The harp is a remarkably versatile string instrument with a wide variety of build styles, namely lever harps and pedal harps. As solo instruments, parts of orchestras and everything in between, harps are played around the world in numerous musical styles.
Because the harp is such a popular instrument, it makes perfect sense that there are plenty of options to choose from on the market. With such a wide variety of harps, knowing the top brands is useful.
Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect of an instrument, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgement. In this article, I'll share my take on the top harp brands.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the harps
- Longevity of the harps
- Variety of harps available
- Accessibility of the harps (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let's list out the brands.
The top 11 best harp brands are:
- Lyon & Healy
- Resonance Harps
- Dusty Strings
- Rees Harps
- Triplett Harps
- Pilgrim Harps
- Stoney End
- Music Makers
Let's get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best harp brands. I'll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable harp, and a link to their official website.
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At the time Camac Harps was founded, the best harps in the world came from Japan. Thus, a former French Marines electronic engineer, Joël, made it his business to change the equation and put France on top of the list.
For this endeavour, he spent close to ten years meeting with countless harpists and trying to understand what makes a great harp. As a result, and after long years of research and development, Camac went on to occupy 95% of the Breton harp market.
Nowadays, Camac is considered among the best harps in the world. If your budget allows it, you should try one.
Notable harp: Camac Art Nouveau Gold (link to check it out at Camac)
The Camac Art Nouveau Gold is the pinnacle of the Camac line of pedal harps, which is the same to say that it is among the best pedal harps in the world.
It is made of the best tonewoods in the world: European Cherrywood for the body, spruce for the soundboard, and beech for the neck and base. On top of that resonant, beautiful wood, you can find 24-carat water gilding. Moreover, the shiny gold accentuates the mesmerizing original design by sculptor Jean-Bernard Jouteau.
If you are after the kind of pedal harp that can change your world, this might be it. Plus, it features a ten-year warranty.
Camac was founded in 1972 by Joël Garnier. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Paris, France.
Official website: camac-harps.com
Lyon & Healy
Although famous for their harps, Lyon & Healy started as a company that manufactured many instruments, including pianos and guitars. By the 1900s, the demand was so high they had to retail instruments under subsidiary brands, of which Washburn might be the best-known.
In the 70s, the company was owned by Steinway & Sons. During that time, knowledge transference among these major brands was utterly positive. Furthermore, it was Steinway that decided to focus Lyon & Healy only on harp production.
Lyon & Healy is considered one of the best harp brands globally; if you haven't already, give this 150+ year endeavour a chance.
The very spirit of the Chicago music scene beats vibrantly inside each of the models in the line.
Speaking of which, this is the ideal harp for musicians who love expressing emotion when they play. This is because the body of the instrument is entirely made of hand-picked, extra-resonant maple, and the soundboard is made of Pacific Northwest Sitka Spruce.
If you want to walk on the stage to pour your heart into every melody, this is a must-try before you buy.
Lyon & Healy was founded by George Washburn Lyon and Patrick Joseph Healy in 1864. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Official website: lyonhealy.com
Before making his first harp, Victor Salvi was the harpist of the United States Navy Band, the New York Philarmonic, and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Moreover, his father was a master luthier and piano maker. This long heritage, combined with the experience of playing the harp at the highest level, gave Victor all the elements to create the ultimate harp design.
Nowadays, Salvi owns Lyon & Healy and is also the biggest harp manufacturer in the world. If you are after the best, Salvi has to be on your list.
Notable harp: Salvi Delta (link to check it out at Delta Harp)
Did you ever think there would be an electric harp you could hold like an electric guitar or bass and play? Well, welcome to the Slavi Delta, the revolutionary electric harp by Salvi that is here to change everything we think we know about harps.
But that's not all; the design of the Delta is also revolutionary since the strings run over a bridge allowing the player to perform slides and pitch bending. Furthermore, the bridge pickup keeps sounds crisp and clear throughout the frequency spectrum.
If you're in search of a new sound, this harp might be it.
