This may come as a suprise, but many of our optimized and custom harmonicas come with the stock comb. Especially considering that both Dave and Matthew have been making custom combs for the last decade:
Why and Supply
THERE IS NO OPTIMAL HARMONICA COMB EXCEPT A DECENT STOCK ONE.
Both Dave and Matthew have found various materials that were great for making harmonica combs, but the they have always had a problem keeping them in supply. Dave ran out of the rare American Chestnut and Matthew encountered various licensing and supply issues when he made custom bamboo and Corian® combs while managing Hetrick. Plus, Matthew has chosen to retire from manufacturing custom combs and focus only on customizing.
New Methods For Optimizing Stock Combs
We assure you there will be no difference in play with our methods of getting the best out of the stock models we have chosen.
After several years of working on harps, we have developed methods to optimize and flatten stock combs that perform just as well as custom ones. There really is no difference if you start with a good foundation. Our favorites include all Seydel stock combs (which are the flattest stock combs in the business), Suzuki Manji/Olive composite, and the Hohner Crossover comb.
We Like Custom Combs Too
NOW, don't get us wrong. A well made, flat, custom comb can be a wonderful thing. Especially if you are not customizing and just want to get a performance bump from your stock harp. We highly recommend them. But we are no longer in the comb business and we are trying to make affordable builds that appeal to a wider audience.
We do have a small supply of custom combs built up over the years. They will be available on a limited basis for special harmonica projects and ready-to-go customs.
Not Compatible With Certain Models
Have you ever tried to install a custom comb on a Special 20 or Session? It's not easy. We can do it, but not on the cheap. The primary reason is that these are stock harmonicas that are designed to be lower cost/mass production and they do not have a groove in the reedplate to accomodate the coverplate if a stock comb is installed. The reeds are good, but not usually optimal for a sandwich style comb.
Lastly, the price of custom combs has been sharply devalued over the last few years. This is one reason why Matthew Smart retired from the comb making business. For example, a perfectly flat, super polished Corian® comb that takes an hour of hand work is really worth $50 or more. We cannot build these into the cost of our flagship optimized and so we hope you understand the need to limit availability.
It's not the comb that makes the harp, it's the builder working the reeds!