Henshui Roffee / Songtielun C clarinet
Thanks to Windy Dankoff for giving me the opportunity to review this great C clarinet. This is the second Songtielun (STL) C clarinet that Windy purchased. (Songtielun is a seller on eBay.) The first one had significant— but fixable, intonation issues. This second STL is quite good right out of the box, and better than many wooden French C clarinets from times past. If you want to buy a good C clarinet, just be aware that this this clarinet brand has been shown to be variable in quality, and you should be prepared to make tweaks to fine tune the intonation yourself, or send it to someone who will do that. And I recommend Windy!
C clarinets come in REALLY handy for playing in church, playing flute parts in a pit orchestra, playing in a klesmer group or polka band. Now you can get a great-playing one for a reasonable price!
This clarinet has no name stamped anywhere on it, not even on the bell! Windy thinks that company which makes this instrument is Henshui Roffee. This clarinet is a bargain at a couple of dollars less than $200, and that includes the shipping from China.
Serial # none
Barrel: The longer barrel is 48.15mm. I used the shorter barrel, which is 45.55mm.
Bore LH joint top: 15.1mm
Bore LH joint at bottom: 14.5mm This is Very Poly-cylindrical. Either this clarinet could be made according to different specs than the Ridenour, or it could be sloppy manufacturing aiming at the same specs. Windy says the barrel bore is smaller than that of the Ridenour C barrel. We don't know if the two brands are manufactured at the same factory.
Intonation results taken when playing loud and not lipping. See how to interpret these results on the Model Comparison Page.
For this test, I pulled 1.5 mm at the barrel, and 0 mm at the center tenon.
For the second test, I pulled out the same.
For both of these tests, as always, I used my own mouthpiece, not the one that comes with the clarinet.
Intonation summary 1st test: This is wonderful intonation. It has a few places where it almost comes up to the Ridenour C clarinet in intonation. The throat tone Bb better in tune on this STL than on my Ridenour C (which I have sold). A -5 cents on that note can easily be fixed! One thing that Windy and I discussed about Chinese clarinets: Many of them have problems in the barrel. For instance, if the barrel has a gap on the inside, the player will probably never know. It is invisible to the player because the joint goes together fully on the outside. But that gap can cause huge problems in intonation. This one has gaps above the upper joint and the middle tenon.
The bundled no-marking plastic mouthpiece played quite well. It only felt a tiny bit more resistant than my Chedeville Prime mouthpiece. The bundled mouthpiece is slightly more open than my Chedeville. And the clarinet played better in tune (although flatter) with its own mouthpiece than with mine. However the tone lacked center, became dull, lacking in higher overtones.
Windy feels, and I agree, that this C clarinet has a different tone than the Ridenour C. I cannot test the two side by side, but my general impression is that the tone on this C clarinet is more like a Bb clarinet than the Ridenour was, in the low register, throat register, and clarion register. The timbre of the Ridenour was nice, but sounded a little more in the direction of an Eb clarinet, or more like a piccolo trumpet compared to a regular trumpet.
Intonation summary 2nd test: This is about as good as a C clarinet can get! This is professional quality intonation. Note on a couple of notes where the intonation was slightly worse on the second try, I would chalk that up to a different day. Also note that even the Ridenour C clarinet is similarly flat on the low F and G. The throat tone Bb is considerably better than my Ridenour Bb. I don't have it now, but I remember how flat that note played. The Ridenour clarinet played significantly better in tune only on the highest E and F. Most C clarinets will play flat on those two notes. I think that this is because using the Bb mouthpiece is not optimal for a C clarinet. Bottom line: Look what a wonderful instrument you can get for a bargain price!
In tuning this clarinet, Windy removed the gap inside the bore by shortening the top of the shorter barrel by almost exactly 1mm. I measure it now as 44.58mm long.
Key work quality: Seems quite good.
Case: Very nice hard case with good latches.
Pads: Kid skin pads, or a very good imitation!
This clarinet is most appropriate for: Anyone willing to have someone work on the intonation. If you are lucky, maybe your's will be good enough without fine tuning work. See Recommended Clarinet Tech Services.
Condition issues noted: None. All the pads seat well. So far, all three clarinets Windy has purchased from this source have had Very Much too-tight tenon corks. This is a frequently commented on trait of all Chinese clarinets in purchase reviews everywhere— such as at Amazon. The purchaser just needs to expect that. (File them down with an emery board, and apply cork grease. Don't file them down too far!) The tenon corks on many new clarinets are so over-sized that there is danger of bending keys in assembly and disassembly. This also leads me to think that most inexpensive Chinese clarinets have not actually been play tested.