Marion 34 vs. Dusty Strings 34

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    kynkari on #191947

    Hi all!

    I currently play a Stoney End Briar Rose and it is a lovely harp. At 29 strings, I find myself wanting a larger harp with more strings and a bit more resonance. I do like the medium tension of the Stoney End.

    I was considering a Marion 34 string by Stoney End, but I haven’t seen a lot posted about it here. Has anyone played it and how does it compare sound-wise to something like a Dusty Strings Crescendo? The sound files online of the Crescendo sound great to me but the one for the Marion wasn’t done in a recording studio like the DS one so its hard to really compare.

    any thoughts on the Marion?

    Biagio on #191954

    A couple of thoughts:

    -It is very difficult to judge based simply on the recordings; so much depends on the person who played it. IMO all you can really get out of that is the harps general temper and color, it may not sound the same in your own hands.

    -That said, all the Dusty harps were recorded by the same person (Harper Tasche) and not in a studio, just in one of their practice rooms with a mike. I don’t know about Stoney End recording, though.

    -If the issue is one of price and just considering those two makers; I would personally go for the Ravenna 34 over the Crescendo rather than the Stoney End. The Crescendo has same strings and soundboard as the Ravenna. The main difference is that the Cresecendo sides and neck are sapele. That is a lovely wood with a bright tone, perhaps midway between maple and walnut. But I think that most of the tone comes from the board, not the wood used in the box.

    -There are a lot of harpers in this area (Puget Sound) and I’ve heard, though not played, the Crescendo, Marion, Ravenna, and FH. All sound great but to my mind and ear I’d rank them (top down) as FH, Ravenna, Crescendo, and Marion. I’m sure there are other members of my Society that would disagree (grin). So if at all possible try to play these yourself and see what you think.

    -If the body and looks are part of the issue I would look at the FH34 as well; otherwise choose the Ravenna. The Stoney End harps are made with high density ply sides, like the Ravenna BTW.


    Biagio on #191958

    One further word about on-line recordings…..the makers that I know do their best to reproduce the actual sounds of their harps, but of course they will ask the best musicians to record them. Here’s a rather extreme example:

    I made a bunch of small double strungs for Laurie Riley that she needed as rentals for a retreat. Natch when that was over I put those that remained up for sale and asked Laurie to make a sound sample.

    Here’s the “dirty little secret”: she just at down to play it with her iPad on her knee. People who heard that recording were impressed, but I assure you that was the result of a great musician playing a decent little harp, not the other way around. No way did it sound like that in my hands:-)


    kynkari on #191960

    Thanks for the info!

    The recordings on Dusty String’s website are really clear and clean, vs. some other sites where there is background noise (including Stoney End’s recording), so yes, I realize it’s really hard to say unless you hear it in person. Also, I know that taste is a factor. The Dusty Strings Crescendo sounds very nice to me, but my husband cringed when he heard it compared to a Camac Isolde. He said it sounded “tinny” and too bright. Certainly the Isolde isn’t as bright but I didn’t think the Dusty Strings sounded tinny at all.

    Obviously I want the harp to sound great, but looks are also a factor for me. My instrument is both an instrument and an art piece, displayed in our living room when I’m not playing it. 🙂 When I first started playing, I had narrowed it down to the Ravenna 26 and the Briar Rose, and picked the Briar Rose. The Ravenna isn’t as attractive to me, though it isn’t an ugly harp. It just looks a little too modern for my tastes. Also, it was my first floor harp and Stoney End has an amazing pay as you go option. The Stones are really nice people and very easy to work with. Both of the harps sounded very nice from what I could tell, but the Briar Rose was more rich and mellow compared to the brighter Ravenna.

    I guess what I’m looking for is something with a bit more projection and more strings, while still being pleasing to look at. A friend of mine recently got a Lewis Creek, 36 strings, and it just sounds much bigger/resonant than my Briar Rose. They had a similar tonal quality (more mellow and less bright) but hers was like Goliath to my David. 😛 Ours both have the same soundboard (birch). Her neck and sides are Rosewood, and mine are Walnut. Hers just resonated like crazy and I assumed it was mostly do to the larger sound box. When I started looking online at harps, the ones I liked the looks/music samples/prices were the Marion 34, Crescendo 34, and Camac Isolde. The Isolde, although a beautiful harp, is a bit out of the price range.

