I recently blew out the draw 4 reed on my Seydel Session Steel A harp. When I ordered a set of replacement reed plates, I was shipped a set of Seydel 1847 plates by accident. I decided to re-order the Session Steel plates, and also to order all the rest of the parts I needed to assemble an 1847 A harp. All the stuff arrived today, and I now have a Session Steel with new reed plates and a 1847 with new reed plates, both in A.

This situation begs for a side-by-side comparison, and I have run one. The result is this: the 1847 is a better sounding and more responsive harp. The Session Steel is a very nice instrument, loud and tough, but the 1847 does all that the Session Steel does and sounds better on chords and played loud. I think the tone on the Session Steel is better when it’s not played flat-out; the sound gets harsh when it’s played very hard.

Anyway, that’s how it feels to me as a player. But the harshness may not be audible to the audience. Take a listen to this clip. It’s a recording of simple riffs played on the Session Steel and the 1847, both of which are running through an Audix Fireball mic into a Digitech RP500 running my GA40 patch (Gibson GA40 amp and cab models) into a Peavey KB2 keyboard amp. In other words, it’s a modeled version of a typical amped-up blues rig. Can you tell the difference between the two harps? Can you tell when I switch from one to the other? I’m not sure I can, and I’m the guy who played it. Perhaps the differences would be more audible if the recording was purely acoustic, but I don’t know. I think the differences would be even less audible if I was using a bullet-type mic, which adds its own distortion to the tone.

Whether or not the differences are audible, the instruments feel different when you play them. The 1847 retails for $85; the Session Steel retails for about $55. It’s interesting to see that the extra $30 really does get you something better, at least in terms of the experience of playing the instrument. At this point I have a number of 1847s: G, Eb, A, and a country-tuned C harp that Ben Bouman set up for me. Every one of them is a superior instrument in terms of playability and reliability. Of course, I just bought a set of eight Manjis, so I’m not rushing out to buy more harps at the moment. When I do, I suspect they’ll be 1847s.