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Ok guys, opinions on Camac?

  • Unknown
    Unknown User

    As some of you may know, I'm on quite the harp hunt for a semi-grand

    gig harp. I have a gorgeous Salvi CG that I love completely- it just

    weighs a ton! Thus, I'm looking for a smaller harp. While I love the

    sound of Lyon/Healy's, they don't have any semi-grand that I'm

    interested in. I already own a Salvi, so I'm looking to have a

    little diversity among my harp reprtoire. After scrutenizing (sp?) a

    few other harp brands, I've decided to look closer into Camac harps.

    More specifically, the Camac Clio.

    I notice that it weighs only 56 pounds. This makes me a little bit

    weary- that's only 9 pounds more than my Troubador! Is it becuase

    they dont use the best wood, or is it just an ingenious


    Has any one owned a Camac for a long time? I'm really interested in

    a harp that I will have for a long time.

    On the Camac website, it seems like all the effort put into it is to

    make the website beautiful. I find the Camac website to NOT be

    straight foward at all. It's actually really confusing. It looks

    like they're putting too much effort into saying "at the heart of

    the harp" and all these other whimsical things rather than showing

    off thier products with prices and warranties, etc., so that makes

    me a little bit sketchy of them.

    So c'mon guys, give me some unwarped, non sugar-coated opinions on

    Camacs. :-)

    Let the battle begin.

    Just kiddinG!

    replies to "Ok guys, opinions on Camac?"
    • Catherine
      Catherine Rogers

      As with any harp, what you need to do is try one.  I agree the Camac website is a bit

      confusing; you should contact one of the distributors in the U.S.  Try calling the Virginia

      Harp Center in Richmond, VA, (1-888-378-3761) or Haddonfield, NJ (1-800-985-8040).

      They're very helpful and knowledgeable and can help explain what makes these harps

      different from others.  There are some technological innovations which help lighten the

      load.  Example:  action plates made of anodized aluminum instead of brass (strong but

      lighter).  One thing you might really appreciate:  no pedal felts or slot felts to change and

      aircraft cable instead of pedal rods.

      I have played a Lyon & Healy 23 and a 17 since 1976 and 1979, respectively, and I love

      them.  I bought a Camac Clio (extended board) in 1999 and it is now my principal gig

      harp.  The soundboard is as wide as my concert grand and the sound projects extremely

      well.  Although it has 44 strings instead of 47, I have used it in orchestra when the

      repertoire fit its range and received very favorable comments on the sound.  For casual

      jobs like weddings and background music, it's ideal.  Nevertheless, I retain my other harps

      because sometimes I need them.  The right tool for the job.

      Only you can decide what best meets your needs.  There is no one best harp or brand,

      only what works best for you.  As they used to say in those old TV commercials, "Try it,

      you'll like it!"

    • Unknown
      Unknown User


      Camac has reshaped the upper end of the harp so that you don't need to reach back so far (ergonomics?).  If you are used to other harp makes the close spacing can really throw you off until you get used to it.  The electronic pedal cable adjuster can shorten your regulation time a bit, but when you get to the disks, you are regulating like you have an Aoyama, Salvi, Horngacher, Venus, Swanson, L&H, etc. harp, as each disk needs to be done manually.  Word/rumor had it the machine did all the regulation but I was shown that was not true.

      Finally, as you can bet, Camac has its own sound just like Aoyama, Salvi, Horngacher, Venus, Swanson, and all the other harp makers.  Listen to the front and the back of the harp as you know, they can sound completely different.

      If you are coming to the Virginia Harp Center, you might as well come by Falls Church and check out the Prodigy and the Penti-S model harps by Venus at the Harp Alternative.  That is inside the Washington DC beltway, if you don't know where it is.  Venus harps are on the lighter side of L&H and especially on the lighter side of Salvi.  They have extended boards, 5 year warranties (even on the smallest models), and that really great full rich Venus sound!

      It is exciting to see you trying out something other than the Big Names.

