Commercial Harmonica Reviews

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Hohner Chromonica 64

Reviews of Commercial Chromatic Harmonicas

Whats out there and what harpists think of their off the shelf chromatic.

Hering USA

Hering Chromatic Harmonicas

Hering in Brazil produce a wide range of harmonicas. Hering USA

Hering 5148 Chromatic

Hering 5148

Model 5148 (501/48) Available in keys of A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F, G.
12 holes, ABS Plastic comb, Round holes, Straight slide.

Brian McInnis says:
These harps have the thinnest tone of all the Hering Chroms. Despite this they are very responsive and very playable. In my opinion value for money these are one of the best Chromatics out there.

Doug Tanner says:
I like the 5148 better than the [now discontinued] Charlie Musselwhite - although they are very similar. I've used 5148 reeds to replace those in a MusselWhite and didn't notice any difference.
I think the reeds are the same - only the reed plates are different. I like the lighter weight of the 5148 and I think they buzz less than 7148's [AKA Musselwhite] between the comb and the reed plate difference the 5148 seems to be more forgiving of temperature difference which results in less valve sticking and less buzzing.
The slide seems to work better on the 5148 - there is a slight width difference - perhaps that's the reason - but I have used C, Bb and F in each model and find these differences to be consistent. I use the 5148's most of the time. I don't know why, but the Hering 5148 [slide] is the most forgiving of all , as long as I clean the slide every day or two it works great without valve problems, even with hours of playing in the car.


Hering 5164 Chromatic

Hering 5164

Model 5164 (501/64) Available in key of C
16 holes, ABS Plastic comb, Round holes, Straight slide.

Brian McInnis says:
The main difference between the 5164 and the 6164 is the fact the 5164 has traditional styled coverplates. I also find that the tone is slightly less thick and warm as the 6164, I think this is because the reedplates are thinner. It is very responsive and quite easy to play fast runs on. The slide action is smooth & quiet and I haven't had any trouble with it jamming up yet. The wind savers on the low octave buzz a bit. But with a little bit of effort the buzz can be eliminated.

Harplicks says:
I love this big ol' beauty. It is modeled much the same way as the Hohner Professional 64 (model 280/64), with similar cover plate configuration & all-screw assembly. However it is straight tuned where the Hohner Professional 64 harmonica is cross tuned. I found it to be a wonderful instrument. Extremely airtight, very responsive across all four octaves and a very manageable 'bite' for small-mouth me. like the Hering Musselwhite it features a thinner mouthpiece, round holes and possesses a brighter tone than the Super 64. This one tended to suffer from valve buzz, but was easily remedied (using thin strips of Micropore on the valves). A great harp for the money!


Hering 6164 Chromatic

Hering 6164

Model 6164 (601/64) Available in key of C
16 holes, Clear Acrylic comb, Round holes, Straight slide.

Brian McInnis says:
This chrom is a wonderful sounding harp. IMHO it has the best tone of any Hering chromatic. I prefer a thick tone on a harp that gives you a little resistance, and this is the one. Even though it gives the player a little resistance, it is very responsive and quite easy to play fast runs on. Its sloped covers fit quite well in my hands, but like any 16 hole, it is hard to cup for a tight air chamber. You can order 6164 models from some shops that come with brass inserts imbedded in the comb. This saves a lot of time when it comes to maintenance. One can remove one coverplate and reed plate at a time if needed. The slide action is smooth & quiet and I haven't had any trouble with it jamming up yet. The wind savers on the low octave buzz a bit. But with a little bit of effort the buzz can be eliminated.
This harp is my favorite 16 hole chrom.

G says:
A nice instrument, and its reasonably good value for money. The bottom end of the range is responsive enough for beginners to start out on. However several reeds began to fatigue after several months and I find the Hering mouthpiece rough on the mouth. I repaired it and sold it on.


Hering 6148 Baritono

Hering 6148 Baritono

Model 6148 (601/48) Available in key of Baritone C
12 holes, Black ABS plastic comb, Round holes, Straight slide.

Brian McInnis says:
This 12 hole chrom is the same as the first 3 octaves on the 5164. It has a thinner tone than the Musselwhite and the 6164. It is very playable and very responsive. One of my favorites.

G says:
An excellent beginner's Tenor C instrument, reasonable price, lovely tone, responsive enough for a beginner to learn on. I find the Hering mouthpiece rough on the mouth. It was one of my favourite harmonicas, but 6 months after receiving it brand new a number of reeds fatigued and died. I repaired it and sold it on.


