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davewerden

Review: Cronkhite Leather Gig Bag for Euphonium

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After a great of thought and study, I decided to go with a Cronkhite leather gig bag. It was a hard decision because I have enjoyed my Altieri bag, starting in the 1990's, but I'm convinced the leather Cronkhite offers better protection. This review will include a comparison between the two bags. Let me also say that my Altieri bag gave me fine service for all these years. It held up well and was very convenient to use for my own situation (the horn is always under my control, for one thing). An Altieri costs slightly less than the Cordura version of the Cronkhite bag.

Here is my "leather" reasoning. A Cordura version would have saved me about $200 and would have been about 3 pounds lighter. Cordura is very tough, but I believe that leather will hold up longer (and leather will not attract lint!). The leather used in these cases is top-grain cowhide of substantial thickness, and it adds noticeable structural integrity to the bag. That, plus the small about of extra shock absorption of the thick leather should help protect the instrument. Altieri uses a multi-density padding on their bags, but it is much thinner than the padding on the Cronkhite. "Multi-density" sounds more high-tech, but I think roughly doubling the thickness of the padding is a plus for Cronkhite.

For what it's worth, Cronkhite says they use 1" high-density padding throughout. Altieri doesn't specify thickness, but the bell end feels like about 1" (they say they use more padding on that piece) and the body of the bag seems to have padding about 1/2" thick according to my caliper.

My empty Altieri bag weights 3.1 pounds. The empty Cronkhite weights about 6.5 pounds. I did not have a Cordura Cronkhite bag to weigh, but I suspect it would fall in between the other two.

There are shoulder straps on one side of the bag (we'll call that the back side) and a zippered pocket on the other side. The pocket is generous, but probably not large enough to hold a music folio because the zipper is roughly halfway up the height of the pocket, and inserting oversize items would require bending them. 8-1/2x11" sheets will fit nicely, though. Inside the pocket was a nice little padded micro-fiber pouch that would be good for your accessories. The photo below shows the bag's front side, and I put the pouch on top to show its size:

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The Cronkhite bag has very heavy-duty zippers, fittings, and straps. They inspire confidence! The zippers on both gig bags are plastic. Below are photos showing the fittings on the Cronkhite alongside the Altieri. It's hard to tell from the photos, but the Altieri (bottom half) fittings are plastic and the Cronkhite's (top half) are metal. (Note that the Altieri fittings are quite strong and I have never had one fail or slip.)

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The Altieri wins the contest for handy design features. It has a very large compartment for music and such, and a smaller pocket within that for loose items. On the back side, the Altieri has an extra flap, behind which you can stow the shoulder straps when you aren't using them. That flap can also fit over the uprights of a typical folding luggage cart to keep the horn secure. It also has fittings and a strap for single-strap carrying (which puts the bag in a horizontal carry position). The one bad part is the Altieri backpack straps are long enough that they can trip you when you carry the horn with the hand grips while the straps are not "stowed." The photos below show the Altieri on top and the Cronkhite on the bottom.

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I might call the Altieri the lazy player's bag (which is a de facto confession on my part). First, for casual/local carrying, the Altieri has enough room to hold your horn with the mouthpiece in place. Let me say that it is a terrible idea to carry your horn that way - the mouthpiece could come loose and cause all kinds of trouble, and if the bag takes a hit in the area of your mouthpiece, the extra length with the mouthpiece in place makes it much easier to bend the leadpipe! I carried mine this way a lot with no trouble, but...don't do it! The extra roominess of the bag makes it quick and easy to put the horn in & out, but there is not a huge difference in convenience in that respect. The Altieri is several inches longer than necessary, which also makes the in/out operation easy. But that convenience comes at the cost of more risk to the instrument. It's a bit like buying a bicycle helmet that is too large for your head. It might mess up your hair less, but if you fall you could regret it. Photo shows Cronkhite on the left and Altieri on the right.

