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Thread: Schiller bass trombone: an initial review, Part 1

  1. #1
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    Schiller bass trombone: an initial review, Part 1

    One-line summary: For me, this instrument is an excellent deal and I’m very happy with the result; but there are some caveats and considerations for others that merit consideration.

    The details …

    Over a year ago I got the lust to get a bass trombone. In the early/mid 90s I’d had a Holton TR-181, learned enough to be at least mediocre on it, and played it some in community band. Then a lot of time passed when I got away from playing, and when I went back to the tuba I ended up selling the Holton and turning the proceeds into a good flute for my daughter. But I really like trombones (you can, theoretically, play them in tune) and decided that at this point in my life I’d like to get another, even if I only fiddled with it on an occasional basis.

    The Holton was a BIG horn: 10” bell and a slide that was quite wide. I always found it uncomfortable to play for very long, and this was before a number of the more recent “hand supports” had been developed. So my thinking for some time was to get a single-valve bass – like an old Conn – on the grounds that it would be lighter and more pleasant to use. I was committed to this view for some time, and for months compared horns in terms of their specs, and watched for what was available. When the time came and I had the money, I changed my mind. The change was for a couple of reasons. First, I couldn’t find what I wanted in a single-valve horn for a price I was willing to pay. I wanted one where the low B-natural and C-natural would be reliable, at least with slide pulling, and they just don’t make those any more. I missed a couple of possible purchases of old Conns, and then (only the past couple of months) started to think in a different direction. I decided that if I was going to have a bass, I should have one where I knew I could cover the entire range with some facility. This meant a double-valve instrument. I would have preferred a dependent-valve dual thumb trigger model, but these aren’t very common. I found one, but just a bit too late to buy it – it had been sold. So I finally caved, decided that I’d look for a “smaller” (than the Holton) Chinese bass trombone, and bite the bullet (and the bullet brace).

    Once I made that decision, I decided that – for my purposes, and given my budget, and given the functionality that I wanted – I’d go on the low end of Chinese. In February I’d tried a used Mack Brass bass trombone (clone of the Yamaha Xeno 830), in excellent condition and with a bullet brace and a Douglas Yeo mouthpiece. I could have had it for very good price. But at that point (a) I didn’t yet have the money to spend, and (b) I was still in the grip of the single-valve ideal. Also, when I played it a bit, I felt that it seemed a bit stuffy. That could well have been me (not having played for so long), but I’ve since seen reports that others have felt the same about the Yamaha horns and their clones. Anyhow, I passed on it.

    I decided that instead I would go for one of the Chinese clones of the King 7B. Both the original King and the clones seemed to have very good reputations as good “small” bass trombones. Versatile, but not exactly what you’d want for symphony work. That fit my goals. In fact, one of my goals was a horn that I could at least play tenor parts on and have them sound reasonable. The 7B clone seemed to fit the bill.

    The next choice was where to get it. Several sources offer it – at pretty widely varying prices and (probably) varying degrees of “finish” or quality to some degree. But I’d decided to go “low end” and looked for one from a reasonably reliable source at the lowest price I could find. This turned out to be the Schiller MSCH60 from Jim Laabs Music. I knew (based partly on reports on this site) that Laabs had something of a spotty reputation in sales, quality, and customer support; but I figured I could tough it out and fix any minor problems I might encounter myself, and deal with any major ones in the unlikely event there were any. I also (again -- couldn’t resist) looked at a single-valve bass that Laabs offers (unusual in the clone realm) that appears to be a Yamaha 421G clone, but Troy Laabs strongly recommended the (lower priced!) double-valve horn. I went for it. It arrived two days ago: $585.

    For those who may be interested in a similar pursuit of trombone destiny, I offer the following PRELIMINARY REVIEW. I will probably offer another one once I re-learn how to play the beast …

    What I like:

    Price. $585 for a bass trombone? Are you kidding?

