Hering model number 4020, the Super Gig 20, is Hering's bargain priced diatonic. It looks very much like a Hohner Marine Band, except the steel covers lack the characteristic slotted ends of the MB and the comb is made from black ABS rather than wood. Available only in the key of C, the tuning of the sample I received for review was very good indeed, tuned in 7-limit Just Intonation (the traditional diatonic tuning that gives the smoothest possible chords, but leaves the 5 and 9 draw sounding a little flat) rooted relative to A=444Hz. The tuning was done with diagonal strokes of a file, something I feel can have a negative effect on reed longevity. The reedplates are plain brass, a little thinner than most diatonics at 0.72mm (0.028") and are secured to the comb with three Phillips head screws. The reeds are a medium slot length (shorter than, say, those on a Hohner Marine Band in C, but longer than those on a MB in Db) and the reed adjustment on this sample was rather variable, mostly considerably wider than I would use for all but the more forceful of players. However, after a bit of careful gapping, it played extremely well. US retailers are selling this harp for around $5 and I would definitely call that a bargain.
The Vintage 40 (model number 1040) seems to be Hering's answer to Hohner's Slide Harp and the Koch Chromatic: a ten hole chromatic tuned with the same note layout as a standard ten hole diatonic. It's a striking looking instrument, the covers and mouthpiece are lacquered brass, very much like their Vintage 1923 diatonic. The comb is made from wood, which is sealed both inside and out to reduce moisture problems. The exterior finish of the wood is very attractive, highlighting the wood's natural reddish colour. The instrument is nicely finished and presents no rough edges or sharp corners to the player's hands. The slide assembly is the traditional three piece set of U-channel, slide and backing plate and I am sorry to report that this particular one jammed the first time I pushed it. Thankfully, it was very simple to fix, merely requiring proper alignment of the parts, which had probably got knocked around in shipping. After fixing it, the slide action was very nice. The instrument is straight tuned, so the slider has push of about 5mm (about the same as a Hohner 270) and is both fast and quiet. The mouthpiece is slightly deeper than those used on the Hohner 10- and 12-hole chromatics and has round holes with nicely finished edges, making it very comfortable in the mouth. The reedplates are plain brass, a little thicker than usual at 1.25mm (0.049"), attached with three screws along the rear and two smaller screws towards the mouthpiece. The Vintage 40 is available in no less than eight keys - D, E, F G, A, Bb, B and C (the Slide Harp and the Koch are only available in the keys of C and G). The sample I was sent is in the key of C and has quite short reeds, all of them valved with the typical Hering two-piece windsavers. Tuning is very good, Equal Temperament based around A=442HZ. Again, I am sorry to report that this was done by filing which has left quite a few diagonal scars on the reeds. The adjustment of the reeds is very even and combined with the overall airtightness of the construction, this makes for a very responsive instrument indeed. It comes in a form-fitted plastic case.
If I am correct in assuming that Hering were intending to market this instrument to the blues players, then there are a couple of things I don't fully understand. First of all, the choice of Equal Temperament seems a little odd, when Just Intonation or a compromise temperament would have made for smoother chording. More importantly, the presence of a valve for every reed means that typical blues harp-style bending is impossible and without bends, this instrument is only chromatic in the middle octave (because of the tuning, you need bends to fill in the gaps in both the lowest and the highest octaves). Of course, as the Vintage 40 is assembled with screws rather than nails, it is a very easy matter to remove some of the valves to permit blues-style (dual reed) bending for the lower draw notes and the upper blow notes, leaving valves in place to permit valved bends for the lower blow notes and the upper draw notes (this is how the Hohner Slide Harp is set up). I've tried this with the review sample, but even after careful reed adjustment, there is still a noticeable difference in response between the valved and unvalved notes. How much of a problem this is will depend on the player's personal preferences. Those of you who like the Slide Harp and Koch Chromatic and wish they were available in more keys should definitely check out the Vintage 40. Those of you who are dreaming of a chromatic that plays just like a great diatonic may just have to continue dreaming.
This instrument, model number 5140, is basically a solo tuned version of the Vintage 40, being tuned like a standard 12-hole chromatic, but without the top two holes, giving it a range of two and a half octaves. The covers on this one are chrome plated brass, as is the mouthpiece. The wooden comb is sealed and has a black finish on the outside. The round holed mouthpiece is very comfortable to play and the smoothly finished comb and covers feel nice in the hands. The reedplates are similar to those on the Vintage 40, except on my review sample in the key of C the reeds are a medium slot length. Reed adjustment is nice and consistent and the tuning is very good, Equal Temperament at about A=442Hz. All reeds are valved and the harmonica responds very evenly with a nice tone. Like the Vintage 40, it comes in a form fitted plastic box and is available in the keys of D, E, F, G, A, Bb, B and C. Its compact size would make it an ideal instrument to carry around in your pocket, ready for unplanned practice opportunities.
The Chromatic 40 (5140) and the Vintage 40 (1040) are now being produced with synthetic combs instead of wood.
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