Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > SUB-30 Customization Kit by Blue moon
SUB-30 Customization Kit by Blue moon
Login  |  Register
Page: 1

444 posts
Apr 14, 2014
2:09 PM
I apologize in advance. This is going to be a long post (but I have OKed it with the Moderators)

The SUB-30 Customization Kit – by Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC

The Suzuki SUB-30 made its eagerly anticipated debut at the 2012 SPAH Convention. The revolutionary design squeezes an additional 10 reeds into a harp the same size as a standard 10-hole diatonic and offers the ability to play chromatically without the use of over-blows or over-draws. The SUB-30 was heralded by some as the “Future of the Diatonic Harmonica” but the excitement quickly faded when it became apparent that out of the box, the SUB-30 fell short of expectations.

It is not unusual for an Out-of-the-Box harp to need some degree of customization to transform it into something special. It is a common practice. But the SUB-30 presented some challenges that the harp world was ill equipped to deal with. The injection molded plastic combs and the extra reeds on the SUB-30 make it leaky and unresponsive. It is a great concept but a little lacking on execution. And to make matters worse, because of the specialized design of the SUB-30 there were no aftermarket parts available to help address these problems – until now.

I am happy to announce that Blue Moon Harmonicas has developed a Customization Kit for the Suzuki SUB-30 that will help unlock its potential.

The SUB-30 Customization Kit consists of two components specially designed for the SUB-30 and replacement covers. The specially designed components are the BMH30 Comb and the External Valve Plate (EVP). The kit is completed by replacing the stock SUB-30 covers with either Manji or ProMaster covers (Your choice)

BMH30 Custom Comb

The BMH30 Comb is the dream child of Brendan Power, the inventor of the SUB-30. I met Brendan at SPAH 2012 and he invited me to collaborate with him on the development of a solid CNC milled comb for the SUB-30. After seemingly endless emails and a few Skype meetings we were able to finalize a design concept. I then hired a CAD designer and a professional CNC Machine Shop to produce a comb we dubbed the BMH30. It is one of the combs Brendan has been using to build his custom X-Reed SUB-30s. (He also uses some beautiful combs made by Max Manganelli of BlueX Labs.) It is available in Six Solid Surface Colors (i.e. DuPont™ Corian®) and Three Anodized Aluminum Colors. The BMH30 comb is a solid flat comb that creates a better seal with the reed plates and delivers better compression than the stock plastic comb.
Clear Anodized Aluminum BMH30 Comb photo BMH30ClearAluminum_zps49f5be9f.jpg

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 14, 2014 2:13 PM
445 posts
Apr 14, 2014
2:09 PM
Blue Moon External Valve Plate (EVP)

The External Valve Plate is something that I have been working on for the better part of a year. The SUB-30 comes stock as a 30-Reed/ 10-Valve harmonica. Valves prevent a reed from playing when you don’t want it to and allow it to play when you do want it to. The External Valve Plate is a single component that enables you to add 10 more valves to the SUB-30 making it a 30-Reed/20-Valve harmonica.

The EVP is precision CNC machined from a solid plate of non-corrosive, hypoallergenic Nickel Steel, also known as “German Silver” (The same material used by Seydel in the 1847 Silver model). It requires no special tools or additional screws to install – just a Phillips head screwdriver. It fits perfectly on top of the upper SUB-30 reed plate (the one with 20 reeds). It can be installed on a stock SUB-30 comb or, of course, in combination with the BMH30 comb.

The Extra Reeds (also called “Helper Reeds” or “Sympathetic Reeds”) are blow reeds on holes 1 through 6. Therefore they are valved on top of the plate so the valves will close when you draw in and open when you blow out. The Extra Reeds on holes 1 – 6 are played by blow-bending just as you do on holes 8 -10 on a standard Richter tuned harp.

The Extra Reeds on holes 7 through 10 are draw reeds. These are valved on the inside of the EVP so that the valves close when you blow and open when you draw. The Extra Reeds on holes 7 – 10 are played by draw bending.

