From: t.e.d~tt.net Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 15:34:08 +0000 Subject: Harp Review: Huang Musette 24 Tremolo Tuned
The Huang Musette 24 (Model 133) is a 24-hole 48-reed Tremolo-Tuned harp. It is available in the keys of C and G, although Huang also offers a twin-pack (Model 133X) that includes the C and C# keys. They are Solo Tuned. Made in China. The street price is $9 to $15, and $18- $25 for the Twin-Pack. The review is based on four new harps and one Twin-Pack.
This harp comes in a colorful paper box, a bit thin and a little weak at the hinge. They do not last very long before splitting or separating. On the other hand, the Twin-Pack harps come in a nice sturdy padded box that you could stand on. The harp itself looks attractive in an angular elegant style with a bright and even chrome finish and “etched look” engravings.
Two harps had seriously misaligned covers and plates. One harp rattled. One had two missing notes. All had several reeds with out-of-norm gapping. Three had significant leaking, one badly. One reed plate had a corner ground (?) leaving an edge sharp enough to cut a thumb. The reed chambers have very thin walls and dividers which are really rough on the lips. The “bite” of this harp is thin compared to European or Hering tremolos, similar to a straight diatonic. The design of the covers provides little tactile reference when doing blends. According to Huang, this design was arrived at to facilitate playing the Musette in the chromatic mode, where two harps are stacked in the hands. This may be true, but in the case of the single model, a different cover design is in order. The tone is pleasing but a bit thin, with good volume. The 1 Blow hole has a coupling opening in the dividers, so you can’t do blends or solas on this hole. The covers are not mustache friendly.
On The Bench:
The tin covers are 0.013” thick, about medium weight. It does not take much squeezing force to cause thumb indentations. The reed plates are a Yellow Brass, 0.038 inch thick. Fifteen plate screws sandwich the comb. The plastic comb is thicker at the rear, the front of the comb is 0.307 inch, the back is 0. 363 inch. Some variations between the combs seemed to be caused by their release from the mold during manufacture. Even though the plates sit at a front-to-back angle to each other, there is no relief machined for the screw heads, which therefore only make contact with the plates in a small area.
There were very many curled and twisted reeds, also many reeds had curved lateral profiles. There were several rivets loose enough so that the reeds could be easily shifted. One harp (the rattling one) had plate screws inserted but not tightened, so they were just rattling in their holes.
All harps showed evidence of “personal” reed tuning technique. One bad method was to grind only half the width of a reed. Some reeds were ground to less than half their thickness. Only one plate showed evidence of fine tuning, all the others had a single swipe mark on their reeds. A sign of tuning expertise? One thing all had in common was that the grinding chaff was left on the reed. It doesn’t take much playing time before this comes loose, altering the tuning as well as the player, in the case of draw notes.
After the Break-In:
With a bit of work on the mating surfaces between the plates and comb (It is quite sensitive to plate screw tightness – not to little, not to much), the harps were made reasonably air tight, with some leakage caused by gaps between the covers and plates. The reed tuning was varied, some harps were close, some had reeds off by more than 10 cents. The Musette is Equal Tuned, centered around 440 on the upper plate, and 446-448 on the lower plate. Reed response was average, and sensitive to reed curls. The tone was nice, but typical for Oriental tremolos weak in harmonic content. The beat note was average.
Final rating (on a five star scale):
Out of the box: One star for the single model, one and a half stars for the Twin-Pack. The performance of the Huang Musette 24 is adequate for its price class, but Quality Control problems resulted in a low overall rating. The Twin-Pack has a decent box, and application specific covers, so it gets a slightly better score.
After Setup: One and a half stars, Two stars for the Twin-Pack. It takes some work to get the Musette 24 up to par. Considering the time involved, or expense if you are paying someone to do it, purchasing an upscale tremolo seems a better alternative.