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Sweetharp

  • Barbara
    Barbara Dixon

    Has anyone received their Sweetharp yet?  I have only heard of one person who has theirs, and they purchased it in May/11.  I bought and paid for mine in June/11 and am still waiting.  Just wondered if anyone else has received theirs yet.  I have never heard of anyone waiting this long for a harp!

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    replies to "Sweetharp"
    • Angel
      Angel Zhao

      From what I understand, Chris had some problems with the parts last year. He also tweaked the design to prevent the neck from warping. You can see the new design here:


      http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2914159105530&set=a.1918334890547.103744.1607251544&type=1


      To quote him: "We're running them through the shop as fast as we can to catch up on the backlog, and they're going together great."


      When I contacted him in January this year to order my Sweetharp, I was informed the current wait time for the Sweetharps is around 3 months. So that means his production should run smoothly from here on out. You might want to contact him to get an update on your order. Seeing the other person ordered theirs one month before you did, yours might not be that far down the line.

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    • Amber
      Amber M

      I've received my Sweetharp, and at some friends' urging, am posting my review (the good, the bad and the ugly).  Keeping in mind that we all understand each harp is its own animal and two harps of identical make and wood can still sound/behave differently, for what it's worth, here are my initial impressions:

      Yes, the harp is very light.  My husband admitted he almost knocked it over since he expected a bit more weight for the size.  On first appearance, I liked the design (rounded soundboard bottom looked pretty cool).  Working with it, there are some changes I would like better.  Namely, there has been substantial shifting of the bridge pins resulting in some truly awful sounds, and the middle octaves' pins are swear-worthy to reach on the inside (necessary when a bit too much tapping on the outside needed to be corrected).  A bit more space would probably help.  I'm definitely no luthier, this is just my opinion as a player.

      I was underwhelmed with the dye job.  There are parts on the top of the neck that were either missed, or rubbed off while drying.  Not sure if it was just part of a 'rush job' or what, but I wasn't thrilled with it.  Also felt a finish over the dye might have made it look more 'done'.  (yes, I have pics for those who are interested and are less inclined to take my word for it)  Also, my husband said when the harp arrived, he was ending up with blue on his hands for the first several days.

      I'm hoping the tone improves with time, as right now I really don't care for it.  I was incredibly disappointed by this, as I waited almost a year for the harp to arrive, and really wanted to love it.  I find the tension seems to vary quite a bit from top to bottom and the spacing towards the upper octaves seems a bit narrow for me.  I'm willing to give it a few months to settle in and try to get used to its quirks.

      The case doesn't seem as though it were made with the design changes in mind.  It is VERY snug, and its difficult to close the zipper.  I feel the case I have was probably made when the tuners were still on the side, vs on the top.

      All in all, the Sweetharp is not really what I was hoping it would be.  It is the first of my harps that I find myself wishing I had cancelled the order, and that I feel I will likely be putting up for sale.  I wish I'd had the same experience Ms Rowan described in her review...and it was ultimately what I had expected given the quality of my other Caswell harp.  My teacher, who had been considering a Sweetharp, said he was glad he'd had the chance to see one first.  He said he felt a harp should arrive "done and ready to play," and not needing pins hammered and having dye issues.

      A further issue I had (and have since discovered I was not alone in) was some truly frustrating interactions with Chris.  Lack of unprompted updates (I know most of us were aware of the supplier issues) foremost among my irritations.  Beyond that, unanswered messages (until frustrations and tight time schedule prompted increasingly less polite messages), constantly changing stories (my husband and I were always getting different answers when we got answers at all), and not all of the items ordered showed up.  I'm still not convinced the remaining item has been shipped to date, as the lack of communication has continued.  Chris did refund my shipping costs due to missing the promised deadline, which was appreciated, but the continued lack of apparent good business practice has convinced me this will without a doubt be my last Caswell harp. 

      Again, I really wanted to have a better experience with Chris and the Sweetharp, and the negatives I experienced may end up being isolated to this harp.  I have no complaints about quality or tone of my Butterfly, which I've had for several years.  I hope other Sweetharp owners are more pleased with theirs than I have been.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Dixon

      I have contacted Chris numerous times.  And rarely receive a reply.  The current wait time is NOT three months.  I have been waiting nine months and still haven't seen mine.  I am not the only one who is waiting and has paid in June or July.  I know of three or four others.  If Chris says three months, then I think he should clear up his backlog before promising harps in three months.

