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Contrabass trombone roundup at ITF

Postby Mark Finley » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:30 pm

I never thought I would be able to try so many contras in one place

I didn't even write down the names of all of them, but if you're interested here are my highlighted memories

Best contra, no qualifications. I guess the Haag. It felt so responsive, the sound was so good. Was it the most fun? No, that falls to the next one on my list

The Kanstul. They did not display at the show, but Bill let me play his for a while. Good God, that thing was FUN. far more nimble than I EVER thought a contra could be. It felt like a tenor, a really good tenor. It was the most comfortable to hold, probably because Bill had a rath brace on it. And... It's half the cost of the Haag. So what's the downside? It seems to have a smaller bell on it. Fairly thin throat and only a 10.25" bell. That probably explains why it plays the way it does, but it also makes it REALLY easy to over blow in the low range. Anything below the staff or louder than mf would get a BRAAAAP. Lord forbid you really push it, it got edgy fast. I'm sure that's fantastic for some things, but I'm so sure there would be times that you would want a more controlled F. Can you learn how to get the volume without the edge? Probably, but I'm just going on first impressions, because that's all I've got

3rd-8th place goes as a tie to all the rest of the euro contras. Rath, Thein, and the rest. Honestly, they all felt the same to me. Very good, slightly resistant. A good experience, but nothing that made me go WOW. I'm also not a fan of the euro valve tuningsystem. The Haag, Kanstul, and wessex all had American tuning

And that brings us to wessex...

What can I say? It's a budget contra. It plays nothing like any of the others, and really falls down when compared to the Haag and kanstul. I've played 4 wessex basses. The Hagman valve disaster I bought last year, the much improved rotor version I exchanged it for, the prototype that they had at TMEA, and the slightly dressed up and tweaked full production model that they brought to ITF. I can't say enough about how much better the new one is than the old, but there are still issues. I still think the F in the staff feels stuffy /blurry to me. Could the problem be with me? Maybe, but if that's the case why do other brands not have a hint of a certain partial being stuffy? I though lt it might be the mouthpiece, but I put my wessex mouthpiece in the kanstul and I thought it sounded great.

It is what it is, and entry level contra for the "contra curious" crowd. A bass trombone or tuba player that wants something fun to play with. I would be surprised to see anyone who already owns one of the other instruments I mentioned selling that one to get the wessex, unless there was a financial reason they had to downgrade. One on one, they just can't keep up.

But... If you want to enter the world of contrabass trombone but can't spend $8-18k, sure, go grab that wessex for $3k. It is a much better instrument now than it was before and blows the doors off the Dillon, the Schiller, and anyone else still selling the Hagmann valve version. The modular tuning is HUGE, and Chuck did a great job making that work.

Both mine and the full production model play sharp on the C valve and the whole horn. To make it play a440 the tuning slide has to basically be all the way out. Hopefully that can be adjusted, or they can provide a longer tuning slide to Those that need it. I wish the ferrules were about one inch longer. To make the C valve work I cannibalized some of the extra modular tuning slides that came with mine. They did adjust the length of that slide at the factory, but in my opinion it needs to be even longer. I went over all of this with chuck at ITF

Want a contra and have 3k to spend? Get the wessex, no question

If you have 8k or more? Get the kanstul, or wait a bit. I did get some inside information of another well known company that is going to be releasing a contra in the future for a price between the wessex and the kanstul. More later, I don't think I can say more now

Got 18k and want to spend it on a contra? Get the Haag, or better yet, make up your own mind if you're going to spend that kind of money. What are you listening to a tuba player for anyway?
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Mark Finley
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Re: Contrabass trombone roundup at ITF

Postby MDORVAL » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:13 pm

Thanks Mark for your feedback! Great summary.
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