Nice to meet you!
“Eclipse” trumpets put to
by Holger Mück
“Eclipse” trumpets were
presented to the public for the first time at the Frankfurter Musikmesse
2003 and have been an insiders’ tip ever since. Among experts the
import from England has triggered discussions because of the obviously
new design features on the outside. We wanted to find out whether it’s
only a optically trendy thing or if they can convince musically.
The premiere of “Eclipse”
trumpets was announced for the 1.2004 magazine. But it was ill-fated and
“Eclipse” seemed to do justice to it’s name. Because of lacking
and inaccurate specifications by the manufacturer a detailed test
couldn’t be made. Let’s hope that the second attempt will succeed!
From a repair facility to a trumpet factory
In September 1999 Leigh
McKinney and John Yanni founded “First Class Brass Limited” in
Dunstable, England. In the beginning the firm was meant to be a repair
facility for brass instruments. Many leading instrument makers had
repair work done by the young firm. Quickly it got a good reputation for
excellent repair and laquer work, because both had learned their
handcraft from scratch. It was just a matter of time until they decided
to develop their own trumpet. In July 2001 the right moment had come.
McKinney and Yanni decided to put a new trumpet line on the market. It
should be one “that really kicked”, because both knew the requests
of their customers and through long years of practical experience and
their know-how in trumpet building they knew of course how to do it.
Prototypes were built, assembled, changed, the opinons of experienced
professional musicians were integrated, concepts dismissed and new ones
designed. Finally in March 2003 after two years of design work the “Eclipse”-Line
was prestented to the public on the Frankfurter Musikmesse.
Tuning slide in the bell bow
Among experts the instruments
have now, just two years later, become an insiders’ tip and many
pro-trumpeters believe in and play this trumpet-line. One that recently
joined the ranks of the “Eclipse Artists” ist the well-known
Norwegian trumpeter, composer and producer Nils Petter Molvaer whose
protrait was published in sonic 6.2004. But what makes this English
trumpet so special? “Eclipse” trumpets
are not only hand built to the highest standards, they also unite
innovative ideas with traditional instrument-making handcraft. The
construction of the main tuning slide is the most remarkable feature of
this trumpet series. It is no more part of the mouthpipe, but built into
the bell bow. The mouthpipe continues in one piece into the valve block,
so the airflow between mouthpiece and valve block is uninterrupted.
“With an uninterrupted airflow from mouthpiece to valve section, you
will find that a lot more of your energy passes through the instrument
rather than into it. This all goes to create an easier blow with greater
projection without the extra effort,” Mr. McKinney promises. Our test
will bring some light into the darkness.
One fits for all?
All “Eclipse” models have
one in common: They are only available with
A lot has been heard about the new horns from Dunstable and so I was quite excited when the SONIC-editors announced a test. Days went by and turned into weeks, but the desired cargo from the island didn’t arrive. After some e-mail exchange the day came and I received the item. It seems like the two instrument makers are buried in work, so there was no instrument quickly available for a test!
“Nice to meet you!”
Securely packed in a big box
with air-sealed insulation and other packaging material she arrives. Was
it worth the wait? We see are very beautifully and neatly crafted
instrument in 24 carat gold finish. It’s an “B-flat Eclipse MR”
with a red brass bell. This model is the bestseller among the B-flat
trumpets at Eclipse. McKinney promises us a very versatile instrument
for almost all purposes. We are very curious! First we take the
instrument in the hand: The balance is right, that’s our first
impression. Fingerring and thumb-saddle are easy to reach. The
craftmanship appears to be on a high level. All the slides are tight and
have excellent compression. The soldering points are immaculately and
cleanly polished. Only positive things can be said about the surface
finish. In Dunstable they trust in German precision work, at least
concerning the valve block. We meet an old acquaintance, the Bauerfeind
valve block with high quality stainless steel valves and titanium valve
stems. Looks very sophisticated indeed! As usual the mechanism works
smoothly and well. Fast valve action is no problem. In my opinion the
strength of the springs could be a bit higher, but that’s a matter of
taste. The third tuning slide has a stopper screw to prevent it from
falling off. On the valve block we see “normal” valve caps, but
heavy valve caps are included for free. The “Eclipse” logo
“eclipse u.k.” is engraved on the mouthpiece pickup. Rubber rings
for the dampening of the tuning slides are a matter of course. Moreover
they ca more assive design of the bracing. A
Thumb-saddle on the first
valve slide, handmade ring on the third slide, medium large bore
Scope of delivery
All new instruments, so also our test candidate, are equipped with heavy bottom caps, a cleaning kit and a gig bag. Made of black nylon, the “light case” presents itself with an additional accessory pocket and several pockets with zippers. The integrated backpack straps and an adjustable shoulder strap provide a good wearing comfort. Cases with more space and more comfortable equipment are of course available – for an extra charge, that goes without saying.
