Hohner's Updates to the Marine Band line (Part 1)
Just had a look at the newest Hohner harmonica catalog. In it I noticed a lot of changes. Notable ones include updates to the original Marine Band, Marine Band Deluxe, the low Crossovers are now called "Tunderbird" (thanks to Joe Filisko and Little Walter), and changes to the Special 20. I have a couple of concerns, both good and bad, for all of these changes.
First, the original Marine Band harmonicas are now called the "Marine Band 1896 Classic" I could be wrong, but I don't believe the "Classic" designation was present before. Updates to the harmonica itself include a "newly designed triple-coated pear wood comb". So it appears the comb is sealed (at least on the visible edges). In my opinion, the recent Marine Band harmonicas are very difficult to play. Perhaps an improved comb may make a difference in high end playing and bending response. I suspect the real issue is with the reedplates however. As Joe Filisko has said, the marine bands most of the people have today are a far cry from what they once were. To quote Joe, "...something happened at Hohner making all the Marine Bands coming out almost unplayable". This is one of the big reasons his customization business took off. Personally, I had a hard time finding a good Marine Band, very inconsistent production.
Next, the Marine Band Deluxe is getting some updates that look significant. I've been a fan of the Deluxe since I got one a while back. It's a very responsive and loud harmonica at a reasonable price. It gives that great classic sound without the bank busting that a true customization could thrust upon poor guys like me. The highs play well and the bends are good. To quote from the catalog, here are some of the changes:
• New improved cover design gives greater volume and stability while preventing reed rattle.
• New reed profiles ensure longer reed life and reduce breakage.
• The entire pearwood comb is triple-laquered, dramatically minimizing swelling and ensuring greater volume and faster response.
• Sturdy neoprene zipper case allows moisture to evaporate while keeping dust out. Practical elasticated loop permits case to be worn on belt.
• All parts available as spares.
The first thing I noticed is that the design on the coverplate has gotten some changes. It looks good but a bit odd since I've gotten used to mine. Don't know if the new reed profiles mean they are new to Hohner or just an improvement from the original Marine Band, but it could be interesting. Zipper case with an "elasticated loop" sounds very cool. First time I ever saw something like that was watching John Popper perform with harmonicas in a belt holster. I thought it was very cool then, like he was some kind of musical soldier (perhaps taking the term Marine Band a bit TOO seriously?), and would love to see that in action. I left the others for last for a good reason. Seems that they are the most significant improvements. "The entire pearwood comb is triple-laquered". I believe that "entire" is the key word. The previous ones only coated the visible edges still making the comb vulnerable to swelling. Finally, the cover is redesigned to prevent reed rattle. My biggest complaint with the Deluxe I have is that the one draw rattles on the cover plate when played hard. It can be avoided but you have to account for it in your playing which naturally changes your playing style and freedom.
Exciting stuff for sure! This post is looking very long, and I know you would rather be playing your harp so I'll save other comments for a future post. Let me know if you want to hear more of my thoughts on the new catalog and post any comments about the apparent changes to the Marine Band and Marine Band Deluxe here. Perhaps someone with inside information can shed some light on these models too. Thanks for the great site and inspiration!
Joe Filisko certainly had some input in the new Thunderbirds but the name came from our own David Barrett I believe. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Does anyone know when and where these new MB deluxe's will be available? I just got some deluxes in the mail today that I ordered last week, and they appear to be the old kind. I haven't taken them apart to look at the comb, but the cases are the normal plastic boxes, no zippers or anything. I like the MB deluxes, but a fully laquered comb would be great. Plus, I sometimes have problems with reed rattle in the lower keys. So this is all very exciting to me and I can't wait to get my hands on one. Too bad I just ordered some of the old ones.
Also, the crossovers are very good but I prefer the tuning of the deluxes, which are closer to 7 limit just and yield smoother chords. I've put a crossover comb on a deluxe and that works fine - I don't notice much difference in the sound (although the feel on the tongue is slightly different). A MB deluxe with a fully sealed comb would be the best of both worlds for me.
Old thread, but my two cents anyways...
1. I have several of the new sealed MB's. The combs are the same color as the MBD combs, but the standard shape. They only come in blister packs...so there is no confusing an old one with a new one. I should note that I am a Hohner endorser and order all my harps direct from Hohner. Anyone can do that, though, and that is the only way I've been able to get the new sealed harps.
2. I asked about "new" MBD's, but there didn't seem to be an knowledge of the combs being fully sealed yet. As for the other comments, that is marketing talk to describe the harp from the start. There might be some sneaky things I haven't caught yet, but for the most part, the actual reedplates, other than profiles, are very much like they've always been.
3. The Thunderbirds are FANTASTIC. I have several and have compared them to the Seydel low harps as well as some custom Sleighs and some customs that I've built. The covers are much less obviously modded compared to how I do them, which is how Sleigh does them. They play wonderfully and unless you overbend, will rival any custom for general performance. I have noticed that they are gapped really well, but not optimal for overbends. I can hit some of the OBs out of the box, but not all.
If the T-Birds cost too much, and you just need general low keys like LF or something, modding MB's is easy and you can also look at Hohner's SP20's and Big Rivers. In fact, I use several low tuned BR's that are very, very old, and they work great.
I have to agree about the old Big Rivers. I'm still playing 15-year old Low D plates that I've worked on, and they deliver great sound. MS reeds are longer than the comparable Classic (or, as they were called for awhile "handmade") reeds, and it gives them less delicacy but more robustness of sound.
Of course to get anything lower than Low D in a Hohner 10-hole, Thunderbird is the way to go. I have a Low D and a Low G and they're both great out of the box.
Learns a few months, and think buy harmonica
have a MB crossover G, A, D
wanted invite Bb, F and Low F
Is Thunderbird Beginners recommended (high price)
Or MB Deluxe enough
Deluxe or Crossover should be fine for now.
Thunderbird comes in Low F, but not in regular Bb or regular F.
I ordered a MB Crossover
I have no experience with deluxe, are they the same tune ?
Price is almost identical .
The Marine Band Deluxe has the same 'compromise' tuning used on marine bands and special 20s. The Crossover has a different compromise tuning that is closer to equal temperament. The MBD sounds a bit better on chords but the crossover sounds better on single notes, while still sounding OK on chords. To me it's noticeable but not a huge difference. I have a slight preference for the MDB tuning but prefer the fully sealed comb of the crossover because I've had problems with tines spreading on my MDBs.
I just ordered two of the new sealed marine bands from rocking ron's - the only two he had in stock. He said it will take a little while for the new harps to work their way into the distribution pipeline.
He also said the MBDs are slightly redesigned, and talking to the Hohner rep he got the impression that the combs might be sealed on the MBDs as well. This is consistent with the wording in the new Hohner catalog which says that the entire comb is 'triple-lacquered', as mentioned above. Ron only had one of the new MDBs in stock, a low F and I already have more low Fs than I need so I held off on that. I emailed Hohner directly a few days ago as Mike suggested but have not heard back from them yet.
But I'm not in a huge hurry. This is all good news. Hopefully in a few months we'll be able to easily purchase fully sealed MBs and MDBs.
By the way, Rockin Rons is great to do business with. He responds promptly, answers questions, and called me back on a Sunday and got my order out the same day. I highly recommend them.
All the MB's and MBD's I've ordered direct from Hohner in the last 1-2 months have been the updated harps with sealed combs, FWIW. They are both easy to spot due to the different comb colors.
I believe this is the case with most common keys. I would assume that a key like F# is probably going to be the old design until they change stock.