Yamaha Xeno 882O & 882OR Review

4.4 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Flexible
- Notes slot in well
- Well made
Cons
- Sound is less distinctive
Summary
Yamaha instruments are known for exacting engineering and built with an eye toward making optimizations on competitors' models. The Xeno models are top-end horns designed in close collaboration with professionals in the field.

The YHR-882O tenor trombone, designed with Peter Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Symphony, includes a few number of features that differentiate it from competitors like the Conn 88H and Bach 42B. At 8 and 2/3 inches, the 882O bell is slightly larger than the typical 8 1/2 in this competitive set, which adds some openness to the sound. Yamaha's design optimizations have resulted in a very playable horn with notes that slot in nicely. Traditionally, players have complained Yamaha trombones (the 600 series) don't sufficiently distinguish themselves tonally, caught in the center spectrum between the Conn 88H's richness and the Bach 42's clear boldness. But the Xeno 882O, thanks in part to the larger bell, has a traditional bright tone that opens up nicely. To add some more color to the tone, consider the 882GO model that features a gold brass bell vs. the standard yellow brass. Keep in mind that you'll sacrifice some projection with this model compared to the yellow brass. The 8820 features a more traditional narrow slide that adds to the horn's flexibility. While perhaps not as distinctive as some competitors, the 882O is extremely well made and plays reliably -- something that can't be said of some major horn manufacturers today.

Yamaha's updated 882OR appears outwardly similar to the 882O, but is designed in collaboration with a different artist, Larry Zalkind, of the Utah Symphony. Typical of Yamaha, the devil is in the details - but these make a big difference to the sound (see a comparison image here). Unlike the 882O, the 8802R features a wider slide --meaning a little less flexibility-- which helps the horn produce a more contemporary, dark sound. Additionally, some adjustments the F and Bb slide positions have been reversed (hence the R in the model number) to allow the bell to vibrate more freely, according to Yamaha.


Which horn is right for you? If you like the traditional compact sound of the Conn 88H, you'll likely be happiest with the 882O. While if you prefer a more modern dark sound with a little less flexibility similar to the Bach 42B, the 8820R is the Yamaha model for you.

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Bach 42B Review

4.1 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Strong projection
- Good sound quality
Cons
- Less ideal for solo work
Summary
Made from a single piece of yellow brass, the Bach 42 Bb/F trigger trombone is known for its ability to keep a consistent tone quality at the highest volumes of playing - even more so than top competitors such as the Conn 88H. This can be especially important in symphonic environments where the trombones must project over a large orchestra. The 42B is especially popular in American orchestras, where a big but controlled sound is the norm. Due to its yellow brass construction and light hand slide, the 42B is a touch brighter sounding and to some ears in the upper range - a matter of taste depending on your playing style. With its superior loud dynamics, the 42B may not feel quite as flexible on softer tones. The horn can handle a lot of air! As a result, players may feel more comfortable using this horn in an orchestra compared to solo work. Bach has also introduced a 42BO version of the horn, with an open wrap F attachment that helps to open the lower register (though watch out for dents as it extends the horn further behind your head).


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Conn 88H Review

4.3 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Good tone quality
- Strong for both symphonic and solo work
Cons
- Newer models are not manufactured to same standards
Summary
This enduringly popular Conn tenor trombone, first produced in 1954, is an evolution on the original 8H, adding a trigger to an F branch and a rose brass bell that darkens the tone. Is 60+ year production run is a testament to its ability to adapt to different symphonic sound concepts - from powering the core of an orchestra to virtuosic solo performances. But competitors such as the Bach 42B have given the 88H a run for its money, especially in America, where orchestras are demanding an even bigger sound than the Conn. Players seeking more balance in both loud and soft playing though may prefer the 88H, however. What about the 88H's design gives it this versatility? According to The Horn Guys, a narrower hand slide vs. competitors such as the Bach 42B helps to give the tone a more stable anchor, especially given its large bell/bore, while the mix of bronze metal adds just the right color to bring out solos beautifully. In the 1990s, Conn added additional options (GEN2) to allow the 88H to adapt to modern playing, such as the open wrap 88HO (open F side gives the horn less resistance especially in lower register - though also more tubing behind the head), the thin-belled Conn 88HT (adds some additional resonance), and the Conn 88HY (yellow brass bell to brighten the sound). While these new iterations are popular, the original may still be the best mix of sound, playability and ergodynamics for most players. Unfortunately, Conn's manufacturing standards have slipped in recent years and the newer models, made in Elkhart since 2015, are not as consistent. For this reason, we recommend finding a good used model.


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