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Clarinet Roadshow => All about Clarinets => Topic started by: windydankoff on July 20, 2017, 07:18:40 PM

Title: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 20, 2017, 07:18:40 PM
I'm starting a new topic (my first) to share my experience with hard rubber C clarinets made in China. This includes the Ridenour Lyrique RCP-570C (made over there, and tweaked in Texas, so they say). I have one that I bought new in April 2016.

Summary: I am giving a very quick review of the Lyrique, then moving on to the "songtailun" (STL) that I bought from eBay and received a week ago. I the new STL better! In fact, after about a day's work (I'm an amateur technician), it's really REALLY good. I loved the Lyrique, and performed well on it, but I'm going to sell it now. The STL is better all around, more consistent, and fits my hands better.

Ridenour fit and finish is mediocre. And, it wasn't tested or treated with any critical care. A couple of corks were too squishy so I had to replace them. I had to fine-tune a few toneholes too, and trim down the top of the socket of the lower joint to bring its top notes up in pitch (and close an inner gap). To acommodate my size-Large hands, I did some key grinding and bending around the L pinkie low-note keys to gain clearance, and made the L&R sliver keys narrower. It would be better for somebody with small hands.

Now, here's my review of the Song Tai Lun (STL) clarinet. I in late June 2017, and got it 2 weeks later. Cost was $149 + $49 postage to USA. It is listed on eBay as "New Advanced C key clarinet Ebonite Good material and sound". I figured it might be OK as a spare instrument, and maybe I would get lucky. The eBay seller is called "songtailun". The photos on eBay are watermarked STL. I saw similar listings from two other sellers, showing watermark STL or SONGWEI and some identical photos. The packing slip listed my shipper as Wei Song. Therefore, I believe the are all the same item. Perhaps my vendor is the original manufacturer? or one step away? Anywei, here is my review:

I wrote this detailed review as a way to thank STL / Songwei for selling an amazing instrument. I took it out of the case (a nice one), put my favorite Bb mouthpiece on it, and WOW! I was amazed by the rich sound and the quality feel. I have big hands (man’s glove size Large) but the keys fit perfectly. (On my other C clarinet, they do not.) The thumb rest is adjustable and has a big soft rubber cushion.

The body is hard rubber (ebonite), not plastic. It is great for the sound, and won’t crack. The pads are fine leather! They are fitted perfectly, every one showing perfect tonehole impressions. Thin pads are used where needed, to make the ring keys close comfortably. This is good attention to detail. The cork work is good, and glued strongly. I adjusted some keys a bit, and found the metal to be medium-hard. They won’t be bent easily. The tenon joints were super-tight. I greased the corks AND the inside of each socket, and left it assembled. After a week, the corks compressed enough but it’s still a bit too tight. In future, if that tight, I will sand corks before first greasing.

It did need some fine tuning. I found the C#/G# (left little finger) was a flat. I undercut the hole a lot to bring it up. The B/F# “sliver” key (right hand, between 2 and 3) needed a small undercut. Bb/F was playing sharp so I glued in material to make the right 2 hole smaller. Low F/C was flat so I undercut the hole a bit (3rd hole from bottom). Maybe they will correct these in the future. I made other adjustments especially to the 2 upper trill keys, but they may be highly individual and influenced by my mouthpiece and emboucher. On the workbench, I found the keywork to be mechanically precise. The screws and rods are high quality. Only the top 2 trills have a bit of play, partly because they share one rod.

I love the C horn! The sound is bouncy and very expressive. It’s great for the E. European Klezmer and jazz, using standard C music!. The Lyrique C cost me $1200. This one sounds better, fits my hands much better, and the workmanship is better! So again, it played well right out of the box but it’s best to take it to a good repair technician for adjustments. This is true with ANY clarinet! I feel blessed to have such a wonderful horn. I'll be happy to compare notes with others here. How about some other brave soul order the A horn from songteilun? (It's $10 cheaper!) Be sure to write.

Kissing the Black Muse!
Windy
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on July 20, 2017, 08:24:28 PM
Great review! If possible, could you post some pictures of the clarinets in question, as well as the areas of undercutting you did.

Gracias!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 20, 2017, 09:39:52 PM
I’ll take some pix and post them soon, Dave. Meanwhile, I’ll comment on my method of undercutting, which seems to work just fine. I used to make flutes from wood and bamboo, and tune them very well. That’s how I learned to do this. I have round files in a variety of sizes. If a hole needs 5 cents of sharping, that may be adequate. Most effective is to round off the inner edge on the upper side of the hole. But a bit of effort to round the entire edge slightly is worth an extra minute. I use the files backwards - drawing them OUT to cut. Better control that way, and it pulls some debris out of the hole. Chainsaw files are great for this. I grind a notch and break the shank off and then grind a rounded end. That is inserted into the hole so it cuts on the draw stroke.

