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Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby CottenSound » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:38 am

Okay, first a little background.
I'm returning to Tuba after about 30 years. (I've played bass guitar/upright through those years.) My wife plays in a band at her community college and I've decided to join her. I'm currently using a loaner from the school. (A Yamaha 641) that I like but knowing that the school will kick off again eventually I'm looking at several options.
First of all, this will probably be a one-time purchase to last, not just a starter instrument.
My budget is up to about $4k.
I'm not worried about sifting through "opinion", I know the difference. But at the same time I live in an area, and during our current situation, that is not conducive to actually going out and trying a bunch of different instruments. So while I know this ideal, going and trying a bunch I mean, its just not plausible. Nor is using the school's indefinitely. (

Playing venues and style will be primarily concert bands, but I play a bunch of bluegrass and am in the process of convincing my wife, a clarinet player, to form a dixieland quartet to play around the local festivals.

Thanks,
James
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby dopey » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:14 am

You'll get a ton of opinions, but guess you expect that :)

I came back from a 10+ year hiatus myself, bought an Eb horn that was 3+1, played quite a bit for a few months then nothing for another 4+ years. Sold that horn and bought the Gnagey since I just did not like the upright 3+1 configuration. Had only ever played BBb through highschool/college, specifically front facing.

I'm very happy with my Eb Gnagey from Wessex. I play it in a local community brass band, and also a dixieland group at work.

Part of me wonders if I should of stayed with BBb, as I still screw up occasionally when playing it. I do smile everytime I play the horn tho.

I think your question is if you'd rather go for a good quality used instrument or try to find a 'new' instrument in that budget. If new, that'll limit your options.. if used.. then your patience and what's on the market will dictate your choice :)
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Three Valves » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:26 am

Mack Brass has a good quality ZO rotary valve he may still be selling for -$4k.

Worthy of consideration.
Who needs four valves??

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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby opus37 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:27 am

The 641 is not highly regarded on this net. Similar tuba is a MW 25. If you can find one used, it will be in your price range, and play as good as or better than the 641. They are quite durable so they last a long time. Don't be afraid of a used one. A used miraphone 186 is a significant upgrade, but it will make you very happy. Look on your local craig's list to see if any tubas are for sale. Check out the "shops" listing on this net. You will find some of them have used horns that will meet your needs. You might want to consider similar wessex horns. They are generally a good buy too. I hope this helps your quest.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby lowtones425 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:22 pm

Given your specific playing scenarios, I’d be inclined to recommend an older style King 2341 with a detachable upright bell. You could probably also locate a recording (front facing) bell to compliment the upright bell, and you’d be all set for concert bands, Dixie, you name it.

Happy Tuba-ing and good luck!!!

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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Matt G » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:35 pm

I would probably recommend calling Matt Walters at Dillon Music, specifically if you’ve got a timeframe in mind.

They have a lot of options in your budget on hand, including a copy of the YBB-641.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby MikeMason » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:50 pm

It would also depend on how important “American made” is to you. Old or new style kings sure play well and are fairly plentiful. A world of options if Chinese is ok with you. I’ve owned quite a few of both and all but that first 6 valve Chinese f had pros and cons. That horn only had cons :mrgreen:
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby bloke » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:07 pm

If well-made and not-crazy-out-of-tune China-made F tubas are of possible consideration...

Tom McGrady's ZO F tuba (if any are in stock) is a pretty darn good B&S PT-8 aka 3099/2-L copy

~ and ~

(stuff that others and I sell) the John Packer JP379FF is a darn good copy (no build quality nor tolerance issues) of a PT-15, whereas the JP379F is a darn good copy (no build quality nor tolerance issues) of a MW-2250.

Otherwise, a used Yamaha YFB-621 always plays pretty good, and (though there may be a few more intonation issues) I still judge those issues as easily addressed. (A brand-new YFb-621 is just crazy-expensive, in my view.)

...So many of the other makes/models of F tubas feature difficult intonation work-arounds. If the F tuba is used "in order to make blah, blah-blah, and blah-blah-blah easier to do", isn't "suck intonation" going to negate any possible advantages...or no?
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby anotherjtm2 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:40 pm

opus37 wrote:The 641 is not highly regarded on this net. Similar tuba is a MW 25. If you can find one used, it will be in your price range, and play as good as or better than the 641. They are quite durable so they last a long time. Don't be afraid of a used one. A used miraphone 186 is a significant upgrade, but it will make you very happy. Look on your local craig's list to see if any tubas are for sale. Check out the "shops" listing on this net. You will find some of them have used horns that will meet your needs. You might want to consider similar wessex horns. They are generally a good buy too. I hope this helps your quest.