The picture below shows how the valve plate lines up with the top SUB-30 reed plate - with 20 reeds.
Blue Moon External Valve Plate and Top Reed Plate for Suzuki SUB-30 photo EVPandReedPlate_zps0cefd443.jpg

This picture shows how the EVP fits on top of the reed plate. You can see the reeds through the non-valved slots. The second EVP in the picture shows the underside. A lot of thought, design work and extremely precise CNC milling went into the creation of the External Valve Plate. You can see that on holes 7 – 10 the valve plate is thicker. This allows us to create chambers and install valves on the inside of the chambers. This is necessary because the sympathetic reeds on holes 7 -10 are draw reeds. They have to be valved in such a way that they will stay closed when you breathe into the harp and open when you draw. The sympathetic reeds on holes 7 – 10 are played by using a standard draw bend technique.
Blue Moon External Valve Plate photo EVPTopandBottom_zps3594e3a2.jpg

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 14, 2014 6:52 PM
446 posts
Apr 14, 2014
2:10 PM
The significance of the additional 10 valves is that they enable you to isolate two of the three reeds in every chamber whether you are playing a draw note or a blow note. This is huge! It simultaneously seals off the leaks created by the third reed in each slot and enables you to bend the lower pitched of the two reeds in play via traditional draw bend or blow bend techniques. Valves dramatically improve the responsiveness of the SUB-30.

One of the knocks on the stock SUB-30 is that the extra reeds on the 1 – 4 blow plate create leaks which makes the draw bends on holes 1 -4 less responsive. No self-respecting blues player can live with that. Who’s going to give up the draw bends on 1 through 4?!?! That’s where The Blues lives! In fact, one of the first guys to do a video demonstrating the SUB-30 was Richard Sleigh. In that video he advocated taping off (with scotch tape) the extra reeds on holes 1 – 4 in order to eliminate the leaks and make the 1 – 4 draw bends more responsive. The EVP solves that problem and in fact makes it much easier to play all the extra notes using standard blow bends on holes 1 through 6 and draw bends on holes 7 through 10. There’s a lot more to this story but I’m trying to give you the abbreviated version.

Manji or ProMaster Covers

The Kit also includes your choice of ProMaster or Manji Covers. The stock SUB-30 covers don’t fit too well when you eliminate the stock comb so you need to replace the covers.

This is what a completed Blue Moon Custom SUB-30 looks like with both the Manji and ProMaster covers. Because of the full length EVP, the top plate resembles a harp with double reed plates. It only adds 0.040” (40/1000ths of an inch) thickness to the harp. It looks a feels like a standard Manji or ProMaster.

Custom Blue Moon SUB-30 with Manji Covers photo SUB-30Manji2_zpsdc1f6350.jpg

Back of Custom Blue Moon SUB-30 photo SUB-30Manji3_zps8a0563c6.jpg

Custom Blue Moon SUB-30 with ProMaster Covers photo SUB-30ProMaster1_zpsbd169d86.jpg

Custom Blue Moon SUB-30 with Manji Covers photo SUB-30Manji4_zps022d81ae.jpg

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 14, 2014 2:13 PM
447 posts
Apr 14, 2014
2:11 PM
By the way, it is worth mentioning that part of the genius of the SUB-30 design is that it is laid out exactly the same as a standard Richter tuned diatonic. If you randomly picked up one of the two harps pictured above and started playing it, unless you typically used over-blows and over-draws (those would be missing), you would think it was a standard diatonic harp. So you don’t have to learn a new breath pattern. It’s the same as what we are all so familiar with. Where the difference comes in is that you can now blow-bend the Extra Reeds on holes 1 – 6 and draw-bend the Extra Reeds on holes 7 – 10. Personally I find training my brain to look for those extra notes is a bigger challenge than actually playing them. Unless you are an accomplished over-blow and over-draw player we are used to playing around the missing notes in a diatonic harp. There are no missing notes in the SUB-30.

Products, Services and Pricing

I am offering SUB-30 Customization Kits, a Retrofit and Customization Service and Brand New Custom Blue Moon SUB-30’s. Here’s how the pricing breaks down.

Customization Kit

If you already own a SUB-30 you can purchase the components and install them yourself. All you need is a Phillips head screwdriver. Some degree of customization such as embossing and gapping is highly recommended to maximize the performance of the SUB-30.