Hering 1148 Velvet Voice Chromatic

Hering 1148

Model 1148 Available in keys of A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F, G.
12 holes, Black ABS plastic comb, Round holes, Straight slide.


Hering 7148 Chromatic Harmonica

Hering 7148

Model 7148 Available in keys of A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F, G.
12 holes, Clear Acrylic comb, Round holes, Straight slide.

This model used to be called the Charlie Musselwhite, but he has since withdrawn his endorsement from Hering.

Brian McInnis says:
A fine sounding playable harp. It is very similar to the 6164, but in a 12 hole size. I have one in the key of G, so I can not compare it properly to the sound of the 6164. The reed plates are plated (I am not sure with what).  The Musselwhite has a nice thick tone and a dream to play.

Harplicks says:
This chromatic was my first Hering product, and I must say that after all my Hohners this was a marvelously airtight and super-responsive instrument. It's tone is quite a bit brighter than the Hohners, but it's responsiveness, bendability (softer reeds) and solid construction really makes up for it. It is a straight tuned harp that features all screw assembly, stainless steel cover plates with Charlie's name inscribed, and thicker reedplates. The mouthpiece is a tad thinner than Hohners and made for easy octave playing for this small-mouthed lad. The downside was a tendency toward valve buzzing (I fixed this with strips of Micropore on the valves). After one year I had a reed go south (John Infande replaced it and told me all Hering reeds are longer and thinner than Hohner's and tend to go flat easier).
This is one hell of a harp and is the chromatic instrument I reach for first.


Hohner USA

Hohner Chromatic Harmonicas

Hohner is a long standing German company who provide a very large range of harmonicas. Hohner USA

Hohner Super Chromonica

Hohner Super Chromatic

Model 270/48 Available in keys of C, D, Eb, E, F, G, A, Bb, B & Tenor C
Also available is the Super Chromatic Gold in key of C
12 holes, Wood comb, Square holes, Straight slide.

G says:
Out of all the stock models and brands I have tried, the Hohner Super Chromonica 270 has a lot to offer and is my preferred choice. Solid design, lovely tone, good response, size and feel. Although I always prefer to customise and retune mine before playing.

Harplicks says:
This was my first real chromatic. It has a nailed construction and is straight tuned. I found the square holes a tad uncomfortable to tongue block on, but I got used to them fairly quickly. The nickel-plated covers tarnished quickly and I eventually rubbed some of it off & now bits of brass show in places. The harp seemed to be pretty breezy at first, but I did some mods (gleaned from Doug Tate's great book Making your Harmonica Play Well), and it is much better now. I've since purchased other Chromatics that are much more airtight, but none match the mellow, dark tone of my good ol' 270. A classic. And it's the only one of my chromatics not to suffer from valve buzz.


Hohner CX12

Hohner CX12 Silver

Model 7545 Black Available in keys of C, D, Eb, E, F, G, A, Bb, B & Tenor C
Model 7545G Gold Available in key of C
12 holes, Plastic comb, Round holes, Plastic mouthpiece & covers, Cross tuned slide

Harplicks says:
I bought this harp several years ago (after reading all the reviews on Harp-L), and found it to live up to its reputation as being robustly loud, extremely airtight, bendable, and easy to maintain (you can take it apart without a single tool). Reed plates are fastened to the plastic comb with screws. The only one of my chromatics whose slide never sticks. The fact that it is cross tuned didn't bother me, But the real downside of this cool Darth-Vader-looking harp (I got the black ABS plastic model), is that I don't strictly care for its 'plastic' tone. It seems to resonate plastic... Still, it sounds great amped. I also had some problems with a weird metalic after-tone on 2 notes that was solved by fastening little strips of Micropore to the valves giving them a little extra weight. Another downside I found is that it has a very thick 'bite' making it difficult for me (small mouth) to play octaves for extended periods of time.
It's a marvelous instrument that looks very, very cool.

In response to Lawrence Szenes-Strauss's newsgroup query:
"Does anyone out there have any experience with the Hohner CX-12 chrom ? Is it really worth it to get a metallic body ? Or is that most of an aesthetic change than a tonal one? Also, has anyone tried the low C tenor version of this model?"
BrassHa'per wrote:
I think the reed plates may be thicker on the metallic colored ones. I have the tenor C.
And to "How well do the reeds in the low octave respond?"
Very well. It's an extremely air tight harp that plays well even without the windsavers (though not on the bottom octave of the tenor). I'd judge the response to be a little better than the bottom octave of a 16 hole chrom like a Super 64X. I think the reeds are a little shorter on the tenor tuning than on the 64's which might have something to do with it. The CX-12 tenor isn't difficult to get good projection from on the low notes, nothing like a Hohner 270.
Its a different design from other chromatics, as you probably know. The mouthpiece is much different, more rounded and taller by far. Not saying worse, just that if you're very used to a "normal" Hohner/Hering mouthpiece the CX-12 will take some getting used to.

