ODYSSEY-PREMIERE-OCL500-CLARINETThe Odyssey range from JHS was always considered to be a beginners line of instruments. Now, in a bid to appeal to the semi-pro and pro market, the company has produced the Premiere range, designed and developed by none other than woodwind and brass guru Peter Pollard.

The OCL500 is a Bb Clarinet made from solid ebony, with French pads, and German rods, screws and springs. The finishing on this instrument is superb and we were surprised to find a long and a short barrel and an adjustable thumb rest – usually only found on the more expensive instruments. All the silver plated keys were easily accessible with the ‘C’ key being raised slightly higher up the body, making for better control for those with short little fingers.

Using a Bari nylon 3 reed and a Rovner ligature on the supplied mouthpiece (own ligature and Vandoren Reed also supplied), the OCL500 responded well with a well balanced super-fast action and a beautifully rich and warm tone. Throat tones were good and the longer barrel played consistently flat over the full range when not warmed up – needless to say, a good sign. The clarinet was also in tune when we used the shorter barrel, with the bottom ‘f’ slightly shy of pitch as usual.

At just a whisker under £500 this is a steal and it’s difficult to see how an instrument of this quality can be produced at this price point. And it all comes in a pre-formed, plush lined, semi-rigid, zippered case with a grab handle, back harness and shoulder strap. We were mightily impressed.

For more go to www.jhs.co.uk

WINDCRAFT-SERIES-1-ALTO-SAXOPHONEThe Chinese are beginning to make inroads into the brass and woodwind markets and while there has been a thriving high quality production line coming out of neighbour Taiwan for some time (Mauriat/Conn), factories on the Chinese mainland haven’t quite got their act together – that is until now. The Windcraft Series 1 alto saxophone is typical of this new level of Chinese mainland quality. Well finished with faultless gold plating, the Series 1 feels good and solid with a very positive action and comes with a top F sharp and, surprisingly, steel reflectors. I particularly liked the responsive octave key and the positioning of the palm keys.

Intonation was good and the harmonics popped out as expected however, like many of its country cousins, there is a limited dynamic range – but perhaps we are expecting too much from a very competitively priced horn. The Series 1 carries all the credentials for being a serious student instrument, with the added benefit that if for any reason your saxophone suffers an accident, it can be repaired here in the UK by Dawkes with exactly the same parts that were used in it’s original manufacture. As with all instruments from south east Asia, the Series 1 comes with a quality denier covered, pre-formed, plush lined semi-hard case with a 3/4 zip and a full length deep zippered pocket to the front face. There are two rubberised top handles and another rubberised grab handle to the top end. There is also a shoulder strap with ‘D’ rings and a back harness with a velcro attached cover. For more go to www.dawkes.co.uk

Bauhaus-Walstein-Bronze-Deluxe-Alto-ASPD-SaxophonesThere are so many “affordable” saxophones available in today’s market, that it’s becoming more and more difficult to sort the quality from the rubbish. The Bauhaus AS-PD is typical – albeit one of the better examples. It’s well built and comes with an exceptionally clean and stylish finish. What however makes this particular model really stand out from the crowd becomes apparent when you pick up the instrument and start feeling your way around the keywork – it’s almost identical to a Yanigasawa. Clearly this gives the AS-PD the edge when it comes to playability and of course players who have started on this particular instrument will immediately feel at home when they (hopefully!) move on to the real thing. Indeed, the keywork may well be key to the ASPD’s potential success.

The overall feel of the instrument is very solid and it offers a very positive response. This is further enhanced by the indented touch pieces that add to the playing comfort, while the positioning of the palm keys would seem to come straight from the Yanigasawa template. The octave mechanism is really responsive and we found that there was plenty of beef to be had in the bottom end to keep even the most critical of players happy. Intonation was good and the harmonics were solid. However, we would have ideally liked to have seen a wider dynamic range and a more individual character to the sound. But at this price point, maybe we’re asking for too much!

The AS-PD comes with a nylon denier covered, semi-rigid, preformed, plush lined zippered case with rubberised grab handles to both the top and end. There is also a full length zippered pouch pocket and a useful back harness that connects to a pair of ‘D’ rings and packs into a zippered rear compartment when not in use.

For more go to www.woodwindandbrass.co.uk

Altone-Solar-Alto-SaxophoneThe market is still awash with cheap imported saxophones, mostly from mainland China. So much so, that you begin to wonder whether the saxophone hasn’t taken over from the ubiquitous guitar as the most popular instrument in the eyes of every budding young musician. Like the guitars, if you take the time to sort through the myriad of makes and models, every so often you can turn up a real peach of an instrument. The Altone Solar is one such surprise. At just a whisker over 200 quid you wouldn’t expect that much for your money – but you’d be wrong. The Solar’s keywork is excellent and I was particularly impressed by the positioning and fluidity of the palm keys. The nylon thumb rest is a nice touch, as are the recessed nylon touch pieces and the whole instrument comes with a very positive action.

Intonation is good and there is a greater dynamic range than we had expected. Amazingly the Solar carries metal reflectors, which at this price point must be a first. The overall sound is perhaps more orchestral than jazz. But hey, this is a starter instrument and there is nothing better than a tonal match for the school band. And just for the record, Altone also produce a soprano. There is no question in my mind that the Altone range is poised to give instruments retailing at twice the price a good run for their money. Particularly as it comes with a pre-formed, plush lined, nylon denier covered semi-hard case with a 3/4 zipper and full length zippered face pocket, together with top and side grab handles and a lightweight back harness. It all adds up to a real steal.

For more go to www.umbrellamusic.co.uk

 

Bauhaus-Walstein-Bronze-Deluxe-Alto-ASPD-SaxophonesThere are so many “affordable” saxophones available in today’s market, that it’s becoming more and more difficult to sort the quality from the rubbish. The Bauhaus AS-PD is typical – albeit one of the better examples. It’s well built and comes with an exceptionally clean and stylish finish. What however makes this particular model really stand out from the crowd becomes apparent when you pick up the instrument and start feeling your way around the keywork – it’s almost identical to a Yanigasawa. Clearly this gives the AS-PD the edge when it comes to playability and of course players who have started on this particular instrument will immediately feel at home when they (hopefully!) move on to the real thing. Indeed, the keywork may well be key to the ASPD’s potential success.

The overall feel of the instrument is very solid and it offers a very positive response. This is further enhanced by the indented touch pieces that add to the playing comfort, while the positioning of the palm keys would seem to come straight from the Yanigasawa template. The octave mechanism is really responsive and we found that there was plenty of beef to be had in the bottom end to keep even the most critical of players happy. Intonation was good and the harmonics were solid. However, we would have ideally liked to have seen a wider dynamic range and a more individual character to the sound. But at this price point, maybe we’re asking for too much!

The AS-PD comes with a nylon denier covered, semi-rigid, preformed, plush lined zippered case with rubberised grab handles to both the top and end. There is also a full length zippered pouch pocket and a useful back harness that connects to a pair of ‘D’ rings and packs into a zippered rear compartment when not in use. (DG) For more go to www.woodwindandbrass.co.uk

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