"Aren't you still in high school? NO! College? You look awfully young...How long have you been playing? Three years, huh? And those gold plated keys are really enhancing your upper register, you say? Lemme hear your high G....sure, I can wait while you look up the fingering...I'm in no hurry. What happened to that nice used Leblanc Noblet with the Portnoy mouthpiece that you used to play? Keys got dull? You mean they weren't even silver plated?! The nerve...and then you saw this one on WWBW.com, huh? Parents took out a second mortgage after you held your breath at the dinner table? Well, its always nice to see dedication in the arts..."
"Getting back into playing after 35 years off, huh? Yeah, community band has some tough 3rd parts, that's true...does the inside of your lip always look like that? Ow...You say the Backun bell really helps with intonation on the low notes? But...didn't you just have to shorten your barrel by 2mm because you were playing so flat? Well, yeah, long tones are pretty boring its true...especially with that tone..."
Now, all kidding aside...I've been on Instagram for 3 months and the volume of Clarinet Porn has to be seen to be believed - there should be parental settings on that darn site! Yes, Backun, Selmer, Buffet, Patricola, et al make really fine horns (for thousands of dollars) and if you are in the top 5% of serious clarinet players you'll be able to tell the difference...and so will your audience.
I'm sorry to tell you this, but... its the player, not the fancy horn. I know pros who like hard rubber clarinets (for volume and cheapness), who like metal horns, who use synthetic reeds...and even my buddy Glenn, who has a 1970's Bundy student flute...and he can smoke on that thing! If you're in school but not planning on a career in performance, if you're getting back into playing, doubling from saxophone, etc. - in other words, the other 90-something% of players - please just buy a Good Enough clarinet and spend the rest on that transmission noise and your student loans!
Ideally, a Good Enough clarinet would be an older wood instrument (like a Leblanc Dynamic, Penzel Mueller Artist, or Series 9 Selmer) in good condition, competently refurbished with good quality pads, played with a hard rubber mouthpiece made by someone with enough pride of craftsmanship to put their name on it, using a Rovner or Bonade ligarture, holding a reed not made in China! I'm not going to get too specific, as there are lots of good clarinets, mouthpieces and reeds - you need to TRY them and see what feels good in your hands and sounds good to your ears...
That's it - that's all you'll need. You'll make beautiful music, your bandmates will love instead of envy you and your tranny will shift like a dream!