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Review - Wiseman Carbon Fiber Euphonium Case

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ID:	6963NOTE: Comments from Wisemann appear at the bottom of this review.

NOTE 2: Fletcher Mitchell, a euphonium player, gave me permission to use photos from his Facebook page of his Wiseman case. These show much better detail than my original photos. They are at the end of this blog entry, after the comments from Wiseman.

The Wiseman case at ITEC2019 was impressive in many ways but seemed like a work in progress - although a promising work. The case was quite light, but there were pieces missing from the interior that would have added about a pound to the weight, according to the vendor. (Given the number and type of pieces shown in the photo below, I would guess it might be over one pound additional.) I gather the missing pieces were simply due to a time crunch to get this early model ready for the show.

It is roughly the same size as a Marcus Bonna case, although it would have different "fit" characteristics because of its rounded sides. Around the hinge edges, the case is flat, but otherwise the sides were rounded from top to bottom. (Bessons used a case shaped like this for a while in the 1980ís.) The shape is said to help it nestle better into an airplane's overhead compartments. That is logical, but see my point about "feet" later.

The exterior of the case is built up from carbon fiber. I would estimate it is about 1/4 inch thick. It felt very strong. I squeezed the case from several angles and it did not seem to flex at all.

The surface of the case material is very smooth. There are attachment points in several places on the case. For example, each end has several attachment points, which on the display model were used to secure pads to the top and bottom. The photo to the left shows feet installed instead of the pad. With the pad that I saw, the handle fit flush with the pad - tidy! The two latches on the case are the twist-to-tighten type, such as you might see on an Anvil travel case. Their action helps to pull the two sides of the clam shell case tightly together.

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ID:	6964The case has soft handles made of straps. It also includes backpack straps. When used as a backpack, the case fits the back fairly well. It is perhaps approximately the same size as the Bonna case, and should not cause most people any trouble. See the two attached photos to compare how the case fits on my back.

Keep in mind that this is a hard case, not a gig bag. I donít think it would be comfortable for long walks because there is no padding against your back. In this regard it is similar to the Bonna case. The Wiseman case is slightly lighter than the Bonna case. (Part of the weight difference is due to the fabric cover and more extensive padding in the Bonna case.) The vendor suggested they might be able to rig up a pad for your back. If I remember our conversation correctly, that pad would be removable for packing.

The various attachments to the case, including the latches, are fastened with Allen-style screws. This would enable you to easily replace anything that broke. Thatís a great idea! On my hard-shell suitcases I experience several failures from various hardware pieces, and replacing them was not easy!

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ID:	6966If you think of this case as a suitcase, there are no feet at the "bottom." In other words, the case is not designed to sit on the side where the main hinge is. The manufacturer expects that most people will set the horn down on the bell end of the case. Many people have found that putting the horn on its bell can cause problems with the valves. The deposits that build up in the bottom valve cap will tend to migrate into the pistons' travel area when the horn is placed on its bell. The vendor suggested the instrument could be placed on the other end, the end where the horn's bottom bow is, but that is not as large an area and a horn might be subject to tipping over. She also suggested they could build up the hinge side with a wider area with feet so the horn could be set down in its normal fashion. I was not very excited about that particular suggestion. It seems that building up something like this would make the horn case less compact and might create a substructure that could sheer off in some circumstances.

A military band member at the show suggested that carbon fiber might get brittle and crack in very cold conditions. When traveling to Minnesota in the winter for example, if the instrument rides with checked baggage it will come out of the plane in a very cold state. If dropped on the tarmac, could the case crack? Wiseman has made cases for other instruments for a while now, so perhaps they have an answer for this.

As mentioned above, this case at ITEC was missing the interior padding pieces that would hold the horn in place. The design's idea is to keep the horn from ever contacting the side of the case. Based solely on the photos in their brochures, it looks like the padding would do that successfully.

