Nice to meet you!

“Eclipse” trumpets put to test!

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 11,68 mm bore and count among the medium large category (the standardized “Bach”-bore is 11,66 mm ). Much attention of the “Eclipse”-developers has gone – besides the comfort – ito the weight and the balance. An instrument ha to “feel right” when you pick it up, so the philosophy of the ambitious enterprise from England. The construction of all “Eclipse” trumpets is identical from the mouthpiece pickup to the one-piece mouthpipe to the valve block to the bell bow to the bell. One bore size for all models? One fits for all? how can you handle different sound concepts and different musical styles? The guys from Dunstable try to achieve this with different bells in different sizes and weights. Through this variety of combinations there should be the ideal horn for any given purpose. You can choose between bell sizes from 126 to 130 mm in different weights, starting from 0,5 mm up to 0,8 mm . This makes us very curious for the test! Moreover you can choose between yellow brass, red brass, gold brass (this is wron, but I translate whats there) and copper, which are offered in many different finishes. Laquered, silver-plated, gold-plated, matte (wrong again) or brushed, in this place you can get almost any finish. The complete line comprises a B-flat trumpet a C trumpet, a jazz flugelhorn and the “Equinox” model, basically a more compact version of the “Eclipse” trumpet (resembling a cornet), all available in the above mentioned finishes. There are three categories of bells you can choose from: Medium classic – the smallest bell of the product line, Medium – a standard size for maximum sound and versatility and Large – for a more open sound with less blowing resistance. Let’s see what Leigh McKinney and John Yanni from “First Class Brass Limited” chose for the test!

 

Delivery difficulties?

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 6 mm wire in two places assures a solid connection between mouthpipe and bell. This bracing is soldered to a heavy basis on the bell part and connects with a 90° angle the bell with the mouthpipe on th other side. But there it is not flattened or tapered, but keeps it’s diameter and is fixed on 50 mm length to the mouthpipe. the design of the smaller bracings on the tuning slides has also been changed so that u-shaped bracings stabilize the trumpet better sound-wise than standard bracings. The additional material usage and additional reinforcements are meant to dampen the vibrations of the instrument and to bring the produced vibrations to the bell, where the sound with all it’s shades is created, so the description of the two company owners McKinney and Yanni. The brand and also the most revolutionary part of the “Eclipse” line is the main tuning slide, i. e. the design of it. But in real life there was a problem with this feature. where do you hold the instrument when you pick it up from the stand? There are no statistical surveys, but the great majority of all trumpet players picks up their instrument at the bell bow. With our new tuning slide construction this would have fatal consequences! But also this has been considered at Eclipse and a safeguard was installed so that the slide can be adjusted and locked into place. for the daining of the water our MR model is equipped with amado waterkeys. Unfortunately we had to manipulate them a couple of times at the beginning of the test to get the pistons going. But during the test they served their purpose without further problems.

 

Detailed description

Thumb-saddle on the first valve slide, handmade ring on the third slide, medium large bore 11,68 mm , bell diameter 128 mm , bell: red brass bell ( 0,5 mm wall thickness), main tuning slide in the bell bow with safeguard, Bauerfeind valve block with stainless steel valves and rubber inlays, two amado waterkeys (on the third slide and the mouthpipe), 24 carat gold plating. Our test instrument has a total weight (without mouthpiece) of 1150 g .

 

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 properties

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 caps

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.

 

Conclusion

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.