Orpheo Alto Sound Check

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I tested both the new Orpheo alto and the Jupiter JAS-767 with the following mouthpieces:

  • Conn Steelay (opened to approximately a 5*)
  • Rousseau JDX8 (with most of the baffle and narrowing walls removed)
  • Meyer 5J metal (opened to 6 or 6*, since opened to .075")
  • ADDED 1/26/10: Drake Custom JAB .075" (which he calls a 5)
I play a Fibracell Premium 3.5 or 4 on alto pieces. All three mouthpieces have tips similar enough to get away with this. The ligature on the Steelay and Rousseau is a Winslow 2N, on the Meyer it is a Selmer 404, and on the Drake it is a normal two-screw ligature (as the Winslow slips).

To keep things simple, I consolidated the two tunes, In A Sentimental Mood and Stella By Starlight into one file.

2008 Orpheo

Steelay | Rousseau | Meyer | ADDED 1/26/10: Drake Custom

1990 Jupiter

Steelay | Rousseau | Meyer | ADDED 1/26/10: Drake Custom

For those of you who feel that finish significantly affects sound, which one is black nickel and which one is a mix of silver plate, gold plate, and gold lacquer? Both nickel and black nickel are pretty and low-maintenance, but any claim that they are "dark" runs counter to my own experience.

Which one is the better horn? Let's take it by category.
  • Construction: Jupiter. The Orpheo keywork seems a bit flimsy, though I have not had any problems. Also, the Orpheo has a few parts of questionable quality, such as screws with the threads cut off-center. The Orpheo has a tilting Bb spatula and the Jupiter does not, but this does not matter much to me.
  • Sound: Jupiter again. It seems to have a depth to the sound at the bottom end of the horn that the Orpheo lacks. From second-line G on up, they are fairly similar, though the Orpheo is slightly brighter throughout. The difference between them is far smaller than the difference caused by changing mouthpieces.
  • Appearance: Orpheo, hands down. This isn't a fair comparison as the Jupiter is nearly two decades older, but it had bad lacquer from day one. That's why the neck and bell are plated -- gold (yes, real gold, just incredibly thin) on the neck and inner bell, silver on the outer bell. It has looked like crap for about 15 of its 19 years of service. The coating on the Orpheo seems pretty tough (unlike my Chinese soprano), and looks great when the fingerprints are wiped off.
  • Feel and Response: With both horns set up properly, this is pretty much a wash. They are very similar to play, which is why the Orpheo makes a good backup. Even the intonation tendencies and altissimo fingerings are the same, though the Jupiter speaks a little more easily up high. However, the Orpheo seems to have quicker keywork.
  • Miscellaneous: The Orpheo has a lyre holder built into the neck socket, while the Jupiter has it around the left side, toward the back (almost unusable without custom-building a lyre). When marching or otherwise playing without a music stand, this does matter. It is also nearly impossible to knock the integrated lyre holder off the horn or mash it into the body tube. Advantage: Orpheo.
  • Value: Orpheo, overwhelmingly. I paid $900 for the Jupiter, in 1990 dollars. I paid $212 for the Orpheo (and did maybe $50 worth of set-up work), in 2009 dollars. Even ignoring the effects of inflation, the Jupiter is not 4 times as good. It's better, but not overwhelmingly better. The Jupiter is currently available used in the $300 range, and after another $200 for a re-pad and setup should be a good player, but it's still not twice as good as the Orpheo.
The overall winner? ME. I have a viable backup and marching horn that I paid $212 for!