    Appearance. It’s pretty. Mildly rose brass bell. There are virtually NO visible imperfections in any of the solder joints or the finish. Being really picky, there are maybe two brace bases that show a very fine line of discoloration along one side. Really picky. No loose joints or joints out of place. No visible solder. At least as good in this way as my Mack Brass euphonium. The bell is engraved with “Schiller”, the Schiller “crest”, and “Frankfurt Germany”. I tried addressing it in German, but got no response. I don't speak Chinese. No further comment on that.

    Delivery. Very fast. Less than a week (including a weekend) from Wisconsin to central North Carolina. Very well packed.

    Sound. It’s got (to my ears) a nice bass trombone sound. It’s not the sonic artillery piece the Holton was. It’s got a 9.5” bell, and the bell section doesn’t open up like the Holton does. The bore size is actually just slightly larger than the Holton (.563 compared to .562), but that bell section makes a huge difference.

    Slide. The slide seems great. I’m using “Yamasnot” on it at the moment. I’ve seen one professional say that the 7B clone he has (I don’t know its source) has the best slide he’s encountered on a Chinese trombone.

    Openness. The 7B has a reputation as a free-blowing horn, particularly for an inline valve instrument. This seems to be true of the clone.

    The mouthpiece that came with it. This is truly a shock. It’s advertised as a “genuine Schiller mouthpiece” (maybe from Frankurt?), and I’m sure it is – even though there isn’t a mark on it indicating brand or size. I have the following bass trombone mouthpieces kicking around here: Wick 3AL, Wick 2NAL, and Schilke 60. The no-name default mouthpiece works better for me on this horn than any of the others. I always used the Schilke 60 on the Holton. On the 7B clone, it just doesn’t work so well, especially in the high register. Okay in the real low range, but kind of dull elsewhere. Too deep, I think. The 2NAL isn’t bad. But the no-name will work for a while. I THINK it’s a clone of a Bach 1 1/2GM or 1 GM – based on measurements I made. After tooting on the horn for a couple of days I just ordered a Doug Yeo Replica. I expect it will be at least a bit better than the pseudo-Bach and than the Schilke 60.

    Valves (modulo minor problems noted below). Very smooth and they seal tightly. When you oil the bearings you can use slide pulls to suck the oil into the bearings. When you pull the slides, you get a very distinct pop. The bumpers appear to be silicone. They'll get replaced by neoprene, but not immediately.

    Threads. Threads (valve caps, other connectors) have been one of the banes of Chinese brass instruments. These seem fine. I’ve had no problems with them at all and they don’t seem soft.

    The legs of the tuning slides for the F and Gb attachments are PERFECTLY aligned – and those
    things are LONG.

    See Part 2 for the rest of this review.


    Last edited by ghmerrill; 08-13-2015 at 03:52 PM.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  2. #2
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    Schiller bass trombone: an initial review Part 2

    See Part 1 for the start of this review:

    Cons/problems:

    The case. It’s one of the generic Chinese hard foam cases, plush lined and with a fairly thin fabric cover. It’s good enough not to put money into replacing for a while. I don’t like how the slide fits into it. You have to kind of edge the bottom of the slide into an end recess, and then the rest of the slide goes flat into its compartment in the top of the case. While you’re doing this you somehow have to keep a bottom flap, the tops of two Velcro straps, and the bottoms of two straps out of the way while you’re seating the slide, then close it in with the straps. Complicated, irritating, and it really needs three or four hands. Otherwise the case is “okay”. There is no strap holding the bell section in the case once it’s put into its slot. You can feel it shift a bit. I may fix that with some extra padding. The Holton locked down with two straps.

