Welcome to my guide to some of the best harmonicas on the market. I have owned several ones over the years and some of my favorite models are listed below. If you are a complete beginner I suggest starting with a 12 hole model then upgrade to 14 and finally to a 16 hole. All right let's dive in!
1) Suzuki Chromatix SCX48 $214
My go-to harmonica at the moment. I use it for my practice sessions and as a back-up for my concerts and recordings. The sound is quite warm and full. Every hole should work perfectly out of the box except perhaps the 12 draw. I've noticed it didn't come out right on a few SCX that I have ordered. Besides that, it has technically everything we can expect from a good chromatic harmonica such as Abs combs, phosphor bronze reed plates and an ergonomic mouthpiece. The two parts slide mechanism makes the cleaning fast and easy. Most of Hohner's or Seydel's models are built with three parts. I wish the button slide was better glued as I had a few one which came off. So make sure to check it six months or a year after purchase. Available in 12, 14 and 16 hole version.
- Great sound
- Quality built
- Air tight
- Light weight
- 12 hole draw may not comes out right
- Fragile button slide
2) Hohner CX-12 $219
One of the strengths of the CX is a remarkably well built plastic body. It's completely airtight. The mouthpiece is a bit larger than Hohner Mellow Tone or a Seydel Deluxe Steel and may fatigue the jaw if you're making the transition from these models. However it's completely airtight and easy to disassemble for maintenance. You don't need a screwdriver to remove the slide and the cover plates it's very easy to pull apart and put back together thanks to its mechanism. I've noticed that the slide was a bit noisy. The sound of the instrument is quite unique. French harmonica player Claude Garden made it his harmonica of choice.
- Easy bending notes
- Sturdy construction
- Comes only as a 12 hole
- Large mouthpiece
3) Hohner Toot's Mellow Tone $275
I first started playing the chromatic harmonica on a Hohner Mellow Tone 15 years ago. Since then it ranks among my favorite harmonica in terms of sound but it has some major flaws. The wood comb may become less airtight overtime and it doesn’t last as long as a plastic comb. That being said I always loved its warm and round sound, which I still can't find on Suzuki or Seydel models. It features pear woods comb and chrome plating on both covers.
- Great warm sound
- Get a bit of the unique Toots Thielemans' tone
- Difficult to take it apart
4) Seydel Deluxe Steele $324
Though it is a bit more expensive than the models above it is totally worth the price. The Seydel Deluxe Steel is a great all around chromatic harmonica. It looks like a better version of the Hohner Mellow Tone. Every note comes out right out of the box specially the high notes. The sound is brighter compared to the Hohner or Suzuki and projects a bit more consequently. It's easy to take it apart though it could have been even faster with fewer pieces and screws. If you are looking for a 16 hole from Seydel I would recommend to look for the high end Symphony.
- Sturdy construction
- Air tight
- Great response across the octaves
- Good resonance
- No 16 hole version
5) Suzuki Sirius S64 $629
5) The Suzuki Sirius S-48S has perhaps the best tone of all the harmonicas I have played. I personally love it and I used it on my last album "Breathe" and bring it to every gig. The sonority is warm, and I can't find another harmonica that matches it. It’s highly responsive in the middle register perhaps less on the low notes if you are playing on a 16 hole model but this is a common problem shared by most of chromatic harmonica. It has ABS plastic combs with weighted brass, which it gives more comfort in hands. Is it worth $700? I wish I could say yes. Unfortunately harmonicas don’t last forever and after a few months or years you’ll need to replace parts. That’s why I would recommend using it for performance and have a cheaper model for your daily practice. The Sirius comes in all sizes 12, 14 and 16 hole.