[Harp-L] Re: Out of the box harp

In the relating of my experience with Hohner I was not passing judgment on their current product. I was citing my experience with Hohner as a company. Perhaps that got lost in the translation.

Ten years later, whether or not the word "defective" was used in the letter to me I can't say for sure. However, the "alloy" was definitely cited as the problem, whether by intent or mistaken translation, irrespective of your skepticism and questioning of my veracity. Even if it was a matter of profiling and not the alloy it would still be a defect in the manufacturing process. If a tendency to break reeds in a harmonica, through whatever cause, is not a defect I don't know what is. The letter from Hohner also stated the instruments from whatever batch mine came from were "not of usual quality". Yet they continued to sell them in considerable quantities, and it would seem from what you tell me, despite an issue known far and wide.

The 2nd broken reed hit my throat and literally choked me, which was rather embarrassing in mid-solo in front of a few thousand people, both facts which I relayed in my letter to Hohner. If I was responsible for producing a product which turned out to have a widely known problem with the potential to harm my customers I'm pretty sure I would have at least offered to replace the instrument as a matter of good customer relations and smart business sense, not to mention the moral issue, irrespective of any technicality in the warranty. Hohner's response was to do nothing and to add insult to injury by ignoring my follow up letters. This despite my being a loyal customer for decades and even at one time having a limited endorsement arrangement when I lived in the UK. The folly of their attitude is apparent not only in losing a loyal customer, who as a professional was often asked for recommendations of a good brand, but who also continues to relay the negative experience for years potentially losing further customers.

Though in my opinion it ain't necessarily so, Hohner could today produce the most fantastic and durable harmonicas in the world but because of the attitude I was shown by Hohner as a company I will not willingly buy their products nor would I recommend anyone else do so. Again it is only one man's opinion, but I believe I have found a better product from a company with much better customer care.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a limited endorsement deal with Seydel. This came about only after I became a retail customer and was actually convinced that they are the best OTB harmonica one can buy. Others will no doubt disagree. You have had a long standing and obviously satisfactory relationship with Hohner. You, as a consultant, are either paid or receive remuneration in kind or benefit. Perhaps you would hold the same opinion regardless, but in any event, you think differently and choose to defend them. That is your right, as it is mine to have a contrary opinion based on a very different experience.

And BTW, in my first letter to Hohner I did not ask for a replacement under warranty or, at that time, even expect it. My original intention was to inform them of a problem and to find out why this was happening. I was not a member of Harp-L or any other such forum and had no idea that reed breakage with Hohner was common knowledge. It was only after Hohner admitted to selling a sub-standard instrument that I suggested the least they could do was replace the reed plate. Hohner couldn't even be bothered to reply.

Steve Power

----- Original Message ----- From: "Steve Baker" <steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <stevepower@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>; "Harp-L" <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2012 7:21 AM
Subject: Re: Out of the box harp

Steve Power wrote: After decades of playing Hohner I stopped playing them about 10 years ago and refuse to buy them unless it's an emergency and I have no other choice. I had reeds break off twice on draw notes during performance in front of very larg audiences. I sent the broken reeds and the reed plates to Hohner Germany who admitted in writing that the alloy used was defective.

Steve Baker responds:
As you may know I've worked closely with the Hohner company in Germany as a consultant for the past 25 years. At the time you mention, Hohner did have issues with reeds breaking, this was a frequent topic on Harp-L for years thereafter. However, the reason for the breakages had nothing to do with the reed alloy, it was a consequence of the reed profiles. I can't imagine anyone in Trossingen making any such statement and it's definitely not true that the alloy used was "defective", so maybe something got lost in translation. Reed breakage does not constitute a manufacturing defect and isn't covered by warranty.

As has been discussed on Harp-L on various occasions, the profiles of all Hohner classic reeds (those used in Special 20, all Marine Band models, Golden Melody and also all chromatic models) were changed in about 2003 and the current reed life is far longer as a result. I also play about 100 gigs a year and my harps (Marine Band Deluxe & Crossover) get a real hammering, but I rarely wear out reeds. Complaints about reeds actually breaking off have ceased since the profiles were changed.

The past ten years have seen far reaching changes in the harmonica industry in general, so passing judgement on any manufacturer's products today on the basis of what they were like then can be misleading.

Steve Baker

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