All the pricing is a la carte.

BMH30 Comb $ 44.95
External Valve Plate $ 44.95
Cover Plates $ 20.00
Complete Kit $ 109.90

Retrofit and Customization Service

If you already own a SUB-30 and don’t want to install the kit yourself, send it to Blue Moon and we will customize your SUB-30 for you. Just buy the kit for $109.90 and pay a $50.00 Customization Fee which will include:
1. Full Reed Slot Embossing
2. Reed Chamfering
3. Gaps Adjusted for Improved Response
4. Extra Fine Tuning to Modern Compromise Temperament (similar to Hohner Crossover)
5. Precise Tuning of Sympathetic Reeds to insure bending capability
6. External Valve plate valved with High Quality Hohner Wind Savers

The turn-around time on the Customization Service is about 30 days.

New Blue Moon Custom SUB-30’s
All of the above and of course includes a new Suzuki SUB-30.
Available in the Keys of A, C & D Price: $275.00

So there’s something for everybody – Components, Kits, Retrofit and Customization Service and Brand new SUB-30’s.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

As with anything else offered by Blue Moon, everything comes with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy it back from you and we part friends. Simple as that.

How to Order

I am in the process of revamping my website. At the present moment I find myself in the unfortunate position of not being able to add new items to my old (still up and running) website but the new site is not quite ready for prime time. So placing an order will require a little back and forth communication with me via email, phone conversations and PayPal invoices. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but I am anxious to make the kit available.

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 14, 2014 2:14 PM
448 posts
Apr 14, 2014
2:11 PM
Final Thoughts

The SUB-30 was introduced in August 2012. The BMH30 combs were available in January 2013. In other words, I could have started promoting the combs more than a year ago as a standalone aftermarket component. But I didn’t. I have been sitting on them. Why? Because I knew that even though the BMH30 Comb makes a big difference in the way the SUB-30 plays - it is not the complete solution. It isn’t enough to make the SUB-30 everything people hoped it would be. The External Valve Plate in addition to the BMH30 comb is the key. It took a long time to solve the puzzle and there were several people involved in the development. We have been working behind the scenes to solve the mystery. I brought prototypes of the EVP with me to SPAH in St. Louis and picked the brains of some of the best harmonica minds in the world. So I can hardly take all the credit for its design. It was a collaborative effort and an evolution. And I am very grateful to those people (who shall go nameless at this time) but who were tremendously helpful.

The development of the BMH30 Comb and the External Valve Plate are testaments to the ingenuity of the harmonica community. That’s why I am so excited about being able to offer the SUB-30 Customization Kit. I make no claims of being a great harmonica customizer. I’m a parts guy. I make components. Every innovation that has ever been developed to improve a harp has come from the harmonica community at large - guys who are willing to experiment and try something new to make their harps play better. The fact that I am now able to offer this kit is a testament to that fact. And there have only been a handful of guys involved in the process. It’s the eternal quest. That passion will ultimately unlock the potential of the SUB-30. Up until now there have only been a handful of guys working on SUB-30’s. Now all the components necessary to build custom SUB-30’s are available to anyone who wants to work on them. From the very beginning I have believed that the SUB-30 has great potential. We have finally gotten to a point where we can begin to see that potential realized.

I have created a brief video presentation that will provide some additional information and will be uploading that to YouTube in the next few days. You can also click on any of the pictures imbedded in this post and it will take you to a PhotoBucket Album where you can see more pictures. And of course I encourage you to ask any questions you may have on this thread and I will answer them as quickly as possible. Please keep your questions of a general nature. If you want to conduct business let’s do that privately via email and/or phone conversations.

Thanks for listening.

Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC
(727) 366-2608

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 14, 2014 2:15 PM
583 posts
Apr 15, 2014
2:20 PM
I have one of Blue Moon's External Valve plates, and I have to say that it is a work of art. I now have a Blue Moon Corian Comb on it, and I have customized it and now I have the External Valve Plate, and it is a complete, usable package.

396 posts
Apr 15, 2014
2:42 PM
Yes.. But..
Are they flat??? Hmmmm....
Greg Jones
16:23 Custom Harmonicas
31 posts
Apr 15, 2014
3:06 PM
"So you don’t have to learn a new breath pattern."

