This is a tidy little trumpet at a budget price that has student / semi-pro written all over it. A very narrow and sleek instrument with a gold bell and lead pipe, the 77T certainly looks the part. The overall finishing is good, with all valves and pipes being airtight – I particularly liked the use of plastic ‘O’ rings on the pipe joints to stop any damage to a metal to metal surface. There are integral springs inside the pistons and on my sample the valves worked well. However, the thickness of the metal on the casings means that great care needs to be taken when removing the head, as cross threading could be a problem. Sonically the sample 77T had good intonation and produced a bright, relatively hard sound, particularly when pushed; there is no question that this horn is less forgiving at the top end than it is in the lower register, where it will comfortably play down to F sharp. Exchanging the supplied 7C mouthpiece for a 3 didn’t have any great effect on the sound quality.

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This is the first we are told, of a number of collaborations between retailer John Packer and manufacturer Michael Rath, with Rath having had a hand in the design of the instrument and Packer finding a quality manufacturer in China. The 231 comes with a large bore and a very playable, lightweight slide. The build quality is excellent and the finishing is nothing short of superb. It’s a very responsive instrument, particularly in the middle-to-lower register, where it can really bark. The upper register needed a little getting used to, requiring as it did a lot more puff. But the tone is warm and the character of the sound suggests that the 231 would be just as comfortable in a symphony orchestra setting, as it would be used by a jazz group or big band. At a fraction of the price you might expect to pay for a horn of this quality, it all packs into a standard nylon denier semihard, zippered shaped case, with exterior zippered pocket, grab handles and a back harness with a velcro flap cover.

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Mutes are of course an integral part of colouring brass sound and although this market is well catered for, there’s always room for a new kid on the block – particularly if they’re bringing some innovative ideas to the table. Wallace Brass is one such company. We tested three of their aluminium range and were impressed with the build quality, design (particularly the rubber end base) and general finish as well as being amazed at just how light they were. First up to the bell was the ‘Aluminium Straight’. These sort of mutes can often produce a harsh sound, but the Wallace model managed to temper this with a softer, richer delivery, although still having plenty of presence and intensity to the sound. It was also very consistent across the full range. Second up was the ‘Aluminium ‘5’ Straight’. This mute offered a more mellow and smoother sound than the ‘Straight’. However, it was less ‘muted’ than the ‘Straight’ with more of the instrument coming through. Last up was the ‘Adjustable Cup’ combination. The ‘V’ shape has a clear, sharp tonal colour and there is a lot of resistance. The ‘Bowl’ shape on the other hand, although still having a high resistance, is very mellow when placed right into the bell. Even though these mutes are machined from lightweight aluminium, the ‘Adjustable Cup’ combination made our test horn feel very bell heavy. It’s a shame that Wallace don’t yet produce a single ‘Fixed Bowl Shaped Cup’ model as we feel that this would not only be considerably lighter than the ‘Combination’, but would also deliver a very satisfying mellow tone. For more go to

As they say, you can always tell a Taylor. And it’s not just the sound – it’s the feel of the instrument, the balance and the build. The Pocket Rocket is typical of the marque. Expertly engineered, it sits nicely in the hand and feels very solid and robust with its heavy angled supporting plate lifted from the Taylor ‘Chicago’ custom trumpet. The surprisingly long valves with attractive blue tortoise shell heads, carry a good action and come with heavy domed bottom caps. This extra weight, along with the heavier pipework to the receiver is clearly a deliberate design feature, which adds to the tone and sonic punch of this instrument. The sound is consistent across the full range and is very bright and clear, which presumably is in some part down to the wide flared bell (wider than most standard trumpet bells). With polished pipework running into that large brushed bell, this is a very stylish little horn and one that is in every sense, typically Taylor.

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Not only is this signature trumpet very light, but it’s a horn that has a real edge when you drive it – Miyashiro obviously relishes being ‘out front’! Visually it’s a very striking, if traditional looking instrument with quite an abrupt flair to the bell – which is perhaps where it gets its punch from. The plating is honey brass, with what looks like brass finger loops, along with mother of pearl capped finger pads and black felt cushions to the valves. The valve system is integral (top sprung), and I should perhaps issue a note of caution here – I found it surprisingly easy to return the valves the wrong way round, so they sit incorrectly. Overall however, the build quality is excellent and on our sample everything was airtight.

A light instrument, it delivers a light sound and the Miyashiro is clearly more at home at the top rather than the bottom. It’s frighteningly playable and glides through the full range with ease. Sonically it may not be the most subtle of instruments with its bright, full tones, but play it softly and it soon becomes clear that there is a very appealing mellow, almost sweet side to this horn - an aspect to it’s character that I particularly liked.

Interestingly, Yamaha have recently gone down the rucksack/bag route for their instrument cases and have had developed a multi-pocketed nylon denier unit with a heavily padded twin compartment accommodating two horns. Unfortunately, it seems that the manufacturer has stuck too closely to the dimensions given and as a consequence, the bag is a few centimetres short on height and in its present form doesn’t give the instruments real protection. No doubt, knowing Yamaha, this minor miscalculation will soon be rectified.

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