Mikel Celtic / Mikel Harps Review

  • Participant
    Molly K on #233406

    Short version: The company is represented by liars out to take your money, and their harps are low quality too. I want to warn everyone so you don’t lose money like I did.

    Long version: I write this very humbly, as of course I was warned about harps from Pakistan. Of course, some will specify that it’s the rosewood harps that are the real problem, but I have come to very much disagree.

    I have wanted to play the harp for a long time, and wanted to get a larger lever harp – as many say, get as many strings as you can afford.

    Well, Mikel had just introduced the Mikel 38 for around $1200 shipped. I contacted the company, but they stated they couldn’t do home delivery. I decided to save for something in the US instead. A couple days later, the representative got back to me and said they could do home delivery now!

    I saved $700 which I put down as a deposit while my harp was built in May. I had some big events and a move happen, and the email stating my harp was finished and they wanted the other $500 and would ship my harp was lost in the shuffle. One email. This is important later.

    In August things calmed down for me, I realized I’d never heard about my harp, and I went searching through my emails. I found one ONE email saying my harp was done, also sent in May. I emailed back, apologized profusely, and asked if I could pay the remaining $500 then.

    The man who replied said that they had emailed and called me numerous times (the first of many lies, they never even had my phone number!), but they had sold my harp (understandable). There was another exactly like it in their warehouse they could ship to me within a few days. I agreed and paid the remaining $500. They responded they would ship the harp out two days later.

    I reach out again 3 weeks later. I hadn’t received an update, any tracking info, etc and was concerned. Now the representative tells me they cannot ship to my home, but I will have to go to the airport and retrieve it. He promises to refund me the extra shipping costs I paid for home delivery. Fine, whatever, I’m starting to feel like I’d never get my money back from these people anyway, so I agree.

    They ship the harp, but tell me nothing about how to track it, where to pick it up, or the customs process. I figure it out over the course of a week thanks to some very understanding customs agents, while my harp sits in a hot warehouse. I pay my own money to cover the import costs.

    I get the harp home, and I open it up to find three things: 1) the soundboard decoration is missing ($60), 2) the included carry bag is missing ($180), and 3) the finish is damaged in several places (estimated by the repair shop I contacted at approximately $150 to repair).

    I contact the company to receive some explanation or recompense. The representative assures me I’ll be refunded for the extra shipping costs, as promised, and he will send the carrier bag the next day; but he cannot do anything to offset the other damage and missing decoration. I tell him thank you for sending the bag, but I need compensation for the other problems as well.

    I get forwarded to a higher up in the company who proceeds to tell me that because I sent in my second payment in August, my harp is subject to their updated price list and I actually owe THEM money. This is the first time I’ve heard anything about this new price list!

    At this point I file a PayPal case for the second $500, hoping to get back the extra shipping cost, which they still haven’t refunded, and some help with finish repair. It’s been several days since the bag was said to have been sent, but the higher up tells me he will not be sending a bag now. I owe him $60.

    We go back and forth several times, and I threaten to file a credit card dispute. He finally backs down and agrees to send a bag and refund me $100 for shipping, ignoring the missing decoration and finish damage. It was only after arguing for days that he agrees to the original terms the first representative offered! I still haven’t received my bag and honestly doubt that I ever will.

    They lied several times about shipping dates, shipping methods, about emails, about phone calls, about price lists, it gis a on.

    So I have a harp, and it’s okay. The levers aren’t great, it buzzes on a few strings, and 3 have broken this past month. It’s ridiculously heavy. If I could do it over, I’d 100% have saved longer for a Ravenna 34. Don’t try to buy from Mikel Celtic, it’s a nightmare.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #233409

    A few harpists have been happy with Mikel harps but the majority of harpists writing about their experience with the company sing your sad tune. I’m sorry you got burned. You are to be commended for saying so and being candid about your experience as a cautionary warning to other would-be buyers.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #233455

    Hi Molly, I’m sorry to hear you had this sad experience with Mikel Celtics customer service.

