"Tone combs": the tonewood of the harmonica world

Tonewood is often a debated and heated topic in the guitar world. Some guitarists will swear on their lives on a specific sound just because of the wood used to make one and diss all the others. It has also come to my attention that it also happens in the harmonica world too with comb materials. I’ve been told many times from people who claim to be “harmonica players” on Facebook about how wooden combs have a tone that’s superior to my plastic combed harps and tell me that I’m wrong for having my own opinion, which I just don’t get to be honest about it.
I have a wooden combed harmonica in my collection, a Hohner Blues Harp in C. I’ve had so many memories with this harp as it was the one I did my first performance of “Ain’t Goin’ Down ('til the Sun Comes Up)” with back when the pandemic just hit my homestate of Ohio and it was also my first harmonica that wasn’t a Special 20. As much as I liked the tone, I didn’t like the comb at all. It felt so rough on my lips and whenever I did octaves, the wood was digging into my tongue. This is why I will not get a Marine Band and prefer the feel of non-organic combs like plastic and acrylic.
I’d say I have a decent enough tone across all of my harps. I really like the brassy and powerful tone of the original Hohner Golden Melody, especially when Terry McMillan played them on tracks like the aforementioned “Ain’t Goin’ Down” and how bright his tone was. I also like the warmer tone of the Suzuki Bluesmaster. Both of these harps have plastic combs by the way, just in case if you’re wondering.


Hey @KeroroRinChou the Blues Harp and the 1897 are VERY rough on the lips. But if you try a Marine Band Deluxe or a Crossover, I think you’d be very pleasantly surprised at the difference!

I’m sure it affects the tone to some degree. But people make a bigger deal about this then it really is in my opinion.

I’m buying some more Spiers harps (thanks Todd :unamused:) and opted to get some of Todd’s custom acrylic combs for them instead of wood using Spiers’ customized Marine Band Deluxe comb (which does sound awesome) just so that I can have ease of washing them since I don’t open up my harps to clean them.