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Thread: John Packer 274 - Thoughts?

  1. #1

    John Packer 274 - Thoughts?

    So, the music store I work at is looking into John Packer instruments for cheaper options for advancing students and possibly schools (namely low brass) and I got a chance to try it out. I just wanted to post my thoughts, and possibly see if others had the same or different experiences. Particularly the debate between the major horns ($7-9k) and the Chinese 'stencils' ($1-3k?).

    The Instrument -
    Everything looks amazing. They got the lacquer version, partially due to the lower cost, but it's flawless. I can tell it's a Besson copy from the bar behind the right hand, but doesn't have the "U" bracing on the tuning slides. It's laid out similarly to the Sovereign I played briefly in High School, at least best to my memory. The 4th valve latch is a different design, which I'm on the fence about. The Besson I played had the flap that rested against the bow of the instrument, but this one just floats past it. The latch isn't loose at all so I didn't worry about it swinging back and causing problems, but as the horn ages it may make me cautious. Weight-wise, it's pretty heavy. It's heavier than my Willson 2950, but I only noticed it after going back and forth between the two for about 10 minutes. The valves were quiet, but a bit sluggish. I assume this will go away with frequent oiling and being "broken in", but enough to notice and slow down the player. The overall quality surprised me, the metal wasn't super thin or blemished.

    The Case -
    The case is also very nice, I prefer the hard latch cases to the molded plastic zipper cases that I've seen offered by similar instruments. It's got two sets of feet and handles to carry/set it length-wise or width-wise. It had a spot for 1 mouthpiece, and a cut-out for accessories. I would have no qualms loading it into a trunk or 'band van', but probably not flight-ready.

    The Extras -
    It came with a no-name mouthpiece, which I wasn't a big fan of, and the usual accessories. Ultra is the brand of valve oil and slide grease? It has a valve gutter for the main 3 valves that was still in the bag (nothing to absorb the water though), and also comes with a thin fabric bag to keep the horn in to prevent from scratches in case. It had replacement valve guides for all 4 valves, though I've heard parts are available through at least 1 major repair part distributor.

    Playing -
    Here's were the real debate begins. I had 2 other Euphs to compare it to, my 12-year-old Willson 2950 and a used Weril which is a YEP321 clone but with a large shank. Another co-worker had a Yamaha 641 (non-comp) he tested it against. It's worth repeating that I wasn't a fan of the mouthpiece. It reminded me of the Mead 'Ultra' series I had, but ended up disliking and going back to my Schilke 51D and 52E2, so use normal skepticism for mouthpiece reviews.

    The Weril didn't hold up well against the Packer. The sound was much fuller from the Packer, and was just all around better. I didn't compare intonation, but neither had anything that was way out or noticeable. It was not my Weril, so I had no player bias. If new it was a comparable 'stencil horn' 15+ years ago, it would be easy to see why people rave about the new stuff.

    How did it compare to the Willson? Would I sell it and replace it with the Packer? No. If I was in the market for a horn today, is the Willson worth 5 times the price of the Packer? ...probably not. Does that mean no one should buy a Willson (or Besson, Yamaha, Adams, etc.) over a Packer (or Wessex, Mack Brass, etc.)? NO. The differences were more subtle than they were with the Weril, but there were definite improvements.

    For my taste, the Packer didn't have the same resonance the Willson did. In the same room, the Packer seemed to have a quicker 'response' to attack and release, but at the expense of feeling more 'directional'. The sound didn't seem to blossom the way I've come to expect and desire. It was also easier to feel like I was reaching the edge of over-blowing, but that may be because it's a smaller bell than I'm use to playing on. I couldn't compare valves due to the sluggish Packer valves, but they felt like they may be comparable in the future.

    Overall -
    The John Packer 274 is a great Euphonium - For the money. Is it better than the big name, big buck brands? Not in my opinion, but it's got a lot of good going for it. I wouldn't be disappointed at all if a student came in for lessons with this horn. It's a great horn for high school students, education-track college students, and your 'everyday, average' player. If you're looking to go into performance, or serious playing, it would make a good horn to start with, but moving to a Besson/Willson/Adams/Yamaha will most likely be in your future.

