Ebay flute trial

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WalterMitty
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Ebay flute trial

Post by WalterMitty »

Hi,

I'm a brand new member, and I'd like to report my experiences with eBay flutes.

Here is my back ground with flutes:

I've been playing flute for about 30 years, on and off, mostly for my own pleasure. But I took lessons and played in Orchestra at university and played in (almost) semi-professional Latino-jazz band, among other things. I have played trumpet and clarinet, a little, too.

I own 2 professional flutes (No.1: YFL-61 Handmade Yamaha, open hole, inline G, sterling silver. No. 2: Rare Sakurai, also all hand made, silver, soldered tone hole, open hole, inline G).
They are highly reliable instrument and Sakurai still has all original pads, and I sent Yamaha to maintenance only once (for some repair and pads change). Other than that, I do all minor adjustment myself. but I don;t need to do much.
And I took this Yamaha to every where, around the world, even on the mountain bike trip on trails, going down hill at full speed with extreme vibration and shock and temperature range of -10 to +30. Yet this Yamaha is still playing very well without any problem. So, I know about good flute, a bit.


Recently, I got curious about cheap flutes at eBay, knowing very well that some of cheap flutes are actually lovely instruments, and I started to search and learn about them.
And I got some extra money due to lots of over-time work, I started to bid on cheap flutes (under $200).
I lost first couples of bids, but them learned how to win.

I bought 7 or 8 of them, so far, 3 of them are new or almost new, while others are used. Some of them were won by bidding, others were "buy it now" or by the best offer.
In general, all of them have been nice. I had no instrument that I had to throw away. But all used one required some adjustment, so far.
It means YOU SHOULD NOT BUY USED EBAY FLUTE UNLESS YOU CAN AT LEAST DO MINOR ADJUSTMENT and possibly some basic repair like changing cork.

All flutes were well packed and promptly shipped.
However, some of them tool time to arrive because I'm in Canada and you never know what happens at the border.
With a few of them, I had the surprise of paying relatively high custom broker charge plus Canadian Federal Sales tax (GST) costing nearly 30% of the price of the flute. So, Canadian buyers (and possibly other international buyers), be aware.
To make things worse, more expensive flutes are usually sent with UPS and insured, and that means UPS will be charging high custom clearing fee, while cheaper flutes are sent by USPS and usually there is nothing to pay (or sometime just sales tax = GST, which is just 5%).


Anyway, here is the list of what I got from Ebay, so far (more coming):


#1 Vintage Heimer $46: Closed hole el cheapo. According to some people, it's made in china.
The cork was dry (or too small) and it was totally loose, and moving around in the head joint....
I'll have to replace the cork, or put the all mighty plumbing white tape or something to make it fit. For now, I just fixed the head crown with scotch tape, and this made the flute playable. :)
Other than that, the mechanism for Bb with F key, and F# needed adjustment. And the head joint fit a bit loose to the main body.

After about 10 minutes of quick adjustment, flute became playable, and it wasn't bad, at all.
For the el cheapo Chinese flute, actually it's pretty good.
After about 5 minutes of testing, it sounded even better.

But it takes probably a bit of experience to make more or less good sound, and the tube feels heavy and doesn't vibrate as much as my handmade flutes.
It feels stiff and rigid a bit. I'll see if it changes with more testing, later.



#2 Vintage Armstrong 103 $115: Open hole inline G
This flute needed adjustment on Lowest C key, and F#.
Also, pads make sticky sound....

But this instrument surprised me with the sound. It's not exactly the same as my handmade flutes, but not so different.
When I think of the price, this one is $115 and I payed a bit more than $2000 for YFL-61 (about 30 years ago), and about $3000 for Sakurai (about 25 years ago), this Armstrong 103 is impressive.
I like it a lot.

I'm gonna buy the small bottle that supposed to eliminate sticky sounds of pads and see what happens.



#3 Vintage Artley 17-0 $43: Closed hole
I think this one needed just twisting one screw and put 2 springs back into position to make it payable.
Arrived in very well polished and cleaned. Lovely instrument and I can see it was taken care by the owner, very well.
Of all used flutes, this one is the prettiest flute, even though lip plate and B key and where we support flute has silver? plating nearly gone.
All other body is really shiny and perfect.
And it has rich velvet sound. Probably, previous owner played well, other than taking extremely good care of the instrument.

Best closed hole flute, so far.



