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The "Wilmington". A Better Benge?



 
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shofarguy
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:38 pm    Post subject: The "Wilmington". A Better Benge? Reply with quote

Trumpet Comparison – Wilmington Benge

A few weeks ago, I took a friend’s CG Benge down to the Kanstul factory for some pretty extensive work. This horn had been dropped years ago straight down on its bell, which crumpled just in front of the forward bell brace. The mouth pipe and tuning slide crook showed signs of red rot, as well.

Zig and I discussed what needed to be done and fellow musicians at my church donated enough money to restore the horn to better-than-new condition. When I got it back, I thought the horn played so well that it became my “gold standard” to which all other trumpets are compared.


CG Benge "Phoenix"

I wrote a Personal Message to another TH member, Tom “ewetho”, telling the story of the “Phoenix” CG Benge. He suggested that I share the story in a thread so that others could enjoy it. When I did so, Russ “topo3man” sent a PM almost insisting that I play his Wilmington Benge. You may remember, or find in a search, that Russ had Kanstul make a one-of-a-kind Chicago 1001 with a lightweight #5 Benge bell and the Besson-style inverted third valve slide assembly. Oh, yes, he also had it gold plated. Gorgeous!

Well, it was arranged and Russ sent the horn safely to me, asking that I write a sort of review so that other players can get an idea of the nature of this unique trumpet. I have since spent time practicing with it, performing with it and comparing it to several other Benge and Benge-style horns. Here’s how it fared.

The first thing that I did was to take the Wilmington (.464” bore), along with my own Benge 5X, down to my church’s sanctuary for a first impression. The room seats about 550 people, has a forty foot high-pitch ceiling. It is just live enough to give good acoustic feedback without being too “dirty”.


Wilmington Benge (special Kanstul 1001 w/Benge #5 bell) & 1976 vintage Benge 5X

Right off, I noticed that the Wilmington had better intonation; a better scale. Timbre was identical, which sort of startled me, as I had never played another 5X of any kind before that. But there were “fringe” differences to the sound. Later, I was able to hear the two horns from in front, while a friend played them. The Wilmington had slightly more brilliance added to the sound and a slightly bigger sound presence, as well. Some thought the brilliance could be attributed to the larger bell rim, while another opinion is that the gold plating can add liveliness to the sound, compared to silver. Either way, I liked the tone of the Wilmington better in the hands of my helping friend.

I also compared it to a Kanstul Chicago 1001 owned by this same friend who graciously brought it along. As the Chicago is the starting point for the Wilmington, I looked forward to finding any differences. I was surprised at how little change in timbre there was with the #3 bell that comes on the stock 1001. This particular 1001 is perhaps the best one I’ve played to date, and pointed out the different balance of secure slotting vs. flexibility that the Wilmington displays. Russ’ horn is somewhat more secure, though not stiff, by any means. The 1001 is more flexible and doesn’t seem locked onto the pitch quite as strongly. One might say it has shallower slots. Such is the Benge legacy of flexible playability shown in this Kanstul edition of the classic 3X+.

The final trumpet to be included in this comparison was my friend’s CG Benge. I chose this horn to compare the response of its ultra light-weight bell (.016” stock) with the Wilmington’s bell, which is similar to a Chicago-era Benge bell at .018” beginning thickness. There was not sufficient time to really focus in on this particular aspect while both horns were present, but I think it is fair to say that the CG is more responsive at the lowest volumes, though the difference is slight.

Perhaps the most significant thing learned by this comparison is that the largest differences between these trumpets are heard and felt by the player, not by the audience. Whether the horn had a #3, 5 or 6 bell, ML, MLP or L bore, the differences were small out in the sanctuary. To the player they were quite noticeable.

Interestingly, the blow characteristics were similar, too. I know, I know, you say, “how can ML, MLP and L bore horns blow the same? Well, not exactly the same, but the differences were felt in the resistance curve of the horn as the player goes up and down through the registers. The 1001 and my 5X were the most linear in response. The Wilmington and Phoenix were very slightly more open down low, but ramped up more steeply as they got above the staff. This was how they compared using my CG3 mouthpiece, which gave the most consistently good performance in all horns.

