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Thread: Contemplating 1st purchase for our student son (Intermediate+ level player)

  1. #1

    Contemplating 1st purchase for our student son (Intermediate+ level player)

    Greetings Everyone,

    New member here! I was referred to this site by Dave Werden, and this forum has been a great resource to help us decide which direction to take in purchasing our son's 1st Euphonium. He's graduating high school, and CBU is in need of a Euphonium player. The purchase will not only allow him to get a partial scholarship, but will likely become an instrument he uses throughout his life. There are a lot of brands & models out there (too many, actually), so discovering this forum has been a blessing. The largest chunk of this decision rests on what sounds/feels best to our son, but I'm hoping we can narrow down the options to help guide him towards a manageable handful of choices. I was hoping the experienced members on this site can chime in on the findings I discovered, and if we're leaning towards sound choices... considering this will be his first owned instrument.

    Below is what is currently on the "short list" ranked from most-favored to least-favored choice (ALL are still in the top 4). The comments I make are just my initial impressions from online research. We don't have any "hands-on" experience with these instruments yet, and the short list below is probably not going to be a big surprise:

    #1) John Packer - JP274 ($1600 shipped, and my most preferred)
    - Sounds close to an $8,000 Besson Sovereign. I LOVE the dark & rich tone this has.
    - This unit is not manufactured from JINBAO, but through another Chinese company under JP's specs.
    - People who own this model report the finish is virtually flawless and blemish free like higher end models.
    - Out of the gate, there doesn't seem to be issues with the valves or slides.
    - JP has been around for 40 years, but is more of an "underdog" company.
    - Their business appears to spend more resources towards quality engineering over marketing.
    - I watched Matonizz's YouTube comparison with the Schiller Elite and was shocked how quiet the valves were.
    - The JP274 fits the perfect bill for price + tone quality + silent valve operation.
    - Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only downside may be that it's the heaviest of the bunch (over 10.25lbs).
    - I believe it comes with a 1 year warranty, but hope there is a return window if we're unhappy with it.

    #2) Wessex Dolce ($1570 shipped)
    - I read comments how the business owner openly stated this was not a JINBAO unit.
    - Although I do suspect some PARTS might come from the JINBAO factories.
    - Each instrument is Q/C'd and tested before it ships to the customer - something I value.
    - However, there have been comments about units shipping with black smudge around the valve caps.
    - Many users have also seen blemishes on the finish (possibly before they updated their finishing process).
    - I really like the silver plated finish w/gold accents - it's quite attractive!
    - I haven't heard what it sounds like yet, but am thinking the tone might be comparable to JP
    - Our local Sam Ash has this model in-house that we can use for testing.
    - I believe Wessex comes with a 3 year warranty.

    #3) Yamaha - YEP641 ($4,000 used)
    - A well respected and sought-after instrument.
    - This is the only true "professional grade" (or near pro-grade) model, would you agree?
    - Or is any compensating Euphonium considered advanced/professional grade?
    - Resale value is likely the best with this Yamaha over the other instruments listed.
    - I suspect Yamaha will have the best quality and reliability over time.
    - I have concerns the Chinese models may need more tweaks and repairs over time.
    - I'm speculating the Yamaha was built around the late 1980's, and was rarely used.
    - Is there a concern about valves rotting with this model (compared to other brands)?
    - The downside is that it's above our comfort zone of affordability.
    - I'm not sure if $4,000 is a good or just a fair price for a near-mint condition unit.
    - I believe I read on this forum a good price point is around $3,500, but that was a few years ago.
    - We prefer to keep things around $1500, but also realize best value often requires more funds up front.

    #4) MackBrass - EU1150S ($995 shipped)
    - If the JP274 is a clone of Besson, this unit is a clone of the Yamaha models.
    - As such, it should sound close to the Yamaha in tone quality - even if it doesn't have the same performance.
    - The finish is reported to be very thin - causing areas to rub off after only months of ownership.
    - Using gloves is strongly recommended, and may be the case for most Chinese models.
    - It's hard to argue the MackBrass Euphonium is possibly the GREATEST value for its price!
    - The next comparable compensating silver finish instrument costs 50% more.
    - I'm not sure if there is a warranty, but I can check their website.

