After failing to find a nearby dealer with a Cool Wind plastic euphonium in stock to see and play, my curiosity finally got the best of me, and I ordered one to play with a bit and then probably resell at a loss. I was able to get a 10% discount and free shipping, so those factors help make the deal work for me. A for-sale post will appear a little while after I finish this one. :-)
There was an earlier discussion about how the Tiger plastic euphonium plays, located here: http://www.dwerden.com/forum/showthr...m#.Wn0WF66nHb0. The things said there about the playability of the instrument seemed to me to apply well to the Cool Wind also. I'll add a few more observations here.
This is a 4-valve (3+1) non-compensating horn. I found the reach to the 4th valve awkward, due to the fact that the nature of the fittings used to join the parts results in a horn whose tuning loops jut unusually far forward from the valve section. This additional depth of the main body makes the fourth valve difficult enough to reach that I think that players with smaller hands would likely just play it as a 3-valve horn. I find it most comfortable to use my middle finger, with its longer reach.
It's a large-bore horn; I can use my large-shank mouthpieces with it, though I found that, initially at least, I was able to get better sound more easily from the plastic mouthpiece included than with any of the variety of other pieces I tried. Also, my own mouthpieces do not seem to seat quite securely in the receiver, though the problem did not seem to be severe.
I weighed the horn at approximately 4.4 pounds, including the mouthpiece. My Mack Brass compensator weighs about 9.5. I don't have a 4-valve non-compensating brass horn to weigh, and I don't find weight information easily online, so I can only guess that something like a Yamaha 321 must weigh about 8 pounds, so that the Cool Wind weighs only a little more than half as much. Coupled with the lightweight nylon, non-padded case, the weight savings for carrying the horn is very substantial.
Speaking of cases, don't expect to find a hard case made for this horn, so if you need a hard case, you would probably have to come up with something custom. On the other hand, it's small enough that I'd think it would go by air as a carry-on, at least on larger planes. Other forums discuss other ideas for air travel with a euph. The big problem with this horn that makes it incompatible with hard cases is something mentioned above: the front-to-back dimension of this horn is significantly greater than brass horns because of the shape of the fittings needed to provide good strength at the tubing bends coming off the front of the main valve cluster. The second valve loop is turned 90 degrees from the usual orientation and therefore unusually juts forward (see the pictures below). So the maximum front-to-back dimension of the main body of the horn (not including the bell section) is about 6.25" for the Cool Wind, compared to about 4.25" for my Mack Brass. About an inch of this difference is in the protrusion of the second loop and the other inch is in the more forward positioning of the other loops as described above. So even if you could modify a hard case to accept the protrusion of the second loop, you would still almost certainly have problems because of the forward position of other loops as well. Here are a couple of pictures grabbed off the internet that show the issue.
I'm not a mechanical engineer, but the bracing of the horn appears reasonably robust to me, with a combination of gluing and screwing. I'm not sure whether the use of screws implies that disassembly is possible, but it seems likely to me. None of the screwed joints look to me like something that couldn't just as easily be glued. Perhaps, though, the purpose of the screws is only some sort of manufacturing efficiency, or the screws may just reinforce joints that are also glued. Since I'm planning to resell this horn, I am not going to experiment with disassembly.
The valves at first appeared to me to be some sort of resin material. But when I disassembled one by unscrewing the cap/stem and removing the guide section at the top, it became clear by appearance of the stem threads and the sound the valve makes when tapped that it is metallic. An interesting feature is that some of the air passageways are cut like an open channel so that the valve cylinder wall forms part of the passageway. Perhaps the metal is soft enough that thin areas would be subject to damage, so thin areas were eliminated by using these open channels instead. I can't imagine that this design does not significantly increase air leakage in the valves compared to the normal valve design. Here's a pic (sorry for the less-than-optimal background and picture quality): 6.jpg
I'm not a strong enough player to put the valves to a good test for speed, but my son plays a good bit of ripping stuff, and he was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the valves right out of the box, with no lubrication. They are a little noisy, and it's an odd sort of noise (kind of a medium-pitched squeak), but they're probably comparable to what you would get with most beginner-level horns. Durability is anybody's guess. The valve guides are non-standard; whether replacements are available I do not know. They are plastic, and the slot they index with is plastic, so a durability question arises there, too. The springs have a layer of vinyl coating on their top and bottom rings, and there's not much spring noise in the valves at all.
The horn did not come with any manual or documentation, so nothing is said about particular valve oils to use or avoid. Nor do I find such information provided online. Apparently no special consideration is necessary. I would think that a more viscous valve oil might minimize air leakage, albeit at some loss of speed. The top and bottom caps have a coarse thread that makes cross-threading pretty much impossible.
The tuning slides move freely, but I suspect that the fit is not precise enough to be 100% airtight. Perhaps only the second slide is short enough to allow any significant leakage, though. If there's a problem, perhaps greasing them up a little heavily would correct it. One nice feature is that 4 water keys are provided; only the second valve lacks one. It's not clear to me whether the pads on the water keys can be replaced. The levers seems strong enough for normal operation, but the ones on the main and 4th slides are quite long and do not seem to be strong enough to withstand much of a side impact. They are mounted with screws (really just threaded studs with a slot for a jeweler's screwdriver at one end), so they seem replaceable--if parts are available. I have no idea about that.
I mentioned the nylon case. It does not zip long-ways like most gig bags; rather the bell end zips open circularly like some tuba bags. For some reason they formed the bell cover so that it fits fairly tightly over the bell, which makes it just slightly troublesome to get the horn in and out. The case includes a side pocket, but it is too small to accommodate a music folder. It's only big enough for a small or medium-sized tablet computer. An interesting little pocket with a velcro closure, located in the center of the inside of the bell flap, seems intended to hold the mouthpiece, but it's not quite roomy enough to hold it comfortably. The velcro barely grabs, and it seems that the mouthpiece might get out and fall down into the horn. The side pocket seems fine for the mouthpiece, or it could be carried in a pouch somewhere inside the case or down in the bell. The case includes both a pair of handle straps to carry the horn by hand and a pair of backpack straps. 3.jpg
The fourth-valve latch is plastic and seems adequately strong as long as it's not abused, but it does not appear that it would stand up well to much of an impact. The bottom bow has a an extra layer of plastic as a guard; the top bow does not.
So what is this horn good for? I feel as though the horn plays well enough to serve a beginning student for the first couple of years. Ideal candidates would be smaller students or those who must carry the horn a significant distance to/from cars, bus stops, or all the way home. While it's certainly not a horn for serious playing, I can also see serious players content to use it in light settings like pep bands or other situations where a brass horn might easily suffer dents. A medium-skill college player used it for a half-hour tuba-euphonium choir rehearsal and did not find it seriously deficient compared to the student-model brass horn he usually plays, though he certainly didn't fall in love with its playability. The horn was quite the attention-getter at the rehearsal, so people who enjoy show-and-tell can get this sort of a kick out of it. The one I bought is black; I can see someone who is serious about Tuba Christmas or other light Christmas gigs enjoying playing a red one on those occasions--especially if he or she plays a part that doesn't spend much time above the F above the bass-clef staff.
I hope these observations about this horn prove helpful to somebody.
This post first appeared on Euphonium-Tuba And General Music Forums - Recent B, please read the originial post: here