If a more drastic adjustment is needed, like on the STL instrument, then I start with a 1/8” shank burr, like a Dremel bit, or similar obtained from a jeweler’s supply. It’s a cone burr, largest at the bottom, about 1/4” major diameter. I get best stability chucking the bit in my drill press, on a medium speed. I hold the clarinet in two hands and move it around the make the cut. I don’t handle the arm of the drill press. Instead, I hold the clarinet in two hands and move it around the make the cut. I start with the drill off. Insert it into the tone hole, into the bore, past the hole, then turn on the drill press. Sometimes I use a foot switch, keeping both hands on the horn. Then I grind away at the inside edge. Again, mostly the edge toward the top of the instrument. After that, I may use a file to smooth it off a bit. I don’t think the texture matters.

One caution is to try to minimize accumulation of cutting debris. Blow it out with compressed air or something, use a swab, whatever, so cuttings don’t stick to the pads etc.

If I need to drop the pitch of a hole, I use thick superglue (CA adhesive) to glue in a little square of thin cork. It’s easy to add more or trim it back to adjust, then I coat it (if it’s visible) with black nail polish.

I’ve gotten pretty good using electrical tape and/or contorted fingerings to test tunings without putting keys back on. Sometimes I give up on that and put the keys back on, but usually take them off again at least one time to fine-tune.

For a tuner, I recently found the smartphone app “Panotuner”. It’s my favorite, but there are others. On my iPhone 6, the response is so fast, I can play a scale or melody at a medium tempo and get a reading on every note! It’s a good way to observe tuning “in context”. But my ear is now developing better as well.

To grind a key to reshape its surface, I use a jeweler’s buffing motor with a Cratex rubber abrasive wheel (3 inch) on one end, and a 6” felt buffing wheel on the other end, with polishing compound.

To stiffen a cork that’s too soft, I apply thin CA adhesive using a pin-point applicator (from Jeweler’s supply). It soaks in and hardens the cork. Somewhere on the cork is the end-grain, which is absorbant. I like CA for corks, better than rubber contact cement. Trouble is, old contact cement must be absent or it turns to goo with CA. I scrape it off and sometimes rough the nickel surface with a diamond file. That’s all, good night.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: philpedler on July 22, 2017, 06:47:44 AM
Hi Windy!

Fantastic information! Great ideas!

A question about the C clarinet: My Ridenour C clarinet was flat on the Bb throat tone (regular fingering). I had Tom R look at it for me, and he could not get it significantly better. He proposed that I use the side fingering. (He is very good at getting to the side Bb fingering and could do it way smoother than I can most of the time. Yeah, I know, I need to practice it!) So my main question is, is the regular Bb throat tone on the STL different/better than the Ridenour C clarinet?

Thanks for sharing this!
Phil
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 22, 2017, 08:17:14 AM
I get a very good thumb-Bb on my Ridenour Lyrique C. Strange that Tom couldn't get it better. It is slightly dull compared to the side-Bb, but in some passages it flows more naturally. I would reject any instrument that couldn't do it.

The STL was disappointing at first, in that regard. I removed the key and found there was a micro-burr slightly restricting the top of the hole. I cleared that and it helped a little, but not enough. The hole is smaller than the Lyrique, so I tried to enlarge it slightly with a round jeweler's file. No luck. The inside seemed to be plated and resisting the file. Then I went to a cylindrical carbide burr on my drill press, holding the instrument in too hands to control the cut. I cut a round the hole VERY slightly. Shazaam! I get a wonderful thumb-Bb! The timbre transitions well with the side-key B and C (after I surgically dialed them in – that's another topic I want to bring up in Forum).

The hole remains a lot smaller than the Lyrique hole. The position and length of the tube look the same (to the eye). And yet, it's a bit better for the Bb! The STL's high clarion is more clear and stable than Lyrique. Lyrique has a register hole that is larger than normally seen on Bb clarinets. It may be part of a compromise in attempt to improve the thumb-Bb. I believe I found the reason why STL is better in that and in upper clarion. The barrels have a smaller bore than Lyrique. The top of the upper joint has a slightly LARGER bore that quickly tapers down to being equal. This must be the reason for its superiority. It allows a normally sized register hole to work really well for both jobs. I think the design is practically perfect, but they failed to prevent plating from coating the inside of the register stem.

Incidentally, I learned from a Ridenour Youtube (watched a lot of them!) that the thumb Bb is helped by a cork pad that is well rounded to allow air to flow out easily. That's absolutely correct, as I found it to improve some Bb horns I've worked on. The STL has a nicely rounded kid-leather pad. It's fine! Even with the key removed, there's no improvement to the thumb-Bb. It seems to be perfectly optimized, once the plating(?) is removed from the hole. That result is what tipped me over into a love affair with the STL. Plus, the perfect feel of the keywork (after spring loosening). It feels more crisp and precise than the Lyrique.