    The biggest question in my mind is how the instrument holds up to use and abuse. I saw a YEP321 I played in High School 15+ years ago in for repair of a broken lead pipe. It was pretty beat then too. Minus the lead pipe and normal flattened bows, it would still be a working horn. Would the Packer stand up to the same abuse?

    I hope this helps someone, some day. I don't have much experience with the 'stencil' horns, but it was an enlightening experience. Does anyone else have similar or different experiences?

  2. #2
    I have had a 274 or about a year and a half and I haven't seen anything that makes me think it has a flaw. I did put on mead light springs and use the ultra pure oil that came with it.
    As for comparisons with the big boys, I find the tone to be very comparable, but the intonation may be one of the best horns on the market.

    It's a very well built horn. If you don't mind me asking what were they asking for the 274? Depending on the dealer, you should be able to get one for around 1500 brand new.

  3. #3
    I believe the MAP price was about 1550 for the lacquer, probably more for silver.

    My biggest concern was whether I had a buyer's bias towards my horn. Obviously I'm more use to it's quirks and comfortable with it, so only an hour with a different horn won't yield the same familiarity.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by TD517 View Post
    ...My biggest concern was whether I had a buyer's bias towards my horn. Obviously I'm more use to it's quirks and comfortable with it, so only an hour with a different horn won't yield the same familiarity.
    Naturally! It's tough to be that objective, and we will always bring some manner of bias into the comparison. I try to be as neutral as possible, but my opinion may differ from yours. If so, then it's probably due to each of our biases, because the horn remains the same.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. #5
    I've just recently started playing again and tested the 274 and 374. I found the 374 able to "blossom" in the manner you described, especially with a wider bore mouthpiece (SM4U) than is included with the horn. The valve action significantly improved in the first few weeks with consistently wiping and oiling. Some people have posted their issues with the intonation (for the price) but it wasn't a huge difference for me relative to other horns in that price range. This could be due to my less developed embouchure. I really liked the sound I got from the 374 and ended getting a demo model from dfmusic.

  6. #6
    The Packer instruments sound like great horns. I've been able to play on the tubas and they are definitely quality instruments.
    John 3:16

    Mack Brass Euphonium
    Conn Victor 5H Trombone
    Yamaha 354 Trombone
    Mack Brass 200S BBb Tuba

  7. #7
    So I received my horn 5 days ago, and been playing with it almost every day and tried it out at rehearsal. As someone who has only played on the small shank Yamaha YEP100 with a 6 1/2 AL-B mouthpiece exclusively all these while, I am likely unable to give any good objective observations since well, this is my first ever horn outside of my old one, and I had to change mouthpiece at the same time because of the shank size.

    First thing's first, this horn is heavy! The case even more so! I just needed to lift the horn into my car and my old back injury flared up. The case looks very though and well made though. The horn itself also weighs a lot more than my 3 valve Yamaha. My old horn now feels like a toy compared to the JP274. My arms are still sore after playing on the horn for the past 5 days. Maybe the metal is a lot thicker, aside from the extra pipes and compensating system?

    I ordered a lacquer finishing, but because of some misunderstanding or something, the seller sent me a silver plated one instead. The finishing looks great to me, there are some minor white stains where the joints are soldered together though, but they aren't noticeable unless you go look for them. The still pristine silver plating does give the horn a somewhat "sterile" and "cold" look to it though, I still kind of wished I got the lacquered one, but it's not too big a deal.

    After greasing all the slides, they come of easily, but refitting them seem to be a little of a pain, especially the 2nd valve's slide, it seems to get stuck often when reinserting and I have to remove it and reinsert it back again. The valve caps seem to have a similar problem with the threads, I can unscrew them, but screwing them back in place can be a little difficult, as it takes effort to align them properly. But maybe that's all just because the horn is still new, and they will eventually be easier to manage?

    The valves felt smooth and relatively quiet, I don't think I hear any of the friction that I heard in a video of a Sterling horn in another thread here, so I'm glad. The valves does take more effort to operate, my fingers are sore, but maybe it's just because the springs are new? They feel more weighty.

