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Dave Werden Review of Wessex Sinfonico Euphonium

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I just came up in the testing rotation of the Sinfonico, and it is a real treat to test this new horn! In 2019 at ITEC I tried the prototype for this horn and found it very promising. Now we are looking at an early production model. My impression is that that the instrument has changed quite a bit in that time (which is not surprising - that's how the process works).

The Sinfonico, unlike the less expensive Dolce, is hand made from sheet brass. Most other brands (and the Wessex "Dolce") start with tubes of metal that are hydraulically stretched to taper from the desired size at one end to the desired size at the other end. It is a convenient, money-saving technique for brass instrument manufacturing. The undesired side effect is that the tubing walls are thinner at the large end (because they were stretched more). Beyond that, when a horn is assembled, the ends of the tubes are joined large-to-small, so at the assembled joint the tubing suddenly changes thickness. It is also very expensive to build a new hydraulic form if you want to change the taper or size for better results. Changing the mandrel that sheet brass is formed on is much less costly, enabling easier design improvements. Adams uses this same technique.

Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	8500From the prototype to this production model, the Sinfonico remains very responsive. It is not as easy to play as my Adams, but it has the same "type" of responsive feel from behind the mouthpiece. It is possible, although I'm not an engineer, that the improvement in responsiveness helps smooth out the intonation. In any case, the Sinfonico has very fine intonation. It works well "out of the box" and you can adjust the notes fairly easily. You can see the Sinfonico's intonation in this graph:

And you can see and compare the various brands' intonation from this page:
https://www.dwerden.com/Intonation/index.cfm

I have tried using the Sinfonico first thing in the morning as I do my warmup routine. For the most part it feels great in that context because it blows so easily. The low C and low B are an exception (I suspect just because they are flat). It goes very easily from the pedal range, through the no-man's-land of the compensating notes from B above pedal Bb, and right up into the very high register (I only tested it to F above high Bb).

When I went into a large room and played, the tone was quite appealing. I expected it to sound lighter than it does, but next to my Adams it holds up pretty well as you can hear on the A/B recording below. The bell rim diameter is considerable smaller than my Adams, which I thought might give it better clarity. In playing it I did not notice the extra clarity in the final output. I also expected the sound to be smaller than it is. From what I can tell, the Sinfonico's seemingly smaller bell is actually a bit larger in diameter than my Adams in the area of the logo (the throat of the bell). There are many, many design elements that go together in making a horn, and what one can easily see is not always enough to give you a hint of the final result! I think Wessex balanced this design rather nicely for its intended audience.

Valve action was quite good throughout my testing, and little lubrication was required along the way. They were not fully broken in, so I assume the action will be even nicer after the horn has more miles on it.

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ID:	8497When I took pistons out for oiling, I noticed a very short "pocket" in the bottom of the piston. See the photo on the left. On the other compensating horns I've examined, including the one I play, there is more overhang in this area. I'm not sure if the short pocket will turn out to be a disadvantage, but it has a couple small advantages in theory: it is lighter and there is less surface area (i.e. friction) to move inside the cylinder.

The slides were fairly stiff to move, but the motion was smooth. Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	8498None were too stiff to deal with, and the tightness is most welcome on the 2nd slide. That one has such short legs that some players have had the slide pop out during playing! That won't happen with this one, and still it is very smooth and easy to pull for emptying. I really liked the pull-ring on that slide. The gauge of the metal is heavy and the diameter is large. For my fairly-large hands, that is welcome. On some horns my first knuckle almost gets stuck inside the ring. This one was comfortable to use. The photo on the right shows my finger inserted past the 2nd knuckle, and it still fit easily.

The 4th valve loop could stand to be shorter, IMO. In bass clef, the C on the 2nd space and the B on the 2nd line are quite flat. In the next partial down, the F and E are also flat (though not as much). Shortening the slide would make these notes more comfortable, and would be more in keeping with the otherwise fine intonation of the Sinfonico.

I found most notes on the horn were centered and responsive. I did have some trouble on the upper G concert, which did not seem to have a "happy place" that I could find. On the other hand the dreaded high B natural gave me no concerns.

Volume range was very fine. Because the horn is so responsive, soft playing was very easy and one could get soft easier on this horn than on some others. I could also pump a lot of air into it without seeming to distress it. The A/B video below will give you a sense of that. Early on I play the 4 bars that start Barat's Introduction and Dance, going for a very loud volume. I didn't feel as though I had to hold back at all.

Fast slurred passes and fast tonguing are quite easy on the horn. It will not limit your technique, and what comes out of the bell is nice and clear. The Sinfonico's easy response (and perhaps the feedback directly from the side of the bell to my ear) made me think the tonguing was clearer, but I did not hear that on the A/B recording.

The horn has a very solid physical feel about it. The construction quality seems very good. It is well shaped, even for a player with smallish hands. I was not very comfortable holding it, but that could be just me. My hands are somewhat large, and the fit around the hand brace was tight, as was the fit around the outer loop of the 1st valve slide (where I often grab it to pick it up). Those may just be my own individual problems, but I never quite got comfortable holding it and handling it.

Wessex revived the feature many like on the Hirsbrunner euphonium: 3 receiver bits, so that you can use a mouthpiece with a small tenor shank, a medium "old Besson" shank, or a large bass trombone shank without needing an adaptor. I only tested it with the bass shank, but I did take out the receiver bit, and it fit very nicely and seemed of high quality. (See the 3rd video below for a closer look and a pointer to something to watch out for if you use them.)

In summary, I think the Sinfonico sets a new playing standard at its price point (around $3k in the USA). Its intonation and responsiveness are really good, as is the tone you can get from it. Compared to the ACB Doubler we tested and to the Wessex Dolce, this horn is clearly a better player if you can afford to double your budget. It is not as good as my Adams, for one example, but it is about 1/2-1/3 the price of an Adams. The Sinfonico helps to give us a really fine step-up choice and is well worth the price.

VIDEO: 12 excerpts comparing the Sinfonico to the Adams E3:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_KkoQajSZ0

VIDEO: An overview of some of the features:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjd8xRghBO8

VIDEO: Closer look at the interchangeable mouthpiece receivers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyiOgy9II4E

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Updated 08-21-2021 at 05:52 PM by davewerden

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

Comments

  1. Jonathantuba's Avatar
    Dave, Thank you for your positive review and your comments on the Sinfonico.

    We will certainly take your advise on the 4th valve slide being slightly shorter. We try to make Wessex instruments suit as many players as possible, so it is always better to make slides slightly shorter, if some people have problems with flat notes, as others can always pull out if they find otherwise.