Anyone seen/heard a Mikel 38 yet?

  • Participant
    David Kitamura on #215583

    Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the Mikel Celtic harp line has been getting a good reputation from a few posters here for being quality instruments of their budget. For my first harp I’ve wanted to start with a larger format lever at 38 strings. The Mikel 38 offering seems to be relatively new – that is, the reviews of Mikel Celtic here have been regarding their 34 string harps before the 38 model started being listed. It’s such that the model has no name like the Saffron or the Aster – it’s just “Mikel 38.”

    As someone who has never had a harp to call their own and wants to get their foot in the door to start learning, I realize I should not be too picky. I was set on saving up for a Heartland Delight for some time being attracted to their durability + light weight, but shied away from it for multiple reasons (not the least of which was their cost from a beginner’s perspective). The value of this 38 string model is pretty much unbeatable from my preliminary browsing. With that in mind, has anyone seen or heard this particular model in action or know a person who has? Since it’s a newer model my expectation leans to “no” and there have yet to be any adopters that have shared their experience with this yet. I wouldn’t really mind taking the plunge and being that pioneer myself since spreading word of new things can only be helpful and I need an instrument to start on anyway. Of course, any other voices who can chime in before I do so would certainly be helpful.

    wil-weten on #215585

    Hi David,
    You can find some clips of a Mikel 34 string harp on youtube.

    Frankly, when you are looking for a well built budget harp with a real nice sound, I would very much prefer a Dusty Ravenna 34 strings.

    With a 34 string harp you can play almost all sheet music for lever harp.

    The advantage of a Dusty Ravenna is that it is rather popular at the second hand market. So, when later on you do want a real nice 38 string harp, you would still be able to get a nice price for your Dusty Ravenna.

    Participant on #215586

    From what I see this company is based in Pakistan. Google reviews on Pakistanie Harps, I’ve been told to stay away.

    Tacye on #215587

    How are you planning to learn? If you are going to have lessons I advise you to find a teacher before buying a harp.

    It is so easy to get caught up in specifications of instruments – but make sure you really like whatever you buy.

    wil-weten on #215588

    I agree with Tacye. Also, you may like to hire a harp before you buy. Several shops have interesting hiring conditions (like getting a very nice price reductions when you decide to buy that or another harp in that shop within a certain periode). After let’s say half a year or a whole year, it will be much easier for you to know which kind of harp you like best.

    David Kitamura on #215589

    I live in the city of Philadelphia so there is a fair selection of teachers in the area or just across to bridge to New Jersey near the VA Harp Center (I’ve annoyed them with my presence a few times already). Aside from that I’m aware of Pamela Bruner’s book + DVD series which I have a high amount of respect for, having the DVD.

    The price at which I can get a Mikel 38 delivered is less than half the list of a new Ravenna 34 both having full levers + bag, which is considerable when I really should just get off my feet and take that step to start learning. It’s been so long since my childhood interest in the harp that perhaps my standards have lessened to “highest number of strings you can afford” for the purposes of a beginning instrument.

    Biagio on #215590

    I would be dubious about buying any harp that I or an experienced player had not tested personally. Not to be caustic, but the biggest mistakes we see beginners making are NOT being picky and prioritizing cost/number of strings over quality.

    I am also rather dubious about the price of the Mikel: I’d think it very low for a good quality instrument and if someone is just beginning I think it is wiser to invest in a better quality harp than the $900 price of this suggests.

    OK, it is made in Pakistan but that in itself is not a black mark. However, you would be wise to be selective about levers – which alone should be about $400 US or more if they are worth buying (and that’s just the cost to the maker, not what he would charge for installation). So I’m a bit suspicious given the advertised price.

    It’s also unclear why having the last two strings are a major factor for you. Sure, that low A in particular is nice to have but seriously, how often would anyone have need of it, even if they are professional performers?

    If you are looking for the most strings possible in a good budget harp I’d suggest taking a look at the Magical Strings Concert Oladion or possibly the Musicmakers Cheyenne.


    wil-weten on #215598

    David, I do understand you want the most bang for your buck. I’m afraid your wish to spend as little money as possible while still getting a 38 string harp, will result in a dissappointment.

    I would never buy an all new harp model, not even from reputable harp builders. Though their harps get designed using the most advanced technique, still some adaptations may prove to be necessary after some time.

    Also, did you see the shipping costs? 400 dollar shipping cost for a 38 string harp sounds ridiculously cheap to me (more than 600 dollars would sound more likely to me). Sure it will be transported by DHL, but for that price it will be thrown about, just like stuff that is not expected to be very fragile… And did you see the way it is packaged? Just in a rather thin harp bag and a simple cardboard box. Have a look:
    If you go this way, you may end up getting a very damaged harp. If you want this harp, you’d better make sure it is packaged in a real sturdy crate in which it sits tightly and do insure its transport properly. And yes, this does not come cheap.
    Even when it looks well when it arrives, it still may have been thrown about and be damaged in a way that will only later become visible.

    I don’t know about import fees and other charges in the US for goods from Pakistan. This may add up to the costs.

    I would never buy a harp that I could not try before buying. It may look nice, but every piece of wood is unique and even when you get several harps of the same model and the same kind of wood, some will speak to you and some don’t.

