Bernolin resin alto/soprano recorders vs. Aafab/Coolsma polyester recorders…?

Home Forum Recorder Makes, Models and Maintenance Bernolin resin alto/soprano recorders vs. Aafab/Coolsma polyester recorders…?

This topic contains 17 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Richard Hureau February 22, 2019 at 12:06 am.

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  • #690

    Timothy Kogstrom
    Participant

    To Whomever might have experience/knowledge:

    I am considering acquiring an alto, and possibly soprano, non-wood recorders due to their relative durability and longevity. I already own the “top of the line” synthetic alto and soprano recorders manufactured by Aulos and Yamaha, (including their new Ecodear composition line)…HOWEVER, if at all possible, I would like to improve on those models, and am aware of the manufacture/existence of both the Bernolin resin alto and soprano recorders as well as the Aafab/Coolsma polyester recorders.
    (F.W.I.I.W., I also own and play several high quality Palisander and Grenadilla sopranos and altos).

    Both the Bernolin and the Aafab/Coolsma “synthetic” lines are significantly more expensive than their purely roto-molded “cousins”, and I have read in several reviews that the Bernolin resin, (polyester?…), models are well regarded sonically speaking, as well as otherwise. My understanding is that these are lathe-turned instruments, with/or without(?) an appreciable amount of additional handwork to maximize the potential of these instruments.

    I note that the Aafab/Coolsma polyester instruments are significantly more expensive still…and understand that they are also completely turned/hand-worked(?) to optimize their sonic qualities. Due the fact that they are more than double the price of the Bernolin (resin) instruments, I wonder if they sound that much better than the Bernolin instruments, or at least sound appreciably different???

    I also understand that the Bernolin instruments utilize a cedar block for condensation absorption/sonic qualities reasons, and wonder if the Asfab/Coolsma instruments do as well, or, if NOT, what material they use, and do these instruments develop clogging issues?

    Please compare/contrast these two instