The Marine Band 1896 is what all the old blues masters played. It was designed 127 years ago, and is still exactly the same! And that’s why I’ve always said:
If you wanna sound like the old blues masters, play a Marine Band!
It’s near the top of my list of GREAT harmonicas with a rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.
BUT, its big deficiency? It’s UNCOMFORTABLE! The single-lacquered Pearwood comb is VERY ROUGH ON THE LIPS (and on the tongue if you’re a tongue-blocker!)
A few years ago I bought a Hohner Crossover and absolutely fell in love with it.
I’ve probably played my Crossover key of A more than any otherharmonica over the last few years.
But at $85, the HOHNER CROSSOVER is
70% MORE EXPENSIVE than a
MARINE BAND 1896.
Recently, someone asked me to do a review of a Marine Band Deluxe. I’m like, “What the heck is a Marine Band Deluxe?” I bought one, played and immediately thought:
“I’ll never play a Marine Band 1896 again!”
Launched in 2005, the Deluxe is an upgraded version of the Marine Band 1896. Here’s what I LOVE about it:
Triple lacquered pearwood comb (vs a single layer lacquer on the 1896). This baby is SMOOOOOOTH!
Larger outward opening allows more sound to project (It’s LOUDER!)
Screws rather than nails for the cover plates = easier to fix
The TONE is virtually identical to the 1896
The price: $60
The Crossover, with its triple-lacquered bamboo comb is so much fun to play, but in addition to being very expensive, its timbre is brighter than the Marine Band - a little TOO bright to my ear.
Also, importantly, the TUNING of the Marine Band DELUXE is exactly THE SAME as the 1896, which is exceptionally beautiful, the best of the best for chordal playing.
Hohner says they “IMPROVED” the TUNING slightly with the Crossover. They compromised it slightly toward the Golden Melody tuning, so the chords don’t sound quite as sweet.
The master player and harmonica modifier, Joe Filisko, says he re-tunes Crossovers to match the Marine Band’s tuning (by lowering the 3rd of each chord, holes 2, -3, and 5.)
Here is the bottom line:
I PREFER the TONE of the MARINE BAND DELUXE
compared to THE CROSSOVER,
AND it’s CHEAPER!
So for an extra $10, I can get all the juicy tonal goodness of an 1896, but with comfort comparable to a Crossover? Boom! That’s why I’ll never buy a Marine Band 1896 again!
While Lee Oskars and Golden Melodies are my favorite harps for single note playing, the Hohner Marine Band Deluxe just can’t be beat for chordal playing (including double-stops and splits.)
If you wanna pick one up, head over to Rockin’ Rons! He’s the man with the Hohner Deluxes for sale.