Old Buffet, or New Lyrique?

Dear Mr.Friedland:

I am an amateur musician and currently play viola in the string section of our community orchestra (I learned to play violin and viola when my daughter was taking Suzuki lessons.) My musical background was playing woodwinds. I played clarinet with particular interest in Dixieland jazz many years past and in the past 2 years have been increasingly interested in resuming that pursuit. I would like to purchase a better quality B flat soprano clarinet for my own enjoyment and to play jazz arrangements in our orchestra. I was looking at a Buffet 1947 (professional according to serial number or pre R13 model) that I was offered for purchase at $700 and was quoted a $350 custom refurbishment. The instrument is disassembled but appears to be in excellent condition, no cracks, etc. but certainly not playable as is. I have read many comments in your forum and question whether I should go for aesthetics, i.e. beautiful wood, classic appearance, or purchase a Ridenour Lyrique which you have reviewed more than favorably?! My current instrument is a fair quality R Malerne. My old Dixieland Mardi Gras parade marching instrument was a one piece bomb proof silver Pedler, but suffered what seemed like at least a quarter tone tuning difference between the low, middle and high B flats!! If you recommend the Lyrique, should I consider the basic 146 model or the pro 576BC model which is more expensive?



Dear RO:

I would certainly recommend the Ridenour Lyrique Clarinet, specifically the 576BC model. It is as you say, more expensive than the 146 model, but plays considerably better, and even considering its cost at just around a thousand dollars, you are getting a very well in tune instrument, brand new, with a mouthpiece and two barrels, in a very strong case, all brand new.

You have no idea of what your pre-R13 Buffet may play like after the overhaul, but it will not play as well as the Lyrique. Because they are made on Ridenours specifications, on a material totally resistant to cracking, much easier to machine( as far as tone hole placement), sounding traditionally darker than wood because hard rubber has a more pleasant sound and response, and is easier in response than wood.That means slurring intervals in either directions requires very little if any, embouchure adjustment

I do not think there is another clarinet manufactured today that has all of those really excellent characteristics, especially the tuning,( where Ridenour has no peers). Ceratinly, not at the price, nor near it.

As far as criticisms are concerned, the register key is ungainly, as is the thumb rest, which is too narrow, badly placed and doesn’t adjust correctly  That’s all. Good luck. You cannot go wrong.

Here are a couple of messages received from Tom Ridenour concerning both his Lyrique and older Buffet clarinets, with some identifying characteristics and serial numbers. As we are aware, this designer of both the Opus, Concerto, Sonata and other Leblanc models which are still at the top of the industry has earned all the praise  receives.
“There are serial numbers that are borderline. The only way to tell in those cases is to measure the bore of the central cylinder. You can find that by measuring the bottom of the bore of the left hand. It should be 14.6 to 14.65. If it is 14.8 to 15 mm it is pre R-13.
Otherwise, if you can’t do that don’t buy anything lower than 75,000 in its serial number. Best advise: don’t buy anything from the old Buffet’s at all. They’re not going to tune up to the needed standard and they’re most likely blown out”.

From the RO who asked the question concerning usd Bufet clarinets.
“Thanks for the advice which I will follow wholeheartedly. I was particularly disconcerted by false advertisements on ebay for Buffet clarinets that were offered as R13’s but were quite likely student or lesser quality. There are quite a number of confusing serial numbers that are misleading. That might be a topic to more fully address in your forum, if it has not been already in the archives.
Thanks again. I will let you know when I am ready to record Artie Shaw’s clarinet concerto!!” RO

On 13-Jul-10, at 1:30 AM, william ridenour wrote:

Thanks for the recommendation. I keep trying hard to reach the standard you speak of.
Other issues about the used Buffet: it’s likely to be blown out and it will tune very badly. It is a large bore, pre-R-13 and there will be considerable sharpness in the low register. It is, in my opinion, a myth that these old R-13s were somehow extraordinary or had some special mystical properties newer ones did not. Just nonsense.
They often tune very badly and the mechanisms are often soft and a nightmare to get to fit well and be durable. They usually wear and get out of adjustment quickly.There are serial numbers that are borderline.  The only way to tell in those cases is to measure the bore of the central cylinder.  You can find that by measuring the bottom of the bore of the left hand.  It should be 14.6 to 14.65. If it is 14.8 to 15 mm it is pre R-13.
Hope you are well.


2 Responses to Old Buffet, or New Lyrique?

  1. T. M. Kara says:

    I’m in a similar situation – not playing for years and with an old Buffet R13 (bought new around 1968, serial 103xxx) and wondered if spending $400+ on an overhaul (corks, pads, cleaning, lubrication) was worth it when I could get a new Ridenour for around $1000. (Also, I live in an area with very humid summers and very dry winters so wood is subject to real stress). My question is what’s with the “the register key is ungainly as is the thumb rest” – should the register key and thumb rest be replaced on the Lyrique?
    Tom Kara

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