BTW, the rounded edges of all the STL leather pads may also contribute to the superior upper clarion. Lyrique has synthetic pads with sharply square edges. STL pads really do feel like kid gloves. I was wondering if they should be treated against moisture, but I found that a bead of water just sits there. They are exquisite pads! They feel like they may have foam cushioning rather than felt. I think the maker is smart to use them as a labor-saver, as they take a beautiful impression even on the new instrument. (STL sells leather pad sets on their songteilun eBay store, BTW.)

I need to discuss the top two side ("trill") keys and how they are tuned well for B and C on some clarinets, and very poorly on others (including these two C horns). I don't get it. It must be for some other functions that I'm not aware of. Before I start another topic for that, please tell me if it's been discussed already somewhere. Those two side notes are very clear and stable on the STL, more than on Lyrique (after my retunings). I use 'em a LOT. So this is a mystery to me.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 22, 2017, 12:21:39 PM
Continuing ... I am intrigued by the differences I measured between the bores of the barrels and the upper joint tops. To verify that they account for the improvements in the STL, I did an experiment. I exchanged barrels between the STL and the Lyrique (they fit fine). Both instruments got worse, sounding and feeling stuffy at the top. That helped confirm that the upper bore design is critical to the quality of the STL.

I also discovered why there is a little hole drilled sideways in the bells of these instruments. In that case, Ridenour got it better than STL, so I "moved the hole" in the STL. I'll write more about that later.

BTW, my favorite Bb clarinet is an old Ridenour 147 that I got cheap on eBay. The keywork is a bit shabby, but it sounds gorgeous and has great intonation. I attended a klezmer workshop recently and sat next to a lady with the high-end Lyrique. I was getting better sound (but subject to other variables of course, MP, reed and player). She handed me her $1700 horn and I found the keys to be just as sloppy as parts of my 147 and my Lyrique C. I'm not out to pass judgements here / just observations.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 22, 2017, 01:32:58 PM
2 photos: Here is a lineup of my STL, Lyrique and a Bb for comparison. Next is the STL barrel after beveling off the sharply square inside edges edges.

With the STL, the first priority was to deal with very tight joints. The sharp inner edges on all joints were scraping off my grease and threatening to damage the cork. I fixed that in a matter of seconds and you can see the generous bevel. On the right is the "deburring tool" I used. This is a common mechanic/machinist item that is listed on Amazon and elsewhere. I ran it around twice. Each run-around yielded a perfect shaving as shown. It makes a big difference. The bevels are normal, and have no effect on the fit of the assembled instrument.

BTW I applied a flame to a shaving. The smell was faintly rubber, definitely not plastic!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 22, 2017, 01:50:59 PM
Regarding the top photo above, showing 3 horns: On the Lyrique, the "sliver" keys are narrowed down, so I wouldn't hit them with my Size-L man's fingers. On both C horns I ground down the C#/G# side keys, to fit my little finger. On the STL, no problem there, and they work great.

On the STL, I rounded off the top and edge of the A key and the adjacent F# ring to give good clearance to rock my forefinger. You can see the yellow brass.

Lyrique: The left pinkie low-F key was angled such that my finger would slip off. I tried bending but ended up flattening it off and putting a piece of tape on it for now, to add some friction. It still doesn't feel perfect. The STL does!

Lyrique: The two adjacent left-pinkie low keys I had to shorten, to get finger clearance. (Same I had to do on my Ridenour 147). No other clarinet gave me this problem. STL perfect!

Both bells are pulled out for tuning. STL has an O-ring - 1 1/8" ID X 1/8" from Ace Hardware.

STL bell - I filled its original tuning correction hole and drilled a smaller one lower, to match the Lyrique, which got it better for low E.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 22, 2017, 01:57:28 PM
Yours Truly!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 23, 2017, 12:09:30 PM
More photos ...
Rear view STL vs. Lyrique: I use the Ridenour thumb saddles. My thumb needs to ride higher than normal, so I would need to re-mount a hormal thumb rest upward, even an adjustable one (STL came with an outstanding one). Easier for me just to glue this on instead (and put a dent in the case for it). The Lyrique "ergonomic" register key doesn't work any better for me than a standard one. See how the C#/G# pad cup on STL is tiny. Seems like a design error. I undercut and enlarged the hole almost to the top and it came up to tune (phew!).

Undercutting burr: For gross undercutting, where it fits, I use this Dremel-style burr that I got from a jewelers' supply. For more delicate work, I use finer or smaller burrs or round files. I know there are special tools for undercutting, but I get the results I want. I adapt files so I can draw them out to cut, rather than push to cut. It brings the chips out (and for wood, it breaks off the fibers instead of bending them inward).

