a little higher than the blow reeds. Combined with the relatively wide gapping of the reeds, this would make these harps suitable for the more aggressive player. They come in those great zippered cases (can you tell by now that I really like these?) and are available in all 12 standard keys as well as a 7 key set.
The Bends Adagio is the only one of their diatonics to feature reedplates that are fully recessed into the comb. In this case, the comb is red ABS and the standard thickness reedplates (.09mm) are attached with 7 Phillips head screws. The stainless steel covers are vaguely reminiscent of the Hohner Meisterklasse and the smooth contours of covers and comb make the harp feel extremely comfortable to hold. The reeds are phosphor bronze and like the other Bends diatonics, are attached with stainless steel rivets. Reed adjustment is very good and the harp has a nice full sound, the tuning being Just Intonation rooted around A=443Hz. This harp looks goods, sounds good and feels good to play - it's probably my favourite of the Bends diatonics. Available in all 12 standard keys and as a seven key set of G, A, Bb, C, D, E and F packaged in (you guesed it!) a nice zippered case.
The Croma is their top of the line diatonic and it is another striking looking harp, with a clear acrylic comb and satin black covers. It features a traditional sandwich construction, with covers shaped like their Juke model, but lacking the Marine Band-like slots at the ends. Also like the Juke, it features slightly thicker reedplates, which help to make the tone a little more aggressive, although in the case of the Choma they are also chrome plated. Reed adjustment is excellent and all the overblows were quite easy to hit right out of the box, but I'm sure hardcore overblowers will probably want to lower the reed action a little further. The overblows are also particularly stable and not prone to the squeakiness that affects some harps, presumably due to the little dots of clear nail polish that have been added to the corners of the mid-range reeds. Hmm - I wonder where they got that idea?? (Here's a hint.) My only criticism of this harmonica is that out of all the Bends diatonics I've sampled, the Croma seems to have the least consistent tuning, perhaps due in part to the aforementioned treatment of the reeds in the middle octave. All in all though, I think this is an instrument that could be very popular with both traditional and cutting edge players. Currently only available in the keys of G, A, C and D.
I think Bends are off to a great start with these harmonicas and I hope to see them getting full international distribution before too long.
Unfortunately, Bends ceased manufacturing in 2011, due to financial problems. Some retailers still have stocks of certain Bends instruments, but once they are sold out, that's it.
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