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Thread: Wessex EP-600 Sinfonico - Review #3 (Doug Ruby)

  1. Wessex EP-600 Sinfonico - Review #3 (Doug Ruby)

    Hi all,

    I am very pleased to be the third person on the list to evaluate the Wessex EP-600 “Sinfonico” euphonium. Each of us so far have taken a somewhat different route through this evaluation since we are just now performing in ensembles again. Thus we have held on to the horn for 2-3 weeks each and used it in practice, rehearsal, and performance.

    In this review, I have specifically compared the Sinfonico (with long tuning slide) with my 2009 Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS. In both cases, I used the same Wick 4AL. This comparison is more appropriate than with my Adams based on the bell sizes. The Sinfonico has an 11” bell while the Sterling has a 300mm (11 5/8”). My Adams is just over 12” with an extremely large throat section and produces a substantially different sound from the other two.

    This review is divided into 6 sections, Mechanical, Ergonomics, Intonation, Response, Tone, and Video samples. At the end of this write-up, I provide a YouTube link so that you can see some of my comments visually and hear a few clips for comparison purposes.

    Mechanical

    When I received the horn, it was in need of a thorough cleaning. It was not fresh out of the box, having arrived from the prior reviewer as well as having been used in the Wessex showroom in Chicago and had a number of 10’s of hours of playing time. After a thorough cleaning and some mild polishing, I was prepared to experience that “fresh out of the box” experience.

    The Sinfonico is a striking instrument with its polished silver and lacquered copper finish. The valve action is quite good with a solid feel. I was using the long tuning slide that comes with the horn (it ships with two) and also used both the large shank and the tenor shank receivers (it ships with three). All of these pieces fit well, though the slides were all fairly tight, requiring careful attention with my Hetman’s #7. In addition to two tuning slides and three screw-in receivers, the Sinfonico comes with an extra set of valve springs and valve guides. The usual assortment of valve oil and cleaning/polishing cloths are also included.

    I had two issues I that I consider need fixing with the mechanical quality of the horn. The first is the tab that holds the 4th valve closed when you put the horn in the case. It stops movement in a fairly precarious position that makes it possible to get accidentally bumped and stop the 4th valve from working properly. The second issue was the lacquer finish on the 4th valve tuning slide. It had already worn off to the extent that the copper finish on that slide became quite tarnished. This is a pure manufacturing issue on the finishing of that slide. See the video for a visual explanation of this.

    The valve caps threaded ok, but were a bit fiddly as the threads are very new. Also. none of the bottom caps had nipples for fitment of a water gutter.


    Ergonomics

    While I did not weigh it, the Sinfonico is lighter than my 10 lb, 8 oz Sterling, but probably just a bit heavier than my 9 lb 5 oz Adams E3. It definitely is lighter than the ACB Doubler that I evaluated last year.

    The horn “feels” smaller than my Sterling, but I can verify that the distance from the outer branch to the bell throat (width of the horn) as well as the height (from bottom bow to top of bell) is nearly the same as my Adams and my Sterling. I used the same settings on my K&G euphonium stands. The biggest difference is the length and placement of the leadpipe. The leadpipe does not project as far away from the bell on the Sinfonico as it does on either of my other horns, so your face is closer to the bell when playing the horn. Also, I think the receiver sits lower on the bell (nearer the bottom bow) much as it does on a Yamaha 842S. This makes the horn feel “smaller” when in reality it is not.

    The valve action and location of the “false piece” is really very good. My hand position was quite comfortable and I could put my thumb under the false piece with the tip against the 1st valve casing and comfortably reach all three valves. Valve action was smooth with no issues due to any residue from manufacture (remember it received a very thorough cleaning when I received it). I could use Blue Juice and that seemed to last for at least 2 practice sessions of 1-2 hrs each.

    Intonation

    Keeping in mind that I used the Sinfonico in personal practice as well as ensemble playing, the really excellent intonation of the horn is mostly a blessing, but also a bit of a curse. The only alternate fingering that I used was 3rd valve instead of 1-2 on middle concert G. All other notes used conventional fingerings and seemed to play “right down the middle”. The 6th partial Eb, E, and F are exceptionally in tune.

    As another forum member noted just yesterday, this may be an issue when playing in a section with performers that have uncorrected sharp 6th partials. I found my seatmate is unable to bring his Yamaha YEP-641 down to pitch and I wore myself out trying to lip up to him. I have a similar problem with the Adams E3, though my Adams is sharp enough on the open F to be able to match with just a little work. With my Sterling, I can either trigger the notes into pitch, or play them sharp w/o trigger to match the section (generally better than dueling pitches!). This alone would keep me from using the Sinfonico in this particular ensemble.