My drill press holds the burr while the clarinet is held by my two hands. My wrists rest on the table for stablilty and control. I may rock the piece around as well as up and down. At relatively low speed, I never get a spin-out (a common disaster using a high-speed tool in a hole). In scary-delicate situations, I use a foot switch to turn the machine on/off.

It's CRAZY how much re-tuning this horn needed! But the Lyrique needed some too. And it's well worth it. The STL plays deliciously! I got it as a spare. Now I will sell the Lyrique and get another STL as a spare! I may even sell some "finished" or offer this service to others. Anyone interested?
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Windsong on July 24, 2017, 01:11:49 AM
I am reminded of a sign that hangs in my local body shop:

"PICK 2 OUT OF THE FOLLOWING 3:
1) Good
2) Quick
3) Cheap

You can have it good and quick, but it won't be cheap.
You can have it cheap and quick, but it won't be good.
You can have it good and cheap, but it won't be quick."

The time you have invested in the tuning of an off-the-shelf instrument you bought on a gamble has no doubt paid off, and is clearly extensive.  I am glad to hear (and surprised, based upon what I usually hear) that keywork is robust, and "tweakable".  I can only conclude that a good many folk, disappointed by the same horn's set-up and intonation, threw in the towel due to a lack of advanced tuning skills necessary to affect optimal playability, and low initial price.  If I nibble on one of these in the future, I may well contact you for some advanced tweaking services..
I have long been on the lookout for a quality, modern C in Boehm.  I had always assumed that this would take the form of an Amati 351, as I'll not likely ever have the dosh for a Patricola, but your review opens the field, a bit.

Klezmer is probably one of the hardest styles of clarinet to play well, with all the slurs and laughs.  I enjoy failing at it miserably, when time allows.  Giora Feidman and Matt Darriau (and a good many others) make it seem effortless, but it is most certainly not. 



Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 24, 2017, 08:43:02 AM
Windsong,

If you were to order the STL C, keep in mind that mine sounded great right out of the box, except for a few notes' intonation. The feel was also crisp and precise, except for a few tight springs.  And the key layout feels extremely close to a normal Bb. So you know as soon as you get it, if it is worth the extra time or cost to refine it. I'm going to order another one. There is always a chance that the vendor may get an inferior batch in future. There are still 10 left (presumably) of this batch.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Silversorcerer on July 24, 2017, 12:03:52 PM
Get 'em while they're hot! There's only ten of them! Of course with a C clarinet, one doesn't expect that there would be thousands. I'm sure they can always make some more.  8)

Some assembly required, of course, as there is on almost any factory direct acquisition. I am guessing that is how they manage that price point. One wonders how with the gigantic difference between this one and the Ridenour in price. And then there are the warranty and service issues, etc., which I admit that I know little of either seller in that regard.

It's good that you could tweak the tuning and it causes me to wonder how consistent these are. Of course any evaluation starts with one example. One of the first things I check on a clarinet is how well the alternate fingerings check out below and above the break. Usually it can be made acceptable by adjusting the pad clearances. A near perfect match is possible so why are so many not so perfect in that way? Perhaps it's a design / workmanship issue and I really wonder if two of these or more would all need the same tweaks?

I have seen the same issues with almost every new musical instrument. The difference between the OK playing instrument and the really excellent playing instrument is often how fine the adjustments were made after it leaves the factory.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 24, 2017, 01:15:27 PM
I imagine Ridenour pays the same low range when they buy 'em from China. The $ difference stays in Texas. They claim to fine-tune every instrument, but I ended up fine-tuning my own Lyrique. They apparently drilled the hole in the bell (it's 3/32 inch, not metric 4mm). but otherwise, they sure didn't do much to it. It didn't even have grease on the corks when I got it. But then, some experts say it's a bargain at $1195!

It is what it is. And the "cheaper" STL? It is what it is. The price is simply what the market will bear, relative to the continent on which it is located. In a case like this, in my perception, it has no bearing on the quality. Quite the opposite.

My Lyrique C is on Craig's List now, for $750. It's still a good instrument ... and comes with a NAME!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on July 24, 2017, 01:52:19 PM
Regarding Chinese instruments and other $/benefit issues, and materials, Sherman Friedland's comments are interesting:
https://clarinetcorner.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/that-clarinet-mystique-is-a-mistake/
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Windsong on July 24, 2017, 03:11:40 PM
Interesting article, Windy.  In fact, I was wondering if Tom's clarinets had a "2nds" or a "grey market", and it seems plausible that they do.
I am not one to need to be converted to attributes of hard rubber over Grenadilla, though there are many who still refuse to accept a non-wood clarinet as legitimate.  I actually prefer "Ebonite", hands down.  It is far more thermally stable, does not crack unless grossly abused.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Silversorcerer on July 24, 2017, 04:19:01 PM
Sherman delivers the straight talk. There was a time when a really good instrument was factory delivered, I think. C.G. Conn was once a mail order company. : ;)
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: philpedler on August 06, 2017, 01:46:51 PM
My review of Windy's second STL C clarinet is found here:
https://sites.google.com/a/clarinetpages.net/www/hard-rubber/chinese-hard-rubber/henshui-roffee-songtielun-c-clarinet (https://sites.google.com/a/clarinetpages.net/www/hard-rubber/chinese-hard-rubber/henshui-roffee-songtielun-c-clarinet)

The link to my review of the Ridenour C clarinet is in the STL review.

