None of these are new models, of course, but they have all undergone recent changes, so I thought brief reviews of the current versions were in order.
The venerable Marine Band Classic, Hohner's best selling diatonic for more than a century, has undergone many changes over its history, which I've documented on this page. The most recent change is that it now has a triple lacquered comb to help reduce moisture-related problems. I've been playing this harp for a while now and not noticed any changes in the comb, although I tend to play with a relatively dry mouth anyway, so your mileage may vary. The lacquer is applied to all surfaces of the pear wood comb and you can easily tell these apart from the older models by their natural finish, rather than the time-honoured yellow paint on the outside edges of the comb. Aside from this, the harp is pretty much the same as it's been over the past decade or so, although I did notice that tuning and reed adjustment was a little more consistent on my review sample than on the last batch of MBs I had the chance to examine. For the record, the blow chord is rooted relative to A=443Hz, with the draw chord a little higher. The sample I have is in Bb and plays comparably with some of my better vintage Marine Bands. The bends are all easy to play right out of the box and the 4, 5 and 6 overblows are there without any adjustment. It's great to see this old favorite back on form again!
The original version of the Blues Harp was introduced in the late 1960s and despite the stories about the reeds somehow being different (see this page for more details), was essentially a Marine Band with different covers. The current version of the Blues Harp is part of Hohner's Modular Series and was introduced in the 1990s. Initial reactions to the MS harps were less than positive, but the whole range has undergone many improvements since then. The most recent improvement to the Blues Harp MS is, as with the Marine Band Classic, a triple lacquered comb, again on all surfaces of the wood (the wood being the tropical hardwood Doussie, used on previous version of the Blues Harp MS). The tuning on the sample I have is a little closer to Just Intonation than previous MS models that I've examined, but with 5 and 9 draw tuned significantly sharper than the Classic models and the whole harp tuned slightly higher overall - keynotes relative to A=444Hz. I also notice that there are no reedplate codes stamped on the sample I have.
If you were one of the many people who was disappointed with the MS harps when they first came out, you might want to try some of the recent production runs - the tone and response is not quite the same as on the Classic Series, but if this one is representative of the current state of the MS harp, then they are solid workhorse instruments, immeasurably better than those first MS models.
The Marine Band Deluxe is a relatively recent addition to the Hohner range. It received very good reviews when it first came out in 2005, but Hohner have found a few ways to make them even better. Once again a triple lacquered comb, but where the original Deluxe was sealed just on the outsides edges and in the reed chambers, the current version has all surfaces of the comb sealed. Also, the lacquer on this one looks shinier and feel slicker than on the MB Classic and the Blues Harp MS. Combined with the rounded ends to the comb tines, this gives a really comfortable playing surface to the mouth and tongue. Speaking of comfort, the Deluxe now features the same ergonomic cover shape as the recent version of the Crossover, with no more gaps to snag the facial hair of moustachioed players! The tuning is rooted somewhere between A=443 and A=445, using a light temperament, with 5 and 9 draw tuned sharper than the MB Classic, but not quite as sharp as on the MS harps. The Deluxe also comes in a neat zippered case like the Crossover and Thunderbird. The reeds are identical to those used on the MB Classic, MB Crossover, Special 20 and Golden Melody and I think this is a great harp for the player who likes the traditional Marine Band style harmonica, but prefers reedplates that are attached with screws, rather than nails.
Hohner had have quite a bit of competition over the last few years, but it seems that they have responded by stepping up their game. The additions and improvements to the Marine Band range (including the regular Marine Band, the Deluxe, the Crossover and the Thunderbird) are due in no small part to the tireless enthusiasm and hard work of Steve Baker, who has made the Marine Band his own pet project.
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