Sound Comparisons

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    Alan Brinton

    I think we all appreciate video and audio comparisons of different melodicas. But I wonder how helpful they really are when it comes to making buying choices, especially for first time buyers. Does anyone else have skeptical doubts about this?


    Hi Alan,
    I guess that the answer is target dependent.
    If the first time buyer is a musician with an already developed ear, then it can be very helpful. Obviously considering a good quality playing and recording (as bad playing can ‘kill’ the best instrument).
    If the first time buyer is generally a first step player, then the only help for those is a name pointer.

    The majority of recordings lack of either sound or playing quality, and many lack of both. I guess that there more quality videos out there, the doubt will vanish.

    Alan Brinton

    I live in a world of somewhat lower standards than you do, Ofir, but I think you are right. Good quality playing and recording can also bring an inferior instrument to life. It’s possible to get very good sound out of the cheapest generic melodica as long as it’s not noticeably out of tune.

    The ear of the potential buyer is a serious issue. There are differences in types of sound that anyone who isn’t hearing impaired notices — for example between a Hohner Professional 36, Hohner Cassotto, a 1961 Hohner Piano 26, and a current Hohner Airboard. But beyond those obvious differences detectable to the uneducated ear, it becomes more problematic. But I think there are a whole lot of other problems.

    I think there’s at least one problem for even the most sophisticated ear. I will comment on it in terms of what we could call the “beer test.” Beer and ale drinkers have preferences; they have their favorites. Let’s suppose that when Daren walks into the Harrison one day, there’s a new offering on tap, Avery Mephistopheles Stout. Daren never cared much for stouts, though if he must he’ll have a world famous Guiness. But today he is prevailed upon by his mates to try an Avery, even though it (gasp!) comes in a bottle and is made in America. He nearly spits out the first mouthful. It’s the worst ale he ever tasted. But by the time he get’s to the end of the bottle, for some reason he orders another. By the end of the evening it’s his favorite ale. Well, maybe not. To find out whether it’s really his new favorite ale, he has to see how the Avery experience holds up over weeks and months in comparison with his other brews. Or the story could be that he loved it at first taste and for a long evening at the Harrison, but that it’s not long until he no longer cares for it (no longer “fancies” it).

    Melodica preferences are less subjective, but I think there’s a similarity here, not necessarily with Daren’s particular experience, but with determining what the best beer is for you. Which means that to determine what the best melodica is for me, I have to actually play the ones I’m considering — not just try them out, not even for an hour or two. I have to have the playing experience over time, and in comparison with others with which I am doing the same. In other words, I have to be the owner of a large collection of melodicas. But there are further problems. Lowboy Bootay, for example, has a large collection of melodicas, and he plays them all the time. But he keeps changing his mind about which is his favorite.

    By “a pointer,” Ofir, I understand you to mean something like recommendations or reviews by people who seem to know what they’re talking about. A video of someone getting incredible sounds out of a particular brand or model would not be a useful pointer, except that the melodica preference of a terrific player may be significant (although some well known musicians have melodica brand affiliations, for example with Hohner).


    I can vouch as a buyer of many varied instruments the experience you describe happens over and over and all the time. Some items I thought I hated I now love. Some I couldn’t wait to purchase left me feeling strangely flat.
    Sometimes leaving an instrument in a store and coming back a week later it’s a different sonic world.
    The YouTube phenomena has increased my buying mania by allowing me to see and hear instruments I never come across in person.
    there are at least a dozen factors that affect the sound you hear, mic placement, distance, recording gear and on and on.
    It helps when the same person does a side by side comparison.
    As far as first time buyers I think it can be a guide in a broad general sense. They can at least identify particular sounds they don’t like and narrow their choices.
    Think for instance of a Suzuki Andes. If you saw one listed in with the other melodicas something about it’s look or price point my draw a first time buyer to it. Any quick listen to a YT video though and you realize it’s quite a different instrument sonically from your typical melodica.
    So yes I think comparison videos have their place as long as you realize the limitations.
    That’s why a good return policy is such a great on-line buying luxury.

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