    When I unpacked and assembled the horn, the second (Gb) valve was non-functional. You couldn’t move it. Inspection showed this was because of the somewhat cheesy linkage arm from the main lever to to the valve (has bearings on each end, but the ends don’t swivel on the axis). After some careful inspection and trial and error with a couple of small washers, a slight and careful bend of the actuating arm solved the problem. Works great now. The valves are very smooth. The lever for the second valve is almost unreachable by a normal human. Some bending will take care of this, but I’m not going to do that until I figure out how to hold the horn. A lot of double-valve horns have this “feature”.

    The slide lock was bent upward slightly. Probably a "fix" for a slight alignment in soldering. The result was that the slide lock was floppy in both the unlocked and locked positions. Very careful and slight bending (off the instrument!) took care of this.


    The tuning slide legs are not nickel plated. Economy horn. On the other hand, I’ve seen pictures of genuine Kings and the slide legs didn’t appear to be plated either.

    The water key is slightly misaligned so that the pad doesn’t center on the drain hole. Big deal. It works. Not worth fixing.

    The legs of the main tuning slide are VERY slightly out of alignment – just to the point that you need to push laterally on one of them the tiniest bit to get it to start. I don’t know if it’s the legs of the slides or the sleeves they go into that aren’t right. If it’s the slide legs then I MAY fix it at some point. But how often do you need to remove and replace this? Only when you clean the horn. This is a bit puzzling given how well the valve tuning slides were done.

    As the horn arrived, tightening the slide onto the horn with its nut didn’t last. Any movement would loosen the nut on it. It occurred to me that an o-ring might fix this. Oddly, an o-ring had been placed just above the slide nut on the neck in front of the pivot for the second valve. Since it appeared to be non-functional there, I moved it to the inside of the nut. Problem fixed.

    There are no other problems I see with the horn, and I regard these all as minor. There was absolutely NO documentation of any kind with the instrument. No descriptive brochure. No user's guide. No information on assembly or maintenance. Nothing. A bit peculiar for an instrument, I think.

    The horn came with a bottle of Blue Juice, a tube of Leblanc Slid-Eze slide and cork grease, and a bottle of Slido-o-Mix Rapid Comfort. I think all of these will be given away.

    The biggest disappointment is that THE HORN IS VERY DIFFICULT TO HOLD. This is quite a surprise. The Holton was difficult to hold because it was so big. This horn is difficult to hold because it’s so “small”. I don’t have large hands (a problem with the Holton), but there just isn’t enough space to hold the horn the way recommended by Doug Yeo and use the thumb lever. I’ll just have to address this in some way, and I think a bullet brace will help, but it has come as quite a surprise. Of course this is a “feature” of the 7B more than a feature of the clone. I’m working on it. I think the horn would probably be great for a woman (typically with smaller hands than a male) or an early teen, if the weight itself weren’t an issue. Right now, pending arrival of the bullet brace, I've got some rubber shelf liner wrapped on a couple of parts of the hand slide at the upper brace. It's helping a bit.

    Now there are (hopefully) only a few months of effort back to a level of mediocrity with this instrument.


    Summary:

    As I said at the beginning, for me this is an excellent deal and I’m very happy with it. A number of others on this forum would probably have the same reaction. But there are some things to think about from the perspective of the “average player”.

    There is NOTHING fundamentally wrong with the horn. But the review exposes the fact that I fixed or significantly improved several things about the instrument that would NEED to be addressed in order for it to be fully playable and secure. These things include the second valve trigger linkage, the tightening of the hand slide nut, the slide lock, and (yet to be done) bending the second valve lever to make it reachable while playing. Someone inexperienced in performing such tasks might well (and might wisely) be deterred, or might be severely annoyed to receive an instrument that could not be assembled and played correctly without a visit to an instrument repair tech.

