Jefferson Gonçalves is one of the big names in Brazilian blues harp and has had a close relationship with the Hering company for some time. This new 10-hole diatonic is the result of that relationship, a harmonica designed to Jefferson's specifications. This harmonica is similar to the Hering Blues, but the covers have a lacquered "antique" finish like those of the Hering 1923, making it look and feel very special. The reeds and reedplates are similar to the other Hering diatonics (my sample harp for review is in the key of C and features medium slot length reeds), but they are tuned to Jefferson's preference, with the thirds just a little narrower than in straight equal temperament and the whole thing rooted around A=444Hz. The response of the instrument is nicely even across the full range, all the bends are easy to hit and the tone is sweet and clear. It is available in all 12 keys and makes an excellent addition to Hering's range of diatonics.
The Hering Blues Custom and the Golden Blow are the first offerings in Hering's Custom Shop series. These are factory-produced harps that have been individually set up a skilled technician. I must admit I was somewhat skeptical of the notion of a factory made "custom harp", as the term "custom" implies, at least to me, a harp that havs been set up for one particular player. That being said, these harps are very impressive. The Hering Blues Custom is a reworked version of the standard Hering Blues, the most obvious difference being the newly shaped covers (chrome plated brass) that taper towards the mouthpiece and flare towards the rear of the harp. The sample for review is in the key of C and has medium slot reeds mounted on slightly thicker than standard reedplates (1.07mm) and has been adjusted for a fairly typical blues or rock player. The reeds will stand some quite aggressive playing, yet are still extremely responsive across with full range of the harp, with all the bends being very easy to hit cleanly. The tuning is Equal Temperament at about A=444Hz, which may make the harmonica sound a little rough for those players that use a lot of chords, but will be fine for those that are primarily single note players. An odd feature is the presence of a dark coloured plastic liner to both the upper and lower covers, which appears to be slightly magnetic. I assume that this is somehow intended to reduce the brightness of tone either by damping the vibration of the covers or by cutting down the reflectiveness of the covers. However, I am rather skeptical that either of thee things really has any significant effect on the tone of the harmonica.
The Golden Blow is very similar to the Hering Blues Custom, except for having gold plated covers and more extensive reedwork. It is aimed towards those players who play the diatonic harmonica chromatically, the reeds being adjusted for optimum overblows and overdraws. Of course this means that the reeds might have a tendency to stall with very heavy playing, but that is one of the tradeoffs for clean overblows. Certainly, both the overdraws and overdraws on the Golden Blow are very clean, very stable and very easy to hit - assuming you are reasonably competent with overblows in the first place. Of course, part of the problem with learning to overblow is that harmonicas are generally not overblow-friendly straight out of the box and require some careful reed adjustment. This means that you either have to learn to set them up yourself (which takes time), or pay to have someone else do it (which takes money). Of course, I still believe that there is no substitute for having a skilled technician set up a harp to your personal requirements, but these two new harps from Hering definitely fill the gap between mass produced harps and custom harps.
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