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davewerden

ITEC 2014 - Instrument Observations, part 1

Rating: 11 votes, 5.00 average.
I was able to be at ITEC 2014 in Bloomington, Indiana, for three days. That wasn't enough time because there was an unbelievable number of quality presentations, but it was all the time I had available. I did a rather poor job of getting to all those recitals I had highlighted in my schedule and did not see as many old friends as I had hoped (although I also had some great and welcome conversations with the friends I did encounter). On the other hand, I did make good progress on two self-assigned missions: to try some mid-range instruments, about which there has been so much discussion on the forum, and to add more tuning charts to my Compensating Euphonium Intonation page.

For this post I'll start to make some observations about the vendors and the horns I tried (not just the mid-range instruments).

The mezzanine area of the main hall was devoted to quieter fare, with several publishers including Hickey's/Cimarron, ChopSaver, Adam Frey's music/recordings, Quick Horn Rinse, Windsong Press, Cherry Classics, Brixton, Anderson's Arizona Originals, and Canadian Brass Publications.

The horn displays were not exactly centralized, so getting to all the vendors was a challenge. The majority were in the main building (where the concerts were), so that was easy enough. They were in two pairs of locations in the basement of the hall. In one wing, where I spent a lot of time, you could find Adams Custom Brass and Buffet right next door to each other. Then if you moved around the corridors, after a few right turns you got to a pair of shared rooms, where DF Music, Miraphone, Just for Brass, Big Mouth Brass, Baltimore Brass, Nirschl, Kanstul, Tuba Exchange, Willson, and Jupiter were (among others). Two other nearby buildings held more vendors. I found Wessex Brass in one of them (after some fruitless exploring). The other had Yamaha, Warburton, and Lee Stofer. I'm probably leaving out several, but for some reason this year I did not take photos of all the rooms. My bad!

This post will start with four instruments. I'll address other brands (including many observation about Adams) in a later post.

Besson Prestige 2051
My first stop after Adams was next door at the Buffet exhibit. I played the Prestige first, which I have done at each event I've attended over the years since the Prestige first came out. The only one on display was the 2051. This time I was able to detect some changes, both for the better. The tone seems to have just a bit more warmth or roundness than before, which I think is a good addition. Response was very good and consistent everywhere I tried it. Also, as was later born out in my intonation testing, the 6th partial was not quite as sharp as before. Steven Mead happened to be there as I was doing the testing and said they have improved valve port alignment, among other things, which might account for the improvement in response. One negative I found is that the 4th valve slide is too long for my taste. Normally I start my tuning play playing a middle F open and with the 4th valve, adjust the 4th slide until they match. In this case I could not bring it up to pitch with 4. And as you might think, the C/B below that F were a bit flat. Perhaps there is a design reason for this, because it certainly would be an inexpensive change to make the slide tubing a bit shorter. The trigger and valve action is smooth, as before, although I'm not a big fan of the large plastic protector under the tuning slide. It's very good at keeping the slide free and your clothes clean, though! I've heard of a few cases where the plastic guard has broken, and replacement parts can be slow to come (based on stories from owners). Overall I'd say Besson has made incremental improvements, which is quite appropriate for a horn with its market position.


Besson Sovereign 955 (Baritone)
I did not do a thorough test on this, but if I had a chance to trade my early 1980's 955 for this one, I'd do it in a heartbeat. It is just easier to play, and the flat middle F# (concert) is better. Tone is still just about ideal for my particular baritone taste.

Miraphone 5050
I had a nice talk with Marcus Theinert at the Miraphone booth. It was an amazing difficult task, though, because it was one of those times where the term "elephant room" really came into its own! I had two chances to blow the 5050. No surprises; it still has a big, rich sound and is fairly easy to play despite its large size. Intonation is also very good. A trigger is still handy, but the sharp notes are within 12 cents or so, which is not at all bad. (For those who are not aware, a trigger is useful only for sharp notes because its action pushes the tuning slide out - it can't push it in from its normal tuning setting.) As is my normal practice, I use either 12 or 3 for concert G and for low D, choosing the one that is best in tune. For this horn, 3rd valve produced the in-tune G you see on the chart below. Note: this is normal, and in fact some consider the 3rd valve fingering to be the "normal" and 12 as the "alternate." On the high G, though, 3 was too flat so use reported the 12 fingering because it can be adjusted via the trigger.


Gemeinhardt / Big Mouth Brass
Now this booth was interesting! Gemeinhardt is famous for flutes, but apparently was trying to branch out to brass as well. However, they decided to go back to their roots and sold the rights to their euphonium to Big Mouth Brass. The horn is the most unusual compensating euphonium on display at ITEC. I'll post some photos below. The compensating loops are lower than any I've seen. Notice the 4th valve is above the large bow rather than below it. This gives more control over making an easy reach to the 4th valve. There are also braces to help you support the weight. One is to the left of your right index knuckle, so you don't need to "scrunch" your hand all the way to the long bow tube. The other rests in the "crotch" between your left index finger and thumb. I had a few concerns as I was testing it.

There are some pretty odd notes and the ergonomics are not quite right yet. The lower Db and D (concert) were quite stuffy, as was the high Ab. [[NOTE: Big Mouth Brass contacted me to let me know they discovered a few silicon desiccant bags inside the horn when they returned from ITEC. This may have affected the response and intonation, depending on where they were. You may wish to take the graph below with a grain of salt for that reason.]]

But I love seeing something that is so original, because it encourages makers to think outside the box. Intonation results below were from using 3rd valve on both G's (concert pitch).


Photos of the Gemeinhardt / Big Mouth Brass

Showing the left-hand brace and the 4th valve position.



Notice the Right-Hand Brace on the Handpiece



Compensating Tubing and Wrap



Better Photo of the Left-Hand Brace




Earle Louder Trying It Out - I did not get a chance to ask him what he thought.

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Comments

  1. davewerden's Avatar
    Big Mouth Brass sent the following to state why they think the intonation/response may not have been representative on the horn I tried.

    I noticed when I got home and was cleaning my horns that the Euph had three bags of silicone packing gel in it. I don't know how that may have affected the tuning but I put it on a tuner and did not find the discrepancy you did but unfortunately I did not test with the bags in so couldn't compare.
  2. davidapaulson's Avatar
    David,
    I have tried to contact Big Mouth Brass, as their euphoniums are not listed on their web site. It would appear that they are no longer manufacturing euphoniums.
    dPaulson.


    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden
    Big Mouth Brass sent the following to state why they think the intonation/response may not have been representative on the horn I tried.

    I noticed when I got home and was cleaning my horns that the Euph had three bags of silicone packing gel in it. I don't know how that may have affected the tuning but I put it on a tuner and did not find the discrepancy you did but unfortunately I did not test with the bags in so couldn't compare.