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Buffet E13 clarinet

Buffet E13 clarinetOrigin: France (
Guide price: £1216
Weight: -
Date of manufacture: 2004
Date reviewed: December 2004

Buffet's mid-range model, aimed squarely at the semi-pro or advanced amateur player

The 'just below a grand' mark for clarinets has always been an interesting market - or at least it was when this review was written, and the E13 was just over £800. Now it's £ I suppose the statement should read 'just above a grand...'.
Whilst there are some fine student instruments available for a great deal less, and some even finer instruments to be had for a great deal more - this particular price bracket has often thrown up some real bargains. You might not get all the bells and whistles of a top pro model, but at this price point you can expect a level of refinement that may well be all you'll ever need. And it's a tough market, the E13 has to square up to some mighty competitors from the stables of Yamaha and Leblanc.

For your money you get a nicely made clarinet in Grenadilla. I want to sound a note of dissatisfaction here by noting that Buffet dye the wood. I assume that this is because they feel the market expects a Grenadilla clarinet to be black. It's a reasonable assumption, but not a terribly brave one. It's a bit of a pain for us repairers in that when it comes around to oiling the body, care has to be taken to ensure that the oil mix doesn't contain a solvent that will strip the finish. In this case the solvent is methylated spirits. Having said that, I've been asked by clients to remove the dyed finish. What you end up with is a clarinet that doesn't look quite so black - but then you do get to see the grain and figuring of the wood, which I feel is a much nicer prospect. Some additional finishing of the wood is worth the effort as it appears that the dye hides a less than wonderful surface finish.
I assume too that the reason they have to use dye is that it's hard to find wood of a certain quality these days. As the late Henry Crun would have put it - " You can't get the wood, you know... ".

Whilst I'm venting my spleen about the wood I have to comment on the tenon joints. They bind. This is a problem that seems to be specific to Buffet. The tolerances of the tenon cheeks are too fine, with the result that the slightest change in the moisture content of the wood means that the joints bind and stick when you assemble or dismantle the clarinet. The problem varies in severity, from a disconcerting stiffness to a full blown locked joint - and don't underestimate the nuisance potential of a slightly sticky mid tenon joint...trying to line up the mid joint link keys with a stiff joint is an exercise in excruciating frustration, and no amount of cork grease will help.
It's a problem that's been around for some time now, and it's about time Buffet looked to sorting it out.

Buffet E13 broken lever key pinThe keywork is up to the usual standard, nicely made and well finished - and comfortably laid out. No problems there, save for those dreadful nylon pins on the left hand spatula keys.
I'm really dead set against these things - and the photo on the left is a perfect illustration of why.
Yep, one of the nylons pins has broken.
Now, I can understand why they use them - and it's to keep the action quiet. If you're going to use a pin and socket connection for the lever keys (instead of the far more sensible stepped link) you have to find a way to deal with the inherent noise that the (usually metal) pins make as they rattle around in their sockets.
They have to be a loose fit otherwise they'll bind when the keys are pressed - and the traditional way of silencing them is to wrap a little bit of bladder pad skin around them. These days you're more likely to find a small Teflon tube fitted over the pins, accompanied by a blob of silicone grease.
Of course, you can do away with the need for bits of skin or tubes by making the pins out of nylon - they'll still be a little bit rattly though, and you run into the risk of the pins shearing.
All things considered I'd sooner have rattly metal pins than nylon ones, which might break halfway through a gig.

There's an adjustable thumb rest fitted with an integral sling ring - but it suffers from the same lack of tightness as on the B12, along with the same issues as regards the sling ring.

Buffet E13 pillarA nice feature is the use of locking pillars where fitted with point screws. In years to come, as the wood swells and contracts, this feature will pay dividends in keeping the pillars secure. As a maintenance note, it's worth checking that these locking screws are secure - they can loosen over time.

Likewise, the point screws themselves feature a nylon sleeve that helps to lock them in place in the pillar - an excellent enhancement that ensures the action will remain in regulation.

The setup was average. I had to adjust the angles of the low E and F key cups. This again is typical of the Buffets, and points up the necessity in having these instruments set up professionally.

The whole outfit comes with a very nicely specified case, though with only room for one barrel. At this sort of level you can expect players to want an extra barrel (either a longer or a shorter one, an possibly a custom barrel).
There is an accessory compartment, but you'd be lucky to get a barrel in given its width.

In playing, the clarinet blows freely - and with a level of refinement that befits its price. Tonewise it has depth and evenness, even over the throat A break. Whilst I would say that it lacks the power of the true symphonic clarinets, it's still has great versatility - and mouthpiece choice can make gains in this area (the standard piece supplied is adequate though).
The action feels smooth and positive, even better after a bit of tweaking, and the rings in particular are nicely aligned.

All in all a very decent instrument that comfortable fulfils its remit as a quality all-rounder. It's certainly worth checking out the competition (such as the Leblanc Esprit and the Yamaha YCL650), against which the E13 comfortably stands as an equal in terms of quality.


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