That would be conter productive to make a new harmonica that's harder to produce and that would require even more skill to play than a simple diatonic harmonica.
Since, you know, overbend and bends are obtained the same way...

Anyway, good thing the sub30 is finaly complete.
However, that harps' maintenance sure looks hellishly hard .
449 posts
Apr 15, 2014
3:18 PM
Kaining. That is correct. You do not have to learn a new breath pattern. If you just picked one of these up and started playing it you would not know it was a 30-reed harp unless and until you tried to play an over-blow or an over-draw (which is not even in a lot of guys' repertoire so they never go there). That's when you would notice that there was something different about the SUB-30.

I'm not sure how hard the maintenance is going to be. I assume that as time passes I will get some feedback about that and I hope it becomes part of a larger pool of knowledge. I will say that taking taking it apart and putting it back together is not at all complicated.

Greg..................... I'm not even going there....
Tom Halchak

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 15, 2014 3:18 PM
44 posts
Apr 15, 2014
8:33 PM
Great ingenuity.

I found the SUB30 to be my most comfortable harp. It has super slick covers and a nicely rounded and recessed comb. Still, I was ready to turf the two I own for lack of response.

I hope your offering can save them. I'll take a less comfortable sandwich style comb if I can get a SUB30 that's actually playable.

The design of the plate on holes 1-6 is cool but holes 8-10 are the real revelation. As best I can tell from the pictures, the milling of the chambers isn't a strict 90 degrees but broadens as it goes from top to bottom of the EVP. The width of the valve is somewhere in between. This allows it to 'stick' and cover the slot when blowing but is narrow enough to open through the bottom of the EVP when drawing.
Pecise milling indeed. I'll be placing an order.

I'd still love to try X-Reed's MB30; because it's an MB. These might be nice as a little jazzier option.

Thanks Tom!
but this might be
450 posts
Apr 16, 2014
5:51 AM
Thanks Rover. What you are seeing is a bit of an optical illusion. The chambers are indeed milled at a 90 degree angle. There isn't a lot of room to spare between the slots but I was very happy that we were able to mill the chambers wide enough to accommodate a standard width valve. As you can see the valves are very small and are therefore stiff enough to stay closed yet flexible enough to open when doing draw bends on those holes. The narrower portion of the chamber is where the reed swings and you might also notice that the valve slot is positioned at the base of the reed so when the valve opens it does not interfere with the movement of the reed. There is a tremendous amount of detail that went into that little tiny space. If you are into that sort of thing, it was a lot of fun to work on and I was greatly relieved when it actually worked.

Tom Halchak
61 posts
Apr 16, 2014
12:19 PM
I've been curious about getting one of these for a long time so now might be the right time to get one. My question is, how hard is it going to be to get replacement reeds for this harmonica? If I can get reeds when they wear out then I can justify paying the money. If reeds are difficult to get a hold of then it's not going to be a good harp for me.
452 posts
Apr 16, 2014
1:20 PM
Hey Rock. I am sure you are not the only guy who was curious about the SUB-30 but at the same time reluctant to pull the trigger. Let's face it, the SUB-30 hasn't exactly gotten the best review. Some people have been outspoken with their criticism while others were just too polite to say how they really felt. That is part of the reason I resisted the temptation to market the BMH30 comb - even though I have had them in stock since December 2012. I didn't want to give people false hope. To be sure the BMH30 comb helps a great deal but the missing piece of the puzzle was the valve plate. Had I promoted the comb by itself as a solution I believe it would have done more harm than good.

If you were ever going to put your toe in the water now would be a good time. The combination of the custom comb and valve plate are an extremely effective solution for the SUB-30. There's no comparison. Night and day difference. And besides. I guarantee everything so there is zero risk. If you don't like it I will buy it back from you.

As for repair and or maintenance, I do have someone lined up who is equipped with the Suzuki Reed Replacement System and spare reeds. Also, Suzuki guarantees everything for a year so if the harp is less than a year old they will stand behind any reed failure.

