Sound of L&H 85 CG’s vs 23’s?

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    Gregg Bailey on #255050

    I understand that harps of the exact same model can sound noticeably different from each other, but, in general, is the sound of L&H 85 CG’s similar/comparable to 23’s? Is the only real difference between the 2 styles just in the visual aesthetics? I see on the L&H website that the 85 CG is 1/2″ shorter and 3/8″ wider in the extreme width dimension than the 23, for whatever reason, but that they have the same soundboard width. If one is seeking to have the 23 sound in a less-expensive model, can that be expected from an 85 CG?

    billooms on #255075

    When I took the L&H factory tour in Chicago 2 years ago, they said that all of their full sized harps (with the exception of the Chicago and Salzedo) had the same construction for the soundboard, body, and action. I played a number of different harps and bought an 85CG because I really liked the sound of that particular instrument. Two other 85CG harps I played sounded quite different and had some subtle difference in the feel when plucking the strings. My conclusion was that there is more difference between individual instruments than there is between models. Small variations occur in the wood of the soundboard and can have a significant impact on the sound.
    If you prefer more carving, decoration, and gold leaf then choose a model that offers that. But in any case it’s important to play an instrument to see if you like the sound and the feel.

    balfour-knight on #255085

    Absolutely, Bill! Gregg–play a lot of them and then choose the one that “speaks to you.” I have owned 85’s that I loved, but never found a 23 that I wanted to buy. Since I play harp professionally, I was often provided with a 23 when doing concerts, so I have played many of them. In the end, I have only one pedal harp, a gorgeous Camac Atlantide Prestige, which I love more than any L&H. Of course, that is just my personal taste, and everyone is different. Go with your favorite!

    Best wishes,

    Gregg Bailey on #255129

    Hi, Balfour,

    It’s funny–it was one of YOUR previous posts that led me to ask this question! It was one in which you indicated that the Style 23 is THE orchestral harp! Why has the 23 become the “gold” standard, pardon the pun? (And have many people made that pun? I imagine so…) 😉

    Gregg Bailey on #255130

    Hi, Bill,

    Very interesting. I do see on the L&H website that the Style 30 has the same soundboard width as the Salzedo, and I understand that those 2 styles are designed with more power in mind for orchestral use. I’m trying to figure out why the 23 has become so much more popular than the other L&H models. Is it just the look?

    balfour-knight on #255132

    Too funny, Gregg! It is very interesting that the 23, especially the Gold one, became THE orchestral harp. My wife says that folks must have thought “that is what a harp should look like.” I do know that other harps made by L&H look very similar to the 23–just look at the 17, which is only slightly smaller. They have also made a 21, 22 and a 24 that have much the same style.

    In the 1889 catalog of L&H, the 23, the 21 and the 22 are pictured, and the 22 had the “new patent enlarged sounding board.” (Now referred to as the extended sound board.) All three of these harps had 45 strings and were 69″ high. The Gothic style No. 25 was the only 47 string harp offered, and it stood 71″ high. It could be had also with an extended sound board.

    Just why the 23 “won out” and became what it is, I do not know. Maybe there are others reading this forum who can shed some light on this question. I look forward to it!

    Best regards,

    Gretchen Cover on #255156

    Harpists tend to play the harp their teachers owned.

    balfour-knight on #255185

    I agree, Gretchen, but I was a “rebel,” I guess! My teachers all played Lyon & Healy and Steinway, but I found other brands I liked better, ha, ha!

    Harp Hugs,

    karen on #255188

    I owned an 85 and now own a 23 and there is a vast difference between them. There is a reason the 23 is significantly more expensive than an 85 and it is way more than the carving. I did a tour of the L&H factory before buying it, and they did discuss the differences. I don’t agree that students buy what their teacher plays. One teacher plays a 100 and the other a Salvi Minerva. I went for the one that had the sound and feel I wanted. That said, I could play a different 23 and not feel the same. I really wanted an Salvi Iris or a L&H 11–but those did not have the sound or feel that I wanted. It’s a big decision. Good luck!

    karen on #255189

    Last comment—if a 23 sounded like an 85, they would not be the number one selling harp. So, no—do not expect to get an 85 and feel confident that it sounds at all like a 23. A lot more effort goes into making their signature harp. And, a Camac (as mentioned above) will never sound like a L&H or a Salvi—they really have their very own distinct sound and feel.

    balfour-knight on #255191

    Karen, you are so right about “a Camac will never sound like a L&H or Salvi….” It is precisely this difference in tone, sound, and feel that makes me prefer Camac.
    Best to you all,

    karen on #255193

    Gregg Bailey—this was just posted and you might find it really useful.

    Gregg Bailey on #255195

    Hi, Karen,

    Thank you for your replies! I wondered if somehow more went into the 23 beyond the less expensive models than just the ornate carving! And Chiara’s video makes a lot of sense about different harps working better for different periods of repertoire; similarly, as an organist, I don’t care for rendering Baroque organ works on a primarily romantic-style organ, or worse, trying to play romantic works on a very lean Neo-baroque organ, even though it’s often possible, though we organists have to adapt/make do with what we have in any given venue (and maybe avoid certain literature altogether on certain organs)!

    Gregg Bailey on #255196


    I recently got a copy of the L&H 1899 catalog facsimile; is it just me, or do the 21 and 22 look considerably more like the modern 23 than the 1899 model 23 does, including the carving (esp the bottom of the column) and crown? It begs the question, what has made a 23 a 23 through the years? In other words, what is still the same in the modern 23 as in the original? If the number of strings, dimensions, soundboard, color, and even carving of the 23 has changed so much over time, can the modern 23 even be considered to be the same harp as the original 23?

    balfour-knight on #255197

    You are exactly on my wave-length, Gregg! Just how the 23 has changed over the years would make a great doctoral dissertation, wouldn’t it?

    I only have the 1899 catalog facsimile, but I am sure there were many L&H catalogs through the years which might shed some light on this subject. L&H themselves could probably provide some answers if they were contacted.

    Best of luck,

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