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Need advice- Olds Ambassador and Buescher 400



 
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amtrumpet
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:12 am    Post subject: Need advice- Olds Ambassador and Buescher 400 Reply with quote

I don't have much experience with cornets or with older horns, so I'm looking for some advice. I happened across a pair of cornets that caught my eye a couple days ago. One is an Olds Ambassador. It plays well and has good valves. The price is right, so I might pull the trigger on this one to play for fun and as a good horn for students to use in the future.

The other horn is a Buescher 400. I was in a hurry and didn't get to play or take a really close look at it. I have no idea what model it is or how old it is, but I've seen some positive mentions of the 400 around here. Were these good horns? Are there any years or models I should avoid? I'm going to head back to take another look in the next few days, but I'd like some background info to work from.

Aaron
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spitvalve
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't know anything about Bueschers, but I had an Olds Ambassador cornet for awhile that I picked up in a pawnshop for fifteen bucks. I had one dent removed, boiled off the lacquer and polished the brass. It played beautifully, and I later sold it for a lot more than I paid for it.

The Ambassador is one of the most bulletproof horns ever made. If you need a good beater cornet that you can still get away with playing on serious gigs, that's the one I'd suggest. With the right mouthpiece setup, it'll sound as good as most pro cornets.
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VetPsychWars
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did the Buescher look like this?



If so, buy it immediately. It actually sounds like a cornet. I played razeontherock's Ambassador cornet and to me, it sounded like a trumpet. The 400 like you see never does.

There's another thread with crappy recordings comparing my trumpet and cornet.

Tom
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Buescher Lightweight 400
Other Buescher horns 1939--1955
Al Cass 1-28 mouthpiece
Humes and Berg mutes
http://mmccband.org
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amtrumpet
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys. I think I'm going to go ahead with the Ambassador, but I'm still curious about the Buescher. Vet, I don't know if that's the horn I saw or not. I really didn't get a chance to look all that closely. I've been trying to find information about the 400 cornets, but haven't been able to dig up much. Is there a lot of variance in quality between the models in the 400 lineup? I'm going to play-test it later, but I have so little experience with cornets that I don't completely trust my judgement. I'm trying to figure out if this thing is a beater or a good find.
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VetPsychWars
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

amtrumpet wrote:
Thanks guys. I think I'm going to go ahead with the Ambassador, but I'm still curious about the Buescher. Vet, I don't know if that's the horn I saw or not. I really didn't get a chance to look all that closely. I've been trying to find information about the 400 cornets, but haven't been able to dig up much. Is there a lot of variance in quality between the models in the 400 lineup? I'm going to play-test it later, but I have so little experience with cornets that I don't completely trust my judgement. I'm trying to figure out if this thing is a beater or a good find.


Here's what I know.

In 1937, Buescher introduced the Model 275, which I have pictured above. A year or two later, they introduced the Model 274, which is otherwise the same as a Model 275, except with a smaller bore. I don't know how much smaller but it's not much.

"The 400", by the way, is not a model number but a model name. That name was used for all of Buescher's top-line instruments, including trumpets, cornets, trombones, and saxophones. As far as I know, it was not applied to woodwind instruments before Buescher was sold to Selmer.

The Model 275 was in the catalog until approximately 1956, when Buescher redesigned all of their brass instruments. Cornets with the name "The 400" after this time are American straight cornets, whereas the Model 275 is a shepherd's crook cornet.

From 1956 until the sale of Buescher to Selmer in 1962, there appear to be instruments labeled "400" and "Super 400". From the advertising and what evidence I have seen so far, a "Super 400" is an upgraded version of the "400", with some positing that the "Super 400" had a sterling silver bell.

None of the instruments built before the sale of Buescher to Selmer are likely to be crap. In fact, some of them are likely low-cost sleepers that will impress you. As a general rule, if the serial number is above 360000, it was made after about 1960. I'm not sure when Selmer started messing with the Buescher designs but if the serial number is much above 360000, you're well advised to test well or leave it alone. Below that, you're fine.

As an aside, the three levels of "quality" during the golden age (1937 through 1955) were, from bottom to top, Aristocrat, Custom Built, and "The 400". As the price went up, the horns had more features and a slightly different design. They were all built to the same standards. Based on photographs alone, I believe a "Custom Built" is basically a 400 bell on an Aristocrat body, but without measuring one, I couldn't tell. I have a postwar Aristocrat of the same general age as my 400 trumpets and I can tell you that the bell flare is tighter and less conical.

There is another value-priced line, Elkhart "Built by Buescher", in this same time frame that uses a different serial number range. I don't know anything about these instruments but they are likely worth a look. Occasionally you will see an instrument with a Buescher bell on a horn with a serial number between 70000 and 150000 (about). It is my theory that these are Elkhart instruments with either a replacement bell or were assembled by the factory by someone who grabbed the wrong part.

As for cost/worth, clearly conditions matter, but if the cornet you've seen is a Model 275 like mine pictured above, then $250ish is about the right range. If it's a later model of "400", then I would expect somewhat less, and a "Super 400" to be about $250ish as well.

As mentioned before, the tone of the Model 275 (and probably the Model 274 as well) is a lovely tone, more so with a Wick mouthpiece. I would be amazed if you didn't prefer it over the Ambassador. I don't know about the intonation of the Ambassador, but my cornet has amazed everyone who has played it, including a comment from Charlie Melk when I picked it up after restoration. You just can't go wrong with it... or any Buescher cornet made during that golden age.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Tom
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Buescher Lightweight 400
Other Buescher horns 1939--1955
Al Cass 1-28 mouthpiece
Humes and Berg mutes
http://mmccband.org
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amtrumpet
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Tom, going to look at it now. It is not a shepherd's crook, so I'll have to see about the serial number. Are the Selmer-built horns generally not worth messing with?
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VetPsychWars
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

amtrumpet wrote:
Thanks Tom, going to look at it now. It is not a shepherd's crook, so I'll have to see about the serial number. Are the Selmer-built horns generally not worth messing with?


I'm afraid I just don't know. I can tell you a post-Selmer Aristocrat trumpet is crap. :-\

But, let your ears and fingers do the deciding.

Tom
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Buescher Lightweight 400
Other Buescher horns 1939--1955
Al Cass 1-28 mouthpiece
Humes and Berg mutes
http://mmccband.org
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dscarson
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aaron--

I also live in Athens, and if you're talking about the two cornets at the Blue Eagle (one an Olds Ambassador, the other a Buescher 400), I just tried both of them today using a Denis Wick 4B mouthpiece. I thought that they both sounded OK, but the Buescher 400 had the more classic cornet sound. It's a heavier horn and has a little more depth to it. It was also in better tune. I recently bought a Bundy shepherd's crook cornet from that same store and I have to say they do a very good job of getting these old used horns into shape, considering the fact that they don't actually deal in wind instruments all that much. I think they must make use of the Ohio University band's repair department, so you can at least count on them getting quality work done on their stuff before they sell it. I really trust the owner.

Scott Carson
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