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Thread: Brief Review of Geneva's range of euphoniums

  1. #1

    Brief Review of Geneva's range of euphoniums

    Hello all,

    Earlier this year I travelled up to the Geneva HQ in Yorkshire to test their euphonium range, and as I have noticed in my lurking that they are not oft discussed here (understandably so with an international userbase) I thought I would just briefly type up my thoughts on each instrument I tested. I hope this will shed some light onto what comes of of the Czech Republic for us Europeans!

    Who are Geneva?

    The Geneva Foundation is a non-profit organisation that advertise themselves as existing to promote the future of brass banding in the UK. As part of this, and how I believe how they started, they produce mostly professional grade instruments out of the Czech Republic. I don't know much about their construction processes, so won't comment on them, but will say that each instrument I played felt really well built. I played five instruments when I visited their HQ, starting at the bottom of their range with the Mentor, working up through the Symphony and Cardinal, and finally two Glen van Looy signature Cardinals. I will go through each instrument in the order I tried them, jot down some brief thoughts on how they played, and then sum up my thoughts.

    What was I looking for?

    Before I start going into detail, I think it's worth mentioning why I was up at the Geneva. It was a very preliminary stage in my current search for purchasing my own professional-grade instrument. Within the brass band movement, and certainly in the UK, bands almost always have a near complete set of professional-grade instruments that they lend to players that need them. The quality of instrument you are given can vary, depending on when and who your band bought their set of instruments from. At the time of my visit, I was playing with Regent Brass who had a set of lottery era Besson instruments. My own instrument was a 967 Sovereign which, to put it politely, had some difficult intonation quirks. As such, the importance of a trigger is not lost on me. Additionally, as a section player, it is important I had an instrument that gave me lots of control of my tone to both blend and project through every dynamic level, articulated well, and where pitching was comfortable.

    Geneva Mentor - RRP 4,395 (c. $4,900)

    This instrument is where the Geneva range starts, and is intended to compete with instruments like the Sovereign (they're quite keen to sell sets to bands IIRC). It is made with yellow brass all the way through, does not have a trigger, with a duel bore of 14.7mm 16.6mm and a 12" bell. This was a very pleasant instrument to play, the notes slotted in nicely and the tone was consistent all the way through the range and at each dynamic level. The competency of this instrument was very surprising, and it was comfortably head and shoulders above the Sovereign I was on at the time. In terms of tone and projection (I was set up in the warehouse so I could get a good feel for this) it was on par with the Sovereign, but was just so much responsive with much less resistance. The only thing the Sovereign had over the Mentor was the valves, which felt quite heavy and took a fair bit of effort to depress on all of the instruments I tried. In a head to head with the Sovereign I would take this instrument every time.

    Geneva Symphony - RRP 5,714.51 (c. $6.500)

    After the strong start that was the Mentor, I'm afraid to say the Symphony was rather disappointing. It is meant to compete with the Besson Prestige (and equivelent instruments). In terms of materials, bore, and bell size it is equivelent to the Mentor, although the tuning slides are made of silver nickel, has a trigger, and the design of the instrument was considerably different. The playing experience was challenging, whilst pitching was easy there was considerably more resistance and it felt a lot stuffier to play. Outside of the low register, it was much more challenging and did not project as well as the Mentor. I have a feeling much of this is down to the bracing, which is very heavy on the main body of the instrument; and the lead pipe, which is tapers down into the 1st valve block specifically to provide more resistance. In a head to head with the Sovereign I would keep my money and deal with the intonation quirks!

    Geneva Cardinal - RRP 6,795 for the silver plated model (c. $7,700)

    Although Geneva told me the Symphony was meant to compete with the Prestige and other such instruments, I believe this is the real competitor in the market of highly competent professional instruments. They also told me that this is their most popular model and it is easy to see why. It is mostly yellow brass, with a hand-hammered and engraved rose brass bell, in addition to rose brass tuning slide loops and silver nickel slides, with the same bore and bell as the previous two instruments and a main tuning slide trigger. This instrument was an absolute joy to play. It had all the postives of the Mentor but with a rich, warm (but not too dark) sound that carried very easily. I imagine in a band setting it will sit very well, and would allow the section to have their sound carry through the band's sound without swamping or muddying the saxhorns, trombones, and tubas. The trigger was also much more ergonomically placed than on the Symphony, which is a positive as the trigger on that instrument was particularly uncomfortable! A very very postive playing experience.

    Geneva GVL Cardinal (full black nickel bell) - RRP 7,595 (c. $8,500)

    I was offered the chance to try a couple of Glenn Van Looy signature Cardinals. The first one I played had a full nickel bell instead of the rose brass bell that comes on the standard Cardinal. Although this instrument sounded mega, it was considerably harder to play than any of the other instruments and I really struggled to enjoy the playing experience. This would be one for a very accomplished player me thinks, but not for me.

    Geneva GVL Cardinal (yellow brass bell, black nickel flare) - RRP 7,595 (c. $8,500)

    This instrument was much more in line with the standard Cardinal, and the playing experience was very comparable. For me, the choice between this instrument and the standard Cardinal would simply come down to aesthetics and whether or not that is worth the extra cash.

