Review: Hohner’s Blue Midnight, Crossover, & Thunderbird
Most harmonicas, as with most guitars, look roughly same. However, the different designs, construction, and material used gives each model of harp their own individual character. Hohner sent out some new harps (the Blue Midnight and the Crossover) for us to review that exemplify these differences. They also sent a exciting new harp called the Thunderbird, which opens up new tonal territory for the harmonica player.
The Blue Midnight uses a comb that’s made of translucent blue plastic that is purportedly brighter sounding than the black plastic used on some other Hohner models. In a side by side comparison with a black comb Special 20 harmonica, this appeared to be true. While being incrementally brighter, the Blue Midnight still exhibited a full, rich tone that makes it a good choice for country and pop.
Acoustically, the Blue Midnight provides a medium-loud volume that held its own in a house concert setting with several acoustic guitars going at it at once. Its volume should be a good match for singer-songwriters when worn around the neck and sharing a conventional vocal mic on stage.
Hohner’s Marine Band harmonicas have long been the harp of choice for many pros, so it should come as no surprise that the company chose to expand the line with the Crossover and the Thunderbird.
Both feature stainless steel covers, tight tolerance construction, and a comb that is made of bamboo. The cover plates on the top and bottom of the harp have a wide, strut-less opening on the back. Overall, the dimensions of these harmonicas are slightly smaller than that of the Blue Midnight, making them feel compact and faster. (The position of the holes is the same, though, so playing remains intuitive when switching between harps.)
The Crossover is extremely responsive; it doesn’t take a lot of air to start the reeds vibrating. While the harp excels in volume (it’s loud) and has a bright sound (but not obnoxiously so), its raspy tone and ease of bending notes is what is going to attract the rock and blues players. The Crossover is the Steven Tyler to the Blue Midnight’s Nat King Cole.
The Crossover is also dynamic, so it has a level of expression that allows it to function extremely well in an around-the-neck harness, hands-free situation. But it also loves the lo-fi electric settings where its voice breaks up nicely and its square wave sounds are exemplified through an amp.
One of the more exciting recent developments in harmonicas is Hohner’s Thunderbird. Pitched an octave lower than conventional harps, blowing a chord on this harmonica puts one in the mind of hearing a pump organ when walking into a church out on the dusty prairie!
The higher notes cross into the more familiar harmonica tonal spectrum, but the fun with this harp is in the lower notes. When playing a freight train rhythm with a bullet mic through a medium power tube amp, the room rumbles. Thankfully, the harp is constructed like a rock, and these new lower frequencies are rattle-free. This is certainly new territory where alert harpists can start staking their claim.