Brendan Power Signature
Brendan Power
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PowerCombs are currently available for the following harps:

BACKGROUND

Stock manufactured harmonica combs of all types (diatonic, chromatic etc) are not optimally designed for airflow and top performance. As mass-production items, they involve serious compromises to keep costs down.

Most modern chromatic and diatonic combs are made of injection-moulded ABS plastic. There is nothing wrong with ABS: it is a great material for harmonica combs, non-absorbent, stable, and with similar deformation qualities to wood. However the process of injection-moulding is not ideal for optimum comb design. To avoid uneven cooling when the comb is released from the mould, the comb partitions need to be kept at a roughly constant thickness. This means that useful thickening and filling of some areas of the comb (especially in the top octave to overcome the effects of Helmholtz Resonance), cannot be done properly with injection-moulding. You can see in the photo of two typical stock injection-moulded ABS combs that the raised areas in the higher chambers have to be separated off from the comb walls by a surrounding partition or 'air moat'. That largely defeats their purpose (to reduce chamber volume), but is necessary if the comb is to cool evenly without high and low spots. It's an unsatisfying compromise, yet that is how 90% of modern chromatic harmonica combs are made! Players therefore must make do with combs that are a slave to the lowest-cost mass production process - not created with the goal of ultimate reed performance in mind.

I am now pioneering a new and, in important respects, BETTER way to make high-performance harmonica combs with ABS plastic: 3D printing. With 3D printing you get all the advantages of ABS plus the ability to shape it into the perfect forms for optimal airflow and small chamber volumes. There are no compromises in the design of my PowerCombs. Each one is aimed at giving every chamber on every comb its best shape and volume to suit the reeds and their pitch.

Stock injection-moulded ABS combs PowerCombs don't just look good, they sound good too. Power by name, Power by nature! You'll be amazed at the difference the optimal chamber profiling makes, especially in the upper octave. The high reeds respond instantly and in perfect tune, without having to overcome the effects of Helmholtz Resonance Coupling (a serious problem on most commercial chroms with injection-moulded ABS plastic combs). There are two versions available - Advanced (single ramped) and Extreme (double ramped). Both reduce chamber volumes significantly to combat Helmholtz Resonance Coupling and improve reed response. The effect of this is especially noticeable in the top holes, where the reeds play more easily and without pitch flattening. The Extreme is theoretically more efficient throughout the range, but in actual playability there is not much between the two types - it's personal preference. Plus you can now add valves to the high reeds for superior response, not advisable with the over-large upper chambers of stock wood or ABS combs.

My unique combs are available to buy in six colours for you to fit to your own chromatics, along with screws and detailed fitting instructions. Prices reduce if you buy multiple combs. On some models I offer a pre-fit PowerComb option on a new instrument. I'm starting with a few iconic Hohner chromatic models, but will soon extend the range to cover other popular brands. Watch this space!

3D PRINTING HARMONICA COMBS

Affordable 3D printers have been around for a few years, but there are several reasons they haven't been used for making combs up to now. For one thing there's quite a learning curve involved in understanding the printer's foibles, mastering the variables involved, and working out how to get consistent prints. Plus there seemed to be a general opinion that 3D printing could not deliver the accuracy required, and knowledgeable people have said 3D printed combs would not sound good.

Happily, they were wrong. My PowerCombs are proving that 3D printing is indeed a viable new way to make these critical parts inside every harmonica. I am sure that other small makers will take up the technology to make custom combs before too long, and it could even be adopted by a big manufacturer if they scaled up the process with many machines working 24/7. I hope that happens!

If you're thinking of buying a PowerComb, you should know a little about the way 3D printed combs are made. My printers are the FDM type, which lay down microscopic strands of molten ABS plastic in layers on a heated print bed, slowly building up to make the part. Parts come out with a rippled effect on the outer surfaces, which you can see on the un-sanded sides and internal chambers of my combs. That is normal, and has no effect on airflow or performance.

Despite being driven by computer-controlled software, every print comes out slightly different! The main features and dimensions of the design remain the same, but the way the comb sticks to the bed is somewhat unpredictable, as occasionally the ends can lift slightly. If the print is done on a part of the print bed with a small imperfection (an air bubble under the Kapton base tape for example), it will transfer its shape onto the first layer that goes down. Same with small extra strands of plastic at the start of the print, sometimes they get incorporated in the base layer. Occasionally the extruders can clog, or the filament does not feed evenly. Those issues also transfer to the appearance of the final print.