    Did you try to contact its boss? As he cares about the good name of his shop, he may be willing to find a fair solution for you.

    By the way, you wrote: ” I pay my own money to cover the import costs.” Frankly, unless the seller offered to pay these costs for you, I’d expect that you had to pay costs like customs fees, VAT (if applicable where you live) and other import costs by yourself and that these costs would not only be calculated on the price of the instrument, but also on the price of the shipping costs.

    On the Mikel Celtic Site, it does mention the weight of each harp at: https://mikelharps.com/mikel-lever-harps/ Your Mikel 38 would weight 14.1 kg, wich seems quite normal for a harp like this. Frankly, even a weight of about 17 kilo wouldn’t surprise me. Does your harp weigh significantly more than is indicated on the site?

    Again, I am sorry for your situation and I do hope that a fair solution will be found.

    Participant
    Molly K on #233467

    The second man I spoke with was either the boss or a higher up, I’m unsure. He was the one that recalculated his prices so that I owed *him* $60. It dif not encourage me to try to go higher up the chain.

    On my invoice, it specifically stated *VAT free home delivery, customs clearance paid*. So yes, I was upset that not only was it not delivered to my home, I paid the customs fees.

    Yes, the harp registers at 44 lbs, which is approximately 14 lbs over the 30 lb stated weight.

    At this point, I think the best solution possible has been reached. I just want to warn others so no one else has to deal with Mikel Harps.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #233470

    So, your harp is significantly heavier than stated by the manufacturer. Instead of the stated 14.1 kg it weighs almost 20 kg, which is the weight of my 40 pedal gut strung L&H Prelude lever harp (which needs to be that heavily built in order to withstand the very heavy string tension).

    Yes, I can imagine, you find 20 kg ridiculously high for your 38 nylon strung harp. So would I.

    Now, I am not sure whether where you live customs clearance is just part of the importing costs or whether this would amount to the complete importing costs. And yes, the harp should have been delivered to your home, as this was part of the agreement with the manufacturer.

    I am inclined to think there were some misunderstandings, as it may be rather hard for a customer service abroad to communicate in a foreign language and to fully understand all details.

    I understand that you decided not to try further on to find a fair solution, but still I wonder whether their agent in New York (have a look at: http://www.mikelceltic.com/new-development-mikel-celtic-instruments/ might be of some help.

    Anyway, some years ago, this manufacturer went out of his way to keep customers satisfied and wanted to learn how to build better harps, so I wonder whether this is mostly a case of Murphy’s law.

    Participant
    Biagio on #233545

    I am very sorry that you have had to go through this Molly. Some people have reported that the Mikel harps have been satisfactory; by and large though I’ve heard more horror stories than not.

    There may be one or more solutions to those breaking strings. That usually occurs in the treble when the strings are too long for the desired frequency or/and they angle in from the bridge pin. Any longer than 4″ vibrating length (from sound board to bridge pin) is pushing it for that high C. Other things that often happen: the bridge pin or tuning peg has sharp edges, the string grommets ditto or protrude all the way through the board, or the supplied strings are defective.

    The first step is to figure why they are breaking. Please tell us if you can determine this and perhaps we can help with a solution.

    Participant
    hearpe on #233671

    Hello

    The strings breaking on Mikel harps has been one of my own complaints- although they were mostly bass nylon wound strings that broke in the first month or two after. And yes, the harps are needlessly heavy, with a really very thick double base- I’ve removed the attached base on my smaller 26 harp- and they have a very thick and heavy pillar. I had none of the custom order problems- I got the 34 years ago for under a grand when they first put it up on ebay- the lowest octave have all been converted to steel strings to match the Dusty Ravenna configuration, which is where I bought the replacement strings, since Mikel doesn’t stock them (!) I’ve since grown not terribly thrilled with the sound of wound steel, but don’t want to spend much money or effort and time to convert the back to nylon wound, and not sure if I can find them in the correct lengths.
    The 26 I got for a real steal right after the holidays about 3 years ago has been all converted to monofilament. Both harps sound fairly decent- I’ve tweaked the sound boxes a bit thinner and lightened the frames, but I’m glad I got them at lower than cost prices and I’ve been thinking about putting the 34 up for sale because I don’t play it much and a bit of a wrestling match in my advancing years.