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ID:	6965From what I understand, the padding is customized for the particular brand of euphonium you own. I wish the display model had had some of the padding in place as an example for potential buyers. I have found on previous instruments that a case brace, even when padded, could itself damage the horn if the case is dropped or hit hard. One of my old Besson cases was very sturdy and held the euphonium very securely. Unfortunately, the padding of the brace that fit under the joint between the bottom bowl and the long branch was not padded well enough. During my travel back from England, the brace caused a significant dent on my euphonium, even though the case itself was not harmed. Wiseman is a clever company and I assume the padding is ample to prevent such damage. And I expect they will gradually make improvements as customer experience suggests. The tricky part is making the padding soft enough to be harmless to the brass while still having it firm enough to properly position the instrument as G-forces build.

The price at the show was discounted if one signed a list (there was an option to cancel later). I'm not sure how many took advantage of this, but it was a good savings of 10% off standard price. As such the euphonium case was $1,615 plus $115 shipping. That is about double the price of a Bonna case. However, if it proves to offer superior protection it would be worth the price. When you are carrying a horn that costs $7500-$9000 or more, and when you must arrive at a gig/destination with a fully-working instrument, that price could seem very reasonable.

I'm anxious to watch users' experience as the euphonium case is used in real-life travel conditions. It is a very innovative design that could be the answer many of us have sought. I noticed Brian Bowman was carrying his Willson in an SKB case, which is reputed to be very sturdy and protective. But it is quite heavy - more than I would want to have to carry around - and it is not set up to use as a backpack. Also, Brian's Willson 2900 is a very sturdy instrument and may be harder to damage than some other horns. For an Adams with a sterling silver bell, for example, damage is more likely because of the soft silver material. That is one of the reasons I was looking at this case to closely!

Here is the Wiseman website. As of this writing, the euphonium case is not listed:

I sent this review to Wiseman and they provided some additional information. Their response is below:

  1. The case at the show was not a prototype as we have made a good number of these already including some in the US Military. As these are fitted especially for each brand and model of instrument, we chose to bring an empty case rather than people try their particular horn and find that it did not fit. Perhaps next time we should bring a completed one rather than just a photo to show the completed interior with an instrument housed in the case.
  2. The rubber blocking that we suspend the instrument is firm, but highly shock absorbing. There has never been any incident of a brass, woodwind or string instrument being damaged or dented whilst suspended in this material.
  3. What was new with the case on show at the ITEC, was the addition of shock-absorbing rubber pads on both ends of the case. The logic is that if you drop the case on an end; it will bounce! It is landing on a rubber matt, instead of concrete. These pads are removable/Velcro-mounted.
  4. In addition, there is a rubber flight jacket, should you wish to add the shock-absorbing extra protection around the whole case during air travel. It will be 12mm thick.
  5. A number of people already use this extensively for international travel and for checking on flights. Eric Lundquist was at the ITEC; he has had his case for a couple of years and came to report at our Booth that it has changed his life with regard to travelling with the Euphonium Ė it is now effortless and without damage!

A comment from Wiseman on cold temperatures was provided to me second hand by a Facebook friend:

"Cheaper wet-lay carbons can become a little more brittle with extreme cold temperatures. However, our cases are made of the very highest grade of carbon and is put through the autoclave process. This is the same quality of carbon and processing method used in the aeronautical industry. Jet fighter planes and numerous aeronautical components are made from this grade of Carbon. It goes without saying that it would not be suitable for such use if it was in any way compromised/made to be brittle etc, by extreme cold."

The photos below are provide by Fletcher Mitchell:

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  1. John Morgan's Avatar
    Nice review, Dave!! I was at ITEC and also saw this case and talked with the folks from Wiseman quite a bit about it. I found it to be very promising, so I put my name down on the sign up list. This allows me to get the ITEC show price for a year. And I can wait a few months before actually ordering (or deciding for sure if I really want it).

    I don't like that you can't set it on its hinged side either. That would probably only bother me at home. When I take it to play, I would simply lay it on its back to open and leave it that way until I put it away. It might be nice to have a little "rack" so that you could put the case in it with the hinged side down. That way you would not have to stand it on either of its ends.
  2. miketeachesclass's Avatar
    As someone that was considering buying the anvil, I’m interested.