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Buffet 6020 Series II flute

Buffet 6020 fluteOrigin: Germany (www.buffet-crampon.com)
Guide price: £350
Weight: -
Date of manufacture: 2004
Date reviewed: 04/05

Buffet's latest version of their popular student model flute

I've always had something of a love/hate relationship with Buffet student flutes. To be specific it started with the Boosey & Hawkes Emperor - which was Boosey's intermediate quality flute. Boosey bought out Buffet, and the Emperor became the standard Buffet student flute.
What I loved about these flutes was the tone. In comparison to its competitors, chiefly the Yamaha 200 series flutes, I felt it had a better tone. Richer and fuller, though with less brilliance and more resistance to blowing. A quintessentially English tone, one that required more of the player but gave more in return.
What I hated about these flutes was the design of the keywork and the appallingly unreliable action.
The Emperor wasn't too bad actually - but shortly after it became the Buffet and underwent a redesign, things went dramatically downhill.

For many years now those Buffet flutes have been a blight on my working day, I can't deny that I allow myself a small inward groan whenever a client brings one in for a service - and when you consider that Buffet flutes are one of the most popular student flutes out there you can see that I do a lot of groaning.
Without meandering too far into the technical, the reason these flutes give so many problems is mostly down to the shape of the key cups, their ratio to the tone hole diameter and the lack of stiffness in the keywork. The whole design seems to drop out of regulation as soon as your back is turned. You can do an identical service on a Yamaha and a Buffet flute - and the Yamaha will go a year or more with no problems at all...the Buffet will be lucky to make it through six months.
But when they work, they work very well - and that's what's kept them at the forefront of the student market.

And now the Buffet student flute has evolved yet again, into the 6000 series - and I could almost kiss the person responsible for the redesign of the keywork (though I suspect a nod, a wink and a hearty handshake would probably be more appreciated).
Gone are the dreadful rounded key cups, much improved is the cup diameter to tone hole ratio, stiffer is the action.
For the first time ever, Buffet student flutes can compete on equal terms with models from the likes of Yamaha and Trevor James, and at roughly the same price point too.
I cannot overemphasise the importance of this change, both to the player and to me in my role as a repairer. Fair had me skipping round the workshop in unfettered glee, I can tell you.

There's very little to find fault with on this instrument. The body is well made and well finished in silver plate. It's perhaps a little utilitarian, but then it has a utilitarian price, so no complaints there. The only notable concern really relates to the use of parallel point screws on the action. Whilst these hold the keys on without any trouble, they have no capacity for taking up any free play in the action as it wears. Flutes are very precise instruments, and I really feel that proper tapered point screws are a must.
No big deal though, the point screws can be swapped out at a later date.
I had noticed the occasional warped tone hole on the previous models - but was pleased to see that the 6020 didn't suffer from this critical error.

Stainless steel springs are fitted throughout, and set quite heavy from new. The thumb key features a spring on key part (both the key cup arm and the Bb arm), and these are inclined to work together to make the action here feel unnecessarily heavy. Some judicious tweaking pay dividends and makes for a much more responsive thumb key.
Similarly, the foot joint keys are always oversprung (and Buffet flutes have never had the lightest action on these keys) - and again, some careful adjustment to the springs can really improve the feel of the action.
The best of it, from my point of view, is that I can now tweak the action not with a view to simply making it function, but rather with a view to enhancing it. Everything seems more neatly laid out and accessible - and more than that, it seems to work as it's supposed to work.

In spite of the changes in design, the Buffet flute retains its character when it comes to playing the instrument
Buffet have very wisely decided to stay with the Cooper pattern head. I've always considered this design to be a winner - though as with all flutes (student and pro alike) it's well worth going through three or four (or as many as possible) examples to find the best of the bunch. The head can make or break a flute - and a relatively cheap flute with a good head joint can often outperform a better flute with a less than wonderful head.
I wouldn't say that the extreme lower notes lacked punch, but the Buffet doesn't have the immediacy of, say, the Yamaha flutes. You'll have to work a little to get the best from this end of the flute, but the reward is a much more authoritative lower end. In a similar fashion, the top end is non too shrill - almost reserved - and some work up this end will not only give you more volume, but more tone too...and that's something you don't often get with student flutes.
Tonewise there's perhaps a touch more brightness than the older models had, and this makes the midrange a little more accessible - which is always helpful in getting novices started.
The layout of the keys is spot on. This isn't normally an issue with an instrument as small as a flute anyway, though I felt the G# touchpiece, as set from the factory, was a touch on the high side. A gentle tweak and slight downward twist placed the key in a much more comfortable place for the average hand.

The whole outfit comes in a standard 'clutch' case. This is fine, if a little 'traditional' - I tend to feel that such cases are awkward for small hands, so young students would benefit from the purchase of a case cover with an integrated shoulder strap.

I feel that, at last, Buffet have figured out the magic combination that is a well designed and made body with slick and reliable action. It used to be that I would recommend Buffet student flutes for their tone, and just about any other make for their action. I can now recommend Buffet flutes unreservedly. I can also look forward to groaning inwardly a little less often.

Copyright © Stephen Howard Woodwind 2015