Author Topic: Controversial Opinion: Buffet (post 1980s) is Completely Overrated  (Read 71 times)

Offline BLMonopole

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I have two Buffet R-13s (a Bb from 1960 and an A from 1981) that are terrific instruments.  I've never played a better clarinet than these vintage R-13s (but I've played many that are every bit as good).

However, I think Buffet's marketing became far more important than its craftsmanship at some point after the 1980s (maybe someone knows what happened with Buffet back then).  Today, you pay thousands for a new Buffet with the expectation that you'll have to send it to your tech before you can really play it. 

Meanwhile, Selmer Paris has been making incredible instruments for at least as long.  I have several Selmer Paris clarinets (bass, alto, basset horn, contra alto) and have owned an Eb and a Bb Series 9* from them that were spectacular. And yet the brand has lagged (a long way) behind Buffet in the clarinet world for a long time (since the R-13, I understand). Leblanc and Yamaha also make great instruments (though admittedly, I haven't ever played any!)

Also, there are many (now vintage) brands that have produced great instruments over the years that are even more unsung: Couesnon, Noblet, Thibouville, Dolnet, Marigaux, Penzel-Mueller, and so many others.

So, why is Buffet so darn popular?  And overpriced?  I can't think of a reason.  So, I submit: BUFFET IS OVERRATED. 

Thoughts?  (Feel free to disagree....I'm probably overlooking something)





 

Offline TMHeimer

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Re: Controversial Opinion: Buffet (post 1980s) is Completely Overrated
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2020, 02:09:20 PM »
I don't know. I've had 3 Buffets. 1971, 1979 and my present one (1999). All 3 played about the same, far as I can tell. They did NOT cost the same... Prices (new):
'71-- $250
'79--  $500
'99-- $2,000
2020-- OMG.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2020, 02:11:04 PM by TMHeimer »
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Controversial Opinion: Buffet (post 1980s) is Completely Overrated
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2020, 03:17:06 PM »
I think theyíre good, but the price is far outweighing the benefits.

You can get a selmer that is just as good for like half the price. Even second hand buffets are wild.

I sold a Charles Bay 1997 R13 for like $1800... the buyer loved it, but I canít help thinking that one could have spent no more than $1000 for a really premium selmer of equal or greater stats.

I think part of the problem is middle and high school band directors beating it into parents and students heads that Buffet is Best. The kids grow up thinking that the R13 is the best in the world. Half the time they donít even know other brands exist. Iíd they do, they still figure Buffet is better.

This is sort of like Texas Instruments vs Casio. Casio graphing calculators are objectively better and cost about half as much as a TI that hasnít been updated since 1983.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Controversial Opinion: Buffet (post 1980s) is Completely Overrated
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2020, 09:09:57 PM »
A followup.

When I was in 4th grade, my parents asked the school music teacher what a good clarinet was for a beginner. Without hesitation, it was the Buffet B12. He did not even suggest other options such as the very solid vintage Bundy or Vito models. It immediately went to Buffet B12.

That was an expensive instrument, costing $500 on sale. Bundy and Vito can be had easily for $100 in good working order.

Fast forward to middle school. Parents asked what a good mouthpiece was. Again, without hesitation the reply was Vandoren B45, an $80 mouthpiece at the time. No other options were even considered, although you can get a VERY good Geo M Bundy 3 for like $20.

In high school, the "best" clarinet for budding clarinetists was automatically the Buffet R13, again with no second option.

Here's the problem: for students from families that aren't dripping with money, a $1500+ R13 is simply out of the question. But, for the past 6-8 years they've been told that the "only" clarinet even worth playing is a Buffet of some variety.

So when their parents can't afford an R13, and their peers can, some students get discouraged and end up quitting since they feel like they can never reach their true potential without a premium clarinet.

From age 8 to 17 or so, I never knew of a single classmate who actually tried out several options - they just went with whatever they were told.

In college, these same students are now married to the Buffet train, and often won't consider any other (potentially superior) brands since they've been essentially brainwashed for over a decade to rely on Buffet.

Now of course Buffet is great, but the cost just doesn't match up.

IMO
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline Airflyte

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Re: Controversial Opinion: Buffet (post 1980s) is Completely Overrated
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2020, 07:15:11 AM »
I wonder if the transition from naturally dried wood to kiln dried has anything to do with Buffets manufactured outside of the "Golden Era".

As demand for professional clarinets increased, I bet the level of hand finishing was affected.

I wouldn't be hesitant to own or play a newer R13 though (for the right price).
 
« Last Edit: July 18, 2020, 07:17:12 AM by Airflyte »
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Offline BLMonopole

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Re: Controversial Opinion: Buffet (post 1980s) is Completely Overrated
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2020, 08:07:21 AM »
I agree with the point on kiln dried grenadilla, definitely.  Give me a vintage horn and that high quality wood every day!

But also this (see below, a post from a respected tech)....