When it comes to choosing the right Buffet-Crampon models of clarinets to try, Buffet does not make it very easy in their marketing literature to know the fundamental differences between their various models from a player’s perspective. In this blog post, I will help you better understand the Buffet-Crampon professional line of clarinets to help you make a more informed decision in selecting the right model to try and hopefully ultimately buy.

To begin, it’s helpful to think of Buffet Crampon clarinets fitting into one of two tracks: Models that are more open (Track 1) and Models that are more compact (Track 2). The more open models, in Track 1, are bigger in the overall shape of sound and feel overall more free blowing than those in Track 2.  The instruments in Track 2 tend to be smaller in overall shape and have more density in their core.  

Below find the models in both tracks listed from least expensive (top of each list) to most expensive at the bottom.

Track 1                                                                      Track 2

More Open                                               More Compact

Buffet-Crampon Models                         Buffet-Crampon Models

Buffet R13                                                 Festival

Tradition                                                    RC

Prestige R13                                             Prestige RC

Tosca                                                        Legende & Divine

While each instrument can be identified with almost any color-ring ™️ combination, the model itself sets a basic tonal color and shape of sound in the broadest most general sense. Once you understand the tendencies of each model, it can save you money with your selection or perhaps cost you more if you truly need what only a more expensive model can offer.  While picking the right color-rings™️ will certainly help when you try any model, identifying the models that fundamentally are in line with what you need to sound and play your best is an important first step.  

Track 1

The R13 Model

  • Bb clarinet 1131-5 (nickel) or 1131-2 (silver) or 1131GL-2 (silver)
  • A clarinet 1231-5 (nickel) or 1231-2 (silver) or 1231GL-2 (silver)
  • Eb clarinet 1531-2 (silver)

The Buffet R13 is the most common professional level clarinet Buffet sells. It comes in nickel, silver and Greenline material for Bb and A and only wood for Eb clarinet.  The Buffet R13 tends to be color balanced which means it has both highs and lows in the sound. However, compared to other Buffet models, this model has overall proportionately more highs in the overall shape of sound. This means even when you request a darker sounding R13, it will still have some bright highs in it whereas other models can dramatically decrease them or perhaps almost entirely wipe them out- if that is what you really need to play and sound your best. Keep in mind, while ‘dark’ is the newest buzz word, few musicians sound ‘dark’ without an instrument that can offer them all the tonal colors of the rainbow, which of course will include bright highs. The reason I say this, is because it is through the ability to access color- not the absence of it- which is what ‘dark’ represents, that you are able to show off the depth and color of what ‘dark’ has to offer in your sound.

When thinking about the plating of the R13, in general terms, nickel tends to sound slightly smaller in overall shape and require more air to project. Silver tends to sound bigger than nickel and project more easily. The Greenline material adds 20% more weight to the instrument, which can increase stress on your right hand.

When thinking about material, most people still prefer Grenadilla wood over Greenline because it has more ring and color in the sound. Of course, the Greenline instruments will never crack which may also be a reason to consider purchasing one. Overall, the R13 model is a versatile instrument and is extremely agile and flexible.  As a rule of thumb, if someone naturally plays with a brighter shape sound, they will likely not sound as good on the R13 as on perhaps the Tradition model.  

The Tradition

Bb clarinet 1161L-5 (nickel) or 1161L-2 (silver)

A clarinet 1261L-5 (nickel) or 1261L-2 (silver)

The Tradition model characteristically has more lows in the sound than highs.  It offers a bigger shape of sound than the RC as an example which has a similar color pallet. It’s an excellent choice for someone who naturally plays brightly because of its tendency to have more lows in the sound than highs which will provide more color contrast because of its tendencies and thus produce what I call ‘color balance’.  Color balance is achieved when there is a similar amount of both highs and lows in the sound. Color balance is an important element in sounding and playing your best, so it is something to be aware of and strive for.  

The Tradition is the only model that I have come to realize has a face shape that can often be associated with it. An oval shaped face is most likely to sound good on this model. If the Tradition model does not have enough color or depth of sound for you, The Prestige R13 model may be your next best choice.

The R13 Prestige

Bb clarinet 1133-2 (silver)

A clarinet 1233-2 (silver)- not available in nickel or Greenline material

Bass Clarinet to Low C 1193-2 and 1193GL-2- available in Grenadilla and Greenline

The Prestige R13 is a bigger version of the R13 model. I often describe it as the difference between a two-dimensional movie and a three-dimensional movie. It is a bigger shape with more mass to the sound. It is also richer and darker in overall shape than an R13 with same color-rings ™️. Because it has more dimension in the sound, it requires more air but offers a lot of agility and control which is a big plus if you are a very expressive musician.

The low Eb and low C bass clarinets have a deep and colorful shape of sound as well, but more agility and color than Buffet-Crampon’s other bass model, which only comes in low C, the Tosca.

Once you move to a Prestige instrument, most players typically don’t enjoy as much a two-dimensional instrument like the basic R13 anymore. (Which is not available for bass.) It’s likely to feel as if you don’t have enough flexibility.  

However, if the Prestige Bb or A model feel too big or hard to center, but you like the overall feel of it, I would recommend trying a Prestige RC in Track 2 models. We will be discussing these in Part 2.

The Tosca

Bb 1150L-2 (silver) or 1150GL-2 (Greenline silver)

A 1250L-2 (silver) or 1250GL-2 (Greenline silver)

Eb clarinet 1550L-2 (silver)

Bass Clarinet 1195L-2 (silver)

The Tosca has fewer highs in its shape of sound and has a much smoother and bigger sound than the Legende. Similar in shape of size to the Prestige, The Tosca offers a warmer, darker, and generally less flexible shape of sound that lends itself well to orchestral playing or as a member of an ensemble.  The Tosca works well with those who need greater stability and more core, and works well for those who use a lot of air and have a brighter overall shape of sound.

The Tradition is not as big of a shape of sound as the Tosca, and not quite as dark overall, but is also less in price. Consider trying both if after reading this article you think either would be a perfect fit for you.

In part 2 we will discuss Track 2 instruments and how they relate to those we discussed here from Track 1.

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