Such small variable features can be likened to knot holes in wood, or 'flaws' or 'inclusions' in a precious stone. As with those analogies, I see them as part of the individual personality of each comb, and deliberately leave the back and sides of the comb exactly as they come off the printer. They show the making process, and to me that adds interest and character to each piece. So if your comb has a small indent on the back or some other mark, that's part of its individuality and not something I, or you, should apologise for! It marks your comb as being a one-off, and is part of its nature as a unique 3D printed object.
sanded comb and unsanded comb (red) sanded comb and unsanded comb (green) random comb inclusions
Left to right: sanded comb and unsanded comb (red), sanded comb and unsanded comb (green), random comb inclusions.
Click to enlarge, click outside the photo to return.
These are not mass-produced identical parts, like injection-moulded harmonica combs; there is a lot of attention put into the finishing process too. After printing, each comb is flat sanded by hand on the all-important reedplate and mouthpiece mating surfaces: top, bottom and front. That imparts a genuine hand-craft element, and gives extra individual personality to each comb. Sanding ABS is much like sanding wood (they have a similar consistency), and it's really satisfying when the print ripples are sanded out and the mating surfaces come out crisp and smooth. Even though each side of the comb is flat-sanded on glass, some combs will have an inbuilt slight curve to them, concave on one side, convex on the other. That does not affect performance; as the surfaces are flat sanded when pressed down on the glass, when the reedplates are attached they will mate with a perfect airtight seal.

I hope that helps you understand a bit better how my 3d printed PowerCombs are made, and the vagaries of the process. They look different to commercial combs and, if you are someone for whom perfect outward appearance matters more than performance, then a PowerComb might not be for you. In that case please don't order (or if you do, don't complain about cosmetic issues, as you have been fully advised on this page). I only send out combs that will make your harmonica work better - that's my priority. If that's what you're after too, then please check out the range!

Check out the unsolicited comments about my PowerCombs on Slidemeister, the premier chromatic harmonica chat group.

SUZUKI 12/14/16 HOLE CHROMATICS

" Hello Brendan, just wanted to let you know that i'm extremely pleased with the power comb i got from you yesterday for my scx-56. More airtight instrument, and faster reed respons through the whole register, but especially in the top register. Top notch product and i will for sure get one for my spare scx-56 also Take care and keep up the good work. regards Terje "

Terje Karlsen, Norway (January 2017)
" Hey guys just want to say thanks for the comb and what a nice tone the harp has now! It's not so much in volume( I actually think the harp is slightly lower ) than with the original Suzuki stock, but the reeds feel warmer and I can articulate notes better( at least to my ears) I have been playing chromatic harp mainly blues in first position for about 7 years ( don't ask me why!)and I had switched from Horner to the Suzuki scx series about 4 years ago however I've always thought that they were kinda harsh tone wise, not anymore! Thanks to your power comb! "

Marcos Da Silva, USA (October 2016)
" The comb arrived this morning at 10.30 and is now in place. The chrom sounds great, looks great!!! Now I has two updated super chroms, the scx54 and scx 64 for tonights concert. "

Bengt Kärrman, Sweden (October 2016)
" Sometimes harmonica players have problems even with their combs. In my case I could no more fix the mouthpiece to the comb.The thread did work no more. I than bought a new one, a Power-comb. It arrived, I screwed the reed plates on this comb. While working I wondered the date printed in the reed plates :June 1980. After having replaced the old comb by the new one I tried to play. I was astonished. The old comb has not sounded as well as this one. The tone was richer and even the response has amended, although the instrument must have been constructed in 1980 and we already live in 2016. After this experience I can recommand the 'Power'- combs. "

Ulrich Müller-Froß - Germany (May 2016)

Hohner Super 64 Chromatics

" Brendan, you've done it again! I've been playing my Super 64 extreme comb conversion now for a few weeks. Smooth, balanced, even up and down the harp through all four octaves. Effortless response in the top octave. You’ve really got it dialed in.

