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Reviews - Eastman 826 and Shires Q41 Compensating Euphoniums

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These impressions are based on my testing at ITEC 2019. I chose to combine the two horns because they share similarities in manufacturing and are both part of the Eastman/Shires family.

They seemed to share at least some parts, or possibly just design concepts. One I noted is the connector on the front side between valve 1 and 2. On both horns it follows the model of Willson, with more of a rounded-rectangle idea than a smooth curve. You can see it in this photo.

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The silver finish on both tested horns was good, but with all the fingerprints on a display horn I couldn't judge the full potential. The plating appeared to be even and the "color" of the silver looked mainstream. I have noticed over the years that the top-line horns may have a plating that is perhaps thicker and/or of higher-quality silver. Those horns shine up with a luster that reminds me of the best years of the old Bessons. When shined, the finish has a depth that is very mirror like. I don't recall seeing that on low-mid-priced horns, which is reasonable. The non-top horns can still look very nice when shined. It would be interesting to see a personally-owned sample of either of these to see if they set a higher standard for their price range. As I said, I can't say whether that is the case based on display models that others have played with before I got there.

If I understood the very articulate rep I spoke with, Shires owns several of its own factories in China, which use workers who are actually Shires employees. That would give them a lot of control. I believe both models were made in China. As I understand it, the top Shires models of trumpets and trombones use parts that are made in the USA, and they send them to China for assembly

It may be important to keep in mind is that both models are quite new, and changes could be coming along.

Eastman 826

This is a large, heavy instrument, which might remind you of a Miraphone 5000. The bore is .591" and the tone is large and deep. This horn has a soldered bell bead, which helps solidify the sound (at the expense of the openness of sound).

The horn's response was very good. It was not totally even through the scales, but not bad either. Note centering was uneven on some notes. This horn had a mid-range B concert that seemed reticent to come out, and the Ab below that felt "loose" (very wide center on the note). Otherwise the instrument was very easy to play.

Intonation was very good on most notes, with a couple of problems. For one thing, the middle A is 15 cents flat, and the F below it is 10 cents sharp. That seems rather Willson-like. Given that Shires' euphonium consultants seem to be Willson-playing military band folks, maybe it is not surprising. And in the high register, the Ab and A are 15 cents flat, but the neighboring Bb is 12 cents sharp. That could be a little tricky, although I did not explore alternate fingerings as a possible solution. You can see from the graph below that with a few exceptions the scale is reasonable.

MAP price is $4,792.

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Shires Q41

The Shires horns (they had both a Q40 and Q41 on display) did not give me the "this is a big horn" impression as the Eastman did. I neglected to get the bore specs for this horn, but it reminded me more of a Willson. Based on that I might gamble on it being a .592" bore. (I just got specs from Shires, and they say the bore is .591".)

Reading between the lines of my conversations, I think this horn is definitely based on Willson characteristics. The sound is similar, being fairly even from top to bottom and very centered. In that way I was absolutely reminded of playing a Willson. One surprise was the response, which lacked the quick and even response of the Willson (from note to note). Perhaps this is just a start-up problem with an early sample, but it's hard to know. I check the valve alignment on the 1st valve and it seemed to be right on. (If that is off, the response evenness would be affected, which is why I've been unable to properly test the Yamaha horns at the last two ITEC's).

Overall assembly quality seemed good, but the tuning slide on this horn was extremely tight. It felt more like alignment that lubrication, but I can't say for sure. I also took off one of the valve caps and had trouble getting it back on. But with subsequent attempts it was not a problem. Could have been grit or maybe I just had a bad angle.

Intonation was somewhat uneven. As with the Eastman, low B was only 3 cents flat, which is good. Most of the other problems were on the flat side, as you can see below. The upper F# was 15 cents flat, which was surprising. That could be improved by compromising the other 2&3 notes on the chart and not pulling the 3rd slide. One surprise that won't show up on the chart is the high Eb (above the displayed range) - it was quite sharp! That might have been me, although I tried to test around it. Every horn I have owned has been (or seemed) low on that note, so my chops may over-pushing. I can adjust for such things in the normal range, but for drive-by testing, my chops aren't as flexible when I get that high.

MAP price is $5,995.

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Comparing the Two

Just for fun, here is a chart comparing the two horns above:

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Updated 11-14-2019 at 02:36 PM by davewerden

Euphonium-Tuba Blog , General Tuba-Euphonium Blog , Instruments and Equipment