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Harmonix Modular Harmonica System

Article taken from Harmonica World - by Pat Missin

We've had quite a few new harmonicas hit the market over the last few
years, but most of them have been variations on familiar themes,
rather than radical new designs. I think it is quite safe to say that
the Harmonix is unlike most diatonic harmonicas currently available.
Some of you may already be familiar with the Harmonic Solutions
products, designed by Richard Smith. These were standard harmonicas
with patented microphone units implanted in the body of the
instrument. For a while, Hering produced both a chromatic and a
diatonic using the Harmonic Solutions system and Richard made some
custom items for people like Stevie Wonder. However, the Harmonix
System takes things several steps further.

The Harmonix is a modular diatonic harmonica, comprising of three
main parts - the cartridge, the housing and a module that contains
the electronics. The housing is a wedge shaped blue plastic cover
that is contoured to fit the player's hand. The cartridge contains
the reeds and has an integral curved silver plastic mouthpiece. It
slides into the front of the housing and locks into place without the
needs for screws or bolts and can be easily removed to exchange it
for a cartridge in another key or tuning. The module slides into the
rear of the housing, again requiring no tools to remove or replace
it. The basic starter instrument comes with a dummy module, but this
can be upgraded to one of the units with the built-in microphones,
either the EX1 recording module (which is connected via a cable which is in turn connected to an amplifier, effects
processor, or other device), or the WX1 stage module (which allows
for wireless transmission to a base unit, which is in turn connected
to your amplifier). The whole thing is visually striking, looking
more like something that Captain Kirk might play, rather than Little
Walter.

Richard kindly allowed me to try out the system with the WX1 wireless
unit. I must admit that I was initially skeptical. After all, surely
it would be easier just to buy a standard wireless microphone system
and use your favourite harmonica with it? Well, perhaps it would, but
after just a couple of minutes of walking all around the house
playing the thing and having the sound coming from my trust Pignose
amp in the music room, I was sold on the concept. I don't get asked
to play Wembley Arena very often (to be honest, I don't get asked at
all!), but I can understand why Mick Jagger is a satisfied user of
the Harmonic Solutions products. The feeling of liberation was quite
heady indeed - no wires, no microphone, just me and a harmonica
broadcasting to my amplifier. The wireless system worked extremely
well and delivered a very faithful reproduction of the harmonica
sound, with quite a resistance to feedback. The microphone units are
made by AKG, a European company respected for their audio products,
so I feel confident in their quality and durability.

The harmonica itself is comfortable to play. I did wonder if the
plastic housing might tend to slip out of sweaty hands, but so far
that hasn't happened. The mouthpiece design is rather unique.
Although the hole spacing is the same as on most other diatonics, the
mouthpiece has a convex curve to it, the opposite of the concave
curve used on some octave harmonicas. It may feel a little unfamiliar
at first to some players, but personally, I found it easy to adapt to
it and actually, I think I could come to prefer it over the usual
shape. The housing seems to funnel the sound much in the same way as the Hohner CX12, making it easier to produce hand vibrato and wahwah sounds, all of which are faithfully reproduced via the microphone implants. Future plans for the Harmonix system include purpose designed reeds, but the current production models use typical Chinese made reedplates, similar to those found in Huang diatonics, the Suzuki Folkmaster and similar models. The combination of these reeds plus certain design characteristics of the Harmonix itself does give the instrument a somewhat different response to other diatonics. At first, I found it was tough to control certain techniques, but things improved after spending some time playing it. However, even after careful adjustment of the reeds, I am still unable to produce reliable overblows on it. This probably isn't a showstopper for the average player and may well be offset by the other advantages the Harmonix offers.

The basic starter pack is the HX1. It consists of the housing, a
cartridge in the key of C, a dummy module and a CD-ROM guide. It
retails at 25, allowing you to try out the harmonica without
spending the extra money on the electronic parts. Cartridges are
available in all 12 major keys and a selection of the common minor
keys at 12 each. The EX1 recording module has an integral preamp and cable the set costing 70. The WX1 wireless module comes with a receiver and power supply and is priced at 250. If the idea of built-in microphones and wireless operation appeals to you, but you don't want to give up your favourite harmonica, or if your favorite harmonica happens to be a chromatic, Richard can customise your own harmonica with the microphone units. He also sells clip-on external units for chromatics and small handheld microphones, so you don't have to have holes drilled into your favourite instrument!

For more details:

Harmonix Harmonicas - incorporating haRmonic Solutions
37 Silver Street,
Lyme Regis,
Dorset.
DT7 3HS

Phone:+44 (0)7974 387063
email: mailto:info@harmonix-harmonica.co.uk
web: http://www.harmonix-harmonica.co.uk
 Harmonix Harmonicas - incorporating haRmonic Solutions
Corner Cottage,
King Street,
Colyton,
Devon,
EX24 6LB
 T +44 (0)7974 387063 | E info@harmsol.co.uk