NEW Jupiter Beginner Clarinet…What’s in a name?!28th January 2016
I mentioned in a recent article that Yamaha were often guilty of using Roman numerals to denote new models, i.e. YCL-CXIII. Seemingly Jupiter have a slightly different affliction and that is to put S, Q, FQ or QO and all sorts of letters after a model when they change it. It can be both confusing and a bit misleading as sometimes the change is very minor (i.e. it’s just in a new case) and other times it can be a full instrument re-design.
In fact in the example we have here it is quite relevant. Here we have a great new plastic beginners clarinet that in all likelihood will struggle to get established against the big boys (Buffet & Yamaha), but before we get into why and explore what’s in a name let’s have a look a the clarinet in question, the NEW Jupiter JCL-700S-Q:
How does it look?
The Jupiter has a nice overall aesthetic. The plating on the keys is bright silver and the body is a brushed plastic which looks classy and is also a good long lasting option for beginners. To be honest, the main competitors in this price point (Buffet B12, Yamaha YCL-255, Backun Alpha) all have a similar look and quality of finish, but where the Jupiter maybe trumps them is with its case. It’s super lightweight, excellently designed and very importantly it’s small. This would be ideal for any younger players not wanting to transport an old style briefcase around.
The outfit comes with a mouthpiece, ligature and all the usual maintenance gear (cleaner, cork grease etc). All in all it is a very accomplished looking beginner clarinet outfit.
How does it play?
Here’s where it gets interesting…This clarinet has a very immediate and present tone, it really feels like it’s supporting the sound well. This is very important for younger beginners, as a clarinet with no support or resistance can be quite off putting for a new player. The overall tone is well balanced from the top to the bottom of the instrument, none of the ‘grey’ or ‘dead’ areas that you get on some of the cheap beginner clarinets at a lower price point, the 700S-Q has a very even tuning scale as well so it competes well with its direct competition (Buffet B12, Yamaha 255 etc).
The mouthpiece is functional but in our opinion could be a little bit better, not in quality of finish but in design. It’s quite a long facing and very close, as such players with a very weak embouchure could have the tendency to play a little flat. It’s something we’ve mentioned after testing this new arrival to Jupiter, and it shouldn’t put buyers off, they may well change it and alternatively you could add a Yamaha 4C or similar to it and you’d end up with a seriously good beginner clarinet indeed. Arguably this 700S-Q has more to offer tonally than some of the other clarinets at this price point and the Buffet B12 for example doesn’t have the worlds greatest mouthpiece and it’s been a teacher favourite for sometime.
Let’s have a look and listen to my colleague Anton Weinberg putting the new Jupiter JCL-700S-Q through its paces:
So, we know this looks great and plays great. It more than holds it’s own against the competition but I’ll make a prediction…We’ll easily sell more Buffet B12 and Yamaha YCL-255 clarinets this year, probably by a large margin. But why? Well, I started this article with the phrase ‘what’s in a name?!’, what I was angling at is that consistency of model names, branding and aesthetics is important. Let’s look at one of the major competitors for this Jupiter, the Buffet B12. It’s been called a B12 for…well, forever! Teachers, players, parents etc have all come to know and remember the name. Couple that with a consistency even in the case supplied with the B12 that has only had a couple of changes over 25 years and it all builds to a package that is easily recognisable, rememberable, and recommendable (maybe I’ve made up too many ‘ables’ – my apologies). It’s not just a one-off either, the top selling pro Sax of all time is a Yamaha YAS-62 (it’s been called that for 25- years), the top selling Pro Trombone is a Conn 88H (it’s been called that for 50- years)…you get the idea.
In the meantime there have been countless re-works of this Jupiter alternative (JCL-631, 631MS, 631MSII, 637S-FQ and so on), this can’t help! And, so many teachers play wooden Buffet clarinets and as such recommend the Buffet plastic model for their students. Jupiters lack of progress in the wooden area will always make the aforementioned scenario highly unlikely, at first they countered this by being much cheaper. However, as they drove the quality up the price came up with it and now there is hardly any difference between a Jupiter and a Buffet or Yamaha. Ironically the model they have now is equipped to compete…but who will ever know? Well, if you’ve made it this far at least you know! 🙂
Sam – Woodwind Dept