As this whole thing unfolds I do believe that some of our talented friends in the harmonica community will express an interest in building and/or maintaining SUB-30's. Up until now there was no market for such as service because the parts to upgrade them did not exist. Bear in mind however that I am an optimist.

Thanks for your interest.

Tom Halchak

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 16, 2014 1:20 PM
Brendan Power
429 posts
Apr 18, 2014
4:37 AM
As Tom says in his info above, he and I worked together in 2012 to create the BMH30 solid comb for the Suzuki SUB30 reedplates. After I started X-Reed Harmonicas with Zombor Kovacs, we sold many of our early custom X-Reed SUB30s with it, before deciding to design and make our own specialist combs.

Though we are now in friendly competition with Blue Moon Harmonicas, the common factor is that we both believe in the huge potential of the extra-reed design. We've kept in touch with Tom and there is some healthy interplay going on between us that can only advance the performance of this type of harp for players in the long run.

Tom's External Valve Plate is clearly inspired by the X-Reed OverValve Plate we invented and have been adding to our harps for about 18 months, but he's extended the principle to the top 4 holes in a clever way. We earlier achieved the same effect at the top end by putting the valves in the comb on our Extrabend Z1 comb.

I met Tom at the NAMM Show and he had a SUB30 with his new EVP attached. I tried it, and it works well. I recommend it with the BMH30 comb package for Suzuki SUB30 buyers wishing to get better performance from their harp.

Last Edited by Brendan Power on Apr 18, 2014 4:38 AM
467 posts
Apr 18, 2014
11:48 AM
Brendan, thanks for the kind words. Coming from you that is high praise indeed.

For those of you who have not been as pre-occupied with the SUB-30 as Brendan and I, I’d like to use this opportunity to illustrate a few points. I am a naturally curious guy, like to solve puzzles and work with my hands. Given Brendan’s long list of innovations it is a safe bet that he is too. He even has a page on his website called the “Geek Zone’ http://www.brendan-power.com/harpgeeks.php#geeks2 His list of accomplishments is nothing short of amazing – and he has been at this much much longer than I have.

When the SUB-30 was introduced not quite two years ago it generated quite a buzz. Guys were very anxious to get their hands on one. The first production run was quickly gobbled up. Within months however the enthusiasm was all but gone. The general consensus was that it was a great concept but it wasn’t going to replace anyone’s favorite Marine Band or Manji. Ordinarily, a sub-par Out-of-the-Box harp would not deter the harmonica community at large from finding a way to make it play better. But the SUB-30’s design made that difficult, if not impossible, unless you were willing to invest a lot of money. So just about everybody gave up on the SUB-30. In fact, there are only five guys in the world that I am aware of who kept at it and continued to search for answers – Brendan Power, Zombor Kovacs, Max Manganelli, Richard Sleigh and me, Tom Halchak. And to tell you the truth, I did not even understand the question at first.

So, within 3 or 4 months of the date the SUB-30 was launched:
• Brendan and I developed the BMH-30 Comb.
• Brendan and Max developed the BlueX Labs Power Ultra Comb.
• Brendan and Zombor developed the OverValve Plate.

With the combination of the custom combs and OverValve Plate, Brendan and Zombor were able to offer custom SUB-30’s equipped with aftermarket components that “solved” probably 80% of the SUB-30’s “problems”. The combination of the comb, valve plate and expert reed work transformed the SUB-30 into a very good harp. The only missing piece of the puzzle was how to install valves on the 7 – 10 Sympathetic Reeds.

After fulfilling my commitment to Brendan for the BMH30 combs we went our separate ways and worked independent of each other. Blue Moon keeps me pretty busy with things other than the SUB-30 and Brendan(and Zombor) kept inventing more harmonicas like the ChromaBender and the MB-30. But I kept trying to figure out how to solve the puzzle of valving the 7 -10 slots on the SUB-30. During this period, Richard Sleigh was both an inspiration to keep going and probably the brains of the operation. I learned so much from our many conversations. Using Brendan’s OverVlave Plate as the foundation we made some great progress developing the External Valve Plate but we were still pretty much stumped by the 7 – 10 valves. We did have one design that worked but it would have been very expensive and time consuming to do so while it did give us hope we continued to search for a better solution. The breakthrough for me came as a result of SPAH. I brought some prototypes of the External Valve Plates with me and picked the brains of some people who are way smarter that I am. And within a month or so, the concept of the raised valve chambers over the 7 – 10 holes was born. There isn’t a lot of room to work with on the valve plate so it took quite a bit of 3D modeling trial and error to get it just right.

