I am no Xeno-phobe

The Yamaha Xeno, that is. Today I went to Musicstop (now Long & McQuade) in Halifax to try out a couple of trombones that one of my students was interested in. They had a Xeno with a yellow brass bell (YSL-882O), and a Bach 42GO (gold brass bell, open wrap). My brother-in-law Bob Nicholson, who plays 2nd trombone with Symphony Nova Scotia came too, and we compared those horns with our own (mine, a Shires; Bob’s, an older Bach 42GO). All horns played great, with the new Bach 42GO being our least favourite. Here’s what was interesting: Bob and I did a blind test, where we each played the 4 trombones in random order while the other listened (without looking). Afterwards, we tried to guess which horn was which. Both of us mistook the Yamaha for Bob’s Bach. What is most interesting about this is that Yamaha trombones in general have not had a great reputation among orchestral players; there was always something about the sound that wasn’t quite right, something really hard to describe, but distinctly “Yamaha”. The fact that both of us mistook it for a Bach I think indicates that Yamaha has successfully achieved their goal of making an orchestral horn that competes with the best out there. It is an awesome instrument that has a consistent (and gorgeous) sound throughout all registers, plays soft beautifully and holds together well for loud playing. It is a very responsive horn, freeblowing, with easy articulations, great slide and a smooth, fast, open-sounding valve. We were very impressed. Both Bob and I had tried Alain Trudel‘s Xeno when he was here conducting SNS in January. It has the gold brass bell, and is an excellent instrument of course, but after today I have to say I prefer the yellow brass bell, if only because the high register seemed easier. In general, I am not a fan of yellow brass bells, preferring the richness of sound characteristic of gold brass, so it is with considerable surprise that I find myself REALLY liking this yellow Xeno. Yamaha, congratulations!

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5 Responses to I am no Xeno-phobe

  1. willswords says:

    interesting – I am a trombonist and have been out of the loop for a while. It is good to hear Yamaha is making a new model. Do you play jazz? If so, do you recommend a particular jazz horn?

  2. I only play a little jazz, so am no expert on jazz trombones. I have a King 3B that I use occasionally, although I have to say I am not flipped over it. I have heard great things about Yamaha's jazz trombones. In fact, Canadian jazz trombonist Darren Sigesmund recently switched from a King to a Yamaha, and says that he finally feels like he has an instrument that allows him to sound the way he wants to sound. There are of course many jazz trombonists who are using Yamahas, but here are a couple Canadians I would suggest checking out: William Carn, Ian McDougall, and Al Kay, who helped develop Yamaha's YSL697Z trombone.

  3. willswords says:

    Thanks! That is good to hear about the Yamaha horn. I see that it has some gushing reviews over at at the Woodwind & Brasswind. Hmm. Now how to convince my wife that it is a good investment. 😉
    Back to orchestral horns — I noticed the F-valve is not like a Thayer valve (conical). I stopped keeping up with new horns almost ten years ago, but at the time it seemed like it was a “must have”. Is it really not that much of a difference? (I play a Bach 42B with an open wrap, no Thayer). I remember people even converting their existing horns over to Thayer valves at the time.
    Thanks again for the jazz horn reference (and jazz player references)

  4. Check out this Wikipedia article on the Thayer (or axial flow) valve, which very concisely sums up some of the issues surrounding the Great Valve Debate. I have not been a big fan of the Thayer valve, although it does seem to significantly improve Bach trombones which are built with a standard rotary valve. Those valves are on the small side; it is the same valve they use on their medium bore trombones, so it is a little bit constricting for their large bore trombones. Even with your open wrap, you would notice a big improvement by converting to a Thayer. The invention by Thayer of his axial flow valve sparked a lot of experimentation with valve design, including valves which aim for a smoother, more open route for the air flow – valves like the Hagmann valve, the Shires TruBore valve, and the Conn Lindberg CL2000 valve. There are also designers who have simply tried to improve the standard rotary valve; these include the Greenhoe valve, and Shires, who in addition to their TruBore valve, also manufacture their "superior" versions of both rotary and axial flow valves. It can be quite overwhelming trying to decide which valve is the best, and I guess it comes down to personal preference. Some people like valves that imitate the open feel of a straight horn, while others prefer a little resistance. There is no shortage of advocates for each manufacturer, so the only way to win is to try them out yourself and to pick the one you like the best.

  5. willswords says:

    Thanks for the excellent information!

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