[Harp-L] Suzuki MANJI

Congradulations to Brendan and Suzuki on what appears to be a fine new harmonica. Suzuki is certainly knocking out interesting new products at a very fast pace: Overdrive, Pipe Humming, Firebreath, Pure Harp, now MANJI. Sadly, though, the horrible naming has continued (I mean no offense, but I wouldn't consider the "Jon" model any better--and somehow "manji" conjures up images of the chippendale dancers, but I digress...:). But, they certainly look like instruments well-poised in the market, clearly aiming at the "Improved Marine Band" target, which makes a massive amount of sense business-wise.

Now for some of the specific claims (all quotes Brendan from his response to Vern):

On comb material:

"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."

I would hesitate to say that "most players" heard differences--from this forum alone it would appear some do and some don't, and I've never seen a clear majority either way. I don't doubt that many do believe they hear tonal differences when playing different comb materials, but there is no reason to believe that this is in any way a reflection of physical reality and not a mental phenomenon. Which is not to dispute nor lessen the importance of such a thing, just what one believes and what is actually occurring are not always the same, and most likely not the same in this case.

"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."

People are passionate about a lot of things, however that doesn't mean that their passions have any basis in reality. In any attempt to understand the physical machine that is the harmonica, passion and emotion need to be eliminated as much as possible. Fortunately, for sales pitches they can be allowed to bloom in all their illogical and fantastical glory, as has always been the case--but by the same token, salesmen shouldn't get too mad when someone with a good sense of smell calls out what they may be shoveling.

"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. "

Taste and feel are massively important factors which vary from individual to individual. They will play a huge part in what comb or cover material a person may prefer. That doesn't translate to them playing any significant part whatsoever in the actual sound production of the instrument itself, though.

I have many wood-composite type resin combs and quite like them--they have a wonderful tactile feel and they don't swell. Good reasons for choosing a comb material in and of itself.

"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."

It sounds like an impressive achievement, but if people are skeptical about how great an achievement it is that is understandable. How many times have fairly technical or minor changes to the design of the harmonica or the production process been touted as being "the biggest improvement since..."? I seem to recall Suzuki's own literature on the Promaster is pretty much littered with that type of praise. Not to single Suzuki out on this--again, it's pretty much par for the course in harmonica advertising, and so it's hard not to be fairly skeptical of all such claims, no matter the source.

Moreover, everyone will have a different scale for this. For one person the introduction of all-encasing plastic combs (LO) will be the greatest improvement since...; for another the introduction of steel reeds will be the greatest improvement since...; for yet another person (say one with nickel allergies) the introduction of stainless steel covers will be the greatest improvement since... Which is to say for you (and perhaps for me) this is huge, but it might not be so for others. In any event, I think you've made a strong case as for why you view this as such an important achievement, and so I very much look forward to checking one of these out myself.

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."

Not necessarily. There may be some small difference, but at some point you get to where the opening is sufficient that there will be no difference between that size and opening it further. I am not really taking a side either way here as to this example, just that the logic doesn't necessarily follow. I think you probably summed up how I feel with this paragraph:

"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?"

I would agree with that entirely. I'd even go further and say it's good--certainly good for sales.

All in all this looks like another very nice harmonica from Suzuki, one which I plan on checking out for myself when they come on the market--a comfortable, non-swelling comb, very high reed to reed- plate tolerances and the typical Suzuki quality control, sounds like a very nice instrument indeed.

Also, I want to thank Brendan and Suzuki for all the wonderful YouTube videos they do on their models. It's both a great sales tool and a great service, IMO.

JR Ross

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