Salvi was founded in 1956 by Victor Salvi. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Piasco, Italy.
Official website: salviharps.com
Russian harp tradition started in the 1930s and grew non-stop for decades. By 1947, the Resonance Harps facility was the only mass-producer of harps in Europe.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the facilities were restored, and, in 2006, Resonance Harps resumed production of the models developed for a century under Soviet ruling.
As a result, Resonance Harps are the perfect mix of past and present, showing the world the proud legacy of the Russian musical tradition.
The Erida is part of what Resonance Harps calls Concert Collection. It is 185cm high and features an extended, ornamented soundboard of 57 cm that comes as a standard in Sitka spruce but can be made in a variety of wood types at the player's request.
This 36 kg concert harp retains the quintessential tone classical players seek in concert harps and adds the ergonomic design and the vintage flavour to the mix. Furthermore, each Erida can be acquired in natural, black, walnut, and mahogany finishes with matte or gloss varnish.
Resonance Harps was founded by Alexey Kaplyuk and Sergey Maykov in 1947. Currently, the company's headquarters are in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Official website: resonanceharps.com
The story behind the company could be summarized in only one word: passion. Indeed, Ray was to become a dentist until he bought a hammered dulcimer kit and fell in love with the process. Soon after, he and his roommate, Randy, founded Dusty Strings to do something with the accumulation of new instruments their hobby left behind.
Nowadays, the number of built instruments ascends to 40,000, and the craftsmanship skills are over the roof. If you want an instrument made with passion, unmatched attention to detail, and a great sound, you have to try a Dusty Strings harp.
As the name would suggest, the Boulevard Classic 34 is a 34-string harp. It features full levers, concert tension gut strings, laminated European Birch soundboard and stave-back soundbox.
It's built with a solid beech neck and pillar with a black finish and comes with a removable stand and deluxe case.
Dusty Strings was founded by Ray Mooers and Randy Hudson. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, USA.
Official website: dustystrings.com
Although the company was founded in 1992, William had been making harps for 20 years as a side income to his teaching profession. The decision to fund the company was made to meet the increasing demand for the instruments William, made partly as a hobby and partly as a job.
With time, the entire family and the business relocated to a 7000 square feet facility in Rising Sun, Indiana, where the company manufactures and ships harps to every corner of the planet. If you want the kind of attention to detail and care for a job well done only a family company can give you, you have to try a Rees harp today.
This is the model that captivated Stevie Wonder's ears as he was walking at the NAMM show. He was drawn in because of the expressiveness this instrument is capable of with the perfect combination of light sensitivity and coloration from the wood choice.
This is the perfect harp for those harpists who love to bring the nuances and colours to a ballad and still need enough volume to fill the room.
Rees Harps was founded by William and Pamela Rees in 1992. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Rising Sun, Indiana, USA.
Official website: reesharps.com
Triplett Harps is an internationally renowned Celtic harp manufacturer, making some of the highest quality handcrafted harps in the world.
The company's impressive catalogue of harps features a wide range of sizes and styles to accommodate any stage of a harpist's journey.
In addition to masterful instruments, Triplett Harps prides itself on being a green company. The finest woods are sourced from sustainable sources, and the harps are made in a near-zero waste facility without polyester lacquers.
Go green and sound great while doing so with a Triplett harp!
The Triplett Christina harp is designed as a therapy harp to benefit both players and listeners. It is a great harp for seated positions and allows the harpist to look over the top (great for seeing patients or band members).
This lightweight harp is relatively easy to transport and offers a beautiful, balanced tone.
Triplett Harps was founded by Steve Triplett in 1980 out of his previously-founded business Santa Barbara Luthiery. The company headquarters are located in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.
Official website: triplettharps.com
The tradition behind Aoyama harps goes back to the 1880s. That was the decade this family started making stringed instruments. That legacy and know-how cascaded for generations making this brand a synonym with great build quality and amazing sound.