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    • Biagio
      Biagio Sancetta

      Well, I am a luthier, albeit strictly for my own personal harps.  The SweetHarp will be the first (out of six) that I've not made myself, and I did so because the design not to mention price blew me away.  Still does.  Like some others I ordered mine last year and am of course not happy for Chris' supplier difficulties and the delay that has caused me.  Without commenting on other posts here I will say this as a fairly decent harp designer: 

      As I understand things, the new gears did not start to come in reliably until early December, from start to shipment can take up to two months for any harp, and this design is in some ways more challenging than Chris' Rhiannon, for example.  So while I am none to pleased to be still waiting, realistically if it arrives around April first (Ooooh, no joke!) that would be on track for a January start.

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    • mary
      mary albers

      I too have been waiting 9 months for my SweetHarp. It is disappointing to read that the finished product may not be what I expected. The long delay in production makes me wonder if there are still design issues being worked out.


      Thank you Amber for your comments. You covered many of the issues in question.

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    • Angel
      Angel Zhao

      Thank you for the review, Amber. The problems you experienced made me quite concerned, especially the dye. I would really appreciate it if you could post some photos. Does your SweetHarp have levers on it? If so, is it difficult to flip them under the neck?

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    • Amber
      Amber M

      Angel,

      Not sure how to post pics here, so I will email them to you. Mine does have full levers, and I haven't had any difficulty engaging them. They don't really flip 'under' the neck, but more come right up to it.

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    • Angel
      Angel Zhao

      You can send them to the e-mail address that's listed on my Harp Column member page. Thank you so much!

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    • Julie
      Julie Jones

      I ordered a Sweetharp last May from Chris Caswell and STILL have not received it. I've paid in full at the beginning of February, as well as paying for a case. Every time I call him, as he sends very general email posts about 3 times a year, if that many, he gives me a different excuse and I'm about ready to take him to small claims court.

      I've never owned a harp before. The only kind of harp I've ever owned is an autoharp which is quite different. Last May when I saw his video for the new Sweetharp and easy to play it looked, and the low price, I decided to purchase one and got all excited, told my friends and really looked forward to getting it as a Christmas present to myself. No? Not ready last year? Okay then, a February birthday present for me! Not ready? In two months it will be a year and will I actually have it in my hands yet? Do I even want it anymore? What if something goes wrong with it? Am I s^^t out of luck or will Chris actually service it?  My bubble has burst and I'm really getting fed up with his constant runaround. What gives?

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Dixon

      I should imagine your harp would be ready any day now.  Have you tried emailing Chris recently?  He says he is getting the first ones out now so you should be one of the first he gets out.  I know his communication sucks, he does not keep his customers in the loop at all and I think that is so detrimental to his business, it is really giving him a bad name.  His harps may be wonderful, but his customer service is going to be his downfall.  I would get on him right now and find out the status of your harp because I know they are finally getting done and going out.  Chris called me last week about the stain color for mine.  I was so close to chucking it all until he called about the stain, so at least I know it is almost done.

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    • Julie
      Julie Jones

      Thanks Barbara for responding to my post. I called Chris at the beginning of last week ( after calling him several times throughout the year since I placed my order) and he said he had a bad cough (a bad cough shouldn't affect his email usage) but I would be contacted by him by the end of last week ("at the latest!") but of course, I didn't hold my breath because if I did I would have suffocated.

      You are right about his extremely poor customer service and lack of communication. I will definitely NOT recommend him to anyone wishing to buy a harp. MY previous call to him to ask about the status of my order, I suggested to him that he seriously should hire a secretary or someone who can call his customers on a regular basis to keep them updated on his progress. He laughed and said that would be a great idea.

      At this point,  I dread anything ever needing repaired or supplied for my Sweetharp, should I ever receive it, and hope I can find strings and other items for it at another music store, should I need to.

      I think it's almost a crime that he has all my money for goods I never received. I still don't know if I'm in the "first group" of orders or "Second group." I suppose if I don't receive it by May, I will take him to court.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Dixon

      I received my Sweetharp last night and the long wait was ALMOST worth it.( Nothing was worth waiting nine months for unless it is living, breathing, wears Pampers, and has half my DNA.)  I feel badly that Amber's Sweetharp was such a dud because mine seems to be a real gem.  I purchased a purple stained one, colored on the sides of the soundbox and on the neck and pillar.  The stain is missing in a few tiny cracks, but nothing that a colored pencil crayon won't cover up with a few strokes. 