    In all of my playing, I used the long tuning slide and had all the valve slides pushed all the way in. While I did not create pitch charts, I used a tuner during my daily routine. This routine includes warmup, melodic, flexibility, and technical exercises from pedal concert Cb to concert D over four octaves above. I did not notice any distinct pitch issues whatsoever. On balance, I would say the Sinfonico (in the configuration I used) is just about the most “in tune” horn I have ever played.

    Response

    Overall the Sinfonico has very good response, most likely better than the ACB Doubler that I tested last year since I didn’t get as tired playing the Sinfonico as the Doubler. Perhaps the biggest difference between the Sinfonico and my Sterling is what I call “overall response”. The dynamic response (volume low to high) was nearly as good as the Sterling and better than the ACB, but I found technical response (getting notes to drop in during difficult technical passages or odd intervals) to be easier on the Sterling. The effect is to give the Sterling a smoother sound which I think shows up in the recordings.

    Tone

    I consider intonation and tone to be key strengths of this horn. As soon as I started playing it, I noticed that the Sinfonico was a darned nice sounding horn. With its 11” bell, the Sinfonico definitely has a more focused sound than the Sterling or my Adams E3. From behind the bell, I think the differences are more noticeable than when listening in front of the horn. Having said that, I did an awful lot of “#1 or #2?” blind testing with my wife as captive listener. Most of the time, she heard very little difference and did not prefer one over the other. I wish I still had my 11” Besson 2051 to compare to the Sinfonico. The effect of bell size would be more easily isolated with a comparable horn.

    Listen for yourselves in the video clips linked below and see if you can hear a difference.

    Video Reference

    Below is a link to my video of the Wessex EP-600 Sinfonico.

    https://youtu.be/TK-a1-Jue4g

    It begins with me talking about and showing you the horn, including the two mechanical issues I discussed above. Following that are A/B performances of three musical snippets with the Sinfonico first followed by the Sterling. These were all recorded in the same session, in the order presented, and I would put the Sinfonico down, pick up the Sterling and play the same piece before going on to the next. The three musical phrases are:


    1. Bydlo from the Eric Leidzen arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition (no longer in print due to copyright restrictions from the Ravel estate). This band version of Bydlo is in key of Bb and a full step lower than the orchestral version.
    2. First section of Nessun Dorma aria from Puccini’s Turandot. Arranged for trombone.
    3. Characteristic Study #2 from Arban. First 8 bars up to key change.


    Summary

    I am comfortable saying that the Wessex EP-600 is a very good instrument without regard to price. For just over $3K it provides many of the characteristics of a much more expensive horn, with excellent tone, great intonation, and good response. It represents good value for money, and is an attractive handmade instrument that needs just a bit more mechanical polish and refinement to bring it to the quality of some of the better professional instruments that are priced at 2x to 3x more.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  2. #2
    Very nice review, Doug, with your usual clarity and careful detail! It's clear that this is going to be a good addition to our market choices.

    FWIW, I agree that the statement about the appearance being striking, and I think it was smart of Wessex to choose the copper. Having your brand's premier instrument be distinctive at first sight is a good marketing move and helps create interest - a good thing. For me personally, it is not a look I care for, but that is an individual thing of course. (I'm also not personally fond of the black trim that some horns have.)

    Quote Originally Posted by daruby View Post
    ...the really excellent intonation of the horn is mostly a blessing, but also a bit of a curse. The only alternate fingering that I used was 3rd valve instead of 1-2 on middle concert G. All other notes used conventional fingerings and seemed to play “right down the middle”. The 6th partial Eb, E, and F are exceptionally in tune.

    As another forum member noted just yesterday, this may be an issue when playing in a section with performers that have uncorrected sharp 6th partials. I found my seatmate is unable to bring his Yamaha YEP-641 down to pitch and I wore myself out trying to lip up to him. I have a similar problem with the Adams E3, though my Adams is sharp enough on the open F to be able to match with just a little work. With my Sterling, I can either trigger the notes into pitch, or play them sharp w/o trigger to match the section (generally better than dueling pitches!). This alone would keep me from using the Sinfonico in this particular ensemble.
    Well said. But there is another side to consider. While it is not good to be "the only soldier in step" so to speak, setting a true standard might be good. Your upper F concert can be sharp when you are in octave/unison with cornets, other brands of euphonium, and maybe trombones (they tend sharp on the F, but of course can adjust easily). But when playing with French horns and some of the woodwinds, not to mention any keyboards/mallet-instruments that might be playing along, an in-tune F could be good.

    That said, when Denis Winter was first in the CG Band he played a Connstellation. He was good at using his trigger, and it drove me nuts, because I was playing a "traditional" Besson with a 6-1/2AL mouthpiece. Once he got his Willson, life was easier. (I think the Willson was a bit less sharp there, and his 51D probably was less sharp up there, but it was all easy to work through at that point.)
    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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,442
    Thanks Doug for that excellent and very thorough review! The ‘Sinfonico’ sounds really good!