    Even given that – and even given such a visit to a repair tech – the horn still passes the “very good deal” test from my perspective. All that needed to be done was to (carefully!) bend a few things. How long did that take? Maybe half an hour at the most. What’s the typical brass service tech charge rate? About $60/hour. So even for a charge for one hour of service, the horn still comes out to be in the $650 area. And this doesn’t take account of what Jim Laabs Music would be willing to do in such a circumstance (and I won’t speculate about that here). Overall, however, I have to wonder if the primary marketing/sales plan for these instruments isn’t to sell them to resellers who will then perform the minor repairs/maintenance in order to resell them in fully playable condition for a reasonable profit. Just a thought.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 08-13-2015 at 04:06 PM.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  3. #3
    I have a Chinese alto trombone. I would say your review is spot on, spend the money on getting the tuning slide alignment fixed. In my case, the case is what caused the misalignment by binding on the joint point of the horn, and was starting to bend the handslide. If/when you decide to fix those issues, you might look at having the handslide converted to accepting different leadpipes. A #2 shires might make the horn easier to play.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
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    There's no money involved in getting the tuning slide aligned -- just a torch. But it's so minor I may just let it slide. It's nothing like the main tuning slide on my 1924 Buescher tuba, which I'm convinced came that way from the factory. At some point I WILL get the torch out and fix that. But it will require removing at least a couple of braces, desoldering two or three joints, and resoldering. Other things keep getting in the way of this since it isn't a real high priority.

    I'm not sure that the slide can be made to accept replaceable lead pipes without destroying it. Some can; some can't. It looks as though it might be fairly tricky on this horn. And (unlike the Yamaha 830 and clones), no one seems to have an issue with the lead pipe on 7Bs in general. At any rate, I am not at this point able to judge whether there's an issue here at all, and my approach for a while is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But the lead pipe is something I'm keeping in mind for the future. But even then it's a trade-off between investing in the modification and the cost of a new lead pipe, or getting a different horn. Remember: I went low end on this in part because I wanted to see how much I'd actually use a bass trombone and whether I could devote the required time to it in addition to the tuba and euph.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  5. #5
    Nobody nickel plates tuning slide legs. What some manufacturers do is make the tuning slide tubing from solid nickel-silver (aka white brass). King has never done this on the 7b. Some of their other models they have on the outer slides but not the inner. It changes the sound. The big advantage is that the nickel-silver tubing is harder and has less of a chance of deforming if you get it wedged inserting it. Many low-end student instruments have traditionally used all yellow brass tubing, but it's not an absolute indicator. On euphoniums, besson always does nickel silver inners and outers, as do most of the german makers. Willson is always all yellow brass. Yamaha uses yellow brass inners and has nickel-silver outers. It's not necessarily a mark of quality or not, but just part of the design of the instrument.

  6. #6
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    Interesting. I would have thought that that nickel would have been preferred for hardness and durability, but, as you say, there are tradeoffs. My Mack Brass euph and Wessex tuba have nickled slide legs (and the Cerveny tuba did as well). So I guess Chinese instruments differ from Yamaha in that respect. My old Buescher just has brass. And the Amati oval euph also just has brass -- though it has surprisingly nice nickel rolled ends on the outers.

    I don't remember the situation with the Holton, but now that you mention it, I think the inners were just brass.

    The Edwards Bullet Brace arrived today. I held it up to the horn and said "This isn't going to work. There's not room enough for it." But (with some effort) it did. I probably should have got the C brace instead of the S, but I think I'll stick with the S. It makes a world of difference with holding the horn, and even makes it feel bigger since my hand can be more open.

    However, at this point, with the brace in play, the Gb trigger is REALLY unusable. I think I'm going to take it off and make a couple of careful bends in it. I hate having to put levers with those irritating springs back in place, but I think there's no way around it. If I try to bend it on the instrument, I'll break it for sure and then have to fabricate a new one. But I also think that I'll remove the existing paddle and make some better sort of angled actuating arm (which should be able to go onto the existing rod end with a sleeve I can make). More of an 'L' affair that sticks up decently in easy finger range rather than the round paddle does.

    At least I'm at the point where I can start doing exercises on the Bb/F horn.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

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