CarolBrass CFL-6200-GSS-SLB flugelhorn test
Thanks to Harry van der Brug of CarolBrass Nederland I had the privilege to test this flugelhorn for a whole week. It was a surprise and a joy. A surprise because it is an instrument in the lower price range that plays like a top class instrument, and a joy because it is simply a great horn that will deliver in any circumstance, from pure impro to classical. This flugelhorn has everything you can expect from a flugel: it looks beautiful, has a full and clear sound, plays more than easy in both low and (extreme) high register, and intonation is good. And like all CarolBrass instruments, the price is almost ridicilously low given what instrument it really is.
The CarolBrass CFL-6200-GSS-SLB flugelhorn
The instrument comes in a sturdy, heavy case . It might not be the most practical case, but falling off your cycle rack, nothing will happen to the instrument, because it is wrapped up really tight. The set contains two leadpipes: one that takes Yamaha tapers, and another one that seems to take trumpet mouthpieces. I didn’t try the latter. Also a 3CFL flugelpiece of their own making, which I didn’t try, because it wasn’t included in the demo. A set of heavier valve caps, valve oil and slide grease complete the set.
The little compartment in the top of the case is comes in very handy and it looks and feels lovely old fashioned. You can fit in your sheet music or a tuning device or something.
The other CarolBrass instruments alike, this one again looks incredibly beautiful and well made. SLB is their brushed version, which gives a kind of mother of pearlish glow on the bell. The bell is brushed first, and then coated with a clear lacquer. Really gorgeous. The valves and slide section is clear lacquer, which gives a nice contrast to the glowing bell section. On the demo I found a third valve trigger made of wood. Personally I liked that. Actually, there isn’t a thing I don’t like lookswise.
It is a pretty wide built flugel. It feels very solid and even a bit on the heavy side. A minor thing I don’t particularly like, is that the leadpipe goes into the first valve very low on the casing. That makes that you have a lot of flugel above your lip, which makes it feel rather big. Most flugels have this leadpipe somewhat higher, and as a result of that, the valves feel a bit lower, which I personally prefer.
The valves are flawless, smooth and very silent, like on any other CarolBrass instrument I tried. I put on a tiny drop of oil on every valve, and I played for a week without problems.
The CarolBrass CFL-6200-GSS-SLB sound
The sound then. The version that I tested has a goldbrass bell. They also have one with a yellow brass bell, at a lower price, and one with a copper bell, which is a little bit more expensive. Goldbrass adds a little warmth to the sound of which this instrument has plenty. My first impression was ‘smooth like butter’. The instrument speaks very light and has a secure sound in every register from low to high. Also the extreme register above high C is easy: it even seems to open up a bit, whereas many flugelhorns close up on you. In the low register it is soft and creamy, but with a little more air it opens up to a lively, open tone. When ascending the tone stays open without losing its warmth.
Something that took some time to get used to, was the fact that the A in the staff was actually pretty high, and high A (top staff and a notorious note on every flugel) was spot on. I played the lower A with the third valve in my test and that was good enough. For the rest intonation is spot on, although low D and C# have to be triggered quite a bit, but that is nothing new for any flugelhorn.
A funny thing was that this flugelhorn, unlike my own, is pretty sensible when it comes to valve caps. I experimented a bit, and for me a heavy cap on the first valve made the sound more solid and secure. It was nice and dark in the lows and rich and solid on the highs. With only light caps, the sound was a bit less distiguished in my opinion.
To myself the flugelhorn misses a bit of the freedom and flexibility that I am used to with my Van Laar B2, but the CarolBrass felt a bit more secure and when played soft it sounds like creamy fudge. Keep in mind that there is a lot of difference in price between the two brands, though. As far as I am concerned, the CarolBrass is not a Van Laar, but it comes closer than the price tells you.
Altogether it is an instrument I would recommend to anyone, both as a second instrument, in a brassband (I think that it is strange that CarolBrass is not taken seriously by the bandworld. I think they can easily compete with brands like Courtois, Besson or Yamaha. For professional soloists: If I didn’t have the flugelhorn I have now, the CarolBrass would have been a serious option. And if you look at the cost, then there is no flugelhorn in this category, or even in the much higher price range that can even begin to compete with this one.