       

       I did havae two issues that I called Chris about this morning though.  The brass eyelet on the lowest 'f' string is slightly popping out, but he said that seems to be a recurring problem which he is solving by purchasing longer eyelets and will send one to me to replace the one which is popping out.  No big deal there.  The second problem was that I ordered a case and none was included in the shipping box.  Because Chris literallly re-designed the Sweetharp while waiting for parts (he moved the tuners from the side to the top, which eliminated any chance of the harp torquing towards the strings) the cases are a tad bit too tight so he is getting made a bit larger and my case will be sent to my home as soon as it arrives.

       

      So only those two issues which Chris addressed quickly and to my satisfaction.

      I found the Sweetharp to have a really loud voice for such small harp.  The tone is really rich, especially so in the mid-range, really pleasing and not at all sounding like a small-inexpensive harp.

       

      The tuners Chris uses are a dark brown and an amber color.  He uses one color to denote the C and F strings and the other to denote all the rest of the strings so it is easy to find the ones you are tuning.  An ingenious way of tuning too, no more tuning keys.  And for someone like me who has four other harps, each having a different key, its a god send...no more matching tuning key with harp.

       

      The legs area an option which I purchased and I love the way they attach to the body of the harp.  They seem to be the perfect height so you can use most average height chairs.  I didn't need to tip the harp back either, I was comfortable playing it either way, tipped back or not.

       

      Unlike Amber I don't seem to have an issue with the pins on my harp,everything seems just fine, thankfully.  The workmanship seems top notch, string tension is equal throughout as is volume. 

       

      Yes, it did take 9 months from payment to receiving the harp, and communication wasn't always forthcoming.  But, as someone in the forefront of the harping community told me "He's a harpmaker....its expected!"

       

      All in all, the Sweetharp met, and exceeded my expectations and I am very happy with mine.  I am just very sorry that delays and communication problems hampered the experience.

       

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    • Angel
      Angel Zhao

      Barbara, it's good to know you've (finally) received your harp. Your assessment of its volume and tone is reassuring. I hope Chris will maintain all the good tweaks.


      If possible, could you please post a picture or two of your new harp? It's fun seeing all the custom colours.

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    • Sidney
      Sidney Butler

      Anyone have a picture of one of these harps with a lap brace being used?  Can you adjust it up and down some? 

      What do you think of these harps as a first instrument for harp students?  I've been thinking of getting a harp to rent out and these are the most affordable.  Yet for a few hundred dollars more I could get a Ravenna which would be "more standard."  Yet, a pink harp could really attract those little girls!  I imagine after at least a year, I would be encouraging a different instrument if the student shows desire to continue long run, say toward pedal harp.  But, I just need something to get students started and these look a million times better than the Pakistani harps. 

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    • Angel
      Angel Zhao

      I didn't see any "official" photos of someone using the lap brace. If you watch the promo video here...


      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2bZUOkRlKg


      ...around 2:40 you can see how the lap brace is mounted. Since the lap brace uses the same mounting holes as the legs, the height can be adjusted. (I think it's 3 different heights each 1 inch apart.)


      I can't really make any recommendations, but I did choose the SweetHarp as my first harp. Although waiting in line for a custom made harp could be frustrating, it does fit my criteria of a portable, light-weight harp with good sound and the most number of strings in a small enough package, plus it can be turned into a floor harp. The reasonable price point means I can squeeze in more harp books and/or lessons.

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    • Julie
      Julie Jones

      Hi Barbara and Sweetharpers,
      I jumped for joy when Chris actually answered my email about when I'd get the harp I ordered last May and paid completely for beginning of February. He said he'd be in my neck of the woods on Sunday and could he deliver it then?  I replied I was free all day, just let me know.

      In tonight's email, he had another excuse about being on his back all day and will call me tomorrow if he's up to it.  I think Chris could write a book of excuses as I've heard most of them by now. He doesn't seem concerned at all for constantly giving me the runaround.

      At this point, I just want all my money back. Yes, it seemed to good too be true when I first placed my order for a harp I had always dreamed of owning. Now it's been a nightmare and not worth all the aggravation.








