Hering Vintage Harp Harmonica Review
Hering Membi Chromatic
If I recall correctly, Hering have used the name Membi for at least a couple of other harmonicas over the years. This particular one is a 12-hole solo tuned chromatic with chromed brass covers and a synthetic comb. Rather then being injection molded, the comb is milled from a solid piece of black plastic. The 0.9mm thick reedplates are nickel (I think) plated and are attached by three larger screws a the rear and two smaller ones along the front edge of the reedplates. There are a pair of soccer goalpost shaped brass supports to help reduce the chance of crushing the covers if you accidentally sit down with the harmonica in your back pocket.
The slide assembly is a fairly typical three piece assembly with a single slide bumper at the spring end and works very smoothly and quietly. The slide button has a flat face with a nicely textured surface to reduce finger slippage and the square holed brass mouthpiece is chrome plated and very comfortable in the mouth. The mouthpiece and slide assembly is attached with screws that go directly into the comb material, so if you remove it for cleaning, make sure that you get the screws correctly seated in their thread when you reassemble it (the same goes for chromatics with wood combs, of course).
The valves are the typical Hering two piece flaps which work quietly on the sample I have for review, even when I played it cold. The reed are of a medium length, reed adjustment is very consistent with average to low gaps and tuning is extremely good at A=445Hz. Nothing particularly innovative about it, but overall a very good quality chromatic. Available in the key of C only, it comes in a nice semi-rigid zippered case with plenty of space to hold a few extra items, along with a microfibre polishing cloth and a rather neat drawstring pouch.
Hering Vintage Harp 1923
The Hering Vintage Harp is not new, but as I’ve never reviewed it here and I was sent a sample from a recent production run, I thought I’d post a brief review. The Vintage Harp is a very traditional Richter diatonic, with a sandwich style construction and has a noticeable heft to it. The covers are vented at the ends like the Hohner Marine Band and are made of brass with some sort of lacquer finish that feels very smooth and slides reasonably well in the mouth, as well as looking quite distinctive. The reedplates are significantly thicker than usual at 1.2mm (approx. .05″) and attached to the comb with five Phillips head screws.
The comb is made of wood and has been heavily lacquered on all the exposed surfaces, but not on the parts that come into contact with the reedplates. The sample I have is in the key of C and uses Hering’s medium slot reeds. Tolerances between the reeds and the slot look good and reed adjustment is very consistent with a medium gap. The tuning is excellent – 7 limit Just Intonation with the blow reeds rooted around A=442 and the draw reeds tuned slightly sharper.
Overall, this sample plays very well with nicely consistent response over the whole range of the harp. The thicker reedplates seem to add some punch to the tone and the tuning gives some very pure sounding chords, although with the “flat” sounding 5 draw and 9 draw that can sound out of place in certain playing styles, so this is definitely a harp for the more traditional player. Equally definitely, it is not a harp for the overblower, at least not without lots of work on the reeds to damp the tendency towards squealing.
It used to come in a rather cheap looking hard plastic box, but I am pleased to report that it now comes in a rather nice zip-up semi-hardshell form-fitting case. (I hear that Hering have recently upgraded the cases for most of their harmonicas.) The Vintage Harp is available in all 12 standard keys, as well as a 12-key set and a 6-key set (G, A, C, D, E and F).
Feedback over the six years or so that the Vintage Harp has been available seems to have been generally quite positive. I don’t recall any complaints about the comb swelling, although I have heard a few people state that the exposed edges of the reedplates have an odd taste to them. I think this probably depends on individual mouth chemistry. Reports of reed longevity have been mixed, with some people claiming to have blown them out in a matter of weeks, others saying that their have lasted for years.
Obviously, your mileage will undoubtedly vary, but I will note that on my sample the tuning had left some diagonal file marks across the reeds that are unlikely to help reed longevity. That criticism aside, if you are looking for a good traditional blues harp, the 1923 is well worth checking out.
Hering have been under new management since July 2017. However, at the time of writing (June 2018), they do not seem to be back in production yet and there is currently no information available on when harmonicas will be made again and which models will be available. It may be worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Hering Vintage Harp Harmonica
The Hering 1923 Vintage Harp looks like something straight out of a museum. Yet, it's an inexpensive mouth harp that anyone can afford. That's a good thing, since most experts seem to agree we all know a novice would need to play it. While the Hering 1923 is considered to be one of Rod Piazza's favorites, it isn't without its share of problems, especially when it for you to the reeds. Nevertheless, the harmonica as a whole has a solid construction and a good extra fat. It also has a good tone for the money, but some declare that the tone is not quite as good as Hohner harmonicas that are in the same price range.
- Easy to play
- Prone to reed problems
- Sound quality not as good as models with similar prices