Which Tooba?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by brassneck, Oct 21, 2004.


Best UK Style Tuba?

  1. Besson Sovereign

    17 vote(s)
  2. Yamaha Maestro

    2 vote(s)
  3. Courtois

    5 vote(s)
  4. Other

    1 vote(s)
  1. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Mate who has no online facilities was asking which tuba he should buy from the big three companies that are popular in the UK. James Gourlay has been acknowledged as developing both the recent Sovereign and Yamaha Maestro EEbs. And of course I would be foolish to ignore the Courtois equivalent. Since many tuba players visit this site, which instrument do they think is best and why? It would be great to include many of the rotary models but to be practical I only want to consider the three mentioned above. Thanx for any input! ;)
  2. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    The problem with any of these "which ones the best" threads is that it is a very personal decision - I have voted Sov because most of my band work has done on band sovs, although I actually own a customised Imperial which I sometimes used to prefer for orchestral stuff. It depends as well on what situation it will be played in - Band Bass sections do sometimes seem to sound better if all the players are on the same brand but mouthpiece & player individuality vary everything so much too.

    Get out there and try them all - not just a 2 minute blow through a few solos in the shop but if possible borrow one or even get one on 'sale & return' and take each to band for a rehearsal or two - see what everyone else in the band thinks too ;-) .

    Also don't be scared of approaching some of the 'big names' for advice - when I was looking for a Tuba when I went off to University I was offered a second hand Imperial - it had seen 10 years of hard blowing at Brighouse and people told me it would be "blown out" and no longer capable of producing a good sound. I phoned JG (who had taught me at NYBBW courses) and discussed Imp vs Sov & the "blown out" concept and his advice was "If you like it, go for it" - a decision I have never regretted.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2004
  3. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... mate has a 4v Imperial (still got it's frosting ... why did they ever come up with that idea?). Not that he is unhappy with it, the tooba plays in tune and has a nice rounded compact sound but .... he now wants a larger bore and bell. Odds on he will opt for a Sovereign, but has heard reports of the Maestro being more responsive in both range and dynamics whilst also having a better build (... reviews I have read have the bell being thinner ... ouch! for small bandrooms). Courtois he likes because of the overall sound it produces but the price is putting him off.
  4. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    I know there is a new model sovereign Eb tuba on the market with a 17 inch bell , great build quality , and is an excellent tuba instrument.
    Like Ronnie has put if you like it go for it...I bought a " blown in " 981 Eb sov...to be honest I didn't like it , I prefer playing on a 982 , or something different like a miraphone.
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Apologies! EEb pitch! :-?
  7. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    >>he now wants a larger bore

    I did say my EEb Imp was customised - it has a sov lead pipe so is essentially wide bore in response. I did learn on one of the frosted ones - got very annoying when non-band people kept telling me it needed polishing.
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... is it not a 19" bell, like the Maestro?
  9. Ali

    Ali Member

    I play on sovergien BBb and I really like it. I've got to say thought, that if I could afford to buy my own, I would be buying a Wilson direct from the states. They are basically orchestral tuba's btu in both the EEb and BBb versions. For those who have never played on one, they are fantastic! If you ever get the oppertunity to try one out, do it. They are short and even fatter than a Courtois and weigh an absolute ton, but they are great! Hade Edge have a full set of Wilson Tubas, (£28,000 worth) and they make an awsome sound. Im a convert anyway.
  10. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    Nope its a 17 inch bell , and is a fantastic instrument..available in Laq and Silver Plate...look at the besson website ( I think it's a 980 Model )
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Last edited: Oct 22, 2004
  12. katharine

    katharine Member

    I play a Besson Sovereign and wouldn't change it for the world!

    Well, okay, for a new dent-free one I might.
  13. JSmith

    JSmith Member

    Playlist to try for 3+1 Eb include:

    Sov 980/1/2
    Miraphone (these are being sold to the British Army nowadays)

    Those who don't know, B&S is part of a very large German firm who make top end instruments. Their tubas are very popular in mainland Europe and America.
    I think Phil Parkers in London is the only place to try the B&S Eb.
    Rosehill stock Miraphone and I dunno where you'd try a Willson - Mark Carter (Mr Tuba) in Wales might know.

    Like someone else mentioned, your friend could save a whole lot of money if he got the receiver swapped for a large one, get the ball cut off the bottom, and I'd have the carriage ring on the bell moved over so it doesn't stick in my belly (but that's just me). I'm reliably told that the leadpipes have had the same taper for many years and the bore through the valves hasn't changed to my knowledge for over 50yrs.
  14. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    I bought a 19" bell Imperial in 1980 and stuck with it until about 2 years ago when I found a secondhand 981 (straight leadpipe version) which I fell in love with. I had thought about putting a 981 leadpipe on the Imperial but the rest of the instrument was getting a bit tired anyway. I had the lower carriage ring and ball cut off soon after buying it. My main gripe when I bought it new was that I had to have the back bow shortened to bring the instrument up to pitch with a decent sized mouthpiece. This wrecked the lacquer in that area but there was no alternative. When the Sovereign came out in the mid 1980's, I noticed that the bells were thicker and the mouthpiece receiver was larger (sensible move in order to accept American mouthpieces) but very little else. I tried a few but much preferred my Imperial. I didn't realise that there were two models of Sovereign until I had a go on a friends 981, I must have been trying 982s. My first ISB instrument was a 982 and I had a 'choice' of two which turned out to be a choice of least 'worst', I hated it! The ISB got new 981 EEbs about 5 years ago (from Edgware factory, not Watford). Besson tinkered around with them until we were happy with them.
    It's a personal thing this preference for a 982 or a 981. Personally, I've never played a 982 that I liked but others on this post don't like 981s. I've not played a 980 but imagine that it would be quite tight and punchy, a bit like my original Imperial.