I'm looking forward to receiving the second Super comb, and the two just ordered for my Sirius 64's. I'd recommend these to anyone who wants to take their instruments (and playing) to the next level. Thanks for a great product at a very reasonable price. "

Steve Malerbi - USA (September 2016)

Hohner 10,12,16 Hole Chromatics

" This is to let you know how pleased I am with the 260 comb and round hole (Herring) mouthpiece - the fitting process went well - the old comb fell to pieces! Thank you very much for an accurately made and high quality product. "

Peter Weedon, UK (March 2017)
" Just want to let you know, Power Combs arrived today. I already installed one on my old 10 hole Chordomonica. It fits perfectly and plays great! Also the video instructions were very helpful for installing the new comb. "

Andreas Gläser - Germany (July 2016)

Hohner Traditional Lipped Comb

" I received and installed the 270 comb, in addition to the 64 comb that I received earlier. The 64 comb was a nice incremental improvement over the stock comb. I like it. The difference with my 270 Deluxe using your comb is astounding. Wonderful. I had tried one of your regular 270 combs with it but I couldn't get the alignment right so it was a touch leaky, so I went back to my Discovery 48 comb. With your new lipped comb even a klutz like me can get it right. The response, especially on the high notes, is much better. Thanks for your wonderful combs!!! "

Steve Molitor - IL, USA (June 2016)

Hohner CX-12 PowerComb / PowerSlide

" Received my X-12 comb + slider and installed them right away. Inhanced the quality of tone( more volume, clearer notes) and smooth playing, especially in the high register. Great design. "

Paul Nuydens - Belgium (Jan 2017)
" Just a quick note to say a big thank you for the combs for two Hohner CX12s (C & G). They were easy to fit and with the new sliders have made a significant improvement to both instruments."

KD FARR - UK (Dec 2016)
" I truly admire your concept of reworking a beautifully designed harmonica and providing two solutions to its main inherent weak points, that's brilliant! "

Steven De bruyn - Belgium (Nov 2016)
" I recently bought a CX-12 Power Comb and Suzuki Power-Comb from you for one of my students. I just thought I'd drop a short note to say how how impressive they were. In particular the CX-12 (I got the extreme version). It's now possible to bend all the notes the entire length of the instrument whereas before there was no response whatsoever, the note would simply choke as soon as you put any pressure on it. And this was on a fully valved instrument, I have yet to try it half-valved. Anyway, my student was so impressed that he's just got me to order another one. I'll be recommending this upgrade from now on all my chromatic students. "

Michael McInerney - UK (June 2016)
" Thanks very much for your super quick posting of the CX12 Power slide and comb. I had this old CX12 which was for me duff and not worth playing, and then I had broken the black casing trying to get the very stiff spring plate out. Having purchased a replacement CX12 Jazz casing from Hohner (much better front); I've just fitted the reed plates to your Power comb (nice and easy), slotted in your slide:- I've now got a really nice playable harp. The slide action is particularly good. "

Guy Gibbons - UK (June 2016)
" I really love the new CX-12 comb and slide; I had no trouble whatsoever refitting my harp. Responsiveness has definitely improved -- thanks for a great set of products! "

Jay Stanley - Ben Lomond, CA, USA (May 2016)
" I ordered three powercomb and powerslide for all my CX-12 (customized) ... after installing them I realized right away that make the CX-12 more playable, more responsive and more accurate in the dynamic response, also facilitated the execution of double notes. I am very happy with this purchase. Now I have the perfect 'Hohner/Power' CX-12 [I think :-) ] ... CASING of the CX-12 Jazz, reed plates of the CX-12 Gold (thickness 1.2) and Powercomb with Powerslide !!! Thank you "

Paolo Daniele - Italy (May 2016)
" Great Lords of Valhalla. It is a mind blowing difference. In my small musician world, this harmonica is bigger than cold fusion. I've had about 12 gigs to check it out on. From blues n jazz to my comparatively lame Irish on St. Patrick's: this harp is transformative. Maybe not as big as the development of vision but certainly as big as the thumb. A more specific break down coming Up. As well as a video. Stoked. Thank you Brendan! "

BILL BARRETT - Los Angeles, USA (March 2016)
" After everything is installed, Wow! What a difference! I've never played a chrom as good as this! This is beyond imagination, I could never thought there will be this much of a difference the comb and slider can possibly make. I'm only an amateur player so I won't be able to give you any feedback from the professional player's perspective but the improvement for me is really obvious. The CX-12 instantly feels like a 10 hole diatonic, effortless bending and I can feel reeds vibrates differently when the air pressure changes, which you can only normally get on a good diatonic harp. The tone is more tight and packed with more attack as well. Thank you very much again for offering these precious upgrade to me, I love them so much! "