The only caveat to all of this is that I have to admit that I am an amateur trumpet player and am subject to fairly large changes in embouchure from day to day. Even so, I have found that side by side comparisons done over time reveal certain consistent results.

My hope, and Russ’, is that all of you will find a little bit of pleasure reading about these great trumpets. The Wilmington Benge is a one-of-a-kind horn that suits its owner to a tee. Its beautiful to look at and a pleasure to play. I feel honored to have the chance to share it with you.

Brian
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Capt.Kirk
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only thing I could not live with is the novel but akward third slide ring on the bottom. That is so very early French Besson or Cortoius like to not have the left hand any where near the bell but I just do not like it. I have tried playing old instruments that had that set up and it just felt odd. So as long as I could order one with out the funky French underslung third valve slide ring I would say great! Comeing from you anything that is better then a CG Benge is quite a compliment and not to be taken lightly. I do not think it matter much that you are not a pro. I mean to say you have had the exposure, the training and diversity of trumpets to make a fair comparison. Look at how many models Doc Severson has put his name on. I would take you word over his even if he might be able to out play you! You are at the very least consistent and it would appear that you have no vested interest in your comparison. It is not like you work for Kanstul or sell trumpets or trumpet gadgets for a living.
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shofarguy
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capt.Kirk wrote:
The only thing I could not live with is the novel but akward third slide ring on the bottom. That is so very early French Besson or Cortoius like to not have the left hand any where near the bell but I just do not like it. I have tried playing old instruments that had that set up and it just felt odd. So as long as I could order one with out the funky French underslung third valve slide ring I would say great! Comeing from you anything that is better then a CG Benge is quite a compliment and not to be taken lightly. I do not think it matter much that you are not a pro. I mean to say you have had the exposure, the training and diversity of trumpets to make a fair comparison. Look at how many models Doc Severson has put his name on. I would take you word over his even if he might be able to out play you! You are at the very least consistent and it would appear that you have no vested interest in your comparison. It is not like you work for Kanstul or sell trumpets or trumpet gadgets for a living.


Russ chose the Besson conversion because he prefers it. He has a Chicago Benge 3X that was made that way, too. I remember him posting pictures of it with the Wilmington. It took me almost two days of practicing before I found a comfortable hand hold. After that, it became quite comfortable, but allows only one hold (for my hands, anyway) instead of several different holds as with the traditional set-up.

I would not say the Wilmington is a better horn than my friend's CG Benge, or my 5X, or that one particular 1001 Kanstul. It is different and has a different set of compromises. It is a one-off variation, so is undeveloped, whereas the others are well established classics. In such company, the Wilmington did well.

As to playability and blow characteristics, things change with different mouthpieces, etc. For instance, my 5X was a bit stuffy when using a stock Bach 3C, or any other piece with a #27 throat. My CG mouthpieces use a #22 or #21 throat which change the upper register blow completely. It took me three years of searching to find these pieces that work for me and that horn. It would perhaps take me that long to find the best balance for the Wilmington, too.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Kirk!