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The looseness of the Altieri bag contributes to a less-secure feeling as you carry the horn/bag around. The weight inside the bag can shift a bit, but that is a fairly minor effect. Adding to the less-secure feeling are the long handle/grip/straps on the Altieri bag - they just don't give you as much directional control compared to the neatly-fit handles on the Cronkhite bag. Even though the Cronkhite bag is heavier, when carrying my euphonium in each bag the Cronkhite feels lighter and better - more secure, more under my control, and more compact.

I don't necessarily "follow the crowd" with most decisions, but it is worthy of note that most of the serious euphonium artists use Cronkhite cases. That did influence me a little bit in this decision.

The Cronkhite website looks like a work in progress in a few places. The worst example is under "Specs" where there is some obvious placeholder text instead of actual numbers. Here are my measurements for those who are curious:

Cronkhite
Bell end, vertical: ~15"
Bell end, horizontal: ~13.25"
Length: ~30"
Small end width: <6"

Altieri (from their website)
29" long x 18" wide x 4.5" deep

My Altieri bag is in perfect condition and I did not really "need" to buy a new bag. Moving to Cronkhite is, in part, due to a desire to wrap my very expensive and customized euphonium in the best protection possible for a soft bag. (My euphonium is somewhat more vulnerable because of the sterling silver bell, which is a softer metal than brass.) Looking over my new Cronkhite bag carefully, it is clear that it is made extremely well, with well-fitted seams and high quality materials everywhere. For those looking for the absolute best in a gig bag, I highly recommend considering the Cronkhite.

If you choose to buy it, be patient! They are a small shop and hold their production to high standards, so you may need to wait quite a while. Now and then a bulk order from instrument manufacturers will slow them down, too. My own order was delivered in just under 4 months (part of that was undoubtedly due to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year going by). It's also possible you could pick one up at a show. I just missed getting one at a local event where there was a leather Cronkhite bag available for a good price at the end of the show (at the Cronkhite booth).

For more information on either Cronkhite or Altieri euphonium bags, here are the web pages:

https://glenncronkhite.com/product/euphonium

https://altieribags.com/collections/euphonium-bags

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Updated 01-19-2020 at 07:56 AM by davewerden

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

Comments

  1. highpitch's Avatar
    Good review, Dave. I too carried an Altieri for many years.

    I gave a real hard look at the leather Cronkhite, Altieri, and the Bonna.

    The Bonna won out, and I'm very pleased with it.

    Dennis
  2. daruby's Avatar
    I actually have two Conkhite's, a black cordura and a brown leather bag. My Sterling goes in the cordura bag and my Adams in the leather. Part of the reason for this pairing is my Sterling is silver plated while the Adams is in lacquer. I have experienced more rapid tarnishing in the leather bag, ergo the Sterling goes in the cordura.

    I also have a Bonna case that came with my Adams. Due to the different dimensions of my Prototype E3 (it is slightly longer than a standard E3), it will not fit in the Bonna without custom cutting of the foam bolster for the bottom bow. Plus, it is MUCH larger, heavier and awkward to carry than the Cronkhites. So it is a closet queen along with the original Besson-style hard case the Sterling came in.

    Doug
  3. highpitch's Avatar
    My Bonna was made for a New Standard, it just fits the overall length and diameter without any bolsters. I was really lucky for find that model.

    You're right, a fellow player has a full size one and it is bulkier.

    DG
  4. tonewheeler's Avatar
    I have a leather Cronkhite purchased several years ago. I was told it was specially made to fit the girth of my Miraphone 5050. Additionally, it has a lining which prevents tarnishing. I've never experienced any issues with it and it keeps my horn well protected.
  5. davewerden's Avatar
    tonewheeler: you folks with the 5050's are special! I noticed that the Cronkhite site has one model that fits that horn, and the original model that fits everything else.

    I did not know about the lining, but that is a great feature. My current horn is not silver plated, but who knows what the future will bring.