Doctor Harmonica says:
The CX-12 I own I got as a gift from my local music store when I bought a piano from them. It is a black bulky hunk of plastic, but it plays like every harper's dream. The sound is very warm and round, with a twitch of plastic. The wide slots at the back make for a comparison with a horn, especially in the lower octaves. The volume is very good, strangely enough. This is not an instrument designed for extra volume, like the gold and silver models. The slide action works exceptionally smooth and of course the ease of taking this baby apart for cleaning is very pleasant. The big mouthpiece is not a problem for me.

Doug Tanner says:
I have found [CX12s] to be better for use in the band i play in - in part because thier tone cuts better through the trombone and accordion thatare also in the band. In fact, recent experiments have shown that the Hering tone is so similar to the accordion tone that it's hard to differentiate them - thus my preference for the CX12 [for use in the band]. However, I find there are more valve sticking incidents with the CX12 than the Hering.

G says:
An innovative design and overall a good instrument worth checking out. The slide design means the spring is unlikely to ever break. Although in stock form I found it quite noisey. On the whole the instrument was relatively airtight and responsive. I have my reservations about the cross tuning design, however it something I was prepared to overlook because of the design benefits.
Its a doddle to disassemble and reassemble making it easy to service, and a very practical option for players who use a number of altered layouts to swap reedplate/combs quickly, even onstage between songs as Brendan Power regularly demonstrates. Its large open cover design gives it a distinctive full mellow horn like tone. Unfortunately the plastic covers seemed to aggrevate problems with condensation and resultant valve popping.
Its biggest drawback for me was the size of the mouthpiece which gave me a very painful case of TMJ (continually sore jaw joints). Despite all the benefits, this single major draw back makes the instrument completely impractical for me to use at all. If the Hohner R&D boys were allowed to finish their job on the mouthpiece design before it was rushed out it would be one of the best chromatic harmonicas available today. Its quite a shame really.


Hohner 64 Chromonica

Hohner 64 Chromatic

Professional Chromatic. Model 280/64 Available in key of C
16 holes, Plastic comb, Round holes, Cross tuned slide

G says:
A good choice for anyone wanting a stock 16 hole chromatic. Sturdy design with a great tone, nice reed response, good slide action, and relatively comfortable. This is the 16 hole chromatic I generally recommend to new players. My only reservations are with the cross tuning, I prefer straight tuned harmonicas, and the mouthpiece is quite a job to fit in my mouth.
I prefer the older straight tuned Hohner 16 hole chromatics which seem more airtight and responsive as well as being less of a mouthful.

Doctor Harmonica says:
The 280 is my most recent acquisition. Only recently I had an opportunity to play this big battleship. The lower octave on the first four holes took some getting used to, but once I knew it was there, I wandered over there more often than not. The tremendous four-octave reach of this monster makes it worth the work you have to do to get this thing up to your mouth. Its bulky size and weight make this an instrument for adults, not kids. Even if the one I tested had a small defect, a leak in the high octave due to a worn bolt there, I consider this a very responsive harp with an extra octave that gives you the reach to go down if you want to and still play high. Only drawback on this baby is the size of the mouthpiece. A little too thick for my liking. But then again it's thinner than on the CX-12 and the round holes make for easy puckering.


Hohner Super 64 Chromonica

Hohner Super Chromatic 64

Model 7582/64 Available in key of C
16 holes, Plastic comb, Round holes, Cross tuned slide

Franz Chmel's Instrument of choice.

Harplicks says:
My first 16-hole, four-octave harp. I bought it because it looks very cool. The stainless steel cover plates go all the way to the ends of the reedplates. Unfortunately this all-screw assembly, cross tuned harp ~leaked~ air like a sieve right out of the box and was nearly unplayable. I sent it off to harp tech Bill Rommel to go over and he did a great job of mostly tightening it up. The middle and upper registers played pretty well, but the lower still sucked wind (due to a gap between covers and mouthpiece). I have since caulked the gap using a thin bead of silicon compound and this did the trick. But then I had problems with several buzzing valves. This was remedied by fastening little strips of Micropore tape between the upper and lower halves of each valve.
Now the harp plays like a dream!!
I absolutely LOVE its dark, mellow tone, and, thanks to Bill's tinkering, it is quite responsive. Now, my only complaint is (once again) the thick 'bite' of the thing. I must say, though, that all the expense and frustration of getting this baby into shape was well worth it.
It's a great sounding harp!


