I'll Never Play a Marine Band 1896 Again!


I’ve always said, if you wanna SOUND like the original blues masters(Sonny Terry, Big Walter, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, et al) then you should PLAY the harmonica of the original blue masters:

:sparkles: The Hohner Marine Band 1896:sparkles:

When I did my review of the Marine Band 1896, I gave it a 5/5 stars for tone. If you’re looking for that old, woody, bluesy tone, why play anything else?

Truth be told I’ve only played my Marine Band 1896 a few times since I did that review. Why? Because the single lacquered pear wood comb is rough on the lips. What can I say? I love comfort. (I’m American. :wink:)

Not too long after that I played a Hohner Crossover for the first time. The Crossover is currently their “new and improved” version of the original Marine Band.


Here are some of the differences between the two models:


:small_blue_diamond: Tuning compromised for chords & single notes
:small_blue_diamond: Triple-lacquered bamboo comb = comfy
:small_blue_diamond: Cover-plates attached with 4 screws

Marine Band 1896

:small_blue_diamond: Just intonation tuning ideal for chords
:small_blue_diamond: Single lacquered pearwood comb = UNcomfy
:small_blue_diamond: Cover-plates attached with 2 nails

One day I pulled a Crossover out of the box, and I was able to play overblows (which started me for a brief period pursuing overblow technique) and for many months my Crossover key of A was my daily go-to harp. In fact I played it SOOOOO much, that my -4 reed went flat on me.

But, I was also working at the time on a lot of roots blues stuff in the style of DeFord Bailey and Sonny Terry, and I found that the timbre of the Crossover was much brighter than the 1896, and the compromise tuning didn’t sound quite as sweet on the predominantly chordal style playing I was enjoying.

Meanwhile, online a few people asked me what I thought of the Marine Band Deluxe and I was like, what even IS a Marine Band Deluxe?? I’d never heard of it.

If you’ve been reading my newsletters for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I often mention Rockin’ Rons. I don’t have any affiliation with them except for being a customer, and gratitude for keeping the Marine Band Deluxe alive. Here’s the dealio:


The Marine Band Deluxe was launched by Hohner in 2005 with improvements that many pros were making to the 1896, or having customizers do to “hot rod” them:

:small_blue_diamond: Screws instead of nails on the coverplates
:small_blue_diamond: Triple-lacquered pearwood comb
:small_blue_diamond: Larger opening at the back for improved sound projection

In 2009 Hohner launched the Crossover with the intention of it replacing the Marine Band Deluxe, but Rockin’ Ron convinced them to keep both in production (and he became the KHS/Hohner USA exclusive dealer of the Marine Band Deluxe).

Here’s why I like the Marine Band Deluxe better than the Crossover:

:+1: Warmer Tone
:+1: Sweeter sound on chords
:+1: Cheaper

And here’s why I like the Marine Band Deluxe better than the Marine Band 1896:

:+1: More comfy
:+1: Same tone (to my ears)
:+1: Only a few bucks more

It’s worth a few bucks for me to be able to play my Marine Band for hours without having my lips bleed! :joy:

And THAT’S why I’ll never play another Marine Band 1896 again!

Of course, if you’re in the US and you wanna try a Marine Band Deluxe for yourself, you can pick one up at Rockin Ron’s. And, all joking aside, thank you Ron for keeping the Deluxe alive. :pray:


I love both the MBD and the Crossover


I was a click away from getting one of the old classic Marine Band Woodies from Hohner!

Then I saw your review on the overall comfort of the original version, and a comment from you regarding this post, so I resisted temptation.

Instead I got a Baby Fat in Bb and a Conjurer in G on the advice of @Slim to try them out. Great experience on both so far!

Now, thanks to you @Luke, I am ready to invest in my first “Woodie”. I know which one to get and where to get it, thanks so much for that :v:

I was a little concerned a “Woodie” would battle with the “Rocket” I like to keep in my pocket, but I think I can teach them to get along together and play nice :notes: :joy:


Welcome to the forum @jthathy06 you and me both my friend! Great great harps.

@HarpinBobbyMcB - I’ve got a Baby Fat, but I’ve yet to try the Conjurer. Need to review one of those at some point. So glad I dissuaded you from the 1896!


Glad I saw this! I’m only a week into the harp. My first harps arrived last week, I purchased the Fender Blues Deville and the Hohner Crossover both in key of C. I’ve fallen in love with the Crossover, it’s lighter, more comfortable, and sounds sooooo much better to my ear. Was already planning on getting another crossover in the key of A, but now I think I’ll give the Marine Band Deluxe a try! Thanks for the info :metal:


Yeah, ESPECIALLY if you’re into playing some chordal stuff, you may find the tuning of the MB Deluxe a little bit sweeter than the Crossover. I love both harmonicas!