Windy is planning to send this STL C back to me once he tweaks it!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on August 06, 2017, 07:09:21 PM
A C instrument like this really is wonderful to have, for many reasons. I would like some replies to indicate how much interest there may be in a C clarinet that is fine-tuned (acoustically and mechanically), guaranteed, and shipped from USA on an approval basis – for under $500.

Please reply if this appeals to YOU so I can see if this fine-tuning service is something I wish to pursue.

What about an A clarinet? Any interest there? Same $. Same quality result.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on September 17, 2017, 08:32:58 AM
REF to Phil's review of the STL, before AND AFTER my fine-tuning:
https://sites.google.com/a/clarinetpages.net/www/hard-rubber/chinese-hard-rubber/henshui-roffee-songtielun-c-clarinet

Thank you so much for the positive review of my result, Phil! I spent over 6 hours fine-tuning mechanically and acoustically on this second STL effort. I ordered another one and expect to keep on selling these. My price is $600. I give a 14-day trial period and a one-year warranty against any defects.

I just sold one to a symphony player on eBay, and await his feedback next week. You can still see the listing at:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Clarinet-key-of-C-hard-rubber-refined-to-a-professional-standard/112558200475

If a person buys one from STL on eBay (about $200 with postage), and find that it is worthy and in need of refinement, I will do it for $400 and I will give the same 1-year warranty. My process is worked out pretty well and will only improve.

The STL A is also excellent! It has issues, but it needs a little less refinement than the C.

 Anyone interested can contact me: windydankoff at mac dot com.   SUBJECT:  BLACK HOLE clarinets !
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: mjdpa on September 26, 2017, 06:57:17 PM
Thanks to others who’ve shared info about the STL hard rubber C clarinets! That info led me to buy one from eBay.
 
I am an experienced, intermediate amateur player, with two pretty good wooden clarinets (Yamaha 450 and 650) that I play in community bands, etc. I bought the hard rubber STL C clarinet on a lark, specifically to play violin duets at home with my daughter for fun.

The clarinet is surprisingly good, especially for the price.  Tone quality is pleasant and not shrill and "plasticky" sounding. The mechanism seems reasonably sturdy. The horn arrived in  decent regulation, with no obvious leaks. The long B (above the break) responds easily. To be honest, the intonation is a little off, but workable. The only real fix I did was to thicken the cork under the throat Ab key, to bring down the two sharpest notes (throat A and Ab). The included no-name mouthpiece isn't bad, but I am using my normal setup: a Vandoren M13 with Vandoren 56 Rue Lepic 3 1/2 reeds. The hard-sided case seems nice enough. Overall, this little C clarinet has met or surpassed my expectations. This is a real instrument -- on balance, roughly comparable to a name-brand, lower-end student level clarinet.

The total cost including delivery (in 11 days!) from China was $198. For the price and for the kind of use I anticipate, it’s a good deal!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on September 26, 2017, 10:47:11 PM
Excellent! Thanks for your review.
Glad to hear that it worked out for you! Much better than dropping several hundreds more on a name brand, huh?
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on September 28, 2017, 12:47:08 PM
I just received my third STL C yesterday, so it's probably near-identical to yours, 'mjdpa'.  It feels and sounds fine right out of the box, except the A and Ab springs are way too tight. But then there's the same intonation problems as the other two I got, and worse this time, due to over-depth in the mid-joint socket. I'll explain...

Each specimen has been different in how much inside gap occurs between the joints in the barrels and in the center joint. The factory just cuts 'em back to a clean end surface and doesn't seem to know that it makes a difference what the resulting socket depth is. This recent one has a gap in the mid joint of 1.8mm, which causes all the low joint notes to go flat. I will put it on the lathe and cut it back by that amount.

The barrels have only about .3mm gap – not acoustically significant, but they trap water so I prefer to close them to 0. The long barrel is probably too long for anyone. It's 2.1mm longer than the shorty. Good for a hot day in the tropics, perhaps. But the short one works fine.

To show what's involved in fine-tuning, I'm attaching two LOG sheets on which I record my work. One is for the STL I numbered C-2, and one for the recent one, C-4. C-2 is the one that Phil Pedler reviewed before & after fine-tuning, on The Clarinet Pages, HR Chinese reviews. The intonation record (before & after) has white spaces because I didn't write it all down. The numbers indicate sharpness, in cents (hundredths of a half-step). The  – numbers show flatness.

