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St. Pete 209N

Postby ashhealey » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:19 pm

Let's talk about the St. Pete 209N. I think that St. pete gets a pretty bad wrap and I have never really understood why. I waited until I owned my tuba for quite sometime until I posted anything to make sure the horn was solid. I have now owned it for about two years. My horn has five rotors and overall I haven't noticed a major problem with them. The second one is a little noisey but everything seems to be relatively as long as you keep up on the maintenance. Tuning is pretty accurate it tunes well with a lot of different horns. I play with a lot of different toned horns BBb and F tubas especially. The upper range speaks really well and the lower range is pretty strong but I have definitely played on horns with better lower rage. I don't know about any of the other St. Pete horns... but if you want a brand new tuba that is affordable and will be worth the money the St. Pete 209N is a great bargain. That being said I wish I would have waited until I had been a little closer to college before buying my own horn. I would have done a lot of more searching for a nice used horn that would have been worth the same amount maybe a little more. Still very happy with my St. Pete and hope it lasts me many more years. Any questions I would be more than happy to answer.
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Re: St. Pete 209N

Postby the elephant » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:51 pm

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s Saint Petersburg tubas earned their terrible reputation for a lot of specific reasons.

My opinion of them was that if they were assembled more or less neatly (internal tubing joints with huge gaps, solder globs the size of a marble and large brass burrs were very common) they played really well. The problems they had with production was standards by the workers. Under Communism they had no real incentive to make a good product. When Mr. Tuba started to import them in Germany the West started snapping them up. It was well known that you could take them apart and rebuild them into very nice horns and they were only hundreds of dollars and not thousands.

Vince at Tuba Exchange (the founder, now retired) started importing them after things opened up over there, the city dumped "Leningrad" and restored its pre-Communist-era name of "Saint Petersburg". They had been working on fixing the worst of the errors for awhile. But there were a LOT of other issues.

• Slides did not pull or were very "grindy"
• Valves were slow, heavy, and frequently did not come back up fully
• Assembly beneath the nice nickel plate was clearly second rate
• Intonation was really inconsistent (due to horrible assembly)
• Rotor linkages were junk (I am being very kind in calling them junk, too.)
• Nickel plating rubbed off contact areas very quickly
• Some horns had nickel that peeled off the brass because no coper strike had been applied (not all horns)

Vince started to sell them because they looked good for the price and they usually made a nice sound and blew freely. (The bore is .820"...)

He introduced new models as things were improved. The first thing I remember them working hard to fix was the craptastic valve linkage system and machining of the valve parts.

Then other improvements came along.

Eventually the BBb tuba became an acceptably consistent horn on the mediocre-but-affordable end of things. Occasionally you would come across one that played really well.

They had an Eb tuba from the same Communist era as the BBb horn. It was trotted out and fixed up and TE started to sell it. Then they started work on a CC horn.

This company has worked hard to move from making spittoons to making decent tubas. Because this was all done while we watched rather that through rigorous in-house R&D people have never really given the current crop of horns the respect they are due.

And that keeps the price nice and low. ;-)

I like St. Pete BBb tubas now. I did not in the past. In fact I warned students off of getting them for years. Nowadays I would not send a kid to get one, but if he showed up at my house with one for a lesson I would not bat an eye.

I have no experience with either the Eb or CC horns. I *do* have some experience with St. Pete replacement parts. The telescoping tubing sets for inner and outer slide legs fit inconsistently, some being very loose, some being overly tight. Some are paper thin and look like they are ovalized. Not a fan. Crooks, ferrules, straight and curved lengths of tubing are generally okay. The valve paddles and rack are now very good, but the springs suck and the linkage arms still are sub-par, IMHO. No experience with large bows or bells. I LOVE their rotary valves. These are nothing like the horrible junk that used to come on these tubas. They are very well made and I regularly use them as 5th rotors on large, piston tubas.

Now, with all that said, THIS is why they receive such a disinterested response from many players or teachers. We have a long memory, and TE decided to use customers as guinea pigs on things that should have been fixed much earlier and not through a system of us bitching about problems until they were addressed.

Old farts tend to remember them when they were a new import to the US, or the entire subsequent decade.

I like them now and would like to try their CC tuba one day to see if it might be a suitable backup instrument for work that does not cost me much. However, St. Pete took too long to impress me, and I ended up with a Mack Brass 410.

Still, maybe one day I will take a look at a St. Pete.

Thanks for your review. You should post some pics of your horn so we can see which one the 209 is. I am guessing it is the CC?
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Re: St. Pete 209N

Postby toobagrowl » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:00 pm

Very decent tubas. Big sound, easy response and well in-tune.
The old ones (from late 90s - early 2000s) had crappy linkage/rotors that had issues. Vince later had German-made rotors & linkage installed on them, so the quality and price shot up. The ones made after the mid-2000s are very decent, IMO.
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Re: St. Pete 209N

Postby bloke » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:14 pm

Under previous ownership, one might be threatened with a lawsuit were they to chose to express disapproval of these products.

The Bb is OK. It's a piggy tuba ...short/smallish bell opening/large bore.
I never spent any time with the C offerings. I picked them up and played a few sounds on them at shows, but there was never anything there that compelled me to investigate further. It seems as though the Chinese products' price/quality (even lower end) have broomed the Czech/Russian/Brazilian offerings, no?
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Re: St. Pete 209N

Postby PaulMaybery » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:28 pm

Funny. I'm thinking reference to the Chinese clones... and yet ... they have not to my knowledge cloned the St. Pete. HOWEVER ... Weril, aka and/or dba Weingrill in Brazil, has "referenced" the St. Pete. I played on it a bit when I was in Elkhart some years ago as Gemeinhart was handling them along with what became BMB. As it happened I had a St. Pete in the car that I was taking to Baltimore for consignment. Dick Barth and I compared the two side by side and even interchanged tuning slides. I was much impressed with Weingrill's workmanship, and it was also in lacquered brass which gave it a somewhat more serious look and I felt a stronger more complex sound. I believe they are still producing them but I have not seen any in the US since that time.
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Re: St. Pete 209N

Postby MikeMason » Sat Jul 08, 2017 8:23 am

I have always felt the size/bore ratio was always out of proportion. What is it,like .840?
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Re: St. Pete 209N

Postby Mark Finley » Sat Jul 08, 2017 8:29 am

MikeMason wrote:I have always felt the size/bore ratio was always out of proportion. What is it,like .840?

Like Joe said, very piggy like
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