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Review: Adams Sonic 4-Valve Non-Compensating Euphonium

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Adams has created an instrument that is unusual and useful. As far as I recall, this is the first time a fully-professional euphonium has been built with a 3+1 valve system that is non-compensating. Normally we in the euphonium world think of non-comp euphoniums as being student or intermediate instruments, so Adams apparently decided to go a step beyond that concept with the Sonic.

"But, why?" you might ask. I asked myself that same question! In my opinion (I did not yet have a chance to hear Miel Adams' goal for the horn) the Sonic is not geared for young students, so they could start on a 3+1 instrument that is high quality. I equate young players with a need for tank-like horns, like the King 2280 or Yamaha 321. Those 2 horns are solid and braced heavily to take the various abuses that come in a school environment. And the Sonic's price would put it beyond that market for most schools and parents.

My opinion is that a Sonic can be a good tool for an adult player who plays in church, small ensembles, or with a community band. Assuming that person is not vying for the newest and hardest euphonium solos being written, a non-compensating euphonium could serve very well. Church soloing and small ensemble playing don't generally lead to parts that go below the range of a 3-valve instrument (or a straight trombone). And 99% of typical concert band music will not require the low compensating range. (The compensating system does not come into its own until you go below a low E or treble F#.)

For any player who fits the above paragraph, the Sonic is a beautiful instrument! The LACK of a compensating system means lighter valves, less resistance, and less weight for the horn itself.

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ID:	10570At ITEC 2023 I had a chance to play the Sonic a few times, and it was indeed impressive! It is based on the Adams E1, except for not having a compensating system. It is made by hand in the same way as the E series euphoniums, by using sheet metal that is formed in such a way as to maintain the metal's thickness throughout the horn. Its ergonomics are much like the E1, except for its lower weight (an advantage, especially as you age). It even comes with a Bonna case.

It is only offered in silver plate over .55 yellow brass. Adams had an E1 on display at ITEC that was a .60 thickness, and my video A/B comparison shows the two sound very close. The E1 had a little more solidity of sound, as you might expect from the thicker metal, but that Sonic was a little more nimble in response. Both had the open, singing sound that drew me to Adams in the first place.

The real surprise from my testing was the intonation. Adams already has the best intonation of anything I have tested, and the Sonic improves on that slightly! I have to assume it is due to the simpler air path and less added mass that the non-comp systems has.

Price? About 2/3 the cost of the base E1. Given all the above, this would make a fine instrument for the adult amateur. You would get a nice sound, lighter weight, and terrific intonation. Who wouldn't like that?

Here is a fuller video where I discuss the instrument and do the A/B comparison:

Much of that video covers what I wrote above, so you might just want to hear the A/B comparison:

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