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Buffet B12 Clarinet

Origin: France, though manufactured elsewhere in Europe? (
Guide price: £395
Weight: -
Date of manufacture: 2002
Date reviewed: May 2002

The " Industry Standard " student clarinet? Features brushed "Luraton" (that's plastic to most people) body, adjustable thumbrest with integral sling hook

This is a student clarinet with a noble lineage. From its earliest guise as a wooden instrument produced by Boosey & Hawkes under the model name of Regent it has seen successive development, radical changes in design and even a change of corporate and model name - but it remains, arguably, the world's leading student clarinet. And justifiably so. For sure, a student instrument will rarely possess the finesse and flexibility of a professional instrument but the days when such an instrument was regarded as something you traded up from as soon as possible have long gone.

In its latest incarnation the B12 possesses a few advancements - some good, some not so good.
Top marks go for the addition of an adjustable thumbrest. About half the student clarinets that pass through the workshop have rubber cushions fitted to the thumbrest. Students with small hands often find it difficult to line their fingers up over the lower joint finger holes, the addition of a thick cushion under the thumb helps to correct the angle of the hand - and an adjustable thumbrest means this clarinet can accommodate a huge range of hand sizes.
As you can see below, the thumbrest has a little ring attached to it. This allows for the use of a sling, which provides extra support for the weight of the instrument - particularly useful for very young beginners.

B12 ThumbrestHowever, call me Mr Picky but I found that the locking screw doesn't entirely lock the thumbrest - and although the amount it can move is small I found it nonetheless annoying from time to time. Also, the sling ring doesn't line up down the body of the instrument - which may lead to certain sling hooks imparting a slight tendency to want to swing the clarinet out of line with the player's body. The addition of a nylon collar on the ring thread would ensure a secure lock to the thumbrest and allow the ring to be set inline. A small point, I grant you, but one that's relatively simple and cheap to fix.

My biggest criticism goes to the use of nylon pins on the left hand spatula keys. If you're not sure what these are, check out the article on lever keys. The reason this B12 came into the workshop was because the nylon pin had sheared off the low E spatula key.
I really can't see what advantages this design has over the far simpler 'stepped key' design - which is far more solid and gives a much better feel to the action.

The body is made from a tough nylon composite, and whilst I accept that the 'holy grail' of student clarinets has to be weight (or lack of it) I still much prefer the feel of a slightly heavier instrument. The old Regents were of a good weight - though the body material was inclined to be a tad brittle. If you drop a B12 it won't crack...though you might mark the body.
Extra care needs to be taken with regard to environmental temperature with the B12 as the body material will melt or deform at relatively low temperatures (so don't, whatever you do, leave the instrument in a car in the summer...which is bad practice for any instrument anyway).
In normal use though the body will withstand the rigours of the clumsiest child...even if the keywork won't.

The keys are up to the usual Buffet standard. I've always been a fan of the feel of Boosey/Buffet clarinets, and the new B12 is no exception. Though not quite as refined as professional model keys, they are nonetheless well finished, sturdy and smooth under the fingers.
A very real improvement is the use of shouldered point screws. The B12 previously used parallel points which although provided a constantly adjustable action were difficult to set just right due to the inherent expansion and contraction of the body material and were inclined to work loose unless well secured with threadlock.
The new screws perhaps represent a standardisation across the Buffet range and provide the B12 with a much more stable and secure action, and will save you money on repairs and servicing in the long run (and I'll see less loose keys).

My last beef remains one that the student Buffet range has suffered from since its inception...the seating of the pads on the lower joint.
I suspect that when Buffet fit the pads they use a system of clamps to set the pads. What then happens is that the pads expand afterwards, which results in leaks appearing at the front of the low E, F and lower ring key pads. It's the first thing I check when a B12 comes into the workshop - and it's rare to find one that doesn't have a problem here.
Buffet would be better off adjusting the angle of these key cups (or use a thinner pad) and just not bother to set them...chances are they'd turn out many more fully working instruments than they do now.

My advice is to ensure that the store you buy your clarinet from has PROPERLY set the instrument up...or take it to a repairer straight after purchase and have it checked.
Given that very few students will know whether or not their instrument is working properly this is quite a serious problem. The picture below (spatula keys removed) shows the 'trouble spots'...check the pads using the cigarette paper test.

B12 lower joint leak points

As for playing, the B12 produces a remarkably consistent tone, with stable tuning across the range. There is a slight tendency for it to sound a tad 'boxy' on occasion, and perhaps some notes are less rounded than others - but this is really only noticeable if you're a more advanced player. It's certainly a lot better tonewise than many of its competitors.

The mouthpiece seems to divide opinion. Some players and teachers swear by it...others AT it. Personally I feel both camps have a valid point. I would say that the mouthpiece has its limitations but is more than adequate for beginners - and the clarinet will benefit further from a better mouthpiece once the student gains some experience...say a year or so after starting.

The case provided is well built and sturdy, with room for reeds and grease etc.

To sum up then, a fine student instrument that's built to last. It suffers from poor setup on the lower joint but this is easily rectifiable, and once in tip-top shape is capable of providing everything a student will need...and for many players it may well be all they'll ever need.

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