      Hello Carl Swanson[!], does Swanson Harps have a smaller harp that Steven might be interested in?  I would love to hear about what you have?  I don't know the other reps for Aoyama and Horngacher, but would you identify yourselves and chime in with what your lines have to offer too.  Am I leaving out any other pedal harp maker?

      Thank you for putting this out, Steven, I look forward to hearing about what the other makes could offer you.

      Hope you come to see the harps in June!  Virginia has two harp distributors now, go see the Big Names in Richmond and then come up to Falls Church for the Alternative!!

      -Michael O'Hanlan

      The Harp Alternative

    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      Thank you for asking about Swanson harps.  We make a concert grand size

      only, with 47 strings.  It is, I believe, the lightest of the standard concert grands

      available, at 77 pounds for the Scuola, and 79 pounds for the Empire's.  But

      what's as important as the overall weight is the balance when you sit at the

      instrument.  Some instruments are top heavy, which makes them feel like cast

      iron on your shoulder.    I did everything I could to keep them from being top

      heavy, and one of the most frequent comments I get about Swanson harps is

      that they feel so comfortable.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I've found my concert grand to be way too heavy for me to move alone, and will need a lighter weight harp for performance gigs also someday. On paper the Camac Clio is the ideal harp because it is very lightweight, but still has 44 strings, is economical compared to other small harps, and has many technical advances that make it sturdier, and more practical than most harps. I've only heard one once and remember the sound to be less resonant than the Lyon and Healy 85 petite. Also, on the website the extended soundboard on the Clio is made of cedar. I was wondering, if the Clio soundboard could be upgraded to a really high quality spruce, would it make it a bit more resonant? If I could hear a Clio that had more richness to the tone than the one I remember, I would be sold on it. It would be ideal to go someplace like the Virginia Harp Center and try out all the small pedal harps in the same acoustic environment to really know how they compare.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Oh my gosh!

      I didn't even think of my good pal Carl!!! And to think he lives about 20 minutes from me and I didn't even drop an e-mail about smaller harps. I shall do that lickity split! :-)

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      hey, right now i own a camac athena, i am very happy with it, it sounds so good, even wen i play in the orchestra, the sound its rich and full, they are so light because the column is made of fiber glass covered by a thin wood layer, so it never gives me problems when its moved.

      i think they are the best harps at the most afordable price

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Sorry, but I can't foresee forsaking Lyon & Healy for any other maker known to me. What could be lacking about their semi-grands? We can't always have the exact look we want. You have to go for the best sound, because that's what matters most of all.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      yeah saul, we have seen in every post that you add, that you love lyon healy,play always lyon healy, lyon healy is the best, even you dream about lyon healy. we know that you exist ok

      so if you are not going to answer the question about camac, just shus

    • Alexander
      Alexander Rider

      Ivan, we are all entitled to our opinions; saul was just giving his in a polite measured way.  the lyon and healy and camacs i have heard  all sound lovely i think. If you're going for smething light steve, i think you ahve a lot of choice LH, swanson, or camac; you need to find a harp with a sound that suits your taste as well as your purpose.

    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      Steve- Most of the professional harpists who bought one of my harps sold

      something else in order to buy mine.  They made the change and bought

      mine because they found them so much lighter to move AND to sit at for long

      periods and play.  At least one of my harps was in a Broadway pit orchestra

      for the last 5 years.  Several others are in symphony orchestras, and I know

      that a lot of my Swanson Harp owners gig constantly with the instruments.  So

      maybe you should give them a look.

    • Tacye
      Tacye Phillipson

      What this topic makes me wonder is why many people have so much trouble moving a CG?  Maybe it would be worth asking someone who moves a CG without trouble for a harp moving lesson, and maybe investing in a new trolley- much cheaper than a new harp.  All pedal harps are a nuisance to shift, and with good technique I don't find my CG (which is a good foot taller than me) much harder to move than a 3/4 size or SG, I just generally refrain from picking it up!

    • Alexander
      Alexander Rider

      doh. i forgot.  maybe that's an idea carl?