Sound and playing
We are of course curious about the performance in real life, the sound and the response. So off we go on stage, into the studio and in the practice room! And this time we can tell in advance the thoroughly positive result. It#s very rare that you get a trumpet in your hand that has so complete qualities like our “Medium Red Bell”. With the “Eclipse” your sound is very flexible and also concerning dynamics it leaves nothing to be desired. The air passes through the horn very easily due to the innovative tuning slide construction and the uninterrupted mouthpipe. The intonation shows no weaknesses and you can concentrate on the music instead of bothering with lipping tones. The notes respond very easily and slot very precisely. It feels like driving on rails, simply phenomenal! The “hit rate” rises therefore and inspires especially the player that has to play a lot in the high register. “Every note has a precise center and ffels just great”, so the comments during our test days. The player feels it in a certain resistance that helps him with the slotting of the notes. Concerning sound our test candidate is a real chameleon. It’s impressive like the sound changes from “flugelhorn-like” soft with a round warm core in one moment to a brilliant sound with a lot of bite and striking projection in the next moment if you want to “give it one”. But the sound remains always open and clean, never thin or glaring. therefore a very big plus for the flexibility of sound. All in all the trumpet is wonderfully easy to play with very few effort, which helps the players’ endurance.
Continuing with heavy valve
As expected the additional weight affects the playing properties of the “Eclipse”. The resulting vibrations in the instrument are dampened by the heavy valve caps which leads to a better slotting of the notes and a sound with more center. But it’s not always the best solution to replace all three standard caps with their heavier brothers. On the contrary, you have to try out! Some were happy with a heavy valve caps on any of the valves, others found the best sound effect with an extra weight on the first and third valve. In the first case with only one additional weight a positive effect on the sound is perceptible. The instrument reacts with more brilliance, an easier attack and a more centered sound which is especially evident in the high register. These properites are reinforced when we repeat the test with two heavy valve caps on the first and third vlve. The use of three heavy valve caps or other combinations of heavy and standard valve caps didn’t convince anybody in the test. It does the instrument no good – is the impression after the first few notes. The brilliance is lost and the trumept sounds dull and faint.
The customer is king
”Custom made” and “fine tuning” are very important to the workshop in unstable. Simple adjustments of fingerrings, changing the bell size or the finish and the complete construction of a new instrument according to the customers’ requirements, all that make the guys from “First Class Brass” possible. Your “Eclipse” can be tailored individually to your requirements, your musical range of use and your sound ideal.
Standing ovations for our “Eclipse MR” model! In whatever stylistic you may play – the horn is right and blends with all instruments in all stylistics, in the jazz club, in the orchestra pit or in a big band. The instrument is easy to play and a joy to play. Congratualtions to the young English firm. The test was a great joy for all test players, we freely admit. If you are looking for a horn with good projection, flexible sound and a great versatility, the “MR model” from Eclipse is highly recommended. Very good looks, best ingredients and a perfect assembly. Trumpeters’ heart what more can you ask for? Our English horn left a very good impression. “It was a pleasure to meet you” – and it’s hard to say good-bye.