The Hohner Meisterklasse MS 580 Diatonic Harmonica in the key of C is the very first harmonica that I bought from Hohner.
Starting off with one of their higher-end models, this diatonic model established my love relationship with this well-regarded German manufacturer of harmonicas and other musical instruments. This relationship would later lead me to buy another harmonica, a chromatic one, from Hohner. See here for the write-up of my Hohner CX12 Chromatic Harmonica.
The Hohner Meisterklasse Diatonic Harmonica comes in a myriad of keys, with the beginner and common keys in C, D, F, G and A. As my first diatonic harmonica, I got the one in C.
Construction and Features
- Item Name: CX-12
- Variations: Black, Jazz, Gold, Tollak
- Type/Tuning: Chromatic
- Keys: C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, B and Tenor C
- No. of Holes: 12
- Reeds: 48 nos., Brass
- Reed Plates: 1.05 mm, Brass
- Reed Plate Surface: Brass
- Cover Surface: ABS
- Mouthpiece Surface: ABS
- Slide Construction: Zigzag
- Comb: ABS
- Length: 168 mm
The Hohner Meisterklasse series of diatonic harmonicas consist of a metal comb made of sturdy and lightweight aluminium, with nickel-plated brass reed plates of 1.05mm-thick mounted on the top and bottom sides of the comb, creating a tightly-sealed environment for efficient air movement.
The acronym MS in the model name stands for Modular System, and as its term suggests, is an integrated design concept that consists of components which are fully compatible with other Hohner harmonicas that carry the MS designation.
Compatible components such as covers, reed plates and combs allow the player to create a combination of parts to suit and match the musician’s individual requirement of playability.
Some of the other diatonic harmonicas in the MS series today include those in the Blues Harp, Blue Midnight, Big River Harp, and Pro Harp collection.
A grey rigid plastic case keeps the diatonic harmonica protected in a compact pocketable package. The words M. Hohner 580 Meisterklasse MS are engraved on chrome-plated cover plates. These elegantly-finished cover plates complete the overall distinguished appearance of the Hohner Meisterklasse MS Diatonic Harmonica.
Tonal Response and Playability
The Meisterklasse Diatonic Harmonica plays with a clear and moderately bright timbre across its range of three and a half octaves.
It is not particularly a very loud harp, and one may find its projection to be slightly lacking when performing on it unplugged with a combination of acoustic instruments in a band.
The draw has a slight resistance to it, allowing the player to bend notes quite easily with a constricted air passage. Still, it is not the easiest harp from Hohner to bend on, and if one requires a harp that bends more readily, the Blues Harp or Blue Midnight could be a better choice.
Some players have also commented that the reeds are not as durable as the Blues Harp when it comes to bending.
I bought the Hohner Meisterklasse MS 580 Diatonic Harmonica in Singapore in the early 1990s for about S$100, which was about US$62 at that time. It still plays well and in tune to this day over 20 years later, and lists for about US$170 (Euro162) today in 2016.
The Hohner Meisterklasse MS 580 Diatonic Harmonica may not be so suitable for the beginner player, who may prefer to opt for a Hohner Marine Band instead for ease of playing. It is discontinued and no longer listed on the Hohner website, but is available from a number of third-party sellers.