    Unfortunately I live in the middle of nowhere, and the closest place that has different harp brands I could try out is Atlanta Harp Center, 7.5 hours away. There is only one other person in my town that plays harp and she has a lap harp. I also have a Christina Therapy Harp from Triplet, but I plan on selling this one to help finance the new, bigger harp. 🙂

    Biagio on #191979

    Well, I guess if the looks are a big factor maybe the Crescendo would be the way to go(?). Dusty is known for a particular sound that is not pleasing to everyone and speaking for myself I’m not too fond of the rather thick nylon over nylon strings.

    If price were not an object and looks are important I would go with the Sligo Harps Luchair. That is the harp that Sue Richards takes on tour but it’s $4,600 last I looked. Guess you get what you pay for:-)

    Best wishes,

    Donna O on #192016

    Thought I would chime in here. I have played both harps and ultimately went with the DS Crescendo.I preferred the resonance and tone of the Crescendo. One consideration for me was size. The DS fits in the back seat of my Toyota Camry, the Marion would not. I have had my Crescendo for two years now and have never regretted getting it. Both are nice harps and it really depends on what you prefer. I would definitely try them out if you are able to. Every harp sounds and feels different.
    A note re: Biago’s comment. I played several Ravennas and Crescendos side by side along with the FH (which I could not afford). There was no comparison between the sound. The Ravenna was much “plinkier” sounding to my ear and not nearly as pleasant. To each his own.

    kynkari on #192018

    Thanks Donna.. very helpful!

    The sound recordings of the Crescendo are more resonant to me, but also brighter. I do tend to lean towards a more mellow, warm sound, but I was really drawn to the sound file on the DS website for the Crescendo. It’s also a beautiful harp. I’m a little worried I’ll get the Marion and it will sound exactly like my Briar Rose, but with a few extra strings. I can’t tell from the sound files on the Stoney End website. The soundboard isn’t much bigger, and the materials would be the same. My Briar Rose is a gorgeous, lovely harp, but it’s starting to limit me with number of strings and I figure I might as well get more “Umph” if I’m going to go up to a 34 or 36 string.

    Size isn’t a factor. I have a Caravan with seats that fold down so I can haul just about any size lever harp.

    Although it’s a bit out of my price range, has anyone played a Camac Isolde? It hits all the sweet spots! Sounds amazing from the sound files I’ve found online, 36 strings, and gorgeous! I noticed Atlanta Harp Center has them on sale right now, so they are pretty close to do-able. Any comments on the tension and resonance? There are a lot of videos online of people playing but I haven’t seen them mentioned a lot on the message boards.

    lauren.crochet on #192024

    Hello! Thought I would chime in,

    I have the Isolde. It has such a lovely sound(and 38 strings 🙂 ). I also have a Ravenna 26. I almost went for the Ravenna 34, but I needed more strings than 34 at the time. The Dusty Strings FH model, I’ve played and it’s unbelievable. If it wasn’t so very high in price, I would have gone with that one. I’ve also played the Crescendo. It is a very nice harp to play and to hear.

    Have you thought of renting the harp? I don’t know if the harp store by you has this, but the one near me has a rent to own, and you put down a deposit for 4 months(usually between $100-$600 depending on size and price) and then if you want to continue renting it after the 4 months, you pay between $60-$200 a month(again depends on the actual price, my Isolde is $130/month). It’s a very affordable option. Also, if you want to rent a different one, you just bring that one in and rent another one. And for the first 8-12 months,(at least the store by me) 100% of your payments go towards the purchase price of a harp(which can be transferred to a different harp). It’s really a great program.

    lauren.crochet on #192026

    The Isolde has a great sound. I chose it because it sounded a lot like my Mademoiselle(also Camac) that I had been renting and it was a lot more portable! The concert tension is great, and I don’t really have any complaints about her.

    The sound(to me) is so warm and soft. She likes to sing and loves to give that great resonating tone! It’s a bit subdued, but she’s gorgeous to play. I am totally 100% in love with my Isolde and I couldn’t be happier. It’s also quite portable, and came with a great carrying case!

    kynkari on #192027

    Hi there,

    Yes, whatever I get will definitely be rent to own. I will sell my Briar Rose and use the money to put down on a new one. I also have a Christina Therapy Harp from Triplett that is gorgeous and sounds amazing for a lap harp, but I rarely use it. I always end up on the floor harp, so I’ve decided to sell both to get one bigger floor harp. I wanted to get a new one first so I’m not left without a harp in between if I manage to sell them quickly.

    Most places do Allegro Financing. I talked to Atlanta Harp Center, and they mentioned the 4 months up front, plus a security deposit and shipping, and monthly payments on the Crescendo are $130. If you keep it beyond 8 months they charge a service fee and 10% interest. Not bad, and something I might consider. Atlanta Harp Center is still a full day drive for me, so it would be cheaper to have it shipped instead of paying the gas and hotel to go down there. I literally live in the middle of nowhere! There isn’t even a teacher for at least 4 hours from me.