There's a used 186 with both upright and recording bells in the for sale section here (disclosure: it's mine :) ), as well as a Conn with both bells.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Doc » Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:25 pm

anotherjtm2 wrote:
opus37 wrote:The 641 is not highly regarded on this net. Similar tuba is a MW 25. If you can find one used, it will be in your price range, and play as good as or better than the 641. They are quite durable so they last a long time. Don't be afraid of a used one. A used miraphone 186 is a significant upgrade, but it will make you very happy. Look on your local craig's list to see if any tubas are for sale. Check out the "shops" listing on this net. You will find some of them have used horns that will meet your needs. You might want to consider similar wessex horns. They are generally a good buy too. I hope this helps your quest.


There's a used 186 with both upright and recording bells in the for sale section here (disclosure: it's mine :) ), as well as a Conn with both bells.


I was just about to recommend checking out this tuba. These tubas typically play very well, generally have excellent intonation, and having two bells is nice when doing concerts that could be either indoors or outdoors.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby CottenSound » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:46 pm

Thanks all, great food for thought!
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Rick Denney » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:06 am

It used to be a joke here, that "186" was the correct answer to any question.

Like all good jokes, it's based on truth. The Miraphone 186 is THE lifetime tuba--a tuba that is easy to play, good at nearly everything, well-tuned, repairable, and reasonably durable. Used, they are in your price range, handily. If you must have shiny and new, there are Chinese-made simulations of the 186 of varying quality (mostly pretty good these days). But I'd rather have the real thing, preowned, in good playing condition.

If there is a knock on the 186, it's that it is generic--a true generalist tuba. It's not quite big enough for pros to use in an orchestra. It's not quite deep enough in sound to match the oversized American designs of the past. It's not quite dark enough to match the ultimate of rotary-tuba sound made by an Alexander (assuming the player is up to it, and an Alex is far more demanding in that regard than a 186). If I could own only one tuba, that might be it. But in sheer efficiency, intonation, the ability to penetrate a typical overblowing community band, and available in abundance on the used market at your price point, I don't think it's really possible to do better.

More difficult to find, but getting a bit more oomph in the sound at the expense of some other slight weaknesses, is a VMI 103/B&S 2103, often marketed and branded by third-party outfits like Gerhard Schneider and F. Schmidt. These have a very tall bell--something like 42 inches. They are not nearly as common on the market, but they often sell for less than the Miraphone, all else equal. These are great tubas--everything the Yamaha 641 hoped to be but wasn't quite.

The suggestion of an old, tall-bell King 2341 (or 1241) is always a good one. In good playing condition, these will be well below your budget. They are piston tubas and have a little different sound concept, but all the main qualities needed by returning amateurs are there: Efficient with air, good intonation, versatile.

I don't know why Bloke discussed F tubas--maybe because someone else mentioned it--but that's not the (main) instrument for a returning amateur. It won't provide the string-bass-like bottom in a community band, even though they can be plenty loud.

Many of us have been through this. My first tuba after an 8-year hiatus was a low-end Besson--not really a good choice but it's what I had. I soon purchased a Cerveny-made 4/4-size rotary tuba, and things got far better. Those are harder to find these days--their brass was thin (good) and soft (good for playing, not for durability) and they got beat up pretty badly. I traded that for an older Miraphone 186 which I soon had overhauled. That was another big improvement. Since then, my instruments have become more specialized and expensive, not necessarily better.

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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby toobagrowl » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:34 am

opus37 wrote:The 641 is not highly regarded on this net. Similar tuba is a MW 25. If you can find one used, it will be in your price range, and play as good as or better than the 641. They are quite durable so they last a long time. Don't be afraid of a used one. A used miraphone 186 is a significant upgrade, but it will make you very happy.


The Miraphone 186 will have slightly better intonation, but the YBB-641 and especially the M-W 25 will have better sound :tuba: All three have very good build quality.

And I agree with Rick on the VMI 103 being a great rotary BBb tuba. It's in league with the M-W 25 8) There is one for sale right now on the board for a really good price: http://forums.chisham.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=96988
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Doc » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:47 am

toobagrowl wrote:
opus37 wrote:The 641 is not highly regarded on this net. Similar tuba is a MW 25. If you can find one used, it will be in your price range, and play as good as or better than the 641. They are quite durable so they last a long time. Don't be afraid of a used one. A used miraphone 186 is a significant upgrade, but it will make you very happy.


The Miraphone 186 will have slightly better intonation, but the YBB-641 and especially the M-W 25 will have better sound :tuba: All three have very good build quality.


Some may not agree about the better sound (I say tomahto, you say tomayto...), but good examples of each would not disappoint.

And I agree with Rick on the VMI 103 being a great rotary BBb tuba. It's in league with the M-W 25 8) There is one for sale right now on the board for a really good price: http://forums.chisham.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=96988


Another really good (and often underrated) BBb tuba. Many folks liken it to a 186 in most respects, except that it has a richer, darker sound (trying is believing, of course). If someone showed up on my doorstep with one of those vintage VMI 103's, I would NOT turn it down.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Donn » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:09 am

Rick Denney wrote:Many of us have been through this.


