Purchasing a Discontinued Instrument – Pros & Cons

The music industry is constantly changing. Manufacturer’s are constantly changing and modifying models while also evaluating new designs and concepts in order to come out with the “next best instrument”. Commonly, as new models are released, established models will be discontinued for one reason or another. Many times, these reasons can be as simple as getting rid of part number clutter. For example, at the beginning of the year, Jupiter discontinued their very popular diMedici flutes. Just in this one series that consisted of 4 models, there were upwards of 160 part numbers for EACH model meaning 640 unique codes… let alone all  of the individual repair parts.

In the case of the diMedici, Jupiter had another product that took its place (Azumi by Altus) that had a whopping 2 models with 3 part numbers each. So they replaced a product with 640 configured part numbers replacing it with another comparable product that had a total of 6. MUCH simpler to manage!

This leads us to the biggest PRO on discontinued items… Closeout Pricing!

I will admit, I am a sucker for a great deal. In fact, my father and I are ALWAYS sifting through manufacturer’s discontinued products for true values to be able to offer our customers. Many times these products are simply being moved on and out for reasons similar to the diMedici. In other cases, maybe they were too expensive compared to the other offerings from other makers. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of times where perfectly good and even exceptionally great instruments are discontinued leading to a phenomenal closeout price.

Price isn’t everything

So other than price, what are a few things to think about before purchasing a new, but discontinued musical instrument?

The biggest concern that most people express is repair related. The fear is that what if something needs to be repaired and all of a sudden there is no parts being made for the instrument that they bought. While this argument makes sense to many people, it is not actually founded as easily in reality. The truth of the matter is that they bulk majority of repairs are not actually manufacturer part related, meaning that the “parts” used in the repair didn’t come from the manufacturer in the first place.

On woodwind instruments, 99%+ of the “parts” used in the repair are universal parts such as pads, felt & cork. In woodwind instruments, these parts are readily available through any competent repair shop. There are some rare exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions are more from a manufacturer trying to completely reinvent something that didn’t need to be changed in the first place (like changing the relationship between the tone hole, pad & key cup).

In brass instruments, most repairs are not part related at all and are more damage to existing parts that can be fixed (dents, solder joints, etc…). However, brass instruments have a higher risk of needing a true manufacturer part (like a trumpet piston) that can be manufacturer related. Still, this would require extreme damage and/or abuse from the player to make this a relevant issue, but should it happen, it can pose a signficant and sometimes insurmountable situation.

So in my opinion, it really depends on the player. However, even buying a new instrument that is still in production, there is no guarantee that the manufacturer will have the part when/if needed and be able to supply it in a timely manner. I have had several occurrences of manufacturer’s taking 4-6 months to get us the proper part that was required to repair an instrument (not going to name them publicly).

The biggest benefit IS price

In the end, money is a big motivator for considering a discontinued product. In many cases you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by considering a good discontinued instrument. The truth is that high-end quality instruments are expensive. Why not consider a discontinued item if it saves big money. The biggest issue is dealing with a store who knows what to look for when purchasing discontinued instruments. I am obviously biased on what that definition is of a “good store” but more than anything, they must have a quality repair shop that can deal with any issues that might arise.