Brian
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topo3man
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capt. Kirk,
As Shofarguy has stated, I just wanted to find a horn that was my "ideal" horn. I have been lucky enough to own both NY, MV and Elkhart Bachs as well as Chicago, Burbank and LA Benges. My favorites by far were the Chicago Benges and NY Bachs. Both these types of horns were characterized by lightweight bells and the tight Besson wrap. I also found that I gravitated toward the Benge sound, particularly the 5X sound. Unfortunately, the only bell available during the Chicago Benge era was the 3 bell; therefore, to get the equivalent horn, I asked Zig Kanstul to make me a custom Chicago 1001 with a lightweight 5 bell (to approximate a 5 bell during that era). I also asked for a MLP horn (this did not exist until Burbanks) since I prefer a larger bore horn that doesn't suck the wind out of me. I also asked for the inverted 3rd valve slide because I have played with a few horns with this conversion and they play more open. In any case,I have found the horn that suits me best and actually may suit other players who love the Benge sound, want a more mellow sound than the 3X and as responsive as a Chicago Benge. In my mind I got exactly what I wanted. It is not the most open horn. It is not the be all and end all for many players but it is perfect for me. I would like to thank the people at Kanstul (particularly Zig and Charles) for working with me on this one!!
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Capt.Kirk
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never had two days to play such things. It has always been a few minutes here or there in passing with some one. I am sure you are right and could get used to it given enough playing time.... It is cool that such a trumpet lives I absolutely love one of trumpets and I do not think the lack of refinement is a real problem. I mean to say that I like some of the older horns that I have played because they had a bit of unrefined rawness to them even if it is was just subtle. Obviously their is a line between a poorly designed and just a hint of wild unrefined'ness that has to be balanced two much refinement and you get a Yamaha and two little and it is an unplayable TSO! I think for instance that the Martin Committee is popular because it has a little bit of wild unrefined in it's charcter!
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Darthsunshine
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a thoughtful review of the various horns. The number 5 bell on the "new" Benge; was that a Benge bell, or something that Zig fabricated? Until recently I might have found your analysis about ease of blow between ML and MLP horns difficult to believe. However, my recently acquired 5x blows at least as freely as my 3X+. The intonation analysis was interesting also. My 3X+ is a great horn, but even after having the valves professionally "tuned" it still plays certain notes out of tune. The 5X, on the other hand, has intonation equal to my Strad 25. It may be because I'm a Benge guy, but I do prefer the 5x over the Strad 25 and 37. Anyway, it's intriguing to think of buying a "new" Benge custom made... with superior intonation. Thanks for the excellent post!
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topo3man
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bell was made using lightweight brass and the original Benge 5 bell mandrel. Kanstul bought all of the original Benge tooling after UMI bought them out.
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shofarguy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

topo3man wrote:
The bell was made using lightweight brass and the original Benge 5 bell mandrel. Kanstul bought all of the original Benge tooling after UMI bought them out.


Russ is, of course, correct. I've seen the mandrel at the factory. Though it has been noted that Bach has something like 5 different #37 mandrels (each producing a different sound) and there have been several #3 mandrels used at various times over the decades, the 5 mandrel Kanstul uses today may be the only one of its kind, ever.

Several people have found the 5X to be...difficult, unique at least. I grew up playing it, so everything else so far seems "different". I have been told that I have a very good one and perhaps the best of its kind, though I find my horn somewhat recalcitrant when trying to use soft attacks.

Russ' horn betters mine in sound quality (though I have not heard myself play either of them), response and intonation. Mine is better at the "smokey jazz thing", as it is much looser and allows more expression. Mine is more work to play accurately.

Brian
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Brian A. Douglas

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Darthsunshine
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

topo3man wrote:
The bell was made using lightweight brass and the original Benge 5 bell mandrel. Kanstul bought all of the original Benge tooling after UMI bought them out.


Thanks for making my day with such a cool piece of Benge/Kanstul trivia!
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1977 LA Benge 3C
1976 LA Benge 3X+
1972 LA Benge 5x
1963 Burbank Benge Eb/D
1959 Amb. cornet w/ Getzen shepard's crook
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gtromble
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought this was the most interesting observation of all:

"Perhaps the most significant thing learned by this comparison is that the largest differences between these trumpets are heard and felt by the player, not by the audience. Whether the horn had a #3, 5 or 6 bell, ML, MLP or L bore, the differences were small out in the sanctuary. To the player they were quite noticeable. "
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topo3man
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed! But if the sound is the same than why not go with the one that suits you best! Everyone can be happy in this equation!!
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ewetho
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shofarguy and topo3man thanks for arranging that comparison. Great to hear and read about. Wish I could have been there.

I have just had feed back from my teach that even over a webcam he can definitely hear the classic Benge sound out of my Kanstul Chicago 1001. I love that horn. The only thing I want is possibly a spare or maybe even a CG Benge or Kanstul recreation of the same (outside chance of an Schilke X4 with Beryllium bell).

But it seems that like the Bach's, out front they truly sound more alike than different and seem to be more of a flavor thing for the player. Once you get that classic full Benge sound find the one that makes you smile the most and be a really happy camper. If you can afford it and want a custom one like the Wilmington to match all the characteristics you like by all means have it done if you can.

And yes I picked Shofarguy's brain for all I could get about the Chicago 1001 before buying and honestly he was dead on and once again Brian Thank You I have my dream horn. It does whatever I ask without complaint or struggle against the horn itself. It was everything I wanted in a horn (OK OK I still wonder about a sterling bell and would like gold plate).
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