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    • Barbara
      Barbara Dixon

      I know Chris seems to have so many excuses I can not believe it.  My Sweetharp, I don't know about others, but my Sweetharp is exceptionally good.  Its just too bad that Chris' customer service is so bad that it is hurting his business.  Nine months to a year is just way too long to wait.  I will admit, my harp did not come with the lap bar, or the case. Chris says 'they are coming'.  I will not let him slide on this.  I have paid for them and I want them.  I am afraid Chris is way over his head on this one.  I think the response for the Sweetharp is way more than he is able to handle. I did not realize he does not have a workshop of his own, but works in a co-op workshop. 

      As for using this harp as a rental, I would say yes.  I have a Ravenna 34 and I like both the Sweetharp and the Ravenna, but for value, I'd take the Sweetharp obviously. Once Chris gets the backlog caught up.  If ever.

      I am sorry that I can not recommend Chris as a business man.  As a harp maker he excels.  As a business man, sorry Chris, but you are sorely failing.

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    • Philippa
      Philippa mcauliffe

      I dont have a Sweetharp or an order for one but we do have a lever harp made by a one man band who does them at home.  Andrew Thom.    Totally different story.  Deposit at time of ordering, kept in touch about progress and all details, on time within a week or two and paid the rest when we got it.   Lovely result.  More expensive though obviously.

      The alarm bells for me are going off here about health.  Mental, physical or both.    Or maybe just organisational skills or what is referred to  in special ed jargon as executive functioning!   I don't think I would be parting with the whole price here under any circumstance on ordering as the writing is on the wall that one day there will be an even more major collapse of this business.  So far the orders seem  to have arrived eventually but you risk them not turning up at all and  if you have paid and he subsequently goes bancrupt you will be well out of pocket.   Which is a shame obviously for someone so inventive with a low cost harp that many people wish to support.   If anyone knows him personally perhaps they could gently approach this problem with him face to face.  maybe  a small business loan used to make them and then sell (not sell first then fail to make or be a year late) to get his reputation back on track?

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    • Biagio
      Biagio Sancetta

      Guess it's time to chime in again as another SweetHarp customer still waiting.  Herewith I will share a few thoughts for what they're worth.  As another harp designer I was and still am very impressed by the design.  Getting the tone and evenness out of a harp that light and inexpensive is a really impressive feat.   Even though this is a "production line" instrument (as opposed to one-at-a-time instruments such as his Rhiannon or Rick Kemper's Luchair) it is not easy to do quickly and still perfectly - which is what it takes for even the simplest harp.

      However, as a (retired) business man I have to agree that his customer service is extremely poor.  I regret having to say that very much for he is a real artist in all respects.  Personally I have been quite willing to be patient since I understand the complications perhaps better than some as a harp maker myself.  But yeah, patience is wearing a bit thin.  He's got a real winner on his hands I am convinced, and  I just hope like heck that he can bring his customer service up to the same level.

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    • Chris
      Chris Caswell

      Hi All,


      This is Chris Caswell, the marginal businessman in question. A few updates - Julie's harp is done and awaiting my driving it over to her place. Biagio's will be getting lacquered in about a week to 10 days.


      I have read and listened appreciatively to the criticism of my poor communication. I take it to heart and will work to put a system in place where all who order from me are kept in the loop more than just at large intervals.


      Based on the last several batches, I now have a reasonably good production schedule. Everyone who has been waiting WAY long should have their harps by mid to late May. Anyone ordering recently has been given a more accurate delivery estimate based on actual production, rather than promises from suppliers.


      I will say a couple of things regarding Amber's harp. the color rubbing off came from a spot where I had to do a touch-up near the levers. That was then sealed with a touch-up lacquer which I've used for many years. However, the dye apparently migrated through the touch-up lacquer. It hadn't done that when it left the shop. Needless to say I use a different touch-up lacquer now. and it is an easy fix for anyone to just wipe a little poly over the top of the offending area. Secondly, a single bridge pin needed an adjustment as the string wasn't vibrating quite freely when the lever wasn't engaged, creating a muffled sound. Again, for me this would have been a moment to fix, and it was definitely my bad that I didn't catch it.


      The tone, on the other hand, is a different matter. I was rather excited by the sound of her harp. In fact, I have retired the Butterfly 29s because the SweetHarps, at half the cost, are sounding so good (I think better in many ways). But tone is VERY subjective, and I don't mean in any way to gainsay Amber's impression of her harp.


      If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me either here or via my website.


      Best,


      Chris

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