    The Yamaha Maestro was on my ISB wishlist until Besson decided to help us and not lose the order. I thought the Yamaha was fantastic, very even through the range but possibly lacking the ultimate grunt of the Sovereign.

    The Amsterdam Staff Band have got a set of Willson tubas. I know someone in Essex who has an EEb and absolutely raves about it.

    I've not played a Courtois but understand that all the internal measurments have been obtained by stripping down a 981 Sovereign! I've no idea how much they cost but, in repsonse to an earlier posting on this topic, would think they'd have to charge a similar price to a Sovereign/Yamaha to be competitive.
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... thanx for all the help so far. The imperial I have found does have a modified lead-pipe (he plays a Bach 24AW). As most would understand, buying a tuba is indeed a serious matter. The cost of a new instrument is the equivalent of buying a half-decent used car. The Willson has got me intrigued. Any decent links to explore and compare specifications? Another interesting point I've noted is that the army has moved away from their traditional sovereigns to Miraphones. Maybe something to do with the build problems of recent years and the spell of Lottery Grants galore! The Courtois has come down in price as well, but if it is a Sovereign in disguise, that could detract. Yamaha has always been in my opinion a good copier of established professional models, but does the Maestro stand out on it's own with it's bell modifications and engineering enhancements? Choices? It isn't easy. :-?
  16. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    I've played a fair few basses over the years at the various bands I've been in, plus the two I've owned.

    I liked... the Imperial 4 valve Bb standard size bell (though I played it recently with a shaved Wick 1L as it normally takes a 2L.
    The Imperial 4 valve Eb, small bell. I was playing an imperial with a larger bore and a 19 inch bell, but swapped it with LBB when he came onto Eb Bass and was asked to double the Bb Bass low notes as the band only had one Bb Bass. The larger one played well enough, but the smaller belled instrument was astonishing in allowing me to rip the a**e out of a note without actually sounding like I was ripping the a**e out of it. (Does that make sense?) We got great comments for the final chord of Main Street at the areas, put it that way!
    I like the Besson Eb (LBB's) in that it is easy to blow, and the tuning is good (not so flat that you can't ever push in enough) BUT you only have to breathe on it for it to ding.
    My absolute favourite though is my Courtois Bb. I had a long chat with Glynn at Fred Rhodes before making the pilgrimage to the North to have a look in person. I spent the best part of a day there blowing the Courtois, and then trying out another Bb which I was buying for the band***. Once I got it home, the Courtois took a bit of getting used to - it is Eb shaped (good for sprogs learning!), and just a smidgeon thicker than a Besson, so the timbre and resonance are different. After 6 months, I was playing the best since I'd done my grade 8. Being that bit thicker also means it doesn't ding easily.

    *** I bought a Besson 700 Bb 4 valve for a grand the same day. It was an absolute bargain. Aside from spending £80 having a lump chopped out of it for more aesthetically pleasing** tuning, it has been a cracking investment.

    ** to the ears of an adjudicator, anyway.

    Instruments I haven't liked playing:
    The Besson Bb at Crystal Palace. I don't know exactly what I didn't like about it, but I really wished I had my Courtois (which LBB had put in for repair.)

    I voted for Courtois, for what it's worth.

    Just my tuppencehalfpenny worth.
  17. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    I'll play on anything except a Yamaha, as the one's I have tried have interesting variations on a concert Bb [​IMG]
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  19. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    I've played on some old Yamaha student models, and a professional 5 vaLve EEb a few years back. Nice tubas, but I felt they were more "projectile" basses then solo instruments. Great for making loud sounds, and as a section could be be fine for lower grade bands. AS such, I tended to shy away from Yamahas until I played (once, very briefly) a maestro, which appeared to be merely a rebadged Sovereign.

    At school we had an old Imperial Type A prototype EEb. Fully compensating, it was a very small tuba and came standard with a 5 mouthpiece. Too small for me on a good day, and when I started doing BBb work as well, I knew it had to go.

    My first tuba I owned was a 981. Lovely baby. I'd recommend it to anyone. Wasn't a big fan of the straight leadpipe (it was the GS model, as is my new baby), but a tuba lecturer in Honk Kong once told me he had his 981 leadpipe straightened at the Besson factory and it made a subtle but nice sound change plus made the bass more convenient.

    Now I have a 982. 1+2 valve combination notes play much nicer, but otherwise it appears to be the same as my 981 (but I can't make that judgement accurately, I don't pklay it anywhere near as much as my other one!).

    when I was shopping I was told to look at the Courtois. Cheaper then the Sov (in Aussie $$'s that is) it appeared to be a contender, but John Szutko from Tuba Central gave it a running down over tuning issues.

    I won't touch a 983......if I wanted a backwards tuba, I'd buy a B&S or Hirsbrunner.....

    Miraphone makes the tubas a lot of the unis are starting to buy down here (FF and CC varieties mainly). They appear sturdy, and John gives the Miraphone BBb a better rating than a Sov.....worth looking into?

    Perhaps someone might want to have a look through the archives and see if the topic I had on tubas at the old forum is still on file, and link it????? There was a lot of good info there.

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