    For financial reasons, we can't be looking at a new Hirsbrunner/Adams, Besson Prestige/Sovereign, or Sterling Virtuosos. I also considered Eastman, but thought they were over priced considering what you can get with other Chinese brands. The used Yamaha YEP-641 is at least ALMOST affordable, but still costs $2500 more than I would like to spend. I can't throw it out completely, as it's still an opportunity to get a pro-grade instrument that would likely be an investment over our son's lifetime. The Yamaha's case and instrument are both in XLT/Near Mint condition, and it also has a "mystique" quality of being owned by a Hollywood film score musician. It's also within a reasonable driving distance - which allows us the chance to thoroughly examine and test it out in person. Our current financial constraints may still push us to walk away from the Yamaha even if our son loves it. The seller is fairly firm on the $4,000 price tag.

    My apologies for the long-winded post, but I wanted to give as much information as I could.

    Best Wishes,
    ~ Sheldon (EyeInSky)
    Last edited by EyeInSky; 05-25-2019 at 08:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Hi Sheldon. Welcome to the forum.

    I can comment on the YEP641 as I played one for 12 years or more. Mine is currently on long-term loan to my grandson. The 641 is very well made with a 'one-piece' bell construction - which is different than many other models. It has a very focused tone due to its 11" bell. Yamaha horns are well made and durable. The sixth partials (high Eb, E and F concert) can be pretty sharp but most euphoniums have the same or similar sharpness. You can usually deal with this using alternate fingerings or by lipping the notes down some. The $4000 price tag does seem a bit high to me. A section mate of mine recently bought a nearly perfect used Yamaha 642 for $3500. If you're interested in the 641 maybe make the seller an offer.

    Good luck in finding an excellent horn for your son.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    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
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) cell phone video

  3. #3
    Welcome to the forum, Sheldon!

    I love all the observations above (although I don't agree with all of them) - they are great to kick off discussion.

    Jinbao has made and still makes a huge variety of models. They have brought out a number of horns that were previously hard to find here and expensive. The oval-style euphoniums (i.e. German style) are one example. Some of our folks (and a student of mine) have purchased some of these and are happy. But there is not much support with that route, so you're taking more of a chance.

    The first step above Jinbao is Mack Brass. My understanding is that the instrument is strictly a Jinbao with Mack branding. Mack's customer service is generally thought to be good. They also inspect the horns as they arrive in the shop, which is good, and try to correct any problems. But there is a disincentive to send an inferior horn back, unless it is really bad, because they are without stock for a while and it's a bother.

    My go-to choice for inexpensive is Wessex. I believe they started with a Jinbao (or similar clone of a recognized brand). My observations over several years are that Wessex began working for better QC from the factory. I don't know when they started visiting the factory to inspect every horn in each shipment, but that was a huge step IMHO. There is a lot of leverage in that. They can talk to the floor manager directly and make them fix the horn right there (or I suppose they could reject a really unfortunate sample if it came to that). They made some design changes along the way, that are unique from the original Jinbao, and also some manufacturing changes. For example, a Wessex consultant's advice caused them to start heat-treating the bells for more durability and better sound. They have also increased the thickness of silver plating substantially over standard Jinbao. And they are working up their own floors in the factory. Wessex has also designed several horns that are not offered by Jinbao, such as the double-bell euphonium (the first DB offered new in the last several decades, and I believe the only one currently in production).

    JP Sterling and JP are separate lines as far as I know. The "Sterling" designation indicates that Paul Riggett of Sterling Musical Instruments in England has had a hand in design and also production methods. The JP Sterling has had some good reports here and elsewhere, but they are higher priced than Wessex. Perhaps some of the members here have insights into the "plain JP" line.

    I saw the Matonis video comparison, and I find it quite flawed. Watch his finger action closely as he compares the valves. There is a big difference in the speed/force used, which by itself can account for extra noise on any horn. Not saying it was intentional, but it leaves the video useless in that regard.