Hohner Super 64X

Hohner Super Chromatic 64X

Model 7584/64 Available in key of C
16 holes, Plastic comb, Round holes, Cross tuned slide


Hohner Larry Adler Professional 12

Hohner Larry Adler 12

Model 7534/48 Available in key of C
12 holes, Wood comb, Square holes, Straight slide

'G' says:
Having serviced a quantity of these I cannot see much difference in assembly or quality between the Larry Adler 12 and Super Chromonica 270 apart from the embossed covers.



Hohner Toots Mellow Tone

Model 7538/48 Available in key of C
12 holes, Wood comb, Square holes, Straight slide

A fellow Chromist had his Mellow Tone customised:
When I first listened to Toots Thielemans play on the Jaco Pastorius "Word of Mouth" album, I couldn't believe the music Toots made with his harmonica. Years later, I found Harp-L and after much research, I decided the Hohner Toots Mellow Tone was a chromatic I wanted to try. I discovered Custom Craft Harmonicas and after a phone conversation with owner Bill Romel, I decided to send him the Mellow Tone for his Forever Lucite comb upgrade.
Bill puts threaded inserts in the Lucite comb that allow the reed plates to be screwed on. I also had him make a silver plated, round holed mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is screwed into threaded inserts as well. Bill's custom mouthpiece is what really makes the harmonica a joy to play. It is so smooth on the lips and tongue compared to Hohner's standard, square holed mouthpiece. It is very similar in feel, to the Hohner Meisterklasse, my other favorite chromatic harmonica. Of course the Hohner Mellow Tone reedplates are terrific.


Hohner Toots Hard Bopper

Hohner Toots Hard Bopper

Model 7539/48 Available in key of C
12 holes, Wood comb, Square holes, Straight slide

G says:
Very similar in quality and feel to the Hohner Super Chromonica. I didn't like the feel of the chrome plated covers, they tended to slip in my hands and gave the instrument a slightly brighter tone than after I replaced them with 270 covers. I had the comb replaced with a clear lucite one with brass inserts so the reedplates are independantly mounted and tuned it to Cmaj7/Dmin7 for classical music. I look forward to many years of enjoyment from this harmonica.

Doctor Harmonica says:
This was my first real chromatic harp. The first real one, since I think a Chrometta doesn't count. I noticed the Hard Bopper and the Mellow Tone simultaneously and being a Toots fan since longer than I can remember I went for them immediately. Their prices were inhibiting me to buy the both, so I went for the "men's stuff" Hard Bopper. This is a very robust and airtight harp. The tone is loud, but a little on the thin side when compared to other Hohner chromatics, yet beautiful. The heavy, chrome plated reed plates make you really work when playing, but that does not reduce responsiveness. I am very satisfied with it as it is. The only thing I modified after some time is that I scavenged a round-holed mouthpiece from another chrom and screwed that on the 'Bopper. The round-holed mouthpiece is more comfortable to play.


Hohner Meisterklasse

Hohner Meisterklasse
(Photo by Dick Biow)

Model 7565/56 Available in key of C
14 holes, Metal comb, Rounded square holes, Straight slide, Mpc lengthened ends. Range low G to D

Hohner CBH 2016

Hohner CBH 2016

Released 1975, Discontinued mid '80's Produced in Key of C
16 holes, Cross tuned slide, Plastic comb, Innovative design by Cham-Ber Huang.

J.R. Ross wrote:
First, what I like about this chrom. I love it's tone. Each reed is clear and precise. When you play a chord, there is no muddying, no blending of the reeds. True, this might not be what I want all the time, but it really gives the chords character and a crispness not found in most other harps (perhaps the isolating covers give it this crisp, clear tone). Also, there is a real sense of attack and responsiveness to the reeds. You have to be careful with your bends, as it's easy to go too far and kill the sound. This is definitely a good thing, as more bendability makes for a wider range of possible tonal variations.

And then there is the shape of this chrom. I really like the wedge shape, as it fits smoothly in the mouth and is quite comfortable (note here that I tongue block--when I pucker I don't find it nearly as nice). The button is in the right place. It puts the hands out there, in front of the harp, just where they should be for getting a good cup. Truly, a design inovation which I would like to see picked up in the future.

