[Harp-L] Comb Debate

Sheltraw macaroni9999@xxxxx
Wed Jul 26 04:01:51 EDT 2017

With the Ace we don't just have a uniform change of comb materials.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Jul 25, 2017, at 8:46 PM, Tom Halchak <info at xxxxx> wrote:
> I have a simple question for everyone.
> When was the last time you had the opportunity to play five identical
> harmonicas with the only difference being the material out of which the
> comb was constructed?  Not, the same set of reed plates swapped from one
> comb to the next so there was no ability to play them side by side and do
> comparisons.  I’m talking about five brand new, fresh from the factory
> harmonicas – no customization, no modifications.  One has the factory
> installed comb and then one each with a Corian, an Acrylic, an Aluminum and
> a Brass comb.  So, everything about the harps is identical except for the
> comb, thus providing you the ability to play each one as much as you want
> and then compare it to another one with a different comb and then do A-B,
> A-C, C-D, etc. comparisons so you and your audience could listen for
> differences.  When was the last time you had the opportunity to do that?
> For most of you the answer is………… never.  I know that Michael Rubin has.
> So has Richard Sleigh.  And Brandon Baily.  And Todd Parrott.  And anyone
> else who wished to do so at SPAH in 2013.
> At The Great Comb Debate Workshop at SPAH 2013, I prepared not five
> identical harps with different combs.  I prepared 20 brand new harps with
> different combs.  Five Golden Melodys in thekey of D.  Five Manjis in the
> key of A.  Five Marine Band Deluxes in the key of G and Five Marine Band
> Crossovers in the key of C.  Four different models.  Four different keys.
> Five different combs on each model.  The only difference in the comb
> material was the factory installed stock comb – ABS Plastic on the Golden
> Melody.  Wood/Resin Composite on the Manji.  Pear Wood on the Deluxe.  And
> Bamboo on the Crossover.  The other four combs, in each case were Corian,
> Acrylic, Aluminum and Brass.  The above mentioned pro players demonstrated
> the harps in the workshop – one model each.  Todd Parrott the Golden
> Melodys.  Brandon the Manjis.  Richard the Deluxes.  And Michael the
> Crossovers.  There was no attempt to deceive.  Each player told the
> audience what he was playing during his demonstration and offered his
> feedback.  The audience could ask the player to play any combination of
> harps back to back for comparison purposes.
> At the end of the workshop we had a contest to see who could correctly
> identify the most harps as they were played from behind a curtain out of
> view.  Truthfully the scores were not that high.  Margie Goldsmith won The
> Golden Ear Award for the highest score.
> It was fun.  It was informative.  It was revealing.  There were about 30
> attendees at the workshop.  At the start of the workshop I surveyed the
> room to see who believed comb material made a difference and who believed
> it did not.  The room was pretty evenly divided between the believers and
> non-believers.  Fair enough.  Within about 5 minutes after the
> demonstrations started, there were no more non-believers in the room.  That
> was when Todd Parrott picked up the Golden Melody with the Brass comb and
> played.  That was also when the jaws hit the floor.  Everyone was stunned
> by the difference.  And so it went.  Without getting bogged down in too
> many details, the consensus that evolved is that the metal combs are louder
> and brighter than the Pear Wood, Corian, Wood/Resin Composite Acrylic or
> Bamboo combs.  There are subtle difference between those materials too but
> the most pronounced difference is between the metal combs – especially the
> brass – and the non-metal combs.
> The workshop was on Wednesday, the first day of SPAH.  I had all 20
> harmonicas available at my Vendor’s Booth for the entire week, which I made
> available to anyone who wanted to play them and conduct their own taste
> test.  And a lot of people did.  I didn’t keep track how many, but not one
> of them came back to me and said that there was no difference.
> I addition to this SPAH experience, in the past 8 years, I have made and
> sold 1000’s of diatonic harmonica combs.   Other than the major
> manufacturers, I would venture to say that nobody has manufactured and sold
> more combs than I have in that time.  I have received 1000’s of email from
> satisfied customers who describe their experience and the difference in
> tone of one material vs. another is a common theme.  This may not be the
> most scientific approach but it is a lot of data and it all points to one
> inevitable conclusion – different comb materials produce different tones in
> a harmonica.  Could all these people be wrong?  Are they suffering from
> some sort of mass delusion?
> Bear in mind that different doesn’t necessarily mean better.  Beauty is I
> the ear of the beholder.  I have never marketed one material vs. another
> with the claim that it will improve the tone of your harmonica.  It doesn’t
> matter to me one iota if someone prefers Corian or Wood or Aluminum or
> Acrylic or Brass.  I make them all.  If someone is in the market for a
> custom comb, do you really think I care which one (or ten) they buy?  The
> customer is always right.  They buy what sounds good to them.  That’s all
> that matters.  I am just in the business of meeting the demands of the
> market.
> So, let me repeat my question.  When was the last time you had the
> opportunity to play five identical harmonicas with the only difference
> being the material out of which the comb was constructed?   I respectfully
> submit that this is a valid method of comparing instruments.  Unless you
> have had the opportunity to do this, then I would question the accuracy of
> your decision-making process.  I find that there are a lot of naysayers out
> there who don’t have any first-hand experience with the things they are
> expressing their opinion about.  They are simply repeating something that
> they read elsewhere and accepted fact.
> I’ll set some harps with different combs up for SPAH in three weeks.  If
> anyone wants to do some experimenting, stop by my booth.  You will be
> welcome to take them for a test drive.
> -- 
> *Tom Halchak*
> *Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC*

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