I've mostly been blogging about writing and book things, so I guess it's time to talk a little about music again. A few weeks ago, I got a chance to try out three new Cannonball Clarinets, 2 Piacere and 1 Zeloso, along with 11 barrels and 11 bells. You can visit their website here: http://www.cannonballmusic.com/arezzo.php. To summarize my experience: I was impressed.
I started off with the gold-keyed Piacere with my Combs LC3 mouthpiece and enjoyed the dark tone. It was also nice to have a built in neck strap hook, since my hand cannot play clarinet for long without using a strap. I also enjoyed the thumb key, which is flattened out more like a sax octave key and is more ergonomic. The main feature that stands out with these clarinets, though, is the interchangeable barrels and bells. When a clarinet is purchased, you get two barrels and two bells with it. You have an opportunity to choose between three designs of each, which gives you a lot of tonality options. The bold designs of the barrels and bells do stand out visually, but that just contributes to the uniqueness of these instruments.
Another feature that is usually found on more expensive clarinets, like the Buffet R13, is the auxiliary Ab/Eb key. Since I'm not used to having one, I didn't use it much, but it was nice to have. It was a little bit of a reach for my small hand, though.
The gold-key Piacere was nice, but I didn't like it better than my Yamaha 72CS. I think, though, that it was an individual thing, because when I tried out the silver-keyed Piacere, I liked it better than my Yamaha. As far as I can tell, though, the two Cannonballs were the same except for the key color. The gold-key had a few issues that bothered me, like a stuffy throat tone Bb (my Yamaha has same problem, though) and the low Eb, forked low B and low E had raspy tones. The silver-keyed didn't have these issues, so I think it was just that particular clarinet.
Do these models compare to the R13? It's hard for me to say, other than I usually like my Yamaha better than R13s. These Cannonballs are a heck of a lot cheaper than R13s, though.
The Zeloso was also impressive for a student level instrument. It was a lot clearer than most student instruments, though, obviously, wasn't as good as the Piaceres. I also tried out the hard rubber Cannonball mouthpieces, which seemed stuffy to me, but compared to most stock mouthpieces, they played okay.
If you are in the market for a clarinet, definitely give the Cannonball a try. I can't give any recommendations about barrel and bell combinations, other than they do give you a good tonal palette to choose from. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to study the barrels and bells more at a later date to get a better idea of what they do.