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Yeah, but Carl only makes concert grands.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      The two aspects of moving a CG that are difficult to impossible for me are: pulling the harp up over steps, and tipping it into the vehicle while maintaining control. By the time the moving is done it's difficult to recover for a performance. Mine is 81 pounds. A 56 pound harp is appealing for those reasons to use for gigs and certain rehearsals.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Tayce- I have trouble moving my CG becuase it's SOOO heavy. 92 pounds, I think the Salvi website says. I have a Salvi harp trolley. It's probably easier for you becuase you've been playing so much longer than I have. Guess it just takes some getting used to. As for the Swanson....

      As for Carl- why haven't I thought of you sooner?!? Since I'm selling my Troubador (decided to become a solely pedal harp teacher/perfromer) which is worth about $3,000 and my Salvi which is about $15,500 your La Scoula will definetely be in the back of my mind.

      Ciao for now,


    • Tacye
      Tacye Phillipson

      Steven- it isn't just time, like playing the instrument moving it easily requires doing it right, which can be learnt.  Granted my L&H (81 lbs) is about 7 lbs lighter than a Salvi Diana (88 lbs), but that isn't so very large a difference.  As you love your harp I think it is worth putting some time into learning to move it, rather than buying another one which will be just slightly easier to shift.

      Perhaps one of the reasons I quickly learnt to move harps efficiently is that I am fairly small and had two options- do it right or really mess up!  Pulling the harp up steps requires use of leg muscles rather than back or arms (I have a stair climber trolley, and prefer those, or large wheeled ones) and same for tipping it into the car- I position it so I am tipping it towards me and onto the column, then over onto its side.  More a matter of balance than strength and I make sure if it is off balance it is towards me as it is much easier to cope with a harp falling towards rather than away from me!  Much simpler to demonstrate than describe.

      best wishes,

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      First, Steven, I wouldn't sell your troubadour if I were me, I mean you. I kept mine and I'm glad. Every once in a while I need it for warming up, or trying nonpedal repertoire, and I have sometimes rented it out to students. As far as moving harps goes, I advocate using professional harp movers. The more of them we have, the better. I advocate Lyon & Healy harps because of the sound. They don't pay me. I pay them every time I need repairs. Through the nose. It's still worth it. It used to be that they were the lightest harps. If I thought Camac harps were as good, or as good to look at, or worth advocating for, I would. Some people feel the need to maintain standards of quality. And I'm not knocking Carl's harps, which are very attractive, and he has an interesting point of view on construction. It is interesting, that so few other companies have been able to reach the level of quality Lyon & Healy mostly has. There are more and more companies now, more and more music, but the quality is dropping. For you young people, it is very important to have standards. We are like curators in a museum, and what we choose is what is exhibited and in the collection. When I was young there was only Lyon & Healy, and Venus was pretty new, and Salvi barely heard of. Lyon & Healy has only gotten better since the 1970s, which were not a high point in their history. I have to wonder why people are so very open to everything that is out there, if my impression of them is correct. Is the internet to blame? There certainly has been a tendency from the early 1990s at least, to think of everything as equal, just because it exists.

      But seriously, while the Camacs I heard at the AHS conference were better than I expected, they were seriously lacking in qualities needed for serious classical music. If you planning to be in popular music only, it's a completely different matter. But for a serious harp student studying serious repertoire, I firmly believe, again, that you need to play on a Lyon & Healy. It's also about training your ear, and learning to develop your tone quality, and the harp that you play on. I wish they could be available to everyone, and that they would stop raising their prices. They only hold down the prices when everyone complains enough.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I know what you mean, Saul. My teacher has a 23 and I love it, it's so easy to get gorgeous sound from it. It's downright harp-gasmic. But Lyon and Healy's are sooooo expensive. I'll keep them in mind.


    • S
      S M

      Is the same true for going UP steps?  And are you just supposed to carry it down, or what?

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      If you have a harp already, then you only need one great one. I hope you'll be able to get it. I believe you mentioned arthritis earlier. Don't exacerbate it by moving harps if you can avoid it. Have other people do it for you, one way or another. I'm also reminded of a mistake many of us make: do not dolly a harp down steps, letting it slip down from one step to the next, even though it is just two inches each time, it can lead to a lot of damage, according to Karen Rokos.