    Good luck Molly, I hope you get some satisfaction from this

    Participant
    evolene_t on #233799

    @ Harpe, that seems like a lot of work to tweak a harp. Have you estimated how much these changes ended up being? I’m glad that you’re happy with them though. How do they compare (in terms of sound and feeling) to more standard harps like the Dusty Ravennas, Camacs or Salvi?

    I can’t help feeling that these Mikel harp are not worth the price, though. Sure, they’re cheap, but I recommend any future readers of this thread to look into reputable second-hand harps, if price is an issue. You can get really high quality harps this way. Here in France, you can find great harps for 1200€, that have been well cared for.
    You really get what you pay for in this instance.

    Participant
    Biagio on #233809

    The only reliable ways to get a good harp inexpensively are: 1) find a great deal on a second hand one, 2) be lucky, 3) build from a kit.

    1) That can often happen if you keep your eyes open, are willing to accept what fortune brings, and look it over in person
    2) That does happen more often than you might think if you try a “harp wanted” ad in harp forums. ( Recently a person here was given a 30 year old Triplett Axline)
    3) You will pay for the cost of materials, the labor in cutting the shapes, and about a 15% profit margin to the kit maker. Or about $1400 US (see below figure).

    In terms just of raw materials with adequate levers a decent 34 +/- string harps will cost at least $1200 US and that is before labor and either designing it or buying a blueprint. I does not get much cheaper anywhere else in the world.

    That figure of course does not consider some innovative ideas such as a card board box with plywood frame. Which can actually be OK but you have to know how to do it.

    There are, naturally, exceptions: a friend (in Maine) made a beautiful harp from lumber salvaged from an old barn at no cost except strings and hardware. But Fred has a fully equipped shop and knows what he is doing.

    Biagio

    Participant
    Molly K on #233813

    Yes, I have very much learned my lesson with cheap harps. I come from a music background, and was misled by prior experience. I’ve never had a problem with cheaper foreign guitars or many other instruments. But harps have proven to be a different story.

    I think the strings are just subpar, as the new strings I’ve gotten from Robinson’s feel a bit different. The bridge pins do seem to have quite the angle from the tuning/string holding pegs, but it isn’t any sharper then on my harpsicle.

    Currently, I’m planning on selling the Mikel at a reduced price (I hate to rip off someone else to make up for my mistake) and using it for a down payment on a Ravenna 34.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #233814

    I agree with Evolène regarding buying a second hand harp from a reputable harp shop. In the Netherlands one could also buy a decent, somewhat older second hand harp for about the same price you mention.

    And, like Evolène, I’m convinced that such a harp would be a much better investment than a cheap Paki harp of about the same price or a little less. Also, second hand harps from reputable builders tend to keep their value when one would want to sell it later on. It would be real hard though to try and sell a used Paki for a neat price.

    I get the impression that in the US second hand harps are significantly pricier than they are where we live in Europe.

    I also agree with the three points made above by Biagio.

    Anyway, all this information doesn’t benefit Molly now. So I hope she will manage to make her Paki harp function and sound as good as possible.

    Participant
    hearpe on #234232

    “@ Harpe, that seems like a lot of work to tweak a harp. Have you estimated how much these changes ended up being?”

    Well Molly-

    Outside of replacing strings, the changes have cost me only 50 cents worth of sandpaper- although I have used some wood and metal files I already owned.

    Mostly I’ve sanded the inside of the sound boxes- tho not the soundboard side- and enlarged the sound holes a bit- Both harps have internal box bracing that I find probably too heavy and blocking of longer sound waves, especially near the top-

    On the small 27 Saffron (mistakenly I called it a 26 earlier- I’ve also tapered the pillar and top peg board piece- a little bit like a Triplett clarsach, but the work is still in progress- I sand more whenever I feel and not sure at what point I’ll be satisfied.