#4 Vintage Armstrong 104 $39: Closed hole
This one is missing head crown .... I need to find replacement, somewhere...
And the pad on C trill is in bad shape, leaking a bit of air and making unwanted vibration. And it needed one or two key screws to be adjusted a bit.
Despite these problem, it's playable (after tightly cramping the leaky trill key with ... scotch tape, again :))
And even without the head crown, it makes amazing sound in the 2nd octave. But the lower register isn't so good. Maybe I need to practice a bit on this instrument to make better lower tones.

I think I like Armstrong flutes.



#5 Berklay hand engraved (new flute) $31: Closed hole
This is a brand new flute wrapped in plastic bag and paper ! :)
I think this one in made in china, too. And this one also has slightly loose head joint...
But the sound is pretty different from the previous Chinese flute (Vintage Heimer). I think the tube is either thinner or made of different metal.
And the body color is brighter than all other silver (or silver plated) flutes.
So, it has slightly lighter brighter sound and less resistance.

I don;t know how reliable this instrument is, in long run, but hey, for $31 bucks, this is extremely good instrument.
I'm pretty glad that I won this at this low price.

Probably, I'm gonna give it to a kid in school band near by, or sell it cheap locally to someone who would like to play a bit, after testing it for a few months.



#6 (Fake) Yamaha 271S (directly from China) $119: Open hole, inline G.
As I'm a owner of REAL Ymaha instrument, I got curious about these fake Yamaha on Ebay.
So, I decided to buy one and test it. :)
It's not dirt cheap, but cheap enough to throw away and forget it.

After ordering, the guy became "unregistered" at Ebay. So, I was worried.
But it arrived, finally.

I don't know if it's gonna last or not, but as far as the sound is concerned, it's not bad at all.
I have played cheaper Yamaha before to by handmade model, and I remember how they were. Compared to them, this one sounds better.

Oh, it came with plastic hole plug. It felt terrible and I took it away in haste. :D But it might be handy for small kid and people with small hands.

An just like two other Chinese flutes, the head joint is a bit loose!
I'm starting to wonder if ALL Chinese flutes have loose head joint ...




PS

So, these are the flutes I received, so far.
I'm still waiting for a few more to come, including famous (or infamous) Gemeinhardt M3 (supposedly new).

I'll report back when they arrive.


Up to now, my experience with cheap eBay flute is positive, even thought all used flutes needed some adjustment and repair.
It's not so difficult to make them playable (for testing and personal fun).
But it's a different story if they have to be playable for more normal/serious practice and band/orchestra playing.

In other words, someone who doesn't want to take the risk of adjusting and repairing by oneself or by repair person should avoid used cheap flute. (But I'm talking about really cheap one like I bought.)
There are used, but well serviced flute starting around $200 to $300, too.
And these are usually sold at more than double at the music store.
So, Ebay deal can be a good deal IF you know what you are doing., I guess.

As for the cheap and fake Chinese flutes, I tend to think they can be usable. But I'll report back after more testing and playing.
I've only played each instrument about 20 to 30 minutes.
I'll try to be a bit tough (as far as playing style is concerned) on them, and see what happens.

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Phineas
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Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas »

Been there, done that! :wink:

Makes for interesting reading though.

Welcome to the board!

Phineas

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pied_piper
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Location: Virginia

Post by pied_piper »

Well, if things don't work out with some of them, you can always add a light socket and lamp shade and put 'em back for sale on eBay...
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

WalterMitty
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

Phineas wrote:Been there, done that! :wink:

Makes for interesting reading though.

Welcome to the board!

Phineas
Thanks Phiness.

I just got my another flute!
Gemeinhardt M3 NEW FLUTE $195

I played only 10 minutes or so, and I'll comment on this, later.
But so far, I think the head joint of this instrument is different.
I can make similar type of sound without changing my playing style for all other flutes, but this one requires a lot more effort.
Maybe this one is easier to play for kids or a person with thinner lips an/or mouth tissue.
I either need to press the flute harder to the jaw or change the angle and position of mouth a lot to make similar sound.
But I'm glad I could get this new flute at such price.
I think it usually costs more than $300, minimum.
I mean, it's the price of Chinese flute (or even cheaper) !

WalterMitty
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

pied_piper wrote:Well, if things don't work out with some of them, you can always add a light socket and lamp shade and put 'em back for sale on eBay...
I think I can make even finer adjustment and some minor repair so that almost all of them can be playable by even novice folks.
I'm thinking about buying flute servicing tools and kit, as I'd use them to maintain my handmade flute, anyway.
And by doing so, I can practice how to change pads and things like that, with the instruments I can throw away if I fail.
I
And after testing and toying them for months, I'll probably sell them cheap to local people.
For example, the new Chinese flute I bought for $31 + shipping can be sold for $100, locally, I guess. Also, the New Gemeinhardt for $300. And these good flutes would cover the price of instruments I can't sell.

