Q: What brands of Harmonica are there?
A: There are many brands of harmonica, but the biggest ones are: Hohner, Tombo (Lee Oskar and Ultimo), Huang, Suzuki and Hering. These are German, Japanese, Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian, respectively. Most extremely cheap (toy) harmonicas are made in China -- BB
Q: Which one is the best?
A: All offer a variety of harmonicas in different price/quality classes. Hohner and Lee Oskar are probably the most readily available. If you want to become a serious player you have to try out different types of harmonicas from different brands in different keys and see which ones suit your style of playing -- BB.
Also, from "Harp ratings" 13 Mar 93 RL:
-------------------- DIATONICS: HOHNER MARINE BAND:
Fine harps that have a well-deserved reputation. Not my favorite due strictly to personal tastes, but good sound. Take a good look at the combs before you buy one _ sometimes they're misaligned, I suspect due to the rigors of shipping (Hohner has earned a rep for quality instruments over the decades).
HOHNER SPECIAL 20/PRO HARP:
My favorite Hohners. Nice 'n' loud, and the plastic comb makes it easier to fly all over the harp when you generally use the lipping style, as I do. Only difference between the two that I can tell is the black covers on the Pro Harps. BTW, if you wear glasses and play on stage a lot, those black covers can be nice: I've had stage lights bounce off chrome harps and into my glasses, creating a rather unpleasant and unexpected "rainbow effect" (grin).
HOHNER GOLDEN MELODY:
Sounds good, long lasting. I'm not fond of the ones in the low keys - they don't bend very well and aren't terribly loud, in my experience. I don't like the shape but many people do. It's a good instrument by and large; I'm just not terribly fond of it for personal taste reasons.
HOHNER BLUES HARP:
Lots of beginners buy 'em for the name. Too bad. Not a good harp. Allegedly easier to bend notes on this harp but I've never seen much difference. Plays (too) quietly. Again, not good on low keys (something true, to one degree or another on most Hohners, I have found). Save your money. If you like wood-bodied harps, buy the Marine Band.
HOHNER BIG RIVER:
A new Hohner, clearly aimed at people who like Lee Oskars. A little bigger than any other 10-hole diatonic I've seen. Big sound chambers. Very loud. Seems tuned a little more brightly than most Hohners I've used. Replaceable reed plates, ala Lee Oskar. Nice, nice, nice. I really like these and have been adding them to my "gig kit," but I could do without the goofy word "Hohner" printed on the side of the comb that faces the audience. Enough advertising already. Also, somebody at Hohner needs to think up better names for their harps.
(FMI: "modular marine bands" -- 2 Nov 94 RL) (FMI: "MS Meisterklasse" -- 19 Apr RB) (FMI: "MORE ON MODULAR HARPS" -- 4 NOV 93 WY) (FMI: "Hohner MS" -- 17 Jul 95 FJM) (FMI: "Future of Marine Band" 29 Dec 94 KF)
You can't go wrong with these harps. Nice sound, nice construction, replaceable reed plates, good feel in the hand. Highly recommended for beginners and great harps for pros. I like the minor keys, too.
HUANG SILVERTONES/STAR PERFORMERS:
These are Chinese clones of Special 20s and Golden Melodies, respectively(at least in appearance). I like these more than most players, although they are very, very bright and I'd avoid the high keys (E,F), which sound screechy. Recommended highly for beginners in particular because they cost half as much as other pro harps and are of much better quality than "beginner harps" such as the Hohner Pocket Pal. Notes bend easily; harps don't last as long as Hohners or Lee Oskars. I still own piles of these but they've largely been consigned to the "backup harp bag" now.
SUZUKI FOLK MASTERS:
I kind of like these harps, too. They're more expensive than Huangs but cheaper than Hohner/Lee Oskars. Kind of small but surprisingly loud. Construction of covers seems a little cheap, but they seem to last OK. I like their sound but they're ugly little suckers -- end "harp ratings" 13 Mar 93 RL
(FMI: "Overblowing and valved diatonics" -- 26 Jan 95 WY CHROMATICS)
Many play the Hohner #270 Super Chromonica 12 hole or #280 64 Chromonica 16 hole (extended range). Others like the Toots Hard Bopper #7539 (thicker reed plates) or Mellow Tone #7538; the Super 64(X) #7582 or 7584. The Larry Adler #7574 and Amadeus #7544 are the higher end, better materials/workmanship. The Koch chromatic 980 is a special design chromatic with a slide separating two Richter tuned diatonic harmonicas tuned a 1/2 step apart, thereby giving access to all the chromatic notes, but in a familiar set up to diatonic players.
A relatively new model is the plastic covered Hohner CX-12 that provides a certain sound and feel that many players really like. Some find the tone not to their liking; some find the hole spacing uncomfortable.
There are less expensive Chromettas (8, 10 and 12 hole), but they are talked of much on the list.
The Hering chromatics represent a good chromatic value since they are made in an old Hohner factory in Brazil. They use a different mouthpiece with round holes which some people prefer to the Hohner.
Huang makes the Professional 1248; Suzuki makes a 12 hole Leghorn. There are positioned to be good value, but not competing directly with the higher end Hohner -- HA
(FMI: "Chrometta 255 vs. 270" 9 Jan 94 WY) (FMI: "Hering harps" 4 Oct 94 RL) (FMI: "Chord (another digression)" 01 Sep 94 FJM) (FMI: "Suzuki Leghorn" 28 Apr 94 GM) (FMI: "ReRE;Jacks Stradivarius..." 6 Jan 95 RM) (FMI: "Mostly Water Chromatics MIDI" 11 Dec 93 WY) (FMI: "Re: 16-hole chromatic recommendations?" 27 Dec 93 JE) (FMI: "Re: Shopping for my first Chromatic Harp" 2 Jan 94 GM)