John Packer JP.173 Baritone - First Impressions

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Feb 21, 2019.

  1. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    This one came up on John Packer's web-site - an ex-demo model at a very good price. I checked my bank account, worked out that I could afford it, ordered it yesterday, and it arrived today. It was very carefully packed, and in a hard case which looks pretty damn solid. All the fittings - hinges, side and end handles, shoulder strap rings, and hard rubber feet on the side and on the base - look well up to the job, though the toggle latches can't be locked with a key. But still, even if I'd paid full list price, I wouldn't complain!

    Whoever tested it before dispatch had taken care to properly oil the valves and grease the tuning slides (I checked), and it was spotlessly clean, with no damage of any kind to the lacquer finish. It came with an unbranded mouthpiece (more on that later) and a 1 fluid ounce (30ml) bottle of Ultra Pure valve oil.

    I tried it out with the included mouthpiece, and a few others I have; a Wick 6BS, a Sonata 12C, a Bach 7C, and 'my Lord knows how many years old' (but still in very good condition) Besson 7.

    The Besson felt and sounded the best of the bunch, by a clear margin. All the rest were playable, but the Besson had that 'right' feel to it; it seemed to match the instrument well, and is a nice fit on my face. I spent about an hour trying different scales, exercises, and pieces which ranged from B below the scale to F on the top line. It might just be an impression, but it felt easier to manage biggish intervals than my B & H Regent; I noticed that particularly on 'When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful', which has several octave intervals - from 1st space F to top line F at one point, and from 4th line D to D below the stave at another.

    The sound was different, too; hard to describe in words but it sounded richer(?). A little bit more round and mellow than the Regent; nowhere near a euph-like sound, not at all - but it makes the Regent sound a bit bright, like it was leaning towards a trombone sound, by comparison. It's not a huge difference, but it's definitely there. It also feels more free-blowing than the Regent - especially at the higher dynamics.

    I tried playing a couple of marches, and found it very easy to accent notes when I wanted to - and that was definitely easier than on the Regent - but had no problems getting a nice legato sound on a couple of hymns from the Red Book.

    Finally, I took it along to the band room this evening, and asked the MD to check it for intonation across the range (though I haven't, as yet, adjusted the tuning slides). There are the usual discrepancies on certain notes, but he said no more than you'd expect from any uncompensated baritone - and he thought it plenty good enough to take me a long way forward. If I make any duff sounds, it will definitely be my fault, and not the instrument!

    Fair play to my old Regent; it's served me well in the time I've been playing it, but the valves are pretty worn and getting a bit clanky, and it's definitely not worth the cost of getting them rebuilt. I'm very pleased with the 173 - and I'm really looking forward to getting to know it over the next few months, to see how far we can go together!

    Jack E.

    PS - if anyone has another Besson 7 mouthpiece that they don't want, I would very much like to buy another to keep as a spare; I've never seen one advertised anywhere other than the one I have, and that model does seem to suit me very well.
    Slider1 likes this.
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