So, I'm hoping to spend very little to experience different flutes for a few of months (or more).

Now, I have total of nine flutes to play and compare.
It's very interesting, and I also LEARN a lot as a bonus. :)
Last edited by WalterMitty on Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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flutepower
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Post by flutepower »

Hey WalterMitty,
Wow, nine flutes are a lot of flutes to own!!!
It would be so much fun if I could own so many, I only own one
flute :cry:
What a fun hobby - do all the different brand of flutes make
much of a sound difference when played?
~Melissa :P

WalterMitty
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

flutepower wrote:Hey WalterMitty,
Wow, nine flutes are a lot of flutes to own!!!
It would be so much fun if I could own so many, I only own one
flute :cry:
What a fun hobby - do all the different brand of flutes make
much of a sound difference when played?
~Melissa :P
I didn't think it was so cheap and easy, till I started. :)
I mean, $31+shipping for a brand new flute (even student model Chinese flute) is cheap.

After testing for a few days, my impression on instruments changed.
All of them are now much easier to play than right after I received them.

And I can make pretty much similar sounds (with minor differences) with almost all instruments, now.

It's as if flutes got used to the climate & humidity and also I got used to play different flutes, in a few days.
Their response is now whole a lot different, especially the instruments that were a bit harder to play.

So, I think we should not decide which flute to buy without trying them at least a few days or more.
It's probably true for new flutes because it seems they need "break in" before they start to sing (although some new flutes might be ready to be played right out of the plastic bag.).


If you have $30 to $200 to spend (per flute), it can be an interesting hobby.
I'm waiting two more flutes, and planning to buy one or two more.

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Phineas
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Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas »

WalterMitty wrote:
flutepower wrote:Hey WalterMitty,
Wow, nine flutes are a lot of flutes to own!!!
It would be so much fun if I could own so many, I only own one
flute :cry:
What a fun hobby - do all the different brand of flutes make
much of a sound difference when played?
~Melissa :P
I didn't think it was so cheap and easy, till I started. :)
I mean, $31+shipping for a brand new flute (even student model Chinese flute) is cheap.

After testing for a few days, my impression on instruments changed.
All of them are now much easier to play than right after I received them.

And I can make pretty much similar sounds (with minor differences) with almost all instruments, now.

It's as if flutes got used to the climate & humidity and also I got used to play different flutes, in a few days.
Their response is now whole a lot different, especially the instruments that were a bit harder to play.

So, I think we should not decide which flute to buy without trying them at least a few days or more.
It's probably true for new flutes because it seems they need "break in" before they start to sing (although some new flutes might be ready to be played right out of the plastic bag.).


If you have $30 to $200 to spend (per flute), it can be an interesting hobby.
I'm waiting two more flutes, and planning to buy one or two more.
My experience was similar. However, there is a big difference between playability, and durability. Once everything is adjusted, most of these cheap flutes will play ok.

Another issue is the ability to do your own adjustments. Most people that get sucked into buying these cheap instruments have no idea how to adjust the instrument, let alone do repairs. This make a big difference!

WalterMitty
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

Phineas wrote: My experience was similar. However, there is a big difference between playability, and durability. Once everything is adjusted, most of these cheap flutes will play ok.

Another issue is the ability to do your own adjustments. Most people that get sucked into buying these cheap instruments have no idea how to adjust the instrument, let alone do repairs. This make a big difference!
I totally agree. :)

I have been taking care of my flutes all by myself, other than one repads & repair job done on my handmade model Yamaha flute by a shop (and they did terrific job because all pads are still in good shape after 20 some years!).

So, I know how to adjust things and also I'm a D.I.Y. type of guy that I have experiences in wide range of mechanical & technical skill/knowledge.
And it does make huge differences.
Adjusting and trouble shooting are hobby for me. :)
I'm even thinking about buying more professional flute repair tools or tool kit like thins one: http://www.jlsmithco.com/Home/REPAIR-KI ... TE-FIX-KIT


But for someone who just wants to have and instrument that plays well out of the box and ever after, I'd recommend buying AT LEAST intermediate flute and either brand new one or a used flute that is serviced and guarantied by skilled shop.
So, many of ebay flutes are not for this kind of person.

After adjusting and playing different flutes, I now appreciate a lot more my two handmade flutes because they are so durable, precise, playable, and have nice sound.
I paid 2k+ and 3k+ for them a few decades ago, and it was expensive.
(And it would cost at least triple, if not more, to by similar new flutes, today ...)
I do think they proved that they are really worth the money I paid.

And there is another thing I'd like to mention.
I think it was whole a lot easier for me to learn how to make nicer sound (especially when I started) with these nice instrument.
Now, I know (more or less) how to make better sounds, it's really good for me to test and learn with all these ebay flutes of different quality.
But I think I would have had much harder time to learn if I had to use some of them.

So, I think it's better to buy the best flute you can afford, even at the beginning. I found that intermediate model to be easier to play than student models.
However, I wouldn't say that to kids. I know how they treat their instrument (at least some of them). And they can live with student model flute or used intermediate until they learn to take care of their flutes.
I mean, it's not gonna be a disaster whey they accidentally sit on $40 (or even $200 used intermediate) ebay flute. :D

So far, I think the current best bet for a beginner would be used (or new old) intermediate of $200 to $400 range of known brand, SOLD BY someone who plays/maintains/repairs FLUTEs.
Personally, I like open hole, in-line G. And C-foot model tends to be easier to find and cheaper to buy, unless B-foot is required/preferred for some reason.

We can find better deals, but it may take time to find one, and there is no guarantee you can win the auction, at all. And it's so easy to make all sorts of mistakes in the process of choosing, evaluating, and bidding....

You don't want to spend lots of money just to get used to auction/ebay.
(I learned these with dirt cheap items and flutes, So, no big deal.)

WalterMitty
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

I'm still waiting two more flutes, one is Artley (supposedly) solid silver flute, and another one is the most expensive (but still $265 + shipping) Trever-James Privilege II, which can be my last one in this trial IF I can resist the desire to try out wooden flutes .... (but they are a lot more expensive....).

So far, all but one flute I bought eBay is playable and even getting better because I learn how to play different flute and I also continue to clean and adjust each flute.

The only one flute I'm not even touching is so ugly, dirty, in disgusting state with missing pad and dings and dongs that honestly I'm fighting the very strong urge to simply smack it and and destroy it and throw it away (or send away) to the place I would ever put my feet. :D
I bought it knowingly that it would be bad, paid less than $20 to get to know how bad actually it can be.
And this flute managed to surprise and shock me, beyond my imagination.
I think it's a crime to call it a flute. It's a dirty brown black messy chunk of tube and something similar in color to kitchen fan that has never been cleaned.
It's a total junk and JOKE.

So, I'll decide what to do with it, later.
I'm thinking about re-selling it on eBay, "AS IS", just to share the sheer shock (and slightly twisted amusement, if possible) with others, clearly stating that it's not a flute and a normal person should not even consider looking at the item image because it can offend your mind and make you insane, and that the person who buys it should resist the desire to make it disappear from this world A.S.A.P. and re-sell it on eBay, in turn, after having enough fun with local friends.
It's a truly LEGENDARY item that I don't think we would see often.

If I don't sell it, I would use it to test different very toxic metal polishing products and methods including in house silver plating/restoration.
But I don't enough courage to take it out from the bag and put it in the solution that would hopefully disinfect and remove the layers of coating/tarnish of unknown nature.




Now, other than this one, all other flutes are relatively doing well.

The first flute I bought, "Heimer" el cheapo Chines flute is getting shinier and making better sound. I decided to simply put all mighty Teflon plumbing tape around the old dry cork to make it stay in the right position, instead of putting a new cork, for now.
I first thought it's hard to make full sound with this flute, but it's now making well resonating sound without resistance. I'm not sure if it's me who learned to make better sound with it or the instrument that got used to my playing style and the vibration of full sound.


Yesterday, I saw the Youtube video of Nina Perlove who was explaining about sound production, and it was interesting to hear someone saying what I recently learned, such as placing the flute lower and turning it away, and blowing toward the head or the end of the flute to make better sound.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0XfoandDjk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7P-2D0FeA0

I already knew that flutes vibrate and we can feel it on our finger when they are making certain type of sound, I was never really consistent in making this kind of resonating tones, before.
But now, it feels bad when I'm not making resonating sound, and I can make it far easier on any flute. I do feel the strong vibration even on covered flute and cheaper (or badly maintained) flute may make metal noise due to slack parts, pad, or spring.
Also, it's a good way to test any leak because it's hard (if not impossible) to make resonating sound with leaky flutes.

