I just joined up because I'm looking for a new horn and some sage advice.
Some background on me:
I studied music in college and have been playing for about 18 years. I play principal in two orchestras and a symphonic band. I bring up third in another one. None of these would be considered "professional" ensembles, but I still want to bring my best musicianship to the table, and that includes my sound. Somehow I managed to get this far playing a Holton H176 and need to "graduate" to a professional model. I've simply outgrown it and my responsibilities to these ensembles are nagging at me to find better equipment. Apart from a full double and detachable bell, I'm not really sure what I want and could use your input.
I've done a great deal of research on the subjects of horn manufacturers, production, bore sizes, bell throats, bell diameters, metal alloys, mouthpieces, detachable vs. fixed bell, etc., so it's safe to assume I have a working knowledge of physics, acoustics, metallurgy, the perception of sound, and that I'm an experienced musician with a good-sized library of recordings. That said, I have almost no experience playing on the "high-end horns."
The current contenders are Paxman 20/25, Alexander 103/1103, and the LDx5.
The bore on the 20 is .472. The 25 is .472/.500. The Alexanders are apparently .475 throughout. I don't know about the LDx5, do you?
After reviewing 50+ hours of recordings and videos, I hands-down prefer the sound of the Alexander both in soft passages and the ones we live for. But... I'm concerned about the ability to blend well with other players. Alexanders seem to have a very distinctive sound which I personally love. Could a different bell temper it's "distinctive" sound for section situations? Or perhaps the 1103 (Geyer wrap) instead of the 103? I've been told the 1103 has a slightly softer sound compared to the 103.
On the other hand, the Paxmans do tend to have a very focused, compressed, sound which seems to project well. To anyone who's played both, what are your thoughts? Does one project any differently than the other?
By getting a detachable bell (which is necessary due to my travel habits), I can diversify my palette of sounds, right? Toss on a huge Nickel Silver bell to play John Williams, then swap it for a medium gold brass Schmid for chamber work? The "Alexander" rings seem to be the most compatible, so does that mean I should lean toward those horns? Or do the Paxman bells offer sufficient variety?
Has anyone played the LDx5? Can you offer any feedback on that model?
Lastly, it's a 22-hour drive to any place with Paxman and Alexander horns in stock. What does it usually cost to take a horn on trial? Do you normally make a deposit and pay shipping?
If you are not playing professionallI don't know that having to blend is that important especially if you are going to be spending this kind of money on a horn. WIth you playing in three different groups which group are you going to try and blend with?, all three?
If you are trying to blend what horns are you trying to blend with?
WIthout knowing I would half-assedly say if you are trying to blend with Holtons go with PAxman. If you are trying to blending with Hoyers and Conns, go with Alexander.
You obviously have been spending a lot of time on this BUT, did you also research the mouthpieces all those players were playing on? The mouthpiece and the first 8 inches of the leadpipe have a huge affect on your sound, stability, and response. YOu can always change the leadpipe on a horn to change things as well; don't forget that.
If you are buying blind I think you would find more consistant production form PAxman horn than from Alexanders. Alexanders can be very good and very not so good depending who put it together. PAxmans tend to be more alike when trying them randomly.
I've played an LDx6 once so can't say too much about it. I suppose the Alex generally has a fuller/darker tone on its own as opposed to the Paxman which as you stated generally can sound more compressed or narrow. I find I can project on either just fine regadless of the tone characteristics.
Regarding trial periods - - generally you pay for the whole price of the horn. If you keep it past the trial period you now own the horn. If you return it before the end of the trial the transaction for the purchase is recinded (credited back to your account).
Bell Flares: Schmid Bell flares are not compatible with Alexander Bell flares. PAxman bell flares are also not compatible with Alexander Bell flares.
Thanks for the reply. I'll be playing alongside Holton, Conn, Alexander, Lewis, and Paxman horns. Though without having a "full time gig" I can't say I'm inclined to spend this much money just to sound like someone else. :/ I'd rather have "my" sound, but have it be one malleable enough to be agreeable with the others. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs--a horn is a horn and to the untrained ear of the audience, it doesn't matter whether I plan a 1950s Olds Single B-flat or a brand new Paxman Triple. I was just curious if one over the other tended to fit in better, but it seems the Paxman/Alexander question is just a more expensive version of the Holton/Conn debate.
Interesting point about the leadpipe. I hadn't given that much thought.
The mouthpiece I did dwell on: Do I get a mouthpiece first and then a horn, or vice versa? I decided the mouthpiece is relatively inexpensive and easy to change given the availability of screw-rim and modular designs, so it'll be easier to get a horn with the tonal palette I want, then find a mouthpiece which lets me harness those colors.
You mentioned the incompatibility of bell flares: Is there a resource anywhere which identifies which bells are compatible with which rings?
With all those other horns I'd say it doesn't matter, and yes 99.8% of the audience is not going to know or even recognize a difference.
With those horns and the fact that you like most of the Alexander recordings I would suggest you go the way of the Alexander. You can get an Alexander compatible bell flare to brighten your tone and get a crisper response/attack.
I get a mouthpiece after the horn. I believe the mouthpiece needs to be made for the instrument. I use a different mouthpiece for every one of my horns (although I almost always use the same rim on each of those). but the cup, the throat, the bore, etc all need to be compatible with your leadpipe venturi and taper.
To my knowledge there is no chart or resource that lists all the bell flare options in the world. Most companies will tell you if their flares are compatible with other horn manufacturers and some are not even compatible within the same manufacturer. So you have to ask or you have to know. I now take measurements when I have access to bells and bell flares. So perhaps I can make a chart some day. Be careful of Alexander rings and Alexander 'compatible' rings. Just two weeks ago I saw a player trying a different bell flare on his horn and both bell flares were supposed to be Alexander compatible. But they were not interchangeable.
So if you get an Alexander and want to try other bell flares have them made by alexander; or if they are not alexander have them assure you they are using alexander original equipemnt or that they assure you you can return it if it doesn't fit regardless of the reason. MAke them give it to you in writing or an email form someone who has authority to do so. YOu don't want to be stuck with a $1200 bell that you can't use.