Continued below....

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 18, 2014 11:49 AM
468 posts
Apr 18, 2014
11:48 AM
In the mean-time, unbeknown to me, but not surprisingly, Brendan and Zombor had found a completely different solution. The Z1 Comb. When Brendan and Zombor debuted the Z1 Comb I was struck by the similarity between their design and the raised valve chambers on the EVP.

 photo Slide1_zpse5eb98c6.gif

In both cases, the 7 - 10 Sympathetic reeds are valved. The EVP has smaller openings and shorter valves than the Z1. On the EVP, the slots for the non-sympathetic reeds in holes 7 - 10 are longer and unvalved. On the Z1 comb the slots for the 7 – 10 non-sympathetic reeds are shorter – about the same size and shape as the valved slots on the EVP. I don’t know about anyone else, but this fascinates me. They are at the same time very similar but opposite. I can only imagine the number of brain cells Brendan and Zombor tortured as they came up with their design. Ingenious.

To put things into further perspective here is a side by side comparison of the complete X-Reed and Blue Moon solutions.

 photo Slide2_zpsabe5e6b5.gif

Both work. Which one is better? To tell you the truth, I don’t know. Maybe neither. To me, the distinction lies in the underlying motivation. The finished products reveal the nature of the creator. I think Brendan approached this challenge from the perspective of being able to deliver a customized harmonica to his customers. Being a parts guy, I approached it from the perspective of being able to deliver a component that anyone could install. We both accomplished our goals. Again, this sort of thing fascinates me.

Looking at the larger picture, we live in a world where there are many different brands and models of harmonicas. Each of them has their advocates and detractors and the question of which is best is a matter of personal preference and a subject of endless debate. Less than two years ago the SUB-30 was dead in the water mere months after its introduction. Today, via the efforts of only a handful of harmonica geeks, we now have not one, but two solutions. I absolutely agree with Brendan that the “healthy interplay going on between us can only advance the performance of this type of harp for players in the long run.” It is one thing to build a one-off harmonica in your shop. It is quite another to bring it to market as a commercially viable product. That both X-Reed and Blue Moon were able to do this independently and with mutual respect is something that I am proud to be a part of.

Tom Halchak

Last Edited by florida-trader on Apr 20, 2014 7:26 AM
585 posts
Apr 18, 2014
10:54 PM
Thanks guys. That was very informative

2 posts
Apr 19, 2014
4:19 AM
I also came up with a way to add valves to the SUB 30 by switching reeds on holes 7-10 and adding ramps in the comb with wind savers. I took a picture but did not figure out how to upload to this forum...

My solution was rapidly made obsolete by Brendan & Zombors version as well as Tom's...

So at this point, I am focusing on the MB30 design...
72 posts
May 03, 2014
4:28 AM
I'm bumping this because I'm getting 3 harps with "the works" and I don't want to search too far back to find the thread to tell everybody what I think. I bought they harps from the Japanese distributor which is about 1/3 the price of US distributors and they shipped direct to BMH. When I get my harps I'll let you all know know what I think.
36 posts
May 03, 2014
5:14 AM
"they shipped direct to BMH"

Oh, that's smart.
I hope you'll find what you seek with those harp btw :)
7706 posts
May 04, 2014
12:33 PM
" I took a picture but did not figure out how to upload to this forum..."

The trick is you have to host it somewhere else like Flikr or Photobucket. Then you right click the image and copy the url. You can either just post that and people can copy it into their url bar, or there is some HTML you can use to post it so it shows in the thread. (There is more information in the forum FAQ page.)

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)

Post a Message
Guest Name


(8192 Characters Left)

Please enter the code shown above and click the 'Post Message' button. This additional step is required to help protect against message spam.




blues harmonica riffs - harmonica tabs - learn harmonica - play harmonica

play harmonica easily - harp tabs for beginners - blues harmonica lessons


ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS