Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet Review

If you’re a committed student of the clarinet transitioning from the beginner level, you’re probably hoping to improve your technique and sound. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider upgrading your instrument. Any experienced musician will tell you that with a solid foundation in playing skills, choosing a better instrument will mean improved tone and greater satisfaction with your playing. As a student ready to make a change, you’ll have numerous quality options among intermediate clarinets to pick from.

Things to Consider Before Buying

Many experts recommend trying different models of clarinets and enlisting the help of an expert player when choosing an instrument. Having an experienced player or instructor at your side to help you evaluate the instrument’s sound quality and responsiveness will help you make a more informed decision.

Also, better instruments are made of higher quality materials and require genuine craftsmanship, which of course will be reflected in the price. Beginner clarinets are typically made of ABS resin or plastic, while higher quality clarinets are made of special wood and are more carefully crafted. There are several quality clarinet manufacturers, but the Buffet Crampon brand has long been highly esteemed among serious clarinetists and deserves consideration.

The Buffet Crampon R13 

Buffet Crampon has been manufacturing clarinets for nearly 200 years. While the R13 Professional B♭ clarinet is often used by clarinetists well beyond the intermediate level, it’s still considered a reasonably priced instrument and a good choice for advanced level high school players or college musicians and is widely used among professionals. The R13 is made of premium-quality grenadilla wood with a .577" poly-cylindrical bore and undercut toneholes for improved tone, response, and intonation. It also features a 66mm barrel, 17-keys, 6-ring nickel-plated keys, and an adjustable thumb rest. The R13 is highly regarded and consistently receives high reviews.

Pros

  • Full, rich tone
  • Responsive keys
  • High resale value
  • Suitable for players at the intermediate on up to the professional level

Cons

  • Expensive for an intermediate level instrument
  • May not be ideal for playing outdoors due to possible exposure to cold and moisture
  • Nylon pins on lever keys are less durable

Features & Benefits

Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet

Developed in 1955 by Robert Carre, the R13 has enjoyed long-standing popularity and a sterling reputation among serious clarinetists. The R13 is noted for its clean lines and its well-balanced feel. The ring key design allows fingers to slide easily when needed. Able to maintain tone in the upper register, it’s considered stable and responsive with good construction in the fittings. One noted issue is the use of nylon pins in the key design which may be apt to break with vigorous playing. However the R13 responds well to a variety of mouthpieces, and as it is intended for more advanced musicians who have probably developed their own mouthpiece preferences, this is usually not sold with the instrument. 

Grenadilla Wood Construction:

Grenadilla wood is used for its acoustic properties as well as its beauty. Also known as African blackwood, it comes from Tanzania and Mozambique and is the material of choice for clarinet manufacturers. It tends to produce a warmer, fuller, richer sound than beginner level clarinets.

Poly-cylindrical Bore:

The poly-cylindrical bore helps center the tone and allows for superior intonation. At .577” the bore size offers more resistance, which is preferred among classically-oriented professionals.

Undercut Toneholes:

Undercut toneholes improve tone precision.

Forged Nickel-Plated Keys:

The forged keys are more durable and stronger than other manufacturing methods on cheaper clarinets. Nickel plating makes them more durable and they won’t tarnish like silver keys.

Adjustable Thumb Rest:

Allows for customization and relief of wrist strain.

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Rating

Design

5

Performance

4

Construction

4

Value for the Money

5

User Satisfaction

4.5

Alternative 

Noblet Model 45 Intermediate Clarinet

Noblet Model 45 Intermediate Clarinet

The Noblet Model 45 is built by Leblanc and also features a grenadilla wood body and nickel-plated keys. The bore size is only slightly larger at .584” and unlike the Buffet R13, the mouthpiece is included. Noted for its warm sound, it reaches all ranges easily, is responsive and has accurate intonation.

Compared to the Buffet Crampon R13:

  • Ergonomics of the keys less refined
  • Inexpensive
  • Gold-plated springs for improved responsiveness

Buffet Crampon E11 B♭ Intermediate Wood Clarinet

Buffet Crampon E11 B♭ Intermediate Wood Clarinet

The Buffet Crampon E11 is another good choice for a student moving up from a beginner plastic model. Although it is also made of grenadilla wood with a similar a poly-cylindrical design, the E11 has design features to accommodate younger players as they develop breath support. The bore is larger to help younger players produce better sound quality, while the larger 65mm barrel allows for better intonation.

Compared to the Buffet Crampon R13:

  • More economically priced
  • Intended for the advancing student whereas the R13 is suitable up to the professional level
  • Ideal for students still developing breath support

Yamaha YCL-650 B♭ Clarinet

Yamaha YCL-650 B♭ Clarinet

The Yamaha YCL-650 B♭ Clarinet is also considered a professional model clarinet with a consistent tone and precise intonation. Like the Buffet Crampon R13 it’s made of grenadilla wood, but with silver-plated keys instead of nickel plating. It has a balanced feel and natural finish with clean-lined and construction and responsive keys. Clarity in tone and reliability make this a good comparison to the Buffet Crampon R13 with a price that is a bit more economical. Good for the casual professional or advanced student. 

Compared to the Buffet Crampon R13:

  • Intended for players of a similar ability—advancing student to professional
  • More economically priced
  • Tone and quality of construction comparable to the R13

Final Thoughts

The Buffet Crampon R13 is an excellent choice for clarinet players wanting to improve their sound and performance. It’s a model that is well regarded by musicians and has a long history of superior performance. It’s an excellent choice for serious intermediate students as well as those at the highest levels of musicianship. 

Stephanie Su
 

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