Buffet Crampon E11 Bb Intermediate Clarinet Review

I am a decent clarinet player, but I hadn't played in a while, so I explored many intermediate clarinets to find one that would help me hone my skills. I chose the Buffet Crampon E11 Bb. In this article, I will explain my choice and offer information about available alternatives.

Things to Consider Before Buying an Intermediate Bb Clarinet

The most important consideration in an intermediate Bb clarinet is tone. The wood clarinet has a richer, deeper, woodier sound than plastic or resin. It is also more expensive and requires more maintenance care, so it is the better choice if you play frequently and publically. It also responds best to a harder reed and a more highly developed embouchure (the use of your facial and mouth muscles), so it is the better choice if you are an immediate or advanced player, rather than a beginner.

The Buffet Crampon E11

This instrument is made by one of the most popular clarinet brands. It is made of African blackwood and features silver plated keywork finishing, stainless steel springs, and bladder finger pads. It has an average pitch of 442 Hz. At around $2000, it is pricier than most other intermediate-level Bb clarinets, but worth the price. It is high enough quality to follow the player into more advanced levels of musicianship. It is better constructed and produces a richer sound than clarinets at cheaper price points. It is more popular than intermediate Bb clarinets at higher price points, making it easier to find coordinating accessories and expert repairmen.

Pros

  • Deep, rich, woody sound
  • Good for intermediate as well as advanced players
  • Well-known and trusted brand
  • Leather case

Cons

  • One of the highest price points for intermediate Bb clarinets
  • Requires careful and frequent maintenance
  • Not suitable for beginners
  • Must use harder reeds for same quality sound

Features and Benefits

African Blackwood Body

Buffet Crampon E11 Bb Intermediate Clarinet

This wood, originating from Tanzania and Mozambique, is dark and strong. We typically call it grenadilla, but it's proper name to locals is mpingo; It produces a sound as rich as its color, but only as long as you oil it properly. Make sure the bore is dry. Cover pads and keys as best as possible to avoid contact with oil. Use about a teaspoon of bore oil (mineral, olive, almond, walnut, or any other light oil works). Apply with a cloth that you reserve exclusively for this task. Rub the oil into the cloth first and then slowly swab the barrel, then the upper and lower joints, each from the bottom up. Continue until oil is visible even. Once the bore is dry, swab the clarinet gently with a dry, soft cloth. Do not play until the entire process is complete. 

Sound

The tone of this instrument is deep and rich, exactly how a clarinet should be. Again, maintenance of your bore is key, because the tone will become dull and airy of the bore is too dry. The sound is much less sharp and airy than that of plastic, resin, or ebonite intermediate Bb clarinets, and it is also much easier to elicit higher notes with good tone and less screeching. Click here for a video demonstration and explanation of sound quality.

Value

The Buffet Crampon E11 Bb clarinet is pricey, but not without just cause. The sound is unmatched by any other Bb clarinet that is as playable by the intermediate level musician. The coffee colored bore and silver plated keys stand out, giving the player visual as well as audible appeal. These things are important even if you are a student or intermediate player who is serious about honing your art. Looking and sounding beautiful gives you the motivation you need to practice and persevere. The best part is that this instrument is of a high enough quality to carry into a higher level of musicianship if you wish, as long as you take the time to maintain it properly.

Rating

Design

3

Performance

4

Construction

4

Value for the Money

4

User Satisfaction

4

Alternatives

Yahama YCL-255

Yahama YCL-255

If you are just a beginner or someone who plays less frequently, the Yamaha YCL-255 is a good alternative for you. It is composed of resin but has a matte finish, making it appear more like wood. The tone is not as clear as wood, but is similarly warm. 

Comparison

Yamaha YCL-255

Price: $600 - $1000

Made of: Resin (easier to maintain)

Tone: Warm

Brand: Well-known and trusted beginner brand

Buffet Crampon

Price: $900-$2000

Made of: high quality wood (requires more maintenance)

Sound: Warmer, deeper, clearer tone

Brand: Well-known and trusted intermediate and advanced brand

Glory

Glory

The Glory ebonite clarinet is another good alternative if you are an intermediate player who is more focused on practicing than performing and building fingering and music reading skills. This instrument is one of the most cost effective and makes a great second instrument if you have or want a more professional one later. The ebonite does not produce as high of a sound quality, but it is easy to care for. 

Glory

Price: $50 - $200

Made of: Ebonite (a hardened rubber)

Sound: Mediocre

Brand: Widely purchased, many reviews

Buffet Crampon

Price: $900-$2000

Made of: high quality wood (requires more maintenance)

Sound: Warmer, deeper, clearer tone

Brand: Well-known and trusted intermediate and advanced brand

Mendini MCT-30

Mendini MCT-30

The Mendini is another good instrument if you are more concerned about price and learning the skill than you are about tone and sound. It is made of a lower quality of wood, so it will not sound as warm as the Schiller or even the Yamaha, but it is significantly cheaper than the both and still gives you experience with the unique feel of playing a wood instrument. 

Comparison

Mendini

Price: $300 - $500

Made of: lower quality wood (lower quality tone but less maintenance)

Sound: Moderate

Brand: Does not specialize in clarinets, but is widely used

Buffet Crampon

Price: $900-$2000

Made of: high quality wood (requires more maintenance)

Sound: Warmer, deeper, clearer tone

Brand: Well-known and trusted intermediate and advanced brand

Final Thoughts

If you are an intermediate clarinetist who plays often and plans to hone your craft for the long term, I recommend the Buffet E11 from great personal experience. If you are not yet sure how serious of a clarinetist you want to be, or you just want something on hand to play for fun once in a while, the alternatives provided are excellent options.

Stephanie Su
 

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