As a kid, when I started learning brass as a 1st year senior, my first instrument was a Weltklang 3 valve euphonium. Sitting next to a 4th year with a frosted 4v B&H Imperial made me so jealous. However when said 4th year upgraded to a Sovereign I thought I'd die if I didn't get one of those; I can still remember the shine of the new instrument, the smell of the valve oil and the feel of the blue case lining........mmmm......anyway, I digress. When I left school and had to give back the Weltklang my Dad bought me a secondhand Sovereign and despite changing instruments (I now play EEb bass/tuba) and a brief flirtation with Mr Antoine Courtois I've always known that the "Sov" was the instrument to play. Similarly with tubas, the only 'real' tuba is an upright, 3+1 piston valve with the bell on the right hand side. A bore of 17mm is a minimum as is a 19" bell. Clearly a John Fletcher style lead-pipe is best if possible also. So I've never given any thought what-so-ever to those funny foreign tubas with the bell in the wrong place and strange valves. The only opinion I did have is that as they're 'non-compensating', whatever that means, they must be out of tune. However - there is an opportunity for me to play the aforementioned ******* child of the real tuba and so after a bit of research on the web I gave Mr Tuba a call. I've seen his adverts from time to time and even visited his website once but was put off straight away by strange instruments with 5, yes 5 valves. We arranged an afternoon when I could visit the shop/showroom for me to have a look and blow of a few instruments. Mark, his name isn't really Tuba I discovered, runs the place and it seems that if he doesn't know about it it's not worth knowing where tubas are concerned. Not only the physics of the instruments but also how they sound and how to make them sound better with different mouthpieces or alterations. After making sure that my jabs were up to date I headed for the English border, crossed into Wales and spent a great afternoon talking and playing tuba. What did I learn? Well, for a start the non-compensating instruments are actually more in tune in the normal range than my normal instrument which has all sorts of Besson vagaries in the upper register. Also the funny valves are quick - perhaps even quicker than my pistons (although timing is different in a strange way). Finally they make a great noise with the big ones being as big or bigger sounding as the Sov I normally play. So I'm now the proud temporary owner of a B&S Eb tuba, with 4 rotary valves. I have no idea on the bore size, the bell size or who designed the lead-pipe (I've probably never heard of him/her anyway). But it plays beautifully and is just what I need. Would it blend with the rest of the Flowers' bass section - possibly not. Will it help with any solos or solo passages I have - absolutely. So bass players of the (brass band) world - If you fancy living dangerously try to rid yourself of the preconceived ideas of what a tuba should look / sound like and give Mark Carter a call and ask for a blow on one of those funny foreign* tubas. He'll know what you mean and chances are you'll be taking one home too (just for a trial of course!) I'm interested to hear other players experiences with these instuments - I notice that AndyCat has a **** on his FB profile - good or bad. * I do realise that Besson are in fact now made in Germany so my reference to "foreign" is firmly tongue-in-cheek.