    I consider a Yamaha 641 a pro-level horn that is made well, plays well, and has been proven in the field. You might find it not quite as smooth and even from note to note as, for example, a Wessex, but I'm not sure about that. Newer designs have gotten more smooth from the player's point of view. But I would in no way consider the 641 unacceptable.

    Those are my observations. I'm a professional horn comparer (in my own estimation!) who has been testing horns pretty intensely since around 1978. I'll do more at ITEC in a couple weeks. But even so, I am not able to have a lot of time will all brands. I have developed a methodology that lets me learn a lot in a half hour or so of testing at a display booth, but it is not the same as owning one. So take my feedback with a grain of salt. It is honest and based on experience, and as unbiased as I can make it - but it's not the last word.

    MEMBERS: please jump in and share your various experiences. We won't settling the issues once and for all, but I hope we keep filling in more facts and perspectives.
    Last edited by davewerden; 05-19-2019 at 05:19 PM.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  4. #4
    I forgot mention one thing to consider. Your son is likely to develop greatly while in college and his abilities and feelings about euphonium qualities may change. I don't know that you need to buy a life-long horn at this point. You could consider the Wessex as a fine college choice, and one he could keep playing as a hobby afterward. If he wants to get very serious, he could sell/trade the Wessex and move up to a pro brand of his choice. Just food for thought.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. #5
    My suggestion would be the Wessex Dolce. I own one and have for a little over three years. I am a professional level player. I also own an Adams E3 Custom Euphonium. And a 1956 Boosey & Hawkes Imperial Euphonium.

    The Wessex has a 3 year warranty. It also has a 2 week period where you can return the horn if you do not like it. I don't know that you will find Wessex products in music stores other than their own showrooms (a new one recently in the Chicago area). They also sell from England where the parent company is.

    My Wessex is a brass lacquered model with gold brass bell. I got it for about $1250, give or take, three years ago. The current price is $1370 for the brass with gold brass bell and lacquered. I usually play my Adams, but I have been playing the Wessex exclusively for about 5 months now due to having my Adams at a very busy place awaiting some minor work. I get it back in a week. I play the most demanding solos on the Wessex with a band I am in where I live. The horn performs great. I use my own preferred mouthpiece, not the one that came with the horn. A friend of mine recently bought a Wessex. She experienced a couple minor things, but I think overall she is finding the horn to be very nice, she is a "returning" player.

    I also played my Wessex exclusively for 6 months when I first got it. It was to be a bridge horn between my Miraphone M5050 and my new custom Adams. I sold the Miraphone and had to wait 6 months for the Adams to be built. I play a solo with my New Horizons Concert Band every year, sometimes two solos. The solo I was playing at this time was "Carnival of Venice". So I rehearsed that with the band for 3 months, then we played 10 or so concerts. Same thing right now. I played "Blue Bells of Scotland" for our spring semester. We rehearsed for 3 months, then played 7-8 concerts. The Wessex performed great for both. I have no worries at all using this horn in "ANY" setting. Oh, and I played the Bydlo solo from "Pictures at an Exhibition" in our orchestra using the Wessex. No worries whatsoever.

    I had planned to sell the Wessex once my Adams was done and I had it. But, I liked the Wessex so much, I decided to keep it. Good thing I did. I need it now. I also use it when I am playing in close quarters or outside in bad weather, just to avoid getting my Adams (which is about 10 times the cost of my Wessex) banged into or otherwise damaged.

    This horn would certainly suit an intermediate+ player well. And as Dave mentions, if he decides to really go all out on euphonium, he can always change to a pro brand later on.

    Just to elaborate a little on my affinity for Wessex, I bought a Wessex Eb tuba a year or so ago. It is an excellent instrument, and I use it mostly for brass quintet and small ensemble work (brass music in church for example).
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  6. #6
    Hello! Those are some very in-depth observations!

    I agree with Mr. Werden though, a Wessex or JP would be adequate enough and a pro brand can be considered down the line, especially if finances is a concern right now. But I most definitely understand if you had the same thoughts as me "If I am going to spend so much on a horn, I might as well only spend it once and get a pro brand and have it for a lifetime". I still have that thoughts some times.

