4BR Roadtest: London Musical Instruments - Royal EEb Tuba - RO8213-Nov-2006
As we don't know a great deal about 4th valves, pedal notes and compensation we thought we had better ask Scottish Solo Champion Graham Fraser to look at London Musical Instruments new Eb tuba - the 'Royal'.
The new London Musical Instruments range, launched by former Besson employees, has designed an interesting and varied range of instruments in terms of quality and development. Within this range, the Eb Bass has been designed for brass players of all standards.
As always we have tested it in four main areas: Build quality and Design; Intonation; Ease of blowing and tonal quality and Overall performance and value for money. The final score is out of 100 with anything around 90 or above our mark of a top notch product.
As we have limited experience of all things tuba, we asked a real expert and got Graham Fraser, Principal Eb Bass (NYBBS), Principal Eb Bass (Whitburn Band) and the current Scottish Solo Champion to give it a thorough going over.
The instrument was kindly lent to us by Band Supplies.
Build Quality and Design:
Without even playing one note, my colleagues and I agreed that there was a design problem with the marching rings on the instrument. While many older Besson Eb tubas marching rings provide slight discomfort to the player, as well as an aesthetic problem to its design, the ring on the LMI tuba was placed without much consideration.
The ring sits right on the players belly, obstructing the support from their stomach, leaving the performer in some pain after some 30 minutes. As you would expect, the difficulty the marching ring presented was variable to the player's height and build, but it was undoubtedly misplaced, and the manufacturers will need to change this to attract buyers.
Apart from the marching ring, the Eb tuba was very similar to the Besson design, as one might expect with the background of the developers and manufacturers. This includes a pleasing valve design, similar to the caps on a Besson Prestige euphonium. The bore was slightly smaller than on a regular Eb Bass, but this wasn't to a detrimental effect and the player hardly noticed it.
Overall: The marching ring needs to be sorted out or the instrument will suffer. However, with this slight change considered, the design and build are not bad at all. An aesthetically pleasing instrument.
Again, the similarities of between the Besson Eb basses and the London Musical Instruments versions were evident in this section.
The high G#/Ab (Treble clef) and other notes on a 2/3 valve combination, such as a low Eb on the stave, were notes that needed extra attention to make them in tune. This came as no surprise to me, as these notes often have intonation problems on the Eb tubas. However, it was slightly disappointing that this hadn't been sorted out on the newer model by the former Besson employees.
Overall: Not bad. This instrument has the same problems as the older Besson models, so you will need to keep moving that 3rd slide to compensate it.
Ease of Blowing/Tonal Quality:
The advantage this instrument has over others in this market, in my opinion, is the ease of its low range. I found that pedals are very, very easy to play on this instrument, while the London tuba's range from bottom C to its pedal was a dream. The middle range on the stave was fine, whereas the high range was also pleasing. Tuning above a top C was impressive, even if it was played on the alternate fingering of open valve.
Overall: Fantastic. Definitely the best thing about this instrument was its ease of blowing, especially in the higher and lower echelons of the Eb Bass brass band range.
Overall Performance/Value for Money:
The London Musical Instruments Eb Bass is a welcome addition to the market, especially with its sharp design and beautiful bottom range, but it is a little more expensive than its more established competitors in the market with a Recommended Retail Price of £5499.99 inc VAT.
However, shop around with Band Supplies or Broadlands Music and you can pick one up for around £4,125.00 - a great saving and pretty good value for money in anyone's book, especially as the Sovereign is around £4,000.00, the same as the Besson 980, whilst the Yamaha is around £4,400.00.
Overall: A competitive price, but the extra money may well be worth it after its initial problems are sorted out.
While the tuba has initial design problems, which I have pointed out, it could be a fantastic buy thanks to its ease of blowing, particularly in the bottom end of the brass band range. A good choice for aspiring bands and soloists alike.
Overall Mark: 90/100
London Musical Instruments - EEb Tuba "Royal" - RO82
Price: £4,125.00 approx
Stainless steel bottom sprung pistons
Fattorini badge on instrument
Gold plated fittings
Silver plated instrument
LMI hard case (with gold plated Fattorini badge)
LMI gold plated mouthpiece
Cloth and Oil
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