It is more than seventy years since Hohner introduced what quickly became the standard chromatic harmonica, their model number 270 Super Chromonica. It has remained basically unchanged since then, but after recently updating their best selling diatonic with the Marine Band Deluxe, Hohner have decided to give their workhorse chromatic a makeover too.
On first sight, it doesn't look too different from the standard 270. The most notable differences are a nicely finished comb with the Hohner name in bold lettering on the rear, stainless steel covers instead of nickel plated brass and a shiny chrome plated brass mouthpiece with round holes, rather than the square holes of the original version.
Hidden under the covers are a pair of extra thick (1.2mm) reedplates made of unplated brass, with some redesigned long slot reeds (harmonica technicians be warned - the reeds in holes 8 to 12 are slightly narrower than on previous long slot reedplates) and gone are those dreaded nails, the reedplates instead being attached with five screws, holding them nice and flat against the comb. The comb is similar to the standard 270 comb, except for some minor changes to the upper chambers to improve the response of the highest reeds. Hohner claim the comb is "natural finished pearwood". I'm not quite sure what "natural finish" is supposed to mean, but there does seem to be a light varnish of some sort applied to the wood. How effective this is at reducing swelling and warping remains to be seen. An interesting feature of the comb is that there is a second spring hole at the left end of the instrument, allowing the slide assembly to be mounted with the button pointed towards the left. The valves are of the newer type with the beige coloured backing layer, introduced by Hohner over the last couple of years. The valve placement on this review instrument is very neat and even.
The tuning on this sample is reasonably good, based around A=444Hz, with just a little beating on some of the octaves. The tuning has left some diagonal scratches on some reeds, but I am relieved to see no nasty scars from over-enthusiastic filing! I also see that the tuning of some of the blow reeds was touched up with a burr used through the reed slot, presumably after the instrument was assembled. The Deluxe is currently available only in the key of C. I don't know if other keys will be available at a later date.
It's quite some time since I last played a standard 270 straight out of the box, so it's hard to compare how much of an improvement the Deluxe is. However, it plays very well indeed. The mouthpiece feels very comfortable (although I must confess that I have always preferred rounded holes - your mileage may, as they say, vary), the slide is reasonably quiet, no buzzing or rattling from the valves and reed response is very consistent from hole to hole, with good dynamic range. I think the reed adjustment is going to suit a fairly wide range of players - and those who don't like it should really learn how to adjust things to their own taste! In particular, the response in the very highest holes, which can often be a problem for many players, seems noticeably better than on the standard 270.
That really leaves just one quibble. I would personally have loved to have seen a plastic comb and I know I am not alone in that. Of course, I do understand that many people associate a wood comb with a nice warm tone (even though there is no objective evidence to back up that opinion), so I am sure that Hohner felt that sales may have been harmed by using a plastic comb. The Deluxe will retail at about £90, €120 or US$150, putting it about midway between the price of the standard 270 and the Toots models. All in all, a nice addition to Hohner's range of chromatic harmonicas.
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