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Review - Wessex EP600 Hand-Made Euphonium

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One opportunity I looked forward to when planning my visit to ITEC 2019 was seeing and playing the new Wessex EP600. This is their new, handmade model. My understanding is that the horn is made on a different floor of the Chinese factory, and that the workers building it are trained specifically for this type of work.

As I have often said, patience is a virtue. It proved an asset at ITEC because the EP600 was delayed by a day or two. But I was able to get some time with it the day it arrived. Fortunately for my purpose, Wessex had a wide variety of interesting instruments to keep visitors busy, and I was able to walk over and pick up the EP600.

The new horn was not hard to pick out from the crowd because it had a reddish wash inside the bell, giving it a distinctive appearance. I'm not sure if this will be an option on production horns or not. If it is, my suggestion would be to experiment with different shades. The color I saw was neither fish nor fowl, for my palette anyway. But it is great fun to see companies trying different things. (There is Adams of course, which its many options; I also love the retro Besson with satin finish, and the fact that more horns are starting to show engraving on the bells.)

I played briefly on a Dolce to warm up, and then tried out the EP600. My first impression was in keeping with the instrument being a prototype or a very early sample at least. It did not seem quite ready for the party cosmetically. The finishing was not smooth and consistent to the eye. Also, my very first comment to the Wessex rep at the booth was that ergonomics need work in one area - the wrap of the leadpipe. The horn was turned too far to the right, or too close to the body. However, this was just a first sample and I'm confident Wessex will have these things squared away when production begins in earnest!

Despite the prototype-ish first impression visually, actually playing the horn was great fun! The response was dramatically improved over the Dolce - it was quite easy to play. That's no surprise, and I suspect it was one of the goals of going to a hand-made horn that starts with sheet metal. In that regard it is similar to the Adams concept. The high range above Bb concert was fairly open as well, so you may find notes up there easier to play than on some horns.

At ITEC I was play-testing horns in about 7 different spots in 5 rooms, and the acoustic experience was a little different each time. That is one of the challenges of testing the tone of instruments. Despite that challenge, the tone of the EP600 seemed very nice! It was open and had a nice singing quality in the money range. I could not tell much about its tone down low because of the "background noise" in the room, but it played well in the low range, with no unusual resistance.

The intonation was good overall. Many notes were right on pitch or within 5 cents, but there were a few that needed work. See the tuning chart below. In concert pitch:

  • low B and C were flat.
  • the 2 E naturals I test were both flat, oddly enough, but not by a lot.
  • the upper Ab and A were flat enough to need some practice to manage them.


Overall my first impression of the EP600 were very good, and I think it is an exciting choice in the low-mid-price market. Final price was not determined yet, but I'm told the USA price would be under $3,000. That formerly-sparse price range among compensating horns is getting a little more crowded today, but the EP600 will offer a very competitive product that has a distinct playing personality.

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