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Thread: Wessex BR144 review

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Wessex BR144 review

    After almost two years, I got fed up with the quirks of a fourty years old B&H round stamp baritone. So, I sold it and decided to buy a four valve compensated Wessex baritone (BR144). The decision was partly based on the good reviews on this forum. In this review I want to sum up my first impressions, after three weeks with the horn.

    The prototype which is somewhere on this forum is really different from the final design, which has a fourth valve wrap more similar to a euphonium wrap than the Prestige-like wrap of the prototype. I like the looks of the final model better, and the resistance when using fourth valve is not that bad.

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    The first impression of the horn was good. Overall quality seems fine, but the finish is not at the level of a Yamaha or Besson. Some of the soldering is not super tidy and threading on the valves is a bit rough. But, at this price, these are minor points. The valves do require attention in the first weeks of playing. At first the feel smooth, but after some hours of playing, some metal grinding builds up and they start feeling sticky. They definately need breaking in. After each practice, rehearsal or concert I clean and re-oil the valves, and regularly rinse them. I expect that this will take some more weeks. Probably I will replace the springs for heavier models, as I had on my B&H.

    The tone of the instrument is great, it works very well in the brassband setting it was designed for. In low register it can be round, towards a euphonium sound. In the middle and high register it can be compact like a tenor horn. Intonation is a lot better than that of the old round stamp. Fourth valve helps in the low register, and for the somewhat flat middle c (concert pitch). Other than that, nothing to complain about. The instrument feels open, there is not too much resistance. I like the feeling of a bigger bore like this, combined with a mouthpiece with a tighter backbore, for that bit of added control (I use a Stork T1).

    I am really happy with the horn. It really helps me creating the sound I have in mind, without having to worry to much about intonation. Despite some flaws in the finish, overall quality is very good.

    I was happy to read that Jonathan will further improve the production process. The combination of a good, own design, with cost effective production in China works really well. That little extra attention can really make Wessex a serious contender for quality instruments at any level.

    I expected that I would have to explain to people what instrument I am playing. But the overall first response is: "Nice, a Wessex, I heard good stories about them".

    Any questions or remarks? Let me know...
    Last edited by Barking Iron; 01-15-2019 at 02:30 AM. Reason: Added pictures & changed layout

  2. #2
    looks good. there's a lot of mystique about those old round stamp instruments, but I've never played one that I thought was particularly good. I can see where the 4th valve wrap is modified significantly from the Prestige-inspired curve that the early ones of these I tried had. The early ones I tried, unfortunately, had a very Prestige-like flat 5th and 8th partials - another poster who got one of these reported that they had fixed the 8th partial but the 5th was still very flat and required alternate fingerings. What's your take?
    --
    Barry

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    The Netherlands
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    My switch to Baritone was not completely voluntary. Scar tissue in my lip mad playing cornet impossible, so had to move to something bigger (should have made the switch much sooner, I love the instrument and the role in the brassband). The round stamp baritone became available so I started using that. After 'mastering' the instrument somewhat more, I came to the conclusion that part of the struggles I had was caused by the instrument. The sound is great, but there is a lot to it that does not work well or requires very hard work.

    As for the Wessex: It is much more in tune than the round stamp. 5th partial indeed is a bit low, so I use 4th valve for (concert pitch) C. C# is also low, but I prefer not to use 2&3 for that, and lipping it up is managable. D is a bit low, but not too bad.

  4. Quote Originally Posted by Barking Iron View Post
    As for the Wessex: It is much more in tune than the round stamp. 5th partial indeed is a bit low, so I use 4th valve for (concert pitch) C. C# is also low, but I prefer not to use 2&3 for that, and lipping it up is managable. D is a bit low, but not too bad.
    ALL brass instruments have flat 5th partials. Without wasting Dave's bandwidth, it is the geometry of partials and the difference between Pythagorean tuning and our 21st century ears insisting on equal temperament, which effectively raises the pitch of major 3rds, causing us to perceive the fifth partials as flat. If on the Wessex the 5th partial is only a "bit low," then you have a very fine instrument, indeed!

  5. Question for original poster: Did you also consider the BR140 (which appears to be the same basic instrument but 3 valves instead of 4)? The BR144 costs almost double, and would question whether it was worth it for the amount of benefit you would get from the 4th valve. Or are there other differences between the two other than just the 4th valve?

  6. #6
    Personal opinion: for me there is no need to have the fourth valve on a baritone. A 3 compensated valves is used to carry out all the work that a baritone must do: the 4th valve leaves it to the euphonium.
    Besson Prestige 2052,3D K&G mouthpiece;JP373 baritone,T4C K&G mouthpiece;Bach 42GO trombone,T4C K&G mouthpiece

  7. #7
    Without wandering away too much from this topic, I can possibly see an use for a 4 valve compensating baritone in a concert / wind band playing bass clarinet or bassoon parts (or cues) in thinner woodwind voicing where the euphonium sound is a bit much covering the missing bass woodwind voice but it would be noticeable that the bass woodwind voice is missing. There's a few times which I wish I had a 4 valve compensating baritone just for that function in my community band and well, just so people know the difference between the euphonium and baritone.

    It sounds like Wessex has a winner.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    The Netherlands
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    I made the decision based on specifications as I could not play test the instruments.

    I use the baritone in a champions section brassband (Altena Brass) where I play 2nd baritone. The 2nd baritone parts are using both the low as the high register a lot. For this reason, having a larger bore appealed to me. The round stamp felt restricted in the low register.

    The fourth valve helps in intonation in the low register and middle register. The round stamp to me was over compensated, making 1&3 and 2&3 flat, so I like the idea of having alternatives. I don't know how the 3-valve Wessex compares to the Besson.

    It does take some practice to move to for valves after 25 years of 3-valve instruments.

    My fellow baritone in the band plays a Prestige, so I expected this would blend well (which it does).

    And finally it also was an emotional decision. "If I can have a Prestige-like horn for this money, I'll go for it". (But I did not order the gold trim, because it is more than a Prestige copy, so I did not want to cause that confusion)

  9. Quote Originally Posted by Barking Iron View Post
    The round stamp to me was over compensated, making 1&3 and 2&3 flat, so I like the idea of having alternatives. I don't know how the 3-valve Wessex compares to the Besson.
    Hmm. I know about 2+3 tending flat due to the limitations of how small the comp loop on the 2nd valve can be, but I never heard of 1+3 being flat. On my Besson New Standard BBb tuba, 1+3 was right on the money. It sounds like a little judicious slide trimming would have fixed the issue.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by iiipopes View Post
    Hmm. I know about 2+3 tending flat due to the limitations of how small the comp loop on the 2nd valve can be, but I never heard of 1+3 being flat. On my Besson New Standard BBb tuba, 1+3 was right on the money. It sounds like a little judicious slide trimming would have fixed the issue.
    I'm on the same page. My Sovereign 955 3-valve (round stamp) is just fine on 1-3 and 1-2-3. And I agree that 2-3 is flat, especially on the concert F# (treble-clef G#).
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

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