Stan Harper is perhaps somewhat better known in the US than in Europe, which is a shame, as his virtuosity with the chromatic harmonica has dazzled American audiences for many decades. He has been associated with Hering harmonicas for some time and has collaborated with them to produce this instrument which bears his name. This is a 56 reed, 14-hole chromatic in the key of C. It start on the G below middle C and can be viewed as a 12-hole chromatic with two additional holes added at the lower end, or as a 16-hole chromatic with the two lowest holes missing. This tuning is extremely useful for those playing pieces from the violin repertoire, as the violin's lowest note is the G below middle C.
This instrument feels very comfortable in the hands as well as in the mouth, with nicely shaped chrome plated brass covers and a chrome plated brass mouthpiece with round holes. The covers are supported by soccer goalpost shaped pieces of brass, similar to those used on some Suzuki chromatics. The plain brass reedplates are of a fairly standard thickness (1.08mm, 0.0425") and secured with six Phillips head screws and two small slotted screws along the front edge to a wood comb. According to the Hering website, the wood used is madeira, which I believe is a type of mahogany. The outside edges of the comb have a nicely grained reddish veneer applied which has been heavily lacquered. The reeds are the same size as those used on the Hering 64 and reed adjustment is very consistent, giving an even response over the full range of the harmonica. Tuning is also quite good at A=443Hz.
The slide assembly is a typical three-piece design, with a single slide bumper as is the case with other Hering chromatics. The slide is quite easy to push, yet has a quick return and operates with a minimum of noise. Overall, this harmonica looks good, sounds good and plays nicely. I must admit that I am not a fan of wood combs, but time will see whether this comb is less prone to moisture problems than the more common pear wood combs. In the meantime, this makes a welcome addition to the range of 14-hole chromatics that are currently available.
This is a redesign of one of Hering's entry level 10-hole diatonics. The Master Blues previously had a black ABS plastic comb, but is now being made with a comb made of wood. The corners of the comb are nicely rounded, as are the chamber partitions and the outside edges of the comb are heavily lacquered. The covers are (I think) stainless steel and are somewhat similar to the Hohner Marine Band, but without the slots at each end. The plain brass reedplates are of standard thickness (0.9mm, 0.0354") and are attached using 5 Phillips head screws. Overall, the harp is nicely put together.
The Master Blues is available in all 12 major keys. The sample I have for review is in the key of C and uses medium length reeds (a little shorter than Hohner would use for a C harp, but a little longer than they would use for a D harp). Reed adjustment is quite good, perhaps favouring a harder playing style rather than a gentle touch. The tuning on this sample is a little inconsistent, but still acceptable. It seems to be tuned to equal temperament at about A=445Hz which may be a little high for gentle players and the temperament may make the chords sound a little rough (I'm pretty sure that the older version of the Master Blues were tuned closer to Just Intonation, giving smoother chords). All in all, this is a respectable harmonica for the price.
Hering have been under new management since July 2017. However, at the time of writing (June 2018), they do not seem to be back in production yet and there is currently no information available on when harmonicas will be made again and which models will be available. It may be worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Stan Harper passed away in 2016, at the age of 94.
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