When I reviewed the original version of this harp on this site last year, I remarked that it was several steps above the usual cheap Chinese-made diatonics. Since then, that harmonica has been discontinued and replaced with a new model bearing the same name and the quality has been taken up another notch.
Where the old version was obviously Hohner inspired, the new Sonnyboy's Special looks somewhat more Suzuki-like. The reedplates are fully recessed into a black ABS comb and topped with smooth stainless steel covers with minimal engraving on the upper cover to help let you know which way up it is, the whole harp feeling comfortable to the hands and mouth. The covers are vented at the ends, although slightly less than a Marine Band. The reedplates are slightly thicker than standard at 1.2mm and are secured with seven Phillips head screws. The size of the reedplates and the screw placement makes them compatible with the Suzuki Harpmaster and Bluesmaster (and possibly some other Suzuki models), but despite their being spot welded rather than riveted to the reedplate, the reeds themselves are quite different. The reeds are quite long and broad, except for the two highest reeds on each plate, with the same slot sizes being used for all keys low to high. The reed/slot tolerances look very good and the reed adjustment is quite consistent across all the samples I tried, with a nice snappy response and easy to control bends. Overblows and overdraws tended to produce those high pitched squeals typical of Asian-made harps, except I did find that I could produce a nice clear sustained hole 4 overblow on each key that I tried, straight out of the box. The tuning is also reasonably consistent, equal temperament at about A=444Hz, the tuning done by some sort of lengthwise abrasion, none of those nasty diagonal file gashes.
The Sonnyboy's Special retails at £18.99 and comes in a nice harp plastic case. It is also available in a set of seven keys (G, A, Bb, C, D, E and F) for £87.75 and a set of all 12 keys for £147.75, both of these sets coming in a nice zippered hard shell case. I think these are good value and compare quite favourably with the mid-range harps sold by other manufacturers. It's not all that long ago that most Japanese-made harmonicas were in the cheap and not-so-cheerful category, but these days Japan makes some of the finest harmonicas on the market. It's encouraging to see examples that suggest Chinese-made harmonicas may be headed in that same direction. Ben tells me that they are curently developing other mid-priced high quality instruments, with one very special one that promises to compete with some of the best harps on the market - stay tuned!
Available from www.SonnyboysMusicStore.co.uk
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