[Harp-L] Subject: Re: The 'newest' Stradivarius of harmonicas!

Vern jevern@xxxxx
Tue May 10 16:14:48 EDT 2016

> On May 9, 2016, at 11:17 AM, EGS1217 at aol.com wrote:
> IF, as I  suspect--the creator of this new chromatic might be Phil Sardo 
> (of the  Sardo Brothers) --long time chromatic players who attend SPAH 
> regularly and are  extremely well thought of……...

I agree that the Sardo Brothers are very nice guys and excellent performers.

>  …...then I'd think this new chromatic could be 
> thought of just a wee bit  more charitably by some here instead of subjected 
> to immediate denigration…….. 

I agree that the Psardo harmonica seems to have very high overall quality. “Denigration” is too strong a term for my comments. I only challenge the unsupported claims of unique tone embodied in the these two lines of text:

"This produces unprecedented tone and resonance without harmonic interference from other reeds. A second set of tubular channels receive the sound of the note produced and this creates a full rounded tone like no other.” (Emphasis is mine)

My criticism’s are aimed not so much at the Psardo harmonica as at the notion that this kind of unimportant design detail can produce perceptibly superior tone.  Theory denies substantial effects arising from either details of shape with dimensions much less than a wavelength, or from resonant time constants much shorter than a period of one cycle. 
> …….As far as the  'tests' are concerned, none were conducted under strict 
> laboratory conditions  --something I suggested long ago, only to have my 
> suggestion scoffed  at and dismissed. Afaik these tests were held in a hotel room 
> at SPAH,  hardly the best acoustical space……….

The hotel room may not have been perfect but it had far better conditions than normally prevail for harmonica performances.  There were no other instruments playing, the participants and observers were not talking, and the sound was undistorted by mics and amps.  In some cases the instruments were played by machine, avoiding human variables.  In other cases the same reed plates and covers were used to avoid reed adjustment variables.  Subsequent tests were designed to answer objections to the first one.  The second test used the same reed plates and covers to answer the complaint that different reeds founded different. The third test required the participants to play the instruments to answer the objection that listeners could not perceive effects that players could.

IF only one of many participants (presumably with excellent hearing) had been able to reliably identify different materials, then the “materials effect” would have been proven.  That did not happen. The tests were designed and the conditions were controlled to making it easy for the participants to demonstrate that they could perceive differences.  However imperfect the conditions may have been, they were the same for all comb materials.  

> My long-term suggestion was  - 
> instead of  wagering $1,000 - use it instead to hire an audiologist and an 
> independent lab;  taking it out of the hands of all interested parties, and to 
> pre-test the  'audience' who would describe any differences to ensure 
> whether or not they had  equal/excellent hearing. By now we should all be aware 
> that many people exhibit  varying degrees of hearing loss and can miss sounds 
> under certain levels, while  others have super-sharp hearing. Were the 
> 'judges' tested to see into which  category they fell? ……..

Comparisons made under laboratory conditions radically different from real life would have been misleading.

It is not clear to me how having a Fletcher-Munson curve on each participant or excluding those with poor hearing could have changed the outcome.

> If not, then any such informal 'test' fails.
This sounds a bit “dismissive” to me.

The burden of proof lies on the person making the assertion that different materials produce perceptible differences in tone.  Until at least one person can demonstrate* the ability to hear such differences by only listening or even playing the harmonicas, then we are correct in assuming that no such effect exists.
Listening to a bunch of harmonicas having different comb materials and then announcing that you heard differences does not demonstrate this ability.


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