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Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby CranstonTuba » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:25 am

Who has played it and what are your thoughts?

I’m in the market for a horn to play with my 7 piece brass band. I’ve been playing on borrowed 1947 Reynolds BBb sousaphone. I had been looking for a sousaphone, ended up borrowing a friend’s helicon for a gig and a few rehearsals. I love that it feels like I’m playing a good Tuba rather than a “sousaphone” if that makes any sense. Mind you, it’s a York so it’s a solid, great instament. My band mates describe the low range as a sound cannon.

The Wessex BBb helicon is in my price range and it’s fourth valve is a major plus as well. I just wouldn’t have a chance to play test on before ordering so I’m interested in any and all thoughts and critiques anyone is willing to share.

Thanks!
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby Heliconer » Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:16 pm

A few quick observation from my short time playing one:

1. Seemed well balanced
2. Very responsive!
3. Intonation was pretty darn good.
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby Art Hovey » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:47 am

I like it a lot. The 4th valve and detachable bell are worth every penny.
I did find it more comfortable with one bit instead of the two.
If I had to replace the customized black Buescher that I have been using for 50 years that is the horn I would pick, without hesitation.
I tried them both side by side at the Army Tuba Conference last year.
There is also an Eb version, and I have heard that a CC is on the way.
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby williamp » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:37 am

I liked it. It was pretty easy to play (felt like a tuba), light (especially compared to the Holton Mammoth I regularly play), and seemed pretty good intonation-wise. Here's a little clip from this past summer playing one briefly. Missed notes are on me, not the horn...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQHCSFKCpqU
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby CranstonTuba » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:29 am

Thanks for all of the responses. All very helpful feedback. The Reynolds I’m playing on is very very heavy so I’m hoping even with the fourth valve the Wessex will feel lighter. Basically if it’s balanced and plays more like a tuba I’ll be coming out ahead. The York I’m borrowing has spoiled me in just a few weeks. I’ve only played on three helicons, a York, a Martin a maker I can’t recall and they all play so much better than almost all sousaphones I’ve played. Thanks for sharing the YouTube video willamp. It’s great to be able to here someone play it.

Bonus photo of me playing the York at Polar Express opening weekend in my home state.

https://imgur.com/gallery/rRWuLQk
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby Kirley » Wed Nov 28, 2018 3:34 pm

I've been meaning to do a write up on this subject but haven't carved out the time.
I purchased one earlier this year. I got the one that Jonathan discounted due to some shipping damage.

Overall, I like it a lot. I just did a quick look over my gig log and I've had it out on close to 30 gigs this year. I find myself reaching for it more often than either my Conn 38K or 22K (although they still get plenty of use).

The lower center of gravity makes it quite a bit more comfortable than a sousa. And, yes, I agree it plays more "tuba-like" than some sousaphones. But I think most people haven't played good quality sousaphones in working order. So...

The intonation is pretty good. I've never played anything that was point and shoot. But I will say that there aren't any notes that I can't play in tune on this horn. One strange thing that took me a little while to work out was that the low G didn't want to resonate with how I was used to playing it. After a little bit of time working on it, I guess my chops figured it out and now it plays and sounds just as good as all the others. Kinda weird. I found that the horn, intonation wise, really prefers a Helleberg over anything else I've tried with it. Fortunately, that's what it comes with.

It fits in a standard sousaphone gig bag. But the height of the bell is a bit taller than a sousaphone's so it does distort the bag a bit. The slightly smaller size of the body, due to not having the 90 degree turn for the bell collar, allows more space for the bag to deform a bit to accommodate the taller stack.

One thing that I thought I'd like a lot more is that it isn't as tall while I'm wearing it. And that is good in the comfort department but I thought there would be some benefit in going through doorways while playing since I wouldn't have to duck way down with the bell. I'm 6'1". Unfortunately, it makes me much wider and now it's a chore in that dimension instead. And in case anyone is confused about why I'm griping about doorways, about a quarter of all the gigs I do involve some kind of marching/strolling and usually to get folks from one place to another. Those places often have doors. I guess this isn't really a knock against the Wessex. Just a trade off in design between sousaphones and helicons.

I had my repair guy remove the water key on the 4th valve slide. Water never makes it all the way over there and it makes it really tight to get that slide out as the key bumps into a cross brace. We added a water key just up from the valve cluster on the 4th loop. Works like a charm.

My least favorite part of the horn are the bits. They feel cheap. They don't fit together really snug. You can tell that not a lot of the adjacent surfaces are actually in contact with each other. I might swap out the receiver, neck, and bits for a different manufacturer at some point. It also took some time for me to dial in where I like them.

The valves have been great. They have a nice weight to them while still being really fast. The angle of the whole cluster is quite comfortable.

Let me know if you have any specific questions. It's a great horn. Especially considering the price. It's the only brand new instrument I've ever bought. The only one I could really afford, to be honest.
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby Kirley » Wed Nov 28, 2018 3:37 pm

Oh, and one more very important thing.

It has great tone.

I've had many non-tuba players comment on how good the horn sounds. No offense to us but when a non-tuba player goes out of their way to compliment you on your tone, that really means something. :)
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby Wyvern » Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:13 pm

Kirley wrote:My least favorite part of the horn are the bits. They feel cheap. They don't fit together really snug. You can tell that not a lot of the adjacent surfaces are actually in contact with each other. I might swap out the receiver, neck, and bits for a different manufacturer at some point. It also took some time for me to dial in where I like them.

Strange you mention that. The neck and bits are something Wessex Chief Designer, Chuck Nickles wants to update on the helicon. When he does, I will make available for sale separately for previous buyers to upgrade.

Pleased you are enjoying the helicon. I always reach for one whenever I have a standing/marching gig. Here is picture of Will Druiett (Wessex Artist) and I with Eb and BBb Wessex helicon for the recent November 11th Rememberance day (as we call it in the UK)
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Re: Thoughts on the Wessex 4 valve BBb helicon.

Postby Patrase » Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:47 pm

Hi, I play tested one for half an hour. Updated bits would be a bonus/welcome addition. They were the only issue I had. I also found that I preferred a relatively shallow mouthpeice with it. So if you get one try a bunch of what might be considered F or Eb tuba mouthpieces on it.
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