Yeah. Unless that $4K is really burning a hole in your pocket, there's something to be said for going the whole route. It isn't just that you can't easily pop over to New Jersey and play test a couple tubas. You don't really know so much, until you've played some shows with your tuba, cleared water out of it 100 times, hauled it around some, etc. That King 1241 mentioned above, for example, you should be able to get well under $1K, albeit in not-pretty condition. You might just turn out to be the type who goes for the Conn 20K series, very different type of tuba that's much beloved out there though it doesn't get a lot of love here.

As for the 186 ... if you look hard enough, I think you will find plenty of discussion about 186 vintages having to do with bell flare widths, possibly manufacturing differences, I forget what all. I'm sure whatever has been said or implied about that model is true, for some 186 that existed at some time. Same for just about any other model of tuba, taking into account manufacturing defects etc.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby anotherjtm2 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:31 am

Doc observed wrote:
And I agree with Rick on the VMI 103 being a great rotary BBb tuba. It's in league with the M-W 25 8) There is one for sale right now on the board for a really good price: http://forums.chisham.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=96988


Another really good (and often underrated) BBb tuba. Many folks liken it to a 186 in most respects, except that it has a richer, darker sound (trying is believing, of course). If someone showed up on my doorstep with one of those vintage VMI 103's, I would NOT turn it down.


As I said in the FS thread for that tuba, I have the CC 5V version and like it a lot (apart from the height limiting the gig bag options). The more I play it, the better it gets.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby Matt G » Tue Jun 30, 2020 3:45 pm

Rick Denney wrote:Since then, my instruments have become more specialized and expensive, not necessarily better.


I think there is a lot of truth in this statement for all of us. On Reddit, there are a lot of younger people looking to buy their first horn. With the onslaught of Chinese tubas at a reasonable price, I've seen a lot of young people considering a 6/4 tuba as a first purchase. I've had conversations there about that being a "specialty" tuba, and likely inappropriate for a (typically) high school student.

Knowing a few people, professionals and amateurs, and how they arrived at their current selection of tubas, there usually is a 4/4 contrabass somewhere along the way. A good 4/4 tuba is a good long-term investment.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby CottenSound » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:11 am

Okay first I want to thank everyone for the input. And for the couple of nice offers.
But in case anyone is curious I ended up getting a used Wessex 4/4 5 valve BBB. Very nice condition, ticked all the boxes and so far so good. I’ve Just had it a day so not too much other than looks to go by for now. Not to mention my skill level is pretty basic so no “paces” to put her through. LOL But I’m confident it’ll do just fine.
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby bloke » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:31 am

Rick Denney wrote:I don't know why Bloke discussed F tubas--maybe because someone else mentioned it


yes.

MikeMason wrote:A world of options if Chinese is ok with you. I’ve owned quite a few of both and all but that first 6 valve Chinese f had pros and cons. That horn only had cons :mrgreen:


As to the main topic (probably B-flat tubas for this person)...
The cheapest import tubas (those that cost direct importers about $800, which are sold retail for c. $2000 - $4000) require a good bit of overlooking and toleration of issues, on the parts of consumers.

Even the factory in Asia that makes the really well-assembled instruments that I sell...
I bought a few from that factory that were NOT make SPECIFICALLY for the company from which I buy (because - well - they COST me less :| ), but those direct-bought/cheaper ones did not meet the standards (mostly: ALIGNMENT, as the valve fit and inside-to-outside slide tubing fit is still very good) of those that I buy from the re-seller/wholesaler that supplies me...so (even though my cost is considerably higher) the ability to drop-ship from the USA warehouse (rather than having to have every instrument shipped to me FIRST, and having to inspect/repair EVERY instrument sold) is worth it to me. I probably sell fewer instruments (because of the higher pricing), but the LACK of hassle is worth it to ME. I've already got more repair work that I can handle, and don't need to ALSO be repairing brand-new instruments prior to selling them (nor issuing disingenuous defenses nor apologies for them).
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Re: Looking for some purchasing input....

Postby groth » Sun Jul 12, 2020 1:46 pm

The suggestion of an old, tall-bell King 2341 (or 1241) is always a good one. In good playing condition, these will be well below your budget. They are piston tubas and have a little different sound concept, but all the main qualities needed by returning amateurs are there: Efficient with air, good intonation, versatile.

This...The King is probably your best bet for returning after so many years. You don't want to get discouraged by any stuffiness issues common in the rotary valve horn design (not all of them but SOME 186's) have been known to be a bit like this on the bottom. The King at least will project fuller and farther, cost the least, and be the easiest to play overall. It's mainly preference.
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