RE: [Harp-L] Suzuki MANJI: Closest Reed/Slot Tolerances Ever Achieved

Hi Vern,

Thanks for your typically forthright response to my post on the MANJI M-20,
and the two promo videos I made for it. I'm sure you'll welcome me
responding in kind to the points you raised.

I think you missed the point here. I agree with you about the LISTENERS not
being able to tell the differences between comb materials (you've already
proved that). 

However, what the PLAYER hears/feels/senses is another matter entirely. I,
like most players, do definitely hear differences when I play the same
reedplates and covers on different combs. That's what I'm talking about in
the video: what the player feels.

You can rail against the supposed 'illogicality' of it till the cows come
home, but I'm afraid players are passionate about different comb materials,
shapes, finishes etc for their personal use, and they will continue to be
so. That's why we keep discussing it on Harp-L over and over, and there is a
healthy market for custom combs.

And actually, I don't think it is illogical at all: when you are holding the
instrument in your hands, it's against your lips, in your mouth, only inches
away from your ears, many senses come into play - far more than can be
measured by any machine. It's the sum of those sensations that make players
prefer one comb material to another. 

Whatever you say, a lot of players still love wooden combs, and the MANJI
comb is an enterprising attempt to give them the same heft, feel and - yes,
sound, that wood gives without the swelling issues. Suzuki haven't just
buried wood fibres in resin; they have tried to create a material that
simulates the porosity of wood.

The ultimate testers (the players), will determine whether folks feel Suzuki
have succeeded or not. 

For those who don't like the stock comb, I'm sure they will soon have the
option of buying one of several custom combs for the MANJI... ;)

Again, you have missed the point. I wasn't saying that welding reeds per se
was the important advance - Suzuki have been spot welding their reeds for 20
years or so. What I said was that welding, in tandem with Suzuki's new
process for ensuring unrivalled precision in reed placement, has now led to
an unprecedented ability to reduce the width of the slots to the minimum
possible. Suzuki are claiming that the reed/slot tolerances have been
reduced .." as far as they will go", as it says in the MANJI publicity.

That COMBINATION of welding and highly accurate reed fixing  to allow
narrowed reed slots is what is really new and progressive about this harp.
It takes the out-of-the box harmonica reed performance to a new level never
before achieved. It's the first real improvement in this critical area since
the 19th century.

Fair enough that you should ask for evidence. Actually, I myself did urge
Suzuki itself to publish the MANJI tolerances in numbers, compared to other
brands, but they demurred for reasons of trade secrecy. However, they are
not making this claim lightly. For any manufacturer to make such a bold and
specific claim about the reed/slot tolerances without being absolutely sure
of itself would be incredibly foolish, and Suzuki are cautious about things
like that - unlike some others.

However, that is something you CAN measure. As our valued testing guru, I'm
sure we'd all be very interested in hearing your findings of a comparative
test of the accuracy of different brands' reed alignment and the closeness
of their tolerances. If you prove Suzuki wrong, I'll be the first to

You claim that stainless steel reeds are an arguably more impressive
achievement. Not so. After all, stainless steel is just another reed
material, and we've seen lots of them over the years: so-called bell brass,
the hard K-thingummy compound that Hohner used for a while, phosphor bronze,
and even plastic reeds. It's cool that stainless has been added to the list,
but in the end Seydel attaches their reeds in the same way as all other
manufacturers except Suzuki: by riveting, with the inevitable distortions
that entails. In fact, riveting DEPENDS on distortion, because it is a
mechanical, friction fit.

I made two claims here: that the side vent holes allow the player to hear
the reeds directly, and that the opened covers at the back project more
sound. The first claim is self-evident from a player's (not the listener's)
perspective: you only have to drill holes in the ends of a closed cover to
hear the difference.

As for whether opening the backs of the covers gives more volume and
projection - well, I agree, this is not so clear cut. The difference between
a 2-3mm lip at the rear of the covers hanging vertically or flattened back
to the top of the cover is probably so miniscule it may not be measurable.
However, if one extended the back cover lip down to the reedplates so it was
only 1mm from them and almost fully enclosing the reeds, there would be a
very noticeable effect. So it follows there should be some small difference
between having a 2-3mm vertical lip and none at all.

Frankly, it isn't that important to me, but many players swear by it. In
opening the covers of the MANJI, Suzuki is simply giving the customers what
they want. Is that so bad?

But if you want to measure that as well and give us a definitive answer,
I look forward to more healthy discussion with you at SPAH :) I'm especially
looking forward to your valve seminar; save some of those material samples
for me, please!


Brendan Power


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Vern Smith [mailto:jevern@xxxxxxx] 
> Sent: 09 August 2009 07:46
> To: Brendan Power; Harp-L@xxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] The new Suzuki MANJI: Closest Reed/Slot 
> Tolerances EverAchieved
> The Suzuki Manji appears to be an excellent harmonica.  You 
> play it extremely well.  However, some of your claims seem 
> overly broad.
> Do you really think that tiny wooden particles buried in a 
> plastic comb can affect tone?  This claim needs theoretical 
> and empirical support to be credible.  My $1000 wager (of 
> many years standing) says that when listeners must depend on 
> their ears alone, differences in comb materials are 
> imperceptible.
> Because welding exerts no misaligning horizontal force or 
> torque on the reed as do rivets and screws, it makes sense 
> that the clearance can be less.  However, how important can 
> this be when the leakage area from the same hole through the 
> gap in the opening/silent reed is many times larger than the 
> clearance around the closing/sounding reed.  This is 
> especially true for low-pitched reeds where breath pressure 
> opens that gap even farther.
> It is arguable that stainless steel reeds are an equally or 
> more important 21st-century harmonica development than 
> welded reeds.
> Because cover details whose dimensions are very small with 
> respect to the sound wavelength are subject to diffraction, 
> claims about their effects require support.
> Sadly, all harmonica manufacturers make the same kind of 
> unsupported claims.  Harmonica buyers need a little more 
> truth in advertising!
> Vern
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Brendan Power" <bren@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: <Harp-L@xxxxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Saturday, August 08, 2009 3:03 AM
> Subject: [Harp-L] The new Suzuki MANJI: Closest Reed/Slot 
> Tolerances EverAchieved
> > Suzuki will unveil their all-new Manji M-20 diatonic 
> > harmonica at SPAH this
> > coming week.
> >
> > Every component has been designed from scratch for high 
> > performance: comb,
> > coverplates, reeds and reedplates. All the bits are 
> > striking, but the most
> > impressive claim Suzuki are making is that, in the MANJI, 
> > they have achieved
> > an unprecedented level of accuracy in fixing the reeds on 
> > the reedplate.
> >
> > This has allowed them to reduce the reed/slot tolerances 
> > to a fineness never
> > before achieved in a manufactured harmonica...
> >
> > You can see and hear the MANJI M-20 in these two videos:
> >
> > MANJI Part 1:
> >
> >
> > MANJI Part 2:
> >
> >
> > The icing on the cake is that the MANJI will retail at a 
> > very affordable
> > price (to be announced at SPAH).
> >
> > Regards,
> >
> > Brendan Power
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Harp-L is sponsored by SPAH,
> > Harp-L@xxxxxxxxxx
> > 
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