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Harp Reviews

by Pat Missin


Golden Cup Tremolo Harmonicas

From the same company who import the Leo Shi harmonicas, I also received some Golden Cup tremolos for review.

The first model is a 24-note 48-reed tremolo in harmonic minor tuning. This model is available in the keys of Em, Gm, Am, Cm and Dm, using the typical Asian pseudo-solo layout, giving three full octaves of the harmonic minor scale, with an extra note added at both the low end and high end. Unlike some brands of tremolo harmonica, the layout of notes is consistent in each key: the Em starts on low B (an octave below the lowest note of a standard B diatonic) and goes all the way up to G (the same as the highest note on a standard G diatonic): the Gm starts on a low D and goes up to Bb; the Am ranges from low E to high C; the Cm ranges from G to Eb; the Dm ranges from A (the same as the lowest note of a standard A diatonic) and up to F (the same as the highest note of a standard F diatonic).

They all have a brown plastic comb and nice chrome plated brass covers, unlike the cheap aluminium covers found on many Chinese tremolo harps. The reedplates are attached with screws and the assembly is nicely airtight. There were some occasional sharp corners on the reedplates (easily fixed with a file), but mostly the harps are very smoothly finished. They are packaged in a no-frills card box.

The tuning and reed adjustment are both reasonably good, although I would definitely want to regap a couple of reeds here and there. Typical of Asian tremolos, they are in equal temperament around A=443Hz, with quite a dry tuning, ie the tremolo effect is less pronounced than you would get on a Hohner or Hering instrument.

I believe these are retailing at US$18. If you are looking for a minor tuned tremolo harp, this could be a bargain, as it is about a third of the price of the Suzuki SU-21H and less than 1/4 price of the Tombo 1521. Not too many other tremolo models are readily available in minor keys.

I also received for review some double-sided tremolos made by Golden Cup. These are in major keys, each side having 16 notes and 32 reeds. Unlike most other double sided instruments which are paired in fourths or fifths (ie C/G, or A/D), these are paired in G/A and C/D. Again, the typical Asian pseudo-solo tuning is used and as with the above mentioned minor tremolos, the scale layout is the same in each key: there is a middle octave with a complete diatonic scale, a low octave with the low third, fifth, sixth and seventh of the scale and a high octave with the high second, third fourth and fifth. This gives each side a scale equivalent to holes 2 to 9 of a standard diatonic.

The comb is made from the same brown plastic as the single sided minor key tremolos. The covers are aluminium, with a black finish on the G/A harp and a red finish on the C/D harp. I hesitate to call the covers flimsy, but I don't think it would be a good idea to stand on them! The covers are attached by a much more sensible method than that used on the traditional German designs (still in use by certain German and Brasilian manufacturers), making them easy to remove and replace without having to mess around with nails. Removing the covers on one of the samples lead to a surprise discovery - rather than both pairs of reedplates being mounted on a single comb, there are actually two separate combs held in place by the covers. I guess this means that if you don't like the G/A and C/D arrangement, you could easily alter them to C/G and D/A.

The reedplates are attached with screws and for the most part the reed adjustment is OK, but not quite as good as on the samples of the minor key tremolos. As well as a little inconsistency in gapping, there were a couple of reeds that had a convex curve to them, which is not good for reed response. However, anyone with some basic harp tweaking skills could soon fix that. Tuning is equal temperament around A=443 Hz, with some slight variation here and there, but nothing too far out.

The harp fits comfortably into the hand, measuring about 13 cm x 5 cm x 2cm (5" x 2" x 3/4") and arrives in a simple card box. I think these would make a nicely affordable entry into the world of tremolo harmonicas, or for those who find themselves frustrated with the missing notes of the German style tremolos.

The usual disclaimers apply, but I'd like to thank Cain Trader for giving me a chance to try these out. You can buy these instruments on eBay, or contact them directly:

Cain Trader
4940 Zuni St.
CO 80221-1376



Pat Missin

Planet Harmonica - 2004