A new Heckel costs as much as a car, and top-of-the-line Fox bassoons also have five-figure prices, while some lower-priced bassoons are considered "suitable only for making lamps". Other than prestige, what are the qualities of a good bassoon versus a lesser bassoon?
Since there have been many views but no replies to my post, let me add something to it.
I am less interested in the "input" side (for example, the number of years that the wood is aged) than the "output" side (for example, the sweetness of the tone).
Fox long-bore bassoons carry an intonation guarantee, Polisi models have extra keys to improve playability, and the Weisberg system is supposed to make flicking unnecessary. So why do many people swear by Heckel, Puchner, Moosmann and pre-war Kohlerts? What do they have?
There are a number of things that differ, some of them has to do with taste and feelings which are not really easy to describe in a post on the internet.
Of course, we need to start from a position of a basically decent instrument. The holes and keys in the right places, airtight pads and basically playable. Some instruments, even new ones, does not really approach that level and are not really useable as instruments at all. The more well-known brands will not put an instrument on the market which is less than this minimum level. As it is an investment we are planning on playing the instrument for many years, maybe a full career over perhaps 50 years. In that respect we want an instrument that keeps playing and is possible to service and repair. Some instruments will not work for any longer time and hence should be avoided.
From there we go on with playing the instrument, looking for things like: how out of tune are the notes (all bassoons are out of tune due to the design, but it does differ how much and on which notes)? How even is the register from lowest to highest tones? How well does it play soft (piano) compared to strong (forte)?
From here we go on with things like how well the sound and feeling is compared to the "ideal" we are trying to achieve. This is very much about taste and intended usage. You would probably use a different bassoon for chamber music as compared to in a wind band, and then again perhaps not.
And it boils down to diminishing return. Once above a certain level, the difference are smaller and smaller as the instruments gets more expensive.
One experience is that the cost is not really connected with how well an instrument works for an individual player. You really need to test the instruments.
Thanks for taking my question seriously. There have been hundreds of views but no other response. I did not intend to sound snarky.
Certainly there are some instruments of such poor quality that keys and rods bend, posts come loose and so on. But Heckel and Fox are not the only makers that avoid this level.
I really appreciate your insight that personal taste is involved. I have read posts to the effect that "I tried a(n) [insert brand here] and traded in my Heckel." Some find the keywork of a certain model more comfortable than that of others. Some ads and reviews tout stability of intonation and others tout flexibility. Aren't those opposites, at least partially?
My hunch is that there is a similarity to the Coke/Pepsi wars. Some people can't tell the difference; some people prefer one at times and the other at times; some people swear by one but acknowledge the validity of others' choices; some people prefer one and denigrate the other; some people actually prefer RC Cola or a store brand.
You mentioned diminishing returns. I wonder how much of the prices at the highest levels is really payment for prestige/status/cachet.