The C-4 Log shows a complete record of intonation, before fine-tuning. I have not yet "entered the Black Hole", so there's no  "after" results entered yet.

I'm learning to test intonation (it's hard!) to keep better records. I use mind-over-matter best I can to measure consistently within 3-4 cents. That means learning to hold embouchure and breath very steady, and work it in intervals. For a tuner, I use Panotuner on an iPhone – It's fast and graphic.

As I do this work (and play the horns), my ear improves. So when I play a poorly tuned instrument, I can tell. As a player, adjusting to a poorly tuned horn encourages embouchure corrections that may cause de-tuning when switching to a better-tuned horn. I also think that accepting tuning flaws will work against the development of one's sense of intonation.

As always, we get what we pay for, and/or work for!   Enjoy the challenge!  //  Windy  //
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: mjdpa on September 30, 2017, 05:33:32 AM
I don't have any idea how the manufacturing process works or how relevant batches are in this context. But windy's post made sense and got me wondering, since our clarinets were purchased around the same time. Anyhow, I checked for possible gaps, and got almost the opposite result. On mine, there isn't a perceptible gap at the middle joint, but there definitely is where the barrel meets the top joint.

So, who knows, I guess.

By the way, I have a similar take on the longer barrel. It is comedically useless for this clarinet. It sits in a box in a closet.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on September 30, 2017, 07:40:26 AM
I wonder as much as you do, mjdpa. I have bought a total of 4 C horns and one A. C-1 needed the most corrections, but it’s mine now and I love it. C-2 came just 3 weeks later. It was an improvement, but whether corrections are major or minor, it still takes me at least 6 hours of work. C-3, I got from a different supplier because the cost was lower (was). It was a different manufacturer (Roffee, I can identify from web images). The keywork is different, but equivalent quality. The bodies have similar inconsistancies in socket depths (careless facing cuts on the ends of the sockets). And, similar mis-tunings. So, I believe they are made by the SAME shop as the STL bodies. (They have different tonehole inserts than STL, and some were misaligned.)

C-4 is about equal to C-3 overall BUT EVERY specimen, including the A (total of 5 now) shows inconsistancies in some socket cuts.

I used to own a small manufacturing company. I know how a step of the process, or a dimensional specification, can be lost or forgotten. It often happens with a change of personal combined with lack of documentation. If there is not a thorough inspection process, it can go for long periods without getting caught – unless there is a customer complaint. Chinese makers are hard to get through to. It’s crossing organizational and cultural and language boundaries. I am quite sure I have contact only with a sales person, but I am developing some raport. I will now give some feedback about the inconsistant cuts and how they effect the result. Meanwhile, it’s another hour of my time to make corrections (now that I know how).

On the plus side, the keywork is quite fine and the pads are outstanding, both in material and installation aspects. Body machining also is excellent, fundamentally, on the STL. I use favorite vintage mouthpieces, labeled FRANCE 2V (or 3V), stenciled for various makers, and attributed to Riffault. My reeds are synthetic Fibracell #1 (equiv. to 1.5 generally). I get gorgeous sound, better than any cane reed I’ve tried. On Bb I get similarly gorgeous sound with my old Ridenour 147 ($40 on eBay). It’s a late-90’s Chinese hard rubber horn. I have several MPs and found that the C is slightly more fussy than the Bb regarding the choice of MP and reed. So if you are not getting seductively gorgeous sound, keep varying the MOST important factors (besides you) – MP and reed. And not too hard on the reed, either!
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 02, 2017, 06:50:45 PM
Dear Silversorcerer David,

You wrote, above:  "One of the first things I check on a clarinet is how well the alternate fingerings check out below and above the break.”

I would like to check them on my C horns.  Can you specify, or give me a reference to those fingerings?  I have charts showing many alternate fingerings. I want to be sure I check the ones you find important … and I’d like to learn them as well.

Also, if you have any comments regarding the B and C “trill” keys which I commonly find way out of tune ... and I re-tune ‘em quite good. What? Don’t people use them? I find them wonderful to use as primary notes, like on a sax. I’ve seen many clarinets where they are way off (the C too sharp, the B very flat). And, I’ve tried others (a minority) that have them tuned well. I don’t get it. There must be 2 schools of how they are used.

Thanks to the Clarinet Pages!  //  Windy
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Dibbs on October 03, 2017, 02:31:28 AM
I use the "B" trill key for a better sounding Bb.  If it is tuned for the Bb then the B natural might well be out.  That might account for some of the anomalies you see.

Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 03, 2017, 08:58:28 AM
Yes Dibbs, it serves as the "side Bb" key but when tuned (or re-tuned) carefully, it ALSO makes a B trill when the register key is open.  I found that if I open the hole substantially larger but lower the pad height (add cork) then I can get a balance to get a good trill B without sharping the side Bb. It helps equalize both the intonation and the timbre.

