One hundred years ago, Hohner pioneered the chromatic harmonica as we know it today and have dominated the market for most of that time. However, whenever I am asked for to recommend and instrument for someone taking up the chromatic, I have always been a little reluctant to suggest a Hohner. The venerable 270 Super Chromonica has long been the standard by which other chromatics are judged, but it requires careful adjustment and regular maintenance for it to perform at its best and the pear wood comb is can cause problems for new players who have not yet learned how to play with a dry mouth. The Hohner CX-12 is a superb instrument that addresses those issues, but it costs a little more than a beginner is often willing to spend, particularly if they are not sure that the chromatic is really the instrument to which they want to devote themselves. Then there's the Chrometta series - I know that there are many people very fond of these chromatics, but I have to admit that I've never really been one of them.
However, the new Hohner Discovery 48 is an instrument I would heartily recommend to a beginner. Not only that, I would be very happy to play this harmonica myself, on stage or in the studio. The Discovery is built around a pair of 1.25mm thick long slot C reedplates, basically the same as those found the Chromonica Deluxe. The reedplates are secured with seven Phillips head screws and are fully recessed into a black plastic comb, leaving no brass exposed to the player's hands or mouth, secured with seven Phillips head screws. Valves are the dimpled type now standard on Hohner chromatics. The covers are stainless steel and very ergonomically shaped, in my opinion much more comfortable than the standard 270 design, with built-in cover supports at the rear. The mouthpiece and slide assembly is a very simplified affair that works smoothly and noiselessly on the sample I tried straight of the box with no adjustment. There are just two main components - the slide and the mouthpiece, which also doubles as the guide channel for the slide - no separate U-channel or backing plate. The mouthpiece is made of black ABS plastic and feels extremely comfortable in the mouth, the square holes having nicely smooth edges. As a bonus, the slide can be set up so that the button is on either the right or left of the instrument.
Tuning on this sample is quite good, around A=442/443Hz and the reed adjustment is very consistent across the full range giving a nice even response, although the gapping on this one is perhaps a little low for really hard players. The sound is a typical Hohner Chromonica sound - in a blindfold test, I doubt anyone would be able to tell this apart from a 270. One particularly nice thing is the compatibility with the other Hohner 12-hole chromatics. If you don't like the covers on the Discovery 48, you can fit a pair of 270 covers to it. Likewise, if you don't like the plastic mouthpiece, you can fit a regular 270-type mouthpiece and slide assembly. With a bit of work (mostly just drilling screw holes), you could even use the comb from the Discovery to replace the wood comb on your 270. All the parts are available individually from the Hohner C-shop.
The Discovery is only available in C and comes in a really nice zippered case. Suggested retail price is €129.00, but they generally seem to be selling for around €100, about 3/4 the price of a standard 270. Highly recommended to everyone - beginners or more seasoned players alike.
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