A New Design & Concept
Buffet’s 2013 release schedule was an amazing thing to behold. At the NAMM show in Anaheim, Buffet as a copany released not 1, 2 or even 3 new products, but as an overall company as a whole, the released 7 new models between their existing brands (Buffet, Keilwerth, Schreiber, Courtois) and added an enitre new family of brands (B&S) to their company portfolio… and that’s only the ones that I paid attention to! While different models will excite different people, the one that excited me the most in the end was not the one I would have expected.
The winner of the release extravaganza from Buffet for me was the new Buffet E12F Performance Clarinet.
The E12F effectively replaces the short lived “E11 France” clarinet. While the E11 France was not a “bad” clarinet, it had flaws that many technicians considered rather serious. The biggest of which was the lack of threaded or screw mounted key posts. The instrument featured a very easy blow to it with clear throat tones and good overall response. The overall timbre to the sound was on the brighter side, but possessed great overall response and intonation.
While the instrument played rather well, the problems of the simple glued in posts plagued the instrument and eventually lead to the “E11 France” being discontinued.
Out of the ashes…
The good aspects of the “E11 France” were not abandoned. After Buffet’s acquisition of the Schreiber-Keilwerth company in late 2010/early 2011, Buffet started to move back to the original German made E11 design (Schreiber was the original E11 manufacturer for Buffet). This acquisition gave Buffet time to double back on the new upper-end intermediate clarinet concept and eventually led to the E12F.
The E12F maintains the French made body with the same acoustic bore from the “E11 France” but the rest of the clarinet is entirely new. First off, only the body joints are made in France. The rest of the clarinet’s manufacturing & assembly is done in the newly acquired Schreiber facility in Germany. Threaded & mounted key posts are the biggest improvement allowing for proper stability to the instrument’s keywork. The new E12F keywork also feels more refined than the “E11 France” model’s.
Lastly, the E12F features an upgrade to leather pads. The leather pads provide a better air-tight seal (when setup properly) and also help to give some added warmth to the tone of the clarinet while not sacrificing the response and clear throat tones that the bore provides. The leather pads, while overall a definite “pro” for the clarinet. also come with some cons. Primarily the fact that the keycup angles and key heights were not originally designed (by my estimation) to be used with the thicker leather pads. This means that a technician must spend more time “setting up” the clarinet to get the most out of the instrument’s performance.
Once the E12F is properly setup, it is an absolutely marvelous playing instrument.
I really feel that Buffet has hit a home run with this instrument. The combination of ease of play, clarity of tone & response as well as tonal depth, this clarinet will be more than what most clarinetists will EVER need from a clarinet. Combined with excellent intonation and the improved build quality, this is an instrument that will surprise even the most discerning players & teachers. I would even go so far to recommend it OVER the R13 for many players. Please note, this is not me saying that the E12F is better than the R13. Rather, I am stating that many players truly do not NEED an R13 and that the E12F will more than serve the needs of most clarinet players.
Is there anything about the E12F that I don’t like?
Yes. As it is at the time of this article post, the tenons for the barrel and the bell on the clarinet are slightly oversized. This means that without custom modification (trimming down the tenons on the clarinet), you cannot put an aftermarket bell or barrel on. I don’t love that this was done to the clarinet because of how much of a difference that the barrel & bell can make on a clarinet. However, at the same time, this does not entirely bother me as much as it should due to the high level of performance that the stock barrel & bell give with the clarinet.
The other complaint that I have on the clarinet is with the case. The backpack style case is not for everyone, but my real issue is that something in the case can cause tarnish to the silver keys while the instrument sits unused. I personally believe this to be due to the glue being used in the case assembly having too much sulfur which will lead to tarnishing. This isn’t as much of an issue on an instrument that is regularly used, being taken out of the case daily and properly maintained, but more of an issue for the dealer as it sits on the shelf. The proper solution would be for the case manufacturer to improve the case’s build quality. The other solution would be for Buffet to simply seal each joint in a plastic bag with an anti-tarnish strip in them (this is what we do after we clean them before we put them on our shelf).
Considering how much thought was put in to the E12F design, I find both of these issues more of an annoyance than anything else. Neither of these issues are game-changers to me and would not make me hesitate in the slightest from recommending this clarinet.
I love this clarinet. For any player who needs a GREAT performing clarinet but might not ever be the top symphonic clarinetist, or for the younger player still developing, the E12F is one of the best instruments that I have ever come across.