    Having played a 641 for twelve years, I can agree with you about the sixth partials being very sharp. I found the 641 very hard to lip. I think it has to do with the top brace from bow to bell being too high. I used 4 for concert F, 4-1 or 1-3 for Eb. The E natural was nearly 20 cents sharp with 2nd valve. 4-2 works but tone suffered on my horn.
    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)
    Russian Sailor's Dance (Reinhold Gliere
    )

  4. From my perspective, the difficult conversation to explain that the tuning instrument a player has had and loved for 40 years is out of tune, and not have them take it personally is where I might struggle, I am new to the band, not on the top seat and don’t wish to come across as a smug know it all…

    Cornets have tuning triggers and can/mostly do easily compensate when playing in unison.

    I also find that A (G) is best on 3, to be perfectly in tune, but that in ensemble you don’t have to use it when lipping/adjusting to the group…

    The 4th valve cover I initially thought was odd, but it makes sense when you think about avoiding knocking the bell and damaging the finish, I notice that Steven Meads shiny gold Prestige does the same, or Steven doesn’t move it all the way back… I knocked it once and I haven’t found it an issue since but, I notice your holding position with the Sinfonico is as if you have the trigger, with the thumb at the ready, that slightly higher position might knock the 4th valve cover, if the Sinfonico was your only instrument you might make a conscious adjustment.

    I have also had lacquer wear off, but from the 1st valve knuckle where my thumb rests, I thought it was my body chemistry, but it must be lacking a few layers in places if it’s happened on another instrument but in a different place?

    I was gonna get the knuckle silver plated, as the silver doesn’t seem to wear, figured 30 -50 quid was cheaper than 3k to get a “upgrade” to a Neo/Besson.

    Lovely playing, are you using any special equipment to record? Or just a phone etc.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Summerville (SC)
    Posts
    254
    Hi Doug, thank you for your excellent and truly enlightening review of Sinfonico!

    I listened to your live clip using my Plantronic USB headset. I can detect slight tonal differences with the Sterling, where Sinfonico might sound very slightly grainy/nasal compared to Sterling, and in the Exhibition and Boheme fragments, Sinfonico's tone thins out at the top of the range.

    On the other hand, I must remember that Sinfonico is priced approximately half as much as of Sterling or Shires.

    Any chance of you Doug recording a couple of comparative clips of Sinfonico with some other worthy MPs... E.g. SM4U, DC4, 51D, etc?.... Such a comparative clip might give us a better idea of Sinfonico's tonal potential/flexibility under different conditions.

    Once again, thank you Doug for the fab review!

    Best regards, Guido
    Wessex EP104 Festivo + DC4, SM4U

  6. I find the Sinfonico to be uncomfortably nasal in its tone when listening to all of the reviewers. Maybe it is my ears. Yes, I've listened using both ear buds and good quality speakers. So the question is, what are the mouthpieces everyone used? I know Doug used the 4AL.

    Part of the reason I ask this is because I've been trying out my new Eastman baritone with different mouthpieces. Recording myself has yielded surprises and reinforced that we need to have many mouthpieces when trying a new instrument. Our old favorite may just not work with the new horn.
    Richard

    1935 Conn 64I Baritone
    Mouthpieces: Too many to list and growing

  7. Regarding mouthpiece choices, I stuck with the 4AL because I have the most experience with it and wanted to control the variables in my evaluation. Given more time, I would worked with various mouthpieces. My possibilities would have been SM4X, 4AL, Alliance E3, Bach 5G, and a new to me Mercer-Barker MB5. I did use a Wick 4AY with the tenor shank receiver to see what the difference was compared with the 4AL and the large shank. I did use the MB5 a bit but it didn't sound as nice as the 4AL.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Summerville (SC)
    Posts
    254
    Thank you Doug for chiming back.... Any chance of persuading you to record some comparative clips with some of those MPs, before you send on Festivo to the next reviewer?

    While your long term familiarity with 4AL might be marginally manifest in a few situations, the other mouthpieces might very well reveal unique tonal nuggets of Sinfonico.

    Saluti, Guido
    Wessex EP104 Festivo + DC4, SM4U

  9. Quote Originally Posted by guidocorona View Post
    Thank you Doug for chiming back.... Any chance of persuading you to record some comparative clips with some of those MPs, before you send on Festivo to the next reviewer?
    Guido, so sorry. The Sinfonico departed 2 days ago. It is on its way to our fearless leader, Dave Werden. Doug
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Summerville (SC)
    Posts
    254
    Oh well.... Perhaps 'tis now time for me to start pestering Dave Werden about including multiple MPs in his final review in the Sinfonico road show.


    How about it, Dave... Perhaps 4AL, DC3, DC4, maybe also SM4U?

    Regards.... Guido
    (A.K.A. The usual Pest)
    Wessex EP104 Festivo + DC4, SM4U

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