    And so between thinning the materials and giving slightly more inner volume and more space for the sound to exit- if you compare pictures with other harps, the Mikel holes are relatively smaller- the sound has improved, and every loss of material also makes the harps just a bit more manageable.

    The rounded sound box material is quite sturdy- so it’s my own risk if it falls over- neither harps ever leave the house.

    I’ve done this same but with guitars through the years and can always hear the improvement- but I warn you! This can be a CURSE of DISATISFACTION- knowing you can always get a little better sound- At some point we may all be better off simply PRACTICING.

    I’m sorry the Mikel didn’t work out- I’m glad you have options and hope you find a harp worthy of your ambitions.

    Participant
    hearpe on #234233

    To add to the post above w/o editing- posts have been known to vanish!- I just wanted t mention that enlarging the sound holes has also facilitated access to the strings on the underside of the sound b0ard – and that helps those of us with big hands.

    Participant
    adla on #252513

    Sorry to dig up an old thread, but I wanted to chime in here with my experience with Mikel Celtic since this seems to be one of the most recent reviews available. I’m sorry to hear that yours wasn’t great, but my experience makes me think that maybe yours was an unusual circumstance rather than an indication that their customer service is normally poor. I just purchased my first harp from them and I was very happy with both their customer service and with the harp (though I admit that I am new to harps other than the mass-produced rosewood ones– but the harp I bought from them is certainly nothing like the rosewood ones at all. I love it).

    I saw your review before I purchased mine, but given their good (albeit limited) feedback on eBay, I decided to place an order through their eBay store because I felt like that might give me a little more protection if anything went wrong. I really didn’t want the only Saffron 27 that was listed, though, because it was blue, so I contacted them and they built me one in a walnut finish instead. They were quick to answer all my questions both before and after my purchase. Unfortunately, I bought it right around the time that COVID started shutting everything down last spring, so international mail services from Pakistan to the US stopped running for several months– but Mikel Celtic was still quick to respond each time I checked in while waiting. What’s more, the gentleman I emailed with seemed very genuinely concerned about news he was hearing about COVID in the USA back at the beginning of the pandemic when everything was really scary. In fact, we exchanged a number of messages that had little to do with the harp at all– I felt more like I’d made a friend on the other side of the world who was worried about our country’s wellbeing. I was quite touched and got the impression that he, at least, is a very kind person.

    Anyway, back to the harp. After waiting for four months (during which time Mikel was still quick to respond to all my emails), they reached out to me and offered to pay part of the very steep shipping fees for FedEx instead of using the regular mail since there was no knowing how long we’d have to keep waiting. I took them up on this offer and paid the remainder of the FedEx fees after their contribution, and the harp was safe and sound on my doorstep four days later.

    As I mentioned, I am a novice with harps. But I absolutely love the instrument I received. It feels sturdy enough not to pull apart like my old rosewood one, and I think it sounds lovely. I could not be happier with the harp, but honestly, it was Mikel’s customer service and the unsolicited compassion during a frighteningly uncertain time that left an impression on me. I am very happy that I decided to place an order with them, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do so again if I ever needed another harp like this.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #252515

    Hi Adla,
    Congratulations with your 27 string Saffron. I hope you will be very happy with it for many years to come.

    I’m glad to hear you had a positive experience until now. Reviews like yours are important for starting harpers who need a nicely priced harp.

    Would you like to share some picture of it?

    Would you like to tell something about the feeling of the strings (like, does the tension feel more or less even over the whole range? Could you perhaps compare the string tension with that of another harp?)

    Are the levers functioning properly (in tune and without much noise)?

    I guess you got this harp very recently, so there’s probably not much to say about string breakage, but if you had any broken strings, where did they break (near the eyelets, the bridge pins or somewhere in the middle of the strings)?

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