Professional Hard Rubber: Ridenour Lyrique 576BC
These clarinets are designed and hand finished by Tom RidenourAnd this is the instrument that I play. And I have now entered an arrangement to sell them as well. I wrote the following review in July 2009 when I purchased my Lyrique. It is still the clarinet I play.Why hard rubber? Well, it's the same material as good mouthpieces, so why not carry the same material farther down the instrument? Hard rubber clarinets are respected for having a nice dark tone. The material is not as expensive as hard wood, is natural and environmentally responsible, and it has good qualities of being easy to machine to exact measurements and it isn't so influenced by temperature and moisture. The Lyrique is a custom instrument built personally by one of the most experienced clarinet craftsmen in the world. If you want a great sounding professional clarinet, seriously consider the Ridenour line over ANY wood clarinet. Listen to Tom's video fact vs factoid: the case for hard rubber or read Tom's article on the Grenadilla Myth.
My new instrument [July 2009] is a Lyrique RCP-576BC. (The final C on mine is stamped below the logo.) No serial number is marked.The instrument came with two barrels: 64.2mm and 64.95.Bore: 14.8mm at the top of the left hand joint, and 14.6mm at the bottom of the same joint.Bottom line: I like it! The Lyrique is appropriate for advanced musicians and professionals. The instrument has a lovely dark tone and wonderful intonation.
The key work on the Lyrique key work seems to be quite hard, but I haven't tried actually bending it yet. The crow foot between the right hand low F# and E keys is seriously thick. It's not going to bend out of adjustment. The keys themselves don't seem that thick. [Update: 28Jul2015] The key work is very hard to bend. Ridenour keys are going to stay in adjustment very well, and even withstand most kinds of harsh treatment.
The Lyrique has plastic tone hole inserts for the ringed tone holes.
The register key is famous for being ergonomic. To me this is not a huge advantage. I don't feel I have trouble with traditionally shaped register keys.
I appreciate the thumb rest being adjustable. [June2012 I enjoy using the Ridenour thumb saddle. I didn't think that I would when I looked at the description. I find that my right hand is more relaxed when using it. There is a real difference in feel, since that hand bears the weight of the instrument.]
Some vintage instruments were also made of hard rubber. Several are reviewed under Older Composites. I find that instruments made from the same mold as the Emil Jardin are very nice in tone and intonation.
The Lyrique is so far different from any older hard rubber instruments that it deserves a special category!
Sherman Friedland has some very insightful comments about the Lyrique in his December 5 2008 post on his blog. He loves the horn overall. [14Aug2013] Sherman added comments comparing with Buffet here.
Don't miss Tom's Instructional Youtube videos.
I just restored a 1960-vintage Boosey & Hawkes "Imperial 926" hard-rubber clarinet, and it was a gem --- played as well as any clarinet I've tried, bar none, and better than a wood Symphony 1010 model I renovated two years ago. My personal orchestral Bb/A clarinet pair is a couple of hard-rubber Couesnon clarinets, probably dating from the 40s or so, and my bass clarinet (the best-playing low-Eb horn I've ever played) is a late-50s hard rubber Kohlert-Winnenden. My Eb clarinet, which plays very well in tune, is a humble little olive-green hard rubber M. Lacroix probably from the 30s or 40s. The point I'm trying to make (with little success?) is that hard rubber instruments can be as good as, or even better than, their wood equivalents. My experience with older clarinets has been that over long periods of time, hard-rubber clarinets hold up better than wood ones (as long as one can live with the olive-green or olive-brown color they almost invariably turn). Their bores and toneholes maintain a smooth, polished surface finish much better than wood over the years, and generally they don't crack unless dropped or hit against a hard surface. I wish modern manufacturers would take another close look at hard rubber (a.k.a. "ebonite") as an alternative to grenadilla for all their clarinet lines. I have a 1959 Kohlert ad which shows that back then they offered their alto and bass clarinets in both hard rubber and grenadilla versions, for about the same price (the wood ones were slightly more expensive, but not by much) --- I'd love to see that happen again.
What do you do for hard rubber that turns drab olive in color? Here's the answer from Tom Ridenour:
Get some good black shoe/leather stain (not shoe polish, but stain that will soak in). Apply it, let it dry and then rub it down.
The rubber does not change colour. The black dye leaches out; natural rubber is white/ivory coloured.