    Anyway, Biagio is one of the guys here who know what they are talking about. So, David, you’d better find out whether the Magical Strings Concert Oladion or possibly the Musicmakers Cheyenne is to your liking.

    Biagio on #215604

    Thank you for the vote of confidence Wil!

    One way of judging a lower priced harp is to consider the professionals who choose it, either for outdoor gigging or/and as a student rental. I’ve not heard of any pro who has chosen a Mikel (though that is of course possible). As to the others that have been mentioned, just a few whom I know:

    The Ravennas – Ray Pool, Mark Harmer
    The Oladion – Harper Tasche, Phil Boulding (also the maker)
    The Musicmakers – Sunita Stanislaw, Joanna Mell

    This is not to say that there are not other good harps out there (the R-Harp Merlin springs to mind); more to suggest that you can expect a decent 34-36 string harp to cost somewhere between $2,000 and $3,500 depending on size, number of levers, if a case is included, etc.

    Happy harping,

    hearpe on #215606

    Can’t speak for the 38 but I have both the Saffron 34 and Saffron 27. I got both a year apart and considerably under what the cost is now. They are very sturdy harps, the levers aren’t bad- not topnotch cam levers, but I haven’t had problems there, and they work. The strings were not a good experience though, and I suffered much breakage on both, mostly the first half year.

    The 34 I ended up setting up with the same string configuration as a Dusty Ravenna, with wound steel strings the entire first octave- I just ordered Ravenna strings and they fit. The Saffron 27 I currently have set up with all monofilament strings, also bought from Dusty- inexpensive and trouble free, though I may someday return to two or three nylon wound long strings. I think it came with 5 if I recall. Dusty sell monofilament up to .60.

    They are heavy harps- the 34 stays in one spot and the 27 more portable obviously but sturdy and rather heavy- the round back makes for a good volume but weighty- it doesn’t much flirt the lap harp line- I play it n the floor too. The bags are nice, they do make a good protective shipping cover, yet I have little use for them except as covers when the hurricanes are coming .

    I have felt they are not so precious as to be more of a hands -on harp- and the many broken strings forced that. Other than that I’ve sanded the interior of the sound box, and enlarged the sound holes on the back of the 27, and removed the double base piece- never use the extended legs- and I’ve been pleased at the sound I’ve gotten out of them. Some day I may bump up the 34 a little bit more beyond sanding the interior of the sound box. They serve me well as I’ve watched all the prices skyrocketing in the two and three years I’ve had them.

    It’s a bit nerving waiting for shipments from Pakistan, but if you clear that hurdle, they are good value. NOT the enviro-hazard wreck that “Scamac” I wrestled over through the holidays was (and finally got my money back on)

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by hearpe.
    David Kitamura on #215625

    It’s good that you finally got your money back from that experience, hearpe. I remember reading about it and its unpleasantness.

    I was prepared the negative response to this idea since it’s against even my own better judgement. I have noted Mikel’s buyers have mostly been satisfied for what they pay for, just not for the particular 38 model which hasn’t had many adopters yet. I guess that depends on how much I value that $1200 potentially going awry.

    As for wanting lower strings, some compositions I’m looking at (written for piano) that I would like to port over to harp do feature low notes even into a low G, so I just figured the two additional bass strings below C could only help. I was previously set on a Heartland Delight which has 38 strings with a low A so I wished to find something with a similar range. I noted that 36 string models with the additional 2 on the treble end are readily available, but I doubt I would have much need of them just going from the music I’ve been looking at. My ability to craft a Cheyenne from a kit as a more economical option is also something I’m very much not comfortable with, especially when levers factor in.

    For a more conventional offering, I am interested in a Teifi Siff Saff. If I make a 6 hour road trip I can get a Siff Saff with full Teifi levers for a reasonable price from Vermont Violins. They advised me that drop-shipping a Siff Saff directly to me would cost an additional $1200 freight from the source location, so I might as well just arrange the road trip to get it from their storefront. Even though it doesn’t have the additional bass strings I’d ultimately want, a reasonable price, full Teifi levers and lighter weight relative to the Ravenna are a selling point for me.

    wil-weten on #215626

    Hi David, Teifi harps have a great reputation. Lucky you, if you can buy one for a reasonable price! And even try the one you buy!
    With 34 strings you can play almost all music for lever harps.

    Biagio on #215628

    I fear, David, that my enthusiasm over harp models I breezed past the most important advice, which Tacye gave you. To wit: First find a teacher, THEN a harp with your teacher’s guidance. You might try contacting the American Harp Society Philadelphia chapter

    and/or the International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsmen

    BTW I was not suggesting that you buy a kit, although that is a possibility for some. Also: some (indeed many) 34-36 string models can be strung two steps lower, Some makers offer this string alternative, with others the strings can be custom made.

    David Kitamura on #215629

    I hadn’t thought to do so yet but I’m certain I can be networked to teachers in my area through the folks at the nearby NJ branch of the Virgninia Harp Center. The staff has been very helpful in my visits there thus far. They don’t have the Siff Saff specifically and I wouldn’t expect them to given its source location, but I had figured that for that model at least, it seems to be a safe buy.

    Tacye on #215630

    What is your musical background?

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