A couple months ago I decided out of the blue that I wanted to learn to play harmonica. I love blues and blues rock, but also a fan of the sounds of Irish and Celtic tunes and civil war era music. I don't know how to read music, but I do play acoustic guitar (well) and keyboard (mostly chords and arpeggios) by ear. I consider myself to be an casual player with basic skills and intermediate knowledge, but I am still serious about instrument quality, versatility (what can I do with it) and sound. Since I'm not a band member and just play for fun and for me (or anyone in earshot), I don't need a high-end instrument, but I do desire anything reliable and economical. After much research, I decided I'd start with the Horner Special 20 in key of C. I really like it! In just the short month's time I've had my harmonica I've picked it up quickly and have taught myself everything I know so far (well, besides playing by ear and feel I did also pick up some tricks and riffs from YouTube). But this review isn't about me (though I give myself 4 stars).
Regarding the harmonica, from what I can in my research, it's basically the same thing as a Marine Band except that it has a black ABS comb rather than a pear wood comb (the comb of the Hohner 560 Special 20 is also ABS, but made to resemble the pear wood). My mouth glides quite easily across the ABS comb without the need to slobber on it to keep from sticking (I'm led to believe wood is better, but I get the feeling it's more of a purists' preference). It is easy to get air across the reeds, producing both very nice sound and volume, and the hardware is solid and doesn't feel like a toy at all. Seems when I ad lib with songs on the blues satellite radio it is very well in tune with the music (perhaps not in the right key, but the notes are still spot on). Recently after playing it hard and long the 6 blow seemed to be causing the 5 or 7 read to buzz, though they seemed fine by themselves. The harmonica still played in tune, though. I rinsed it, shook out excess moisture, and let it air dry and "cool off" for a while before playing it again and it seems to be just fine. I have difficulty bending any of the lower notes with consistency, but I'm certain it's more of a problem with my technique, not the harmonica (I really should take some lessons). I always have it in my pocket or readily available nearby and play it frequently. I will be fond of this -- my first -- harmonica and hope it lasts longer than I do!
If you're looking for something with reliable quality and performance yet economical, whether your new or experienced, definitely consider this harmonica. Since I have no complaints about this harmonica, and although I have nothing to compare the performance and quality of this harmonica to, particularly since it's the only harmonica in my life I've ever played and thus I have zero experience as a harmonica player, I can't give it less than a 5-star review.