Anyway, all cheap flutes are still doing very well and not showing any sign of mechanical deterioration. I'm curious to see if any parts would start falling apart in a few months. And to simulate real-life school band environment these flutes are mainly destined, I'm doing all sort of things we are not supposed to do, like polishing with different chemicals including silver re-replating liquid.
So, I'm busy playing my babies and taking care of them (at the same time giving hard time to some extent).

When I would be satisfied with this, I'm planning to do the joints swapping party. :) I mean I would test different head joints (and even foot joints, why not?). With 12 flutes, there are so many possible combination that it may keep me busy through this summer.

WalterMitty
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

I just bought yet another flute (CE-Brand Alpha series. Another $132 + shipping.).... I have a weakness when it comes to an open hole flute, especially new one, and this one has B-foot, too.
I think it's a Chinese flute , again, similar to my FAKE Yamaha 271.
But I'm not worried so much because I don't think they are that bad, any more. Also, I guess many of so-called "American made" flutes are now made in China (or Japan, in some cases, which isn't bad at all) and assembled in US.


Now, I have two B-feet for my swapping project, and 5 open hole main tube.
And this one should't require so much time for adjusting and break-in because the shop (although not specialized in flute) is supposed to do this.
I have a bit mixed feeling about how sax players/repair-person handle flutes, but I'll be able to see how they actually do.

WalterMitty
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Canada

Post by WalterMitty »

I finally received Trevor James privilege II and CE-winds flutes.
Both are open hole offset-G, B-hoot with gizmo. silver plated.
Trevor James has solid silver lip plate, too.
Both had the plugs for the holes (I took them out, though).
Both came with french case.

Unfortunately, CE-Winds arrived with a part of case broken, and the main tube of the flute was moving in the case...
However, the flute wasn't damaged.
Other than the broken case, the screw of the roller for the B pad (on B-foot) is loose. I don't know if it loosened during transportation or it was like that when the flute was shipped.

Trevor James was shipped with better wrapping strategy.
They used thin transparent wrapping film to tightly hold the tubes of flute in the case. (They wrapped around the bottom part of the case to do this). Very clever and well appreciated, after seeing what can happen (with CE-winds).

I payed $132+shipping for CE-winds, and $265+shipping for Trevor James. And Trevor James is nicer in several ways,
It sounds better, it's lighter and keys feel lighter/finer.
The plugs were nicer in Trevor James, too, although I don't really care.

Even thought it costs twice more (ebay price, for both. We would pay a lot more at local store), I like Trevor James. The sound seems to be on the brighter side and it can be less thick compared to all other flutes I have. It's a bit new for me, and I like it.

For $132, CE-winds isn't bad at all, either.
It has curious surface shape of lip plate, and it has that typical heavy stone like feeling of Chinese flute. (All Chinese flutes other than Berkeley have the bulky heavy feeling).

So far, if someone asks me which one I would recommend, I would say Trevor James if the person can afford or the Berkeley. In both cases, it's under the condition that the person can bid and win the flute at similar price, which isn't guaranteed, at all.

I'm very very glad to have won the Trevor James.
The flute is practically new. It required no adjustment what so ever.
Although I don't hate adjusting and repairing flutes, it's also nice to have an instrument that works very well right out of the box after long shipping and the change of climate (sent from Hot Texas to cold/dry place).

Now I have total of 14 playable flutes.
A few of them still require more adjustment or repair to be perfectly playable.

Among 14, One is a wooden flute, 3 are solid silver, and the rest in silver plated (one might be nickel plated, but I'm not sure).
Two have B-foot, 8 open hole and 6 closed hole.
5 inline-G and 9 offset-G.
I don't think I have any flute with split E.

Other than these, I have one junk rotten stinking horrible peace of metal tubing :D, and one bamboo flute and one Fife. And I will have one James Hall crystal flute, too. :)



So far, ebay proved to be very interesting place to get flute, and also it can be dangerous for your finance/pocket.
(I first thought spending about $500, and ended up spending more than 3.5K, although more than half of that was for the 100 years old wooden flute.)

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flutepower
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Post by flutepower »

14 flutes!!!! I would LOVE that many flutes.
What an amazing collection. Where do you
store all these flutes - do you play each one
every day?
~Melissa

Leverage00001
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Re: Ebay flute trial

Post by Leverage00001 »

Hi there, well if anyone is looking for a Armstrong flute Model 102 im selling one on ebay for 139.99. Message me back if you would like the link : )

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