Moreover, Aoyama's headquarters feature a concert hall and a museum for old models, making the manufacturing facility a place where the past and the present meet to create something unique.
If you haven't already, try an Aoyama harp today.
Notable harp: Aoyama 47S Apollon (link to check it out at Aoyama)
The description read under the name of this harp is “luxurious grand concert harp”. Indeed, the motto makes complete sense at first sight since the ornamentation of this harp is unmatched in the market for its complexity and delicious taste.
Beyond looks, this is a very capable pedal harp entirely made of walnut with a hand-picked spruce soundboard and details in gilded gold. For those after a luxurious instrument that can perform flawlessly, look stunning, and last for a lifetime, the Aoyama Apollon is a goldmine.
Aoyama was founded by Jitaroh Aoyama in 1897. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Official website: aoyamaharp.ca
John Hoare started making harps in 1966, Peter Rovery started in 1969, Peter Cunningham started in 1973, and Jerry Blumire in 1978. When they realized they were all chasing the same objective: creating an affordable, great-sounding, light harp to revolutionize the market, they joined forces.
Today, over 40 years later, their combined experience, passion, and talent allow Pilgrim Harps to grow one happy customer at the time. Moreover, all harps are made in a transformed house next to the forest in Surrey, England, by expert craftsmen. If you haven't already, and they fit your budget, try one today.
Electroacoustic harps are the perfect blend of past and present, ready to take any stage. In this case, Pilgrim Harps put together a great combo featuring the same build quality and attributes you would expect from any Pilgrim harp, adding a crystal clear, well-balanced sound from the pickup in the soundboard.
Perhaps, the biggest asset of this particular model is that the system retains the flavour, tone, and integrity of the sound, providing evenness throughout the range. You can see it in action in this video and this video in the hands of virtuoso player Fran Barsby.
Pilgrim Harps was founded in 1980 by Jerry Blumire, John Hoare, Peter Rovery, and Peter Cunningham. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Surrey, England.
Official website: pilgrimharps.co.uk
Gary Stone was a furniture maker with a great talent for turning wood into something else but very little passion for his work. He was struggling to make ends meet until he found his passion: making musical instruments.
As soon as the couple started making dulcimers and harps, word got around, and demand was sky-high. This high demand allowed the company to grow. Nowadays, all operations are carried on inside a restored old barn that is also a music hall where the entire community can appreciate the instruments made by the company.
If you are after a great harp made by hand and with love in a family tradition, try a Stoney End today.
Made in the classic Celtic shape, this 22-string harp covers a three-octave range from G to G. The size is perfect for harpists on the move since it can not only be transported easily (optional soft gig bag available) but also because you can use it with a shoulder strap and play on your feet.
For the harpist who wants to play on the move, loves Celtic music, and wants a quality instrument, trying this one out is a must.
Stoney End was founded by Eve and Gary Stone in 1984. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Red Wing, Minnesota, USA.
Official website: stoneyend.com
Perhaps, the secret to MusicMakers' success is that it is a company run by self-taught employees who are not afraid of challenges. Thus, you can purchase a state-of-the-art instrument or a harp DIY kit and assume the challenge yourself at the same place.
Furthermore, the company also makes the Reverie Harp widely used for therapeutic reasons in health institutions, as seen in this video.
If you are a harpist with a taste for new challenges in the search for a new instrument, trying a MusicMakers before buying is a must.
Harpists looking for a big bass sound will find the Epic Harp's bowed belly a great source for inspiration. Indeed, it is very hard to find another folk harp capable of producing that size of a low end. This is especially important in this instrument because the 38 strings are arranged from A1 to C7, giving you a full tonal palette and some extra low notes to enjoy the extended bass frequency.
Other than the low-end, the sound of this harp is full, round, huge, and bright. You can hear (and see) it for yourself in the hands of Nicolas Carter in this video.
MusicMakers history starts in 1978 as an unusual hobby store in Stillwater, Minnesota, USA, where the headquarters remain still.
Official website: harpkit.com