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Hohner Special 20 vs Seydel Session Steel

Hohner may be better known in the music world than Seydel, but the latter actually has the honour of being the more senior of the two, having been founded in 1847, several years before Hohner started production of musical instruments.

Both companies are still based in Germany, although it is only Seydel that manufactures all of its harmonicas in Germany; Hohner outsources production of its lower end harmonicas to China.

The Special 20 and the Session Steel are mainstays of the companies' diatonic ranges, and, in many ways are quite similar. However, there are significant areas of difference, and we'll look at these now.

The Special 20 was the world's first production harmonica with a plastic comb, making it far more durable and allowing the use of recessed reed plates. The Session Steel also has recessed reed plates and an ABS comb, but it's overall design is more modern than Hohner's, with cover plates that fully extend to the edges of the harp. This makes it slightly easier to cup, although some players may prefer the more traditional shape of the Hohner.

Where things really differ, though, is in reed plate material: Hohner sticks with brass, whilst Seydel has the USP of using stainless steel reeds. These are advertised as lasting up to twice as long as brass reeds, which may go some way to offsetting the 20% increase in cost of the Seydel. In our experience this is mostly true, with the caveat that very aggressive players who are not particularly careful with their harps may find the steel reeds to be more brittle when playing hard from cold. However, if treated well and warmed up properly, Session Steels do seem to be exceptionally durable.

Tone wise, the stainless steel reeds exhibit greater brightness, and the Session Steel always feels a little more airtight than the Special 20. The Special 20, in comparison, feels lighter in the hands and perhaps a little easier to bend on. Both make excellent blues harps, but the Seydel has the advantage of being available in a wider range of tunings than the Hohner, so those who play Irish or Eastern music, or even minor key tunes will be best served by the Session Steel.

Hohner Special 20 Harmonica
Seydel Session Steel Harmonica - Richter
Harmonica NameHohner Special 20 HarmonicaSeydel Session Steel Harmonica - Richter
Harmonica TypeDiatonic HarmonicaDiatonic Harmonica
Number of Holes1010
Comb MaterialPlasticPlastic
Number of Reeds2020
Spare Reeds Available?YesYes
Musical StylesBlues, Rock, Pop, FolkBlues, Rock, Pop, Folk
Available KeysA, B Flat, D, G, C, F, E, B, E Flat, G High, F Sharp, D Flat, A FlatA, B Flat, D, Low F, G, C, F, E, B, E Flat, F Sharp, D Flat, A Flat, Low E, Low D, Low F Sharp, Low E Flat, Low D Flat, Low C
Price from£33.99£38.99
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