The trill C I tune in for hitting BOTH B and C trills, which is much easier than moving to the C only. It seems a minority of clarinets work this way. I find it superior so I tune mine that way. Am I bucking the majority here?
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Dibbs on October 04, 2017, 02:12:47 AM
Yes, I know it's used for both notes.  It's just that one hole is doing 2 jobs.  It probably can't do both perfectly and I'd prefer a good Bb to a good B natural.

An even worse situation occurs on early clarinets like SS's 6 key instrument where there's no G# key.  Your only option is to use the register key alone perhaps with some right hand holes covered for resonance.  That one hole is then trying to do 3 jobs; G#, Bb and register switch.  There are going to be compromises in tuning.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Airflyte on October 04, 2017, 07:48:34 AM
Windy, can you tune one to play at A= 432Hz while keeping the rest of the instrument in tune with itself?
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 04, 2017, 08:27:05 AM
Yes I can! I just tried mine with the longer barrel and the mid-joint out a bit and it's holding very nicely throughout. I'll fine-tune it to your preference. I expect that with the short barrel and fully-in mid-joint, you would still have a good result for A440. You get the 2-for-1 special.

I would invite you to purchase it directly on eBay from songtielun, and try it yourself (to be sure it's a keeper). Also, to make some intonation tests of your own, so that I can be sure I can tune it compatibly with you. I will do my complete 6-hour refining and quality control routine for the normal $400. You get a 1-year warranty from me on all aspects of the instrument.

If you wish to contact me directly, use windydankoff at mac dot com. or call me at 505 490-0313. Santa Fe, NM USA.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Silversorcerer on October 04, 2017, 10:06:21 AM
Dear Silversorcerer David,

You wrote, above:  "One of the first things I check on a clarinet is how well the alternate fingerings check out below and above the break.”

I would like to check them on my C horns.  Can you specify, or give me a reference to those fingerings?  I have charts showing many alternate fingerings. I want to be sure I check the ones you find important … and I’d like to learn them as well.

Also, if you have any comments regarding the B and C “trill” keys which I commonly find way out of tune ... and I re-tune ‘em quite good. What? Don’t people use them? I find them wonderful to use as primary notes, like on a sax. I’ve seen many clarinets where they are way off (the C too sharp, the B very flat). And, I’ve tried others (a minority) that have them tuned well. I don’t get it. There must be 2 schools of how they are used.

Thanks to the Clarinet Pages!  //  Windy

I go up an down the chromatic from A (throat) to C alternately using the Bb side (trill) and the register key. Those two Bb fingerings should match and any way of going up and down should sound like a true chromatic run.

Then the B (combination) and C (throat) should closely match those (first two) notes above the break (17/6 Boehm). The reason I like the mid 20th C. Conn and Penzel-Mueller clarinets is that on these, those are nearly dead matches if the pad clearances are correctly set. Those are often far better than French clarinets that some presume to be better instruments, IMO. Pedler Woodwinds and Bettoney are also very good in this regard. Unfortunately these companies did not make C Boehm models, or not more than a hand full.

I recently learned that most of the scores calling for C clarinet are 19th C. or earlier, so I am using a Mueller type C LP to learn with. Those are not common, and the system is different (only one option for Bb, B, and C throat tones). I use a similar tuning strategy for the side keys. The top side key should simultaneously open the lower side key, and clearances be carefully set to balance the tuning of the B and Bb.

The pad shape on the register port is as critical as the clearance. Ideally, a domed cork pad for the register key should be used if the C is flat.

Regarding the use of the combination of Bb and C trills to get C, that is what I do. The pad clearances can be pretty tight. I usually have the register and A key open also for C. The notes I am most fussy about are the open G and the top C. The G can be adjusted slightly by the pad height of the vent under the A touch that connects to the thumb ring. This should tuned at 20 Celsius, or the tail is wagging the dog.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 04, 2017, 11:57:07 AM
Thanks Silver, thanks for clarification, advice and confirmation. I helps me to hear on The Clarinet Pages how you and others set priorities and do the tuning dance. Now I'm revisiting C-1 (my first STL C) to dial it in a bit more. Then, on to the next one, on my bench now.

Anyone interested in it? Let me know.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 12, 2017, 01:27:16 PM
Forgive me for "tooting my own horn", but I can't resist. Here is a review from the buyer of my second fine-tuned BLACK HOLE C clarinet:

“Your results with the clarinet are very solid. … I (with my Vandoren B48 dot 88 mouthpiece and Vandoren 2.5 reed) stay squarely in tune through most of the horn with only minimal sharpness in the throat keys (within my ability to "lip down"... an issue with all my clarinets). ...  I look to use your C when Beethoven (or Dvorak or Prokofiev or the others) and I next meet. Thank you very much for your work! I readily recommend it to others reading this note.  –– Mark M., Connecticut, eBay buyer
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on November 21, 2017, 07:57:38 AM
I'm preparing two more Black Hole C clarinets for sale. Quality from the factory remains high except where defects and mis-tunings continue to beg for attention. The work goes smoothly now based on accumulated experience, recorded data, and some new tools.