So, with all this good stuff, why do I have the Rommel 6164? (and I'm not even talking about my custom 12-holers, which I tend to prefer for the smaller size and thus easier cuping and holding)
Well, there are the negatives.
The first I'll deal with is the mouthpiece. Yes, I know, I said it had a great shape, so what could be wrong. The material. It is somewhat rough feeling after playing it for a while. Also, it wears down with time, and this creates a nasty little edge where the mouthpiece hits up against the covers.

But that is the minor complaint. The major complaint happens when that wonderfully placed and designed slide button (or plunger--it's still a button and even a normal slider acts like a plunger, but this is semantics). Not only can you hear the air being driven back against the slider, you can feel it. This is the most sever backpressure that I have ever felt in a chrom. True, backpressure occurs in even straight-tuned chroms, but the amount of backpressure in the CBH is just ridiculous. I feel a rush of air into my mouth. And the noise really is quite distracting.

So, do I play this chrom often? No. For me, the two flaws outweigh the positives. Well, actually I could fix the mouthpiece problem by having someone make a silver-plated metal mouthpiece, and I may do that someday. But it really is the backpressure which keeps me from using this chrom regularly. Perhaps it is the cross tuned slider which creates the backpressure. Perhaps it's the way that the slider ramps inwards towards the comb chambers. Whatever the problem, it is too big for me to overcome.

So, I read people saying that the CBH should still be made (including me), and I have to say that I find it to be no huge loss. Sure, there are aspects of the design I'd love to see continued: the shape; the button placement; the tone-chamber effect on the sound. But unless that backpressure problem is solved, I wouldn't be in any rush to go out and buy one, and I wouldn't really recomend anyone paying the price they go for on eBay unless you really just want one for the novelty--or only play non-slider 3rd position blues chrom. At least that way you get the positives without the backpressure becoming an issue. :)

J.R. "Bulldogge" Ross
And Snuffy, too :-)


Huang Inc

Huang Inc Chromatic Harmonica

Huang Incorporated supply a single chromatic harmonica.

Huang 1248 Professional

Huang 1248 Professional Chromatic

Model #112 Professional 1248 Available in key of C.
12 holes, plastic comb, Small round bevelled holes, Straight slide.

David A. Lovatto says:
The Huang seems to have heavier sound than the Suzuki Leghorn. The opening in the back is slightly larger on the front and back cover plates. (1/64" maybe) It is also a little smoother in playing. I'd probably play the Huang at a gig, than the Leghorn. I have had the Huang over 11 years. And is a very nice harp.


Suzuki Harmonicas

Suzuki Chromatic Harmonica

Suzuki, a Japanese company, offer a range of Chromatic Harmonicas including: the SC 56 and 64 models with 14 & 16 hole configuration respectively; and the less expensive SCX models 48, 56 & 64 with 12, 14 & 16 holes respectively. Only the SCX48 is available in keys of C, G, A, D and F. The rest are tuned to key of C.

Suzuki SCX-48

12 holes, Plastic comb, large rounded mouthpiece with rounded holes, cross slide. Welded reeds.

Suzuki SCX48

Mark Talaba wrote
I only play chromatic harps, and until a couple of years ago, I had only played Hohners with wood combs. Then I got a Hering Super 48, and more recently, the Suzuki SCX-48.
It's a very fine harp, and I think also a good value for the price. The fit and finish is excellent, and it comes in a better-than-average case. I found it to be very airtight and exceptionally responsive all the way up and down. Good volume, but the tone is not as robust as my Hohners (Toots Mellow Tone and Hard Bopper.)
The slide on this particular Suzuki has a faint click that could probably be remedied. The only downside I found is that the lower-octave windsavers seem to be very sensitive to excess moisture, which causes them to stick and/or buzz. So if you get one of these, I recommend that you always warm it up fully before playing, and try to play with a dry mouth. Since adopting that strategy, no further problems.

If you'd like to submit your review of a Suzuki chromatic harmonica, please post it in plain text format to .

Tombo Harmonicas

Tombo Chromatic Harmonicas

Japanese Harmonica company offer an interesting range of alternatively designed chromatic harmonicas in addition to the more orthodox Unichromatic.
Tombo are best known by Americans by their Lee Oskar diatonic models. Tombo have a reputation long lasting and accurately tuned reeds.

Tombo Unichromatic

Tombo Unichromatic (No.1248)

Model No.1248 Available in key of C.
12 holes, Plastic comb, Square holes, Straight slide.

Tombo Unichromatic Gold

Tombo Unichromatic (No.1248G)

Model No.1248G Available in key of C.
12 holes, Plastic comb, Square holes, Straight slide.


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