    I've only ever used a Yamaha EP100 and now a JP274, so I honestly don't think I have much insights to add. Your observations are generally what I noticed though, the JP274 is rather dark, the finish is decent (though there are white rings around some soldered joints on mine) and it feels heavy.

    Mr. Finley (another user on this forum) often mentioned how the intonation on the JP274 is extremely good, I recently slowly came to see what he meant.
    "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

  7. #7
    Hi again,

    Thank you so much for your input! It's super valuable information, and I have great respect for the years of experience you all have. I read quite a few posts on other threads from the members who responded here. Wow... there is just so much to these instruments.

    Earlier today we drove to Ash Music. What a HUGE mega-store that is!!! Each instrument type/class had it's own dedicated large section - each with 2 or 3 practice rooms (with doors) so people can try out various instruments. One section had keyboards. Another had guitars. Another had percussion. There was an area for accessories, books and sheet music. And another area for wind instruments, etc. I was surprised with the amount of wind instruments they had! We were able to test out a silver plated Wessex Dolce. Right from the giddy-up I enjoyed the sound. It didn't seem to be quite as "mellow" as the JP274 (from the YouTube video I watched), nor was it "brassy" by any means. It had a pleasing semi-dark rich tone that I really liked. I would score the instrument an 8.5/10 for tone quality - maybe closer to a 9. The valves, on the other hand, were VERY noisy. Every valve when pushed made a brushing noise despite the website describing this unit to have quiet valves. I suppose this may have been a result of the item being stored on the wall... unused for a long time before our demo this afternoon. I imagine a good amount of oil to lubricate the valves may have cleaned up this noise considerably. I'm not a horn player, so I have no idea how often this procedure needs to be done. The salesperson thought it was at a few weeks before the last person looked at it.

    The other issue was the semi-lackluster finish on the horn. It appeared slightly dull with a yellow-ish hue within the silver plating. I wonder if the silver plating is too thin and showing hints of the brass surface underneath? The instrument wasn't dull to the point of being flat. It just not as "sparkling" as I would have liked. It was mostly the hint of yellow/gold that raised an eyebrow or two. My wife also immediately noticed it. I think if the instrument was buffed & polished its appearance would have noticeably improved. I would score the appearance of the Wessex we saw a generous 7/10.

    As for tuning/intonation, my son was very pleased with it. This was his first time playing on a compensated horn, and right away he could tell the lower registers were much more in tune compared to other models he played in high school. He said the middle registers were comparable, and the higher registers of the Wessex were at least a "little" better. It was the lower pitches that gave the best impression, although he indicated there were a few notes that seemed "pitchy" (at least he was able to "lip" up/down to make up the difference). This is where 'm guessing the higher end instruments will shine the most. There is a chart from Dave Warden showing specific notes that tend to be sharp or flat - so it's very possible those specific notes may have been the problematic areas. Our son mentioned one of the notes was natural 'E' (or maybe it was Eb). I can't say for sure. Our son's impression of the instrument (as a whole) would score maybe a 7/10. He said if the valves were quieter it would have gone up to an 8/10. We spent a good 15-20 minutes in the practice room trying out this instrument alone.

    The store also had a brand spanking new 4-valve Jupiter. Well, since we were there we had to try it out, right? Coming out of the case the horn was PRISTINE & SPARKLING. An A+ 10/10 looking horn. I was told this was more expensive than the Wessex, but I didn't bother asking for the price (more on why later). Our son immediately puts on the mouthpiece and starts to play. Right away I'm hearing the sound and am thinking: "What a different sound... and not in a good way". On the plus side, the projection and clarity was maybe a hair better. But what the heck happened to that wonderful TONE the Wessex had? The Jupiter had a very straight-forward brighter sound. None of the notes had that "hypnotic" quality... the dark tone was completely lost. As our son started playing scales, it also sounded like many notes were significantly out of tune. Wow, what a disappointment compared to its shiny appearance (there goes the saying... you should never judge a book by its cover). After about 3 minutes our son didn't want to play on it any longer, so we politely returned the instrument and thanked the sales person for allowing us the opportunity to demo them. And that was that. I would probably give the Jupiter horn a 5/10 (my apologies to the Jupiter fans). I guess if the model was compensated I would have liked it more, but it seemed to have an abundance of "pitchy" areas that the Wessex was able to (mostly) navigate around.