    The one thing I like about Stoney End is they have a very uncomplicated pay as you go policy. 25% and shipping up front, and then they just split the payments out over 24 months. There are no extra fees and no interest. 100% of your payment goes towards the harp. The down side to this is that it isn’t really Rent to Own. They make the harps to order so once you put the 25% down, it’s yours. There is no trial period.

    Very helpful to hear about the Isolde! How did the tension compare to the DS models? My Briar Rose is medium tension, though I’d say on the lighter side of medium. I learned on a Lyon and Healy Prelude, which of course is really high tension, so playing one that was medium tension was a relief!

    lauren.crochet on #192028

    That sounds great about the financing!!

    As for strings, I like the higher tension. The Isolde comes either with medium tension or concert tension, so I have the concert one. I definitely notice a difference with the tension between Isolde and my Ravenna(who’s name is Cedric, btw). Sometimes it’s quite nice playing on something that isn’t higher tension.

    I think the FH series you can get concert tension… I’m not entirely sure so please someone tell me if I’m wrong! But the regular one was amazing. I have nothing but good things to say about that harp.

    A full day’s drive from a harp store! That must be tough. To get to the one closest to me, it’s about a 2-3 hour drive(next closest is like 4-4 hours). And when I do go, I try to play every harp I can. Haha. I’ve only been twice though in the past year!

    duckspeaks on #192069

    Hello kynkari and all,

    I started with a new Crescendo over the altwrnativw of revenna. despite the great retractable foot of the revenna I chose the crescendo because it sounded more resonant of the two. both real word and dusty recordings by sylvia woods were consistently showing that. the crescendo somehow has a stronger structual integrity that shows up in the sound. however after a while I found that I prefer much higher tension and less bright sound. This is the tricky bit. given that the bright celtic sound is a bit of twangy/tinny in nature (lets skips the mechanical rituals of apologising for what one likes), a better made and more resonant harp may actually magnify the elements that I personally do not like. So in the end is the better harp a worse harp when you suddenly decide not to like that style of sound anymore?

    I trust if one likes the sound of a harp of that style of construction, the crescendo is a better harp than the revenna despite not having the wonderful retractable foot.

    My 2 cents

    Merry Xmas

    kynkari on #192070


    Thanks for the replies! Good point on magnifying the more bright sound. I always thought I preferred the more mellow, warm tone, but I’m not sure I dislike any of them. I also own a Triplett Christina which is very bright and a little plinky (all lap harps sound plinky to me) and the tension is very loose. Still, I like the sound of it, especially for Irish folk tunes.

    I guess I’ve narrowed it down to either a Crescendo or a Camac Isolde (Celtic). Two totally different tones but I really love both for different reasons! The Camac reminds me of a warm fire with a cozy blanket and the Crescendo remind me of sparkles and starlight!

    Anyway, I can’t seem to find a Camac distributed that orders the Isolde though, as if I’m going to pay that much I would like to do the soundboard engraving. Virginia and Atlanta harp center don’t list that one as available to order.

    Any thoughts on Camac Isolde vs. Dusty Strings Crescendo (aside from the tone quality)?

    I would agree on the Ravenna vs. Crescendo. I actually listened to the Silvia Woods sound comparisons of all of the Dusty Strings with my eyes closed and wrote down the number of the one I liked best. It turned out to be the Crescendo. I could hear a pretty big difference between that one and the ones she played before it. I had trouble hearing a big difference between the Crescendo and the FH series on the sound file, though.

    lauren.crochet on #192071

    Hello again! Call Virginia Harp Center, they should be able to help you with what you would like done on the Isolde. I got mine through them, and they can give you a lot more info than what you see online.

    Biagio on #192072

    Couple of remarks about the Crescendo and FH:

    These harps are “medium” tension at about 25 lbs per string on average (not “concert” which is up around 35-40 lbs.) The Boulevard is the only one they sell at “concert” tension.

    Dusty does provide a string set with (essentially) lever gut in the mid if one prefers the lower sustain and mellower tone compared to nylon. Although it is still nylon in the treble, with wound steel in the bass. So if you go with the Crescendo that would be an option either now or later.

    One drawback sometimes with an aircraft laminate board such as on the Music Maker harps, Ravennas, Crescendo, and (I think but don’t quote me) Marion: some treble strings can sound plinky unless they have also tapered it up there. The Crescendos I’ve heard sound just fine, so either they did that or used something other than birch, or solved it in some other way.

    Merry Christmas to all,

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