I get it, the idea of spending over $20 on such a small and seemingly simple instrument such as harmonica might seem a bit much. This is especially the case when you are a beginner and don’t really know how long this interest of yours is going to last or even whether the more expensive models are worth it. The short answer for whether the expensive harps are better than the affordable ones is YES. 100% yes. The difference between a quality harmonica and a cheap one is obvious even for very beginners BUT that does not mean that all the affordable models are bad. It also does not mean that you should try out a more inexpensive model before committing to a pro-level one. Just on that occasion, I think Johnson BK-520-C Blues King harp in the key of C is the best option.
This is probably one of the few cheap harmonicas that are not cheap in quality. I am not saying it is the best quality one but for the price, you pay it sure as hell delivers on the build and sound. First, let’s talk some details. This harp is a 10-hole diatonic model that features brass reeds, plastic comb, and metal cover plates. While the overall quality is pretty decent I feel like the actual comb lacks in smoothness and quality. The major problem this harmonica has is that it does not have an airtight design. This leads to losing a lot of air. Once you lose a lot of air you have to overcompensate and blow more which tires a lot of beginners.
Okay, when I was looking at this model’s price I was very skeptical but then I realized that it’s not just the harp that comes at this price. It’s also a case and a cloth for cleaning. That is kind of astounding but a great thing, especially for beginners. No matter how cheap your harmonica is you still need to keep is safe and clean and Johnson has provided tools for both occasions.
Now, whenever I am discussing instruments that are way below the average price range I have to mention that you have to take into account that a lower price means lower quality in build and sound. While this Blues King harmonica is an inexpensive model that somewhat suffers minor problems I would say, overall, this is a very solid instrument with nice performance. First of all, you will notice that the tone is on point, the playability is close to perfect which is especially important for beginners. As mentioned in the build section, some air gets lost which creates a problem with having to overcompensate on techniques to achieve the tone and volume you want.
If you are looking for the best harmonica under $10 mark than Johnson BK-520-C Blues King Harmonica in the key of C might be your best option. While it might not be the top choice for pro players, it definitely caters all the needs of beginners. As I have mentioned there are issues with loss of air but all in all the tone and playability of this model are good enough to turn a blind eye on that issue. It’s also an added bonus that this harp comes with a case and cloth which makes it even more dumbfounding that a $7-8 model can have two accessories.