    Onto the actual blowing part. This is one that kind of still throws me off, everything just feels so different when you're playing behind the mouthpiece. On my Yamaha, the tone that comes out feels more focused, solid, dark and seem to originate more from nearer to the mouthpiece, while the JP274 seem to be a little fuzzier, fuller and the sound seem to originate more towards the bell. Interesting enough, I tried to record myself playing the same passage on both horns, and they actually sound very similar in the recording, so the difference seems purely a psychological thing from behind the horn. I remember reading something Mr. Werden mentioned in one of the older threads about how we will still produce a tone that's distinctly ours even if we swap mouthpieces or horns, because we will unconsciously adjust our playing to create that sound we already have in our mind. So I guess that's the case here. Haven't experienced the British Euph sound yet. Haha maybe after I get more used to the horn.

    I am still messing around with the tuning to figure out what works. My concert Eb is very flat somehow. However, I've noticed that I have a easier time blending in with the band and the other Euphs (then again, both of them are using a Besson & Sterling respectively). The horn has a lot less resistance compared to my Yamaha but I need more air support to really center the notes. I've been able to skim on breathing often on the old horn, but I had to make sure I always have enough air. My not so great air support was definitely brought to the foreground when using this horn.

    Overall, I am really loving this new horn and I believe I made the right choice in going with a JP274 (with the caveat of not being able to try any other horns within this price range before buying, so I went in blind literally). Maybe my opinion will change in the future if I get to try other horns, but right now, I'm extremely happy with my purchase & I do feel like I'm cheating on my Yamaha YEP100 now.
    Last edited by ChristianeSparkle; 11-19-2018 at 09:35 AM.
    "Never over complicate things. Accept "bad" days. Always enjoy yourself when playing, love the sound we can make on our instruments (because that's why we all started playing the Euph)"

    Euph: Yamaha 642II Neo - 千歌音
    Mouthpiece: K&G 4D, Denis Wick 5AL

  8. #8
    Congratulations on the new horn! You're going through a dual breaking-in period, one for the horn and one for you.

    A 4-valve horn is heavier than a 3-valve horn. You have an extra valve/piston assembly, and you have a lot of extra tubing just for that valve - the equivalent of the 1st and 3rd valve tubing combined. AND the compensating system adds a little more tubing for the 3 loops on the back of the valves. AND the compensating pistons are longer than the non-compensating pistons. All that combines to make extra weight. The tubing itself may be heavier, but I don't know about the relative thickness between your old and new horns.

    Compensating horns blow differently from non-compensating horns, perhaps because of the extra loops/runs in the system. The bore is larger as well, which of course affects things.

    My first compensating horn was a Besson New Standard, and I was trading from a King 4-valve bell-front. One of the first things I noticed was a flat E-flat concert (3rd space bass clef, or 1st space treble clef)! It's just "a thing" with compensating horns, but you will get used to adjusting for it.

    Patience and hard work are the answer!

    A lap pad might be a good idea, especially if you have back problems.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  9. #9
    Thank you sir! I read on Tubanet where Bloke mentioned that the JP274 seem to have thicker metal than usual, comparing them by just touch alone, seems like my Yamaha is definitely thinner.

    Good to know that the concert Eb is a quirk of compensating horns! I thought it was just me and I couldn't find any other slides to push in to address it.

    Definitely considering a lap pad or a folded towel! I've been hold the horn up all these while, even when sitting since it felt uncomfortable playing with the horn on my lap,as I am a little tall (5"11' feet?).
    "Never over complicate things. Accept "bad" days. Always enjoy yourself when playing, love the sound we can make on our instruments (because that's why we all started playing the Euph)"

    Euph: Yamaha 642II Neo - 千歌音
    Mouthpiece: K&G 4D, Denis Wick 5AL

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Yes, the “E flat concert” on the staff is always flat. I compromise with the 1st slide out about 1/4”. I need to lip up that E flat concert a bit and lip down the 6th partial E flat above the staff. Congrats on your new horn!
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (recently sold)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank

    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    El Cumbanchero (Raphael Hernandez, arr. Naohiro Iwai)
    Greensleeves (arr. Alfred Reed)

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