    Overall Thoughts

    Whilst the Symphony was a big disappointment, and I hope the instrument is developed blow more like the others, broadly speaking this is a very accomplished line of instruments. For me, the standard Cardinal was the standout instrument and I would definitely consider purchasing one in the future - the only question mark with the Cardinal being whether the valves remain so heavy or if they become easier to use once the instrument has been played in. Initially, when Geneva came onto the scene, there were complaints about their build quality but on first glance they appear to be very well built now - although their longevity remains to be seen! I cannot compare it to the equivelent Yamaha, Adams, or Sterling instruments, I can say that the playing experience is better than both the lottery era 967 Sovereign I played at the time and the York Eminence 4052 I play now (which is a very nice instrument in its own right). I would definitely recommend giving the Cardinal and the GVL models a look if you're in the market for an instrument at that price point, but also the Mentor (especially if you are a band looking to buy new band instruments).
    Adams E2 | K&G 4D+

  2. #2
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    Very interesting reviews. Thanks for posting!

  3. #3
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    Very nice review! Thanks for taking the time to write this up Harry!
    Rick Floyd
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    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
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  4. #4
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    This is great. Seems there are so many pro horns out there now. (Some good newer ones…these and the S.E.Shires come to mind.)

    thanks for the review!
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    Larry Herzog Jr.

    All things EUPHONIUM! Guilded server

  5. #5
    That was a fine and well-written review, Harry! It is nice to learn a bit more about the Geneva line, especially because I have never seen one at any of the conferences I've attended. They must not be courting the USA market (yet).

    You did such a good job that I'm hoping you can get to the Adams factory some time when they have a good battery of horns built up and ready to test. They have the 3 basic models (E1-2-3), but then there are the choices of metal thickness and alloy. Your keen observations might provide very interesting feedback!
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC3)
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  6. #6
    Back to the Geneva topic... Did you ask them if they build specific valve blocks for specific models? It's possible they build the valve blocks on their own "line" and use them in all the horns. If so, the difference in valve response might be kismet, and might very well work out once the horn is owned and broken in. If horns are built with tightly-fitted valves, they can be really fussy about being clean! A new horn may still have a bit of production stuff in it, which can mess with the piston action.

    For one thing, lapping compound can make valves sluggish if it oozes back into the valves after hiding away in some dark corner. The early Sterlings had a problem with that until they switched to a water-based compound that washed out much better. Horns on display at shows can suffer from all the different players' chemistry blowing they them; perhaps the showroom horns had some of that syndrome. All this is speculative - I have not heard anything good or bad about Geneva valves in general.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  7. #7
    I agree with all that has been said, this was a fun read. Thanks Harry!

  8. #8
    I own a Cardinal.

    After 2 years and professional cleaning, the valves are still heavy. Not slow, but heavy. I put some Mead light springs in there and it was considerably improved. It’s a nice horn. Overall good build quality with some fit and finish issues. (You can see crimp marks around the bell bead, and my first valve slide is slightly differently angled than the rest).

    The thing I find worst is the main toning slide adjustment. You have to unscrew the thumb screw and move the slide, then screw the thumb screw in again. Very cumbersome. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t do a turnbuckle style adjustment. Otherwise, it’s the best functioning trigger I’ve used other than besson.
    Mike Taylor

    Illinois Brass Band
    Fox Valley Brass Band

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by miketeachesclass View Post
    I own a Cardinal.
    Im curious how you ended up with one. (Especially given how unfamiliar many are of the brand.)
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    Larry Herzog Jr.

    All things EUPHONIUM! Guilded server

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    That was a fine and well-written review, Harry! It is nice to learn a bit more about the Geneva line, especially because I have never seen one at any of the conferences I've attended. They must not be courting the USA market (yet).

    You did such a good job that I'm hoping you can get to the Adams factory some time when they have a good battery of horns built up and ready to test. They have the 3 basic models (E1-2-3), but then there are the choices of metal thickness and alloy. Your keen observations might provide very interesting feedback!
    Thanks for your kind words Dave! I am definitely keen to try out the Adams range at some point, likely when I can make it up to John Packer who is their nearest retailer to me. There's a few other models (642 Neo, a modern German Besson Prestige) I would also like to try before selecting an instrument, likely in some head to head tests at John Packer. Annoyingly, they don't stock Geneva instruments so I wouldn't be able to include that in a head to head test without going further afield! If you're ever in the UK it might be worth trying to get to somewhere where you can try out a Geneva, it is an interesting range (although very brass band oriented).

    Back to the Geneva topic... Did you ask them if they build specific valve blocks for specific models? It's possible they build the valve blocks on their own "line" and use them in all the horns. If so, the difference in valve response might be kismet, and might very well work out once the horn is owned and broken in. If horns are built with tightly-fitted valves, they can be really fussy about being clean! A new horn may still have a bit of production stuff in it, which can mess with the piston action.

    For one thing, lapping compound can make valves sluggish if it oozes back into the valves after hiding away in some dark corner. The early Sterlings had a problem with that until they switched to a water-based compound that washed out much better. Horns on display at shows can suffer from all the different players' chemistry blowing they them; perhaps the showroom horns had some of that syndrome. All this is speculative - I have not heard anything good or bad about Geneva valves in general.
    I did not ask, I am not too big on the technical aspects of instrument manufacturing I am just aware that certain things lead to certain playing characteristics. Even if the valves remained heavy a change of springs could remedy much of that or even asking a technician to shave some mass off the valve casings (if that is even possible!)
    Adams E2 | K&G 4D+

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