This blog post is aimed at sax players rather than clarinetists, but is based on a question worthy of being asked by both, I believe: 'Who really built your horn?'
The Kohlert saxes and clarinets of 50+ years ago were made in either Czechoslovakia or Germany and were, in the main, well built, really good playing horns. If you can find one on ebay from the 50's in good shape - buy it! Have it repadded and enjoy the great tone, intonation and comfortably modern keywork for a fraction of the cost of a new (and frequently inferior) instrument...
The Kohlerts of today, however, are built in Vietnam and (at least the ones I've run across) are made of thin metal, don't stay in adjustment, and are indifferently padded. A customer brought me one of their sopranos, some years ago and, after struggling for an hour or more to get it to stay in playing condition, I told him to sell it as fast as possible and buy a real horn! I saw it on eBay later that week....
This is an extreme example of the 'Vito Syndrome' : have any of you played a 50's or 60's Vito when they were still built in France by Beaugnier? Amazing horns! Smooth, even, great intonation...even gold plated springs. How about one built in Kenosha, WI? Not bad at all...Japan? Republic of China? Each step away from its origin was, generally, a step down to thinner, lower quality alloy and shoddier assembly and pad work. Johnny Hodges, (who played a Vito back when it was still a pro horn), wouldn't encounter its recent descendants with much enthusiasm, I suspect.
One of the many reasons (aside from quality and low price) that I steer customers towards vintage horns is that you know what you're getting. A Conn was a Conn, made right here by people who cared. Buescher Aristocrat was still a pro horn and Buffet was still "The Sweetest Clarinet Ever Made". Who owns all those companies now? It might be Selmer...but I'm guessing Nabisco...
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The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.