One is nearly complete, and very pleasing. I'll list one on eBay soon for BIN $600, but if disciples of The Clarinet Pages wish to get one for $500, please reply here or send me a message. Warranty from me is 1 year / trial period 14 days / postage $25. Specify if player has Small or XL hands.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on September 18, 2020, 02:04:46 PM
Almost 3 years have passed, but this message thread remains full of good information so I continue .... Silversorcerer David's post just above helped me to set up trill keys to be "real" notes. I took it a step further. I enlarge the B trill tone hole, then glue a bump of material near the center of the pad. That way it keeps its full travel but acts like it opens less. It balances the factors nicely, which is not easy because that key effects 3 notes. Also, I can sand the bump to final-adjust it, without removing the key. I do this as routine on my Black • Hole C clarinets to dial in the B trill without de-tuning the side-key Bb.

I sell C clarinets often with a select vintage mouthpiece that matches with it especially well. The old STL name turned out to be a seller, not the maker, and is no longer relevant. To date, the quality remains high and a bit more consistent. But it still needs fine-tuning etc. to meet "concert standards". Then, I love the instrument and so does everyone I now who has one.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Windsong on October 07, 2020, 08:24:16 PM
Windy,
I remain impressed as to what you have managed to do with the STL.  I still play my Kolar LP C weekly, and have found, despite its charm and fantastic sound, it is not scientifically tuned, like yours are, (but blues don't mind  ;)). 

You are a true champion of tonal perfection. 
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 08, 2020, 01:34:19 AM
Windsong – Funny you mention using C clarinet for the blues. Years ago I played blues and jazz with a C-melody saxophone. It was often much easier than using Eb or Bb sax. That was one stimulus to explore C clarinet. To study the situation, I evaluated various clarinets playing by ear with recorded blues backing tracks in various keys. I made this chart for the most common keys used by guitarists, and by horn-based jazz.

CLARINET KEY PLAYABILITY SCORE FOR COMMON BLUES & JAZZ KEYS

Score of 1-5 indicates general ease of fingering
      1=difficult  5=easy

                                          KEY of the MUSIC      
                   guitar blues & jazz keys     plus horn-based jazz keys
                    E      A     G     C      D                F     Bb
C clarinet       1      5      5     4      5                5      5   
Bb clarinet     1      2      5     5      5                5     5   
A clarinet       5      4      1     2      4                1     1

I eliminated A clarinet. I have since found G clarinet fits well. Eb Alto is wonderful when it fits, but not so often. (I never finished the chart for G and Eb)
                           
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: LarryS on October 26, 2020, 08:03:20 AM
Does hard rubber look and feel similar to plastic, or is there a distinct difference? I'm just wondering if my Windsor clarinet is plastic or hard rubber...
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on October 26, 2020, 08:15:08 AM
Larry - Hard rubber (HR / ebonite) looks practically the same as ABS plastic when a clarinet (or mouthpiece) is relatively new.

HR is very dark brown, not black. Age, sun exposure and water staining tends to reveal the brown color. Warming the material may reveal a slight rubbery smell. These are sure evidence of HR material.

You can test with a little cotton swab dipped in acetone (nail polish remover). HR is impervious to acetone. Plastic is not. Wipe it on the bottom of the bell or the end of lower joint, some place where a slight dulling of glossy finish won't be noticed. If black shows on the swab, it is plastic. If it's HR, no black will be removed.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: LarryS on October 26, 2020, 09:13:35 AM
Interesting Windy, I'll have to try that, though I suspect mine, being a cheap chinese instrument is plastic. (Windsor has no website so I can't check. They also make flutes, saxes and trumpets)
 
The finish on mine roughed to look like wood.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: Windsong on November 24, 2020, 07:29:46 PM
Forgive my ridiculously late response.  (I have been working solid 65-70 hour weeks for the last several months, and I have to remind myself to breathe some days.).
That chart is a gem, Windy.  Seems spot on, too.  I had a C-melody sax for a while.  I enjoyed it.  It would not tune well, but I enjoyed it just the same.  When mechanical tuning fails and when no clear remedy avails itself, we learn to adapt technique and embouchure to compensate. 
I admire your tuning skills.
Title: Re: Chinese C Clarinets / STL reviewed, compared to Ridenour Lyrique C
Post by: windydankoff on November 24, 2020, 08:15:12 PM
I was told that the only C melody sax worth owning is Conn. I found one (1923 vintage). Intonation was very good except slightly off  in 2nd octave F area. It was wonderful to honk with a blues jam!