Many people regard buying clarinets online as being inherently a bad idea. It can be indeed very very bad, however with the “Caveat Emptor” in mind, it is a very interesting prospect.
First and possibly foremost, it gives you an opportunity to scrutinze the market, for either used or new instruments. In the case of instruments that have been played , there are crucial things to watch out for. Always look at the place from which you are considering a purchase. If they have literally thousands of “feedback”, as they’re called, be very careful, for they could be a pawn shop. These places are not necessarily bad, however you are always taking a chance when you buy because you never know exactly what it is that you are purchasing, how much it has been used, its condition, the condition of the material from which the instrument is made, the make, the age, the general condition. Perhaps your first step should be to see close- up photographs of the instrument. This should give you a very clear idea of the general condition of the finish and of the rings and keys. I would stop if you see pitted keys and/or rings, for they are irreperable and would need replacements or at least replating which can be prohibitive. Cracks are not all that important if they have been repaired properly and do not in any way leak. Sloppy pin placement are also a danger sign. Serial numbers should always match on both large pieces of the clarinet. There are however instances when this is not the case. Yamaha are only marked on the top joint(or the bottom) for if there is a crack, the joint is simply replaced and without a number usually. Frequently however mismatched serial numbers indicate something to avoid, for obvious reasons.
Guarantee is important but can be misleading. If there is anything which is misleading in the ad or description, it is another reason to stay away or to ask for absolute clarity from the seller.
Know the insrument you are buying, the model number and the particular decriptive words. Don’t go near these Yamahas which say things like Hutchen, or Morano, or literally anything , for they are meaningless and are meant to entice you, frequently for no reason or for nefarious reasons. I have found the model 20 and the 250 are identical; only the price is doubles in the latter. They are plastic.
Wooden Yamaha clarinets are in general very good value. The 34, 52, 60,72,82,84, 450, 650, are all good instruments and actually vary only a bit. I have found the Allegro (or 550) to be a very nice clarinet, quite inexpensive, well made, with a nice case and cover, needless gold plated posts and nice looking silver plated keys. The so-clled high end Yamahs are very good instruments, the CS, and the three-lettered models. The custom models are generally good instrments and can be played professionally.
Leblanc instruments are a special breed. The reason for this is that many were routinely rebored by Leblanc in order to give them a “bigger sound”. What the reboring did was to change the tunng much for the worst. Ordinarily a good Leblanc, say the LL (meaning LeonLeblanc) is a lovely and beautifully tuned and sounding instrument. However if it has been rebored, something which many people cannot discern you are looking at difficulty in tuning. I’ve alway thought that the Leblanc has the best response of all of the French instruments, better than than by Selmer, which is better made and has better value in general, that is to day if they were made in France. The keywork of all SelmerParis instruments is just superior to the others, like Leblanc, Buffet. Yamaha instruments which were until 1970 Nikkan Gakki play very well. The Imperial by Nikkan was simply an R13 clone and a very good one at that, with better tuning. I have one , practically new, which is what I base my opinion on. They became Yamama as stated in 1970 and have maintained excellent quality. I have played and even owned sets of 64,72,82, all excellent clarinets
I cannot comment upon Buffets for the clarinet is extremely uneven and has a rather bad reputation because of so many different owners of the company,however I have played tham and they have a very pleasant quality and reponse. The intonation is something else. Used Buffets require extreme care in selecting. Many many that I have tried for students have sharp throat notes, flat altissima sharp high C with alarming frequency and the low e is always quite flat. But at the outset, I said that I cannot vouch for them.
Selmer Paris clarinets retain much value for they are still in demand. Because of the Centered Tones slightly wider bore, it has gotten a reputation for Jazz, which is really undeserved, however it was one of their better clarinets. The Series 10 had a slightly smaller bore and better intonation. The 10S was bettr in tune, and the 10SII more of the same. The Recital, had a smaller bore, but a biggerthicker body which had an ecellent response and fine tuning save fore the low register which was flat, the low F expressly.Most Selmer Paris instruments are quite good depending upon the shape in which they were kept.
I have found buying new instruments from dealers on line, the so-called “big-box”companies to be a real joy. They mostly have a 45 day period inwhich to try the instrument. If you don’t like it, you get an immediate refund, minus a few dollars for whatever they call it. 45 days is 6 weeks and that should be enough time to make a good decision. I have never ever been disappointed with this online buying. Actually it is much much better than the online auctions, which are really like a safari into unknown places.
I have purchased many instruments from places like ebay with no problem, mostly because I think I know what to “look for”. But the best thing about any online used clarinet auction is to find a price that seems to be within the high and low prices for othes of its kind. It’s a good place to shop, if you knw what you are shopping for, and a good place to determine a price for something you wish to sell.
Avoid, if photos don’t show the rings, or they are pitted. Clarinets turned upside down in the case photo can mean trouble. Clear photos should be demanded, or don’t bid. More photos are better than less, but do not be mislead. Cracks are not all that important because there have been advances in repairing them, but crucial cracks can be terrible , something to avoid, especially if open(and leaking). The clarinet should look good, show shine and sheen, and cloeup of wear areas. If not, stay away. There are always plenty of others.