Leon Li - Melbourne, Australia (March 2016)
" Hi Brendan, Well done indeed. The CX12 power comb went on very nicely [I had to re drill one slightly misaligned screw hole in the comb when the plates would not perfectly line up. But this was easily done. ] The improvement in airtightness, responsiveness and overall sound is tremendous. One happy customer, "

Paddy Byrne - London, England (March 2016)
" Thanks for sending the combs and slider for the CX 12. They certainly do what I hoped for. It is a fun instrument, very airtight, plays beautifully in the high register and all the clunkiness had gone from the slide. Congratulations on that lot. I haven't played the CX12 much for a good while because of those little annoyances. I've rediscovered how bold and loud and responsive it is - serious fun now! "

Richard Weis (22 March 2016)

Hohner Universal-12 PowerComb

" Hi Brendan, It's a time ago, when I received your combs. After using them for several months now, I can tell you, that I love them! The air tightness is good and better than the wood combs after using them for a while. The tone is stronger and louder. Thank you so much! "

Susan Sauter, Germany (January 2016)
" it's been a couple of months since i converted my hard bopper to one of your power combs. it's done a lot for the sound and playability of this chrom. i really enjoy playing it now. the tone and responsiveness are much improved, and the upper register is sweet and effortless. i never even played these notes before, and now i look for opportunities to play them. "

Tim Atwell (06 November 2015)
" I'm a mechanical designer and i was thinking about create a plastic comb when i discovered the Universal 12 Power Comb. I just can say a big congratulation to brendan. I've test it and i 'm really satisfied by the airtighness provided and response of notes is involved too. Really good idea !!

Regis Roncin - Mellow man - Harmonica Chromatique Jazz (28 June 2015)
powerComb customer image powerComb customer image " When I'm working on one of my 20 deluxes, and I come to the realization that the wood comb is warped and not helping, the time from that discovery to having a new Power comb in place and working, is less than fifteen minutes. NO putting the comb in a vise, getting it wet, and looking at internet porn while it dries out almost flat...Fifteen minutes. Very nice how the installation went....I didn't have to do much of anything...

These combs help me get a big sound at a low volume, which is always a goal for every instrument I play. So I think it's a success, for sure... "

Jon Kip (19 June 2015)

Hohner Universal-12 PowerComb (for 270 Deluxe)

" I've fitted the new comb to a Hohner Super Chromonica 270 Deluxe and cannot believe how much better it is! The harmonica is loud and proud,very responsive and air tight. It was a simple task to change everything over and the result is truly amazing. This will be my main instrument from now on. "

Paul Braithwaite (24 June 2015)
" Now that I've had a chance to try it out, I'm extremely pleased. A new lease on life for a harmonica I'd more or less given up on."

Daniel Ungar (22 June 2015)

Hohner Auto-Valve PowerComb

powerComb customer image powerComb customer image " I have been a fan and adopter of the Hybrid Auto Valve/ Chromonica 260 modification pioneered by Rick Epping for several years. These hybrid octave harmonicas are loud, rich in tone, and perform well in traditional and Irish music sessions, stand alone or in a harmonica rack. I have built several using the original Hohner 260 Comb as the base for the Auto Valve plates, but found the 260 comb chambers needed a bit of work for optimal performance, particularly for the high octave reeds. When I saw that Brendan was designing a new custom Auto Valve comb that addressed this, with diminishing comb chambers and different chamber lengths on the shorter reeds on high octave side of the comb, I was very interested to try one. I received two Flat sanded and finished combs suitable and ready for Auto Valve plates, and a few prototypes that were slightly bigger and could accept screws for either a 260 plate on top, or an Auto Valve plate. This opened up the option of combining plates from the two harmonicas and potentially convert to a ten hole 'solo' tuning if desired! Pictured here are the first set of assembled conversions using Brendan's combs. The comb installation was very straight ahead. They are very air tight, responsive, and sound great. Fun colors too. The high octave reed response is very balanced. The harmonicas can be further customized, and altered to various tunings for more versatility. "Easy Third" tuning is useful for octave playing and fiddle tunes. Solo, Paddy Richter, Melody Maker, Standard Richter, and many other tuning options.

I recommend these combs to anyone who wants to transform their classic Hohner Auto Valve harmonicas into a new, powerful and dynamic, hybrid instrument. Brendan has come up with another winner with this Auto Valve custom harmonica comb. "

Burke Trieschmann - Open Door Harmonicas (19 June 2015)

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