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Review CarolBrass CTR-8060H-GLS-S Balanced trumpet

Review CarolBrass CTR-8060H-GLS-S Balanced trumpet

Happy to say that I am now the proud owner of a CarolBrass CTR-8060H-GLS-SBalanced trumpet.

To start off with the downside (just one, I promise): I don’t think it is a pretty trumpet. Despite the name ’Balanced’, the trumpet looks a bit awkward and …unbalanced. The valves are close to the bell and the last curve to the bell sticks out from behind the receiver, which gives a strange stretched look at the back, and a sturdy look at the front.

The idea comes from the old Selmers that a.o. Louis Armstrong en Harry James played. The Olds Recording is another legendary balanced model. Valve block pushed forward, bell pushed backward to make the trumpet fall into your hands very comfortably. Whereas a normal trumpet wants to tilt towards the bell, this trumpet stays horizontal. I don’t know what is the real benefit of this, but fact is that it fits like a glove and feels…well…balanced.

The shape of the instrument makes it highly recognizable. When I first saw and held the instrument I thought it more of an animal than a musical instrument. It made me think of a scorpion, with the forward pointing sting from the ugly creatures behind. The CarolBrass Scorpion would be a catchy name for this animal horn, not only because of the looks, but because the trumpet hides very well in a section, but stings if necessary. What a sound! Big, fat and very flexible sums it up pretty nicely.

Besides the shape, the trumpet looks very well tailored. I own a silver plated version, but on the Frankfurter Messe earlier this year, I played a lacquered one, and it looked as pretty and well made as the silver one.

It has heavy valves and valve caps, all silverplated completely, and the valves very neatly sink into the valve caps. Normal tuning slide (not reversed), Sterling Silver leadpipe, that gives it a little bite in the sound and fights corrosion in the leadpipe, a big (72 flare Bach) 5” bell in goldbrass for a tad of warmth and thickness in the sound and the rest in yellowbrass. On the third valve slide there is a Bachlike stop screw, which gives the trumpet a more robust appearance, and last but not least big amado waterkeys that drain very efficiently.

From the first notes I played on this trumpet on the Messe in Frankfurt, it amazed me how much sound comes from this horn. Even in the havock of the Messe, I could clearly hear myself and play without a problem. Also the very open blow without having to push or get lost a bit, something that very open horns tend to have sometimes. I already tried some CarolBrass trumpets but I was intrigued by the shape of this ‘Scorpion’, and I wanted to play it. I could immediately play my whole range on it with a big supple and fat sound. At the Messe I played a lot of horns, but this one stood out and I kept returning to play it again.

After a week of practicing, rehearsing and a concert it, the ease and openness of this horn amazes me. Slotting is excellent without compromising flexibility. I dare say I never played a trumpet this clear yet this flexible. Often it’s one or the other: a flexible trumpet tends to feel a bit vague, a clear slotting horn tends to be a bit rigid. Not with this one. Of course the outstanding valves (one of the things CarolBrass is getting a lot of praise for already) take care of that, but changing registers and notes is simple, they click in with a soft and warm little pop from one tone to the other, almost like a flugelhorn. That plays very comfortable and sounds pretty. The trumpet has a big core full of overtones. I lean against a bit darker sounding horns, but chances are that it sounds a bit lifeless, too satiny and too little projective. You can color this horn from very sweet and dark to fierce and powerfull. It makes me think of a 60’s Connstellation. Both Chet Baker and Maynard Ferguson played this legendary trumpet, and this Balanced doesn’t look anything like it, but I suspect a Connstellation soul in this horn. I can imagine it to be a good lead horn, but as a soloist I feel very comfortabel with this fat and supple horn. Just for testing I played it with a much deeper V-cup style mouthpiece (I play Curry and they have the great TF-trumpet/flugelhorn mouthpiece) and it worked right away. Same flexibility, same range and core, but with more depth and warmth. It fitted great and it is certainly something worth doing on stage also.

Intonation is spot on. Not much to compensate with the third valve trigger and every tone is easy to find and perfectly in tune.

With the trumpet comes a set of lightweight valve caps. I tried this set also, but it makes the trumpet lose its special character. The nice fat contours of the tone dissapear, and it makes it more vague as far as I am concerned. Heavy caps for me. Like almost every CarolBrass trumpet it also comes with a D shape tuning slide. I tried it, and the sound is the same, but flexibility suffers a bit, something that makes this horn unique. Of course this is a personal thing. There will be players that like the little extra resistance it provides.

I didn’t mention the case yet. It is a nice copy of the cases that Vincent Bach used to wrap up their horns in in the eighties. My first (and only) ’86 Vincent Bach had exactly the same case. I think it was leather then, whereas now it is some kind of plastic, but it looks nice and vintagy.

The trumpet comes with a 1 1/2C CarolBrass mouthpiece, didn’t try that one, Ultra Pure valve oil (not my first choice) and slide grease which makes it a complete set.

Conclusion: it is quite an allround trumpet, a flexible player with perfect intonation. Easy and clear to play over the whole range, from low to far above high C. The shape is a personal thing. Some will like it, some won’t, but it makes the horn stand out from the rest. For me the most important thing is playability and sound, and this scorpion horn sure has that down. The price is very moderate compared to other horns of the same quality. They mostly start of at double the price you pay for this one. Absolutely a pro horn. Recommended!

Bert Lochs

Website: Bert Lochs

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