    I am not completely ruling out the Wessex. I should look into obtaining the serial number - which may indicate an earlier generation before Wessex made the finishing improvements. I think it will be difficult to locate a MackBrass or JP274 Euphonium for testing, but if we can find one it would be awesome. We know somebody who has an Eastman. Even though that model is not on our radar, we're still going to have a look at it so we can at least compare the response of tone quality, finish, and intonation, etc. I also wonder if the Ash Music sales people may be neglecting the Wessex (intentionally) to give Jupiter an advantage. Do NOT quote me on this as it's purely my speculative opinion. I say this only because he talked about how Jupiter "strongly supports" their business, so I started to think the dried-up valves and lackluster appearance might not have been a coincidence.
    Last edited by EyeInSky; 05-22-2019 at 08:46 AM.

  8. #8
    Here is possibly the main "loaded" question here...
    If you guys (Dave? Rick? John? Christian?) were to closely compare the Packer JP274 vs. Wessex Dolce vs. MackBrass, which model would you give the upper edge? And why?

    Preference of tone aside, I wasn't sure what the experienced members thought had the better reliability/performance/intonation.
    It sounds like the closest race is between Packer's JP274 and Wessex's Dolce.
    Last edited by EyeInSky; 05-22-2019 at 08:10 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    I purchased wessex while I was finishing college and it served me quite well. Everyone agreed that I sounded better on that than I did on the school's Hirsbrunner (a quite expensive, but old, horn). It played much easier too; in my experience it was easier than the 642( the sound didn't quite have the mass of the yamaha though). The intonation wasn't a problem. Whenever you switch horns, there's an adjustment period of forgetting your old instruments quirks and learning your new one's. I auditioned into a marine band on it successfully. I can't compare it to the JP, but I'm confident in saying that it's a solid choice. The valves can be worked on by a good technician and if the showroom model hadn't been broken in that could be a reason that they were loud, they take a couple days/ a week or so of oiling, cleaning,and beating to get just right. I'm actually selling my wessex to a fellow member of the san diego Marine band because he liked it and I just purchased a pricy horn of my own. Try the JP if you can, definitely. However, if that's out of the cards the wessex is a LOT of horn for the money.

    Alex S.

  10. #10
    That sounds like a productive visit to Ash's! Too bad there weren't other Euph for you to test out though!

    I don't think I am able to give a comparison between the 3, as I just don't have enough experience with different brands (The JP274 is my only compensating euph). That said, I actually asked the same question to Algirdas Matonis in Oct last year, and he said that he'd definitely pick JP274 over Wessex, saying it's the best horn below $2,000 that he has encountered before. I took his word for it, and went with the JP. I pretty much went in blind, as I couldn't find any demo models to try in my city (maybe even the country, as even the Yamaha centre in my country doesn't keep demo units at all). The only thing I did was to get the dealer from UK to thoroughly check the horn before sending it to me (he gave a good price & is a trombone teacher).

    Funny that you mentioned about the yellow hue, I actually was wondering about that yellow hue myself as I was cleaning my horn earlier today. There's a slight yellow-ish hue that I did not notice before. Though I wonder if it's just tarnish and a result of oxidation of the silver platin. The demo Wessex you encountered seemed to have been left on display for some time too, from the sound of it? Not sure if you can see the yellow hue in my photo, but it definitely stood out to me. I doubt the hue you mentioned on the Wessex is caused by thin silver plating though.

    On a side note, since AlexS mentioned about ease of playing, I will add in my experience too. In the past few months, I was able to test out a Sterling Virtuoso, Besson Sovereign and an old Meinl Weston. Only 10-30 mins on them, so it's not much of an experience really. But I noticed that the Sterling Virtuoso and Besson both felt a lot easier to play, more free blowing, compared to the JP274. While the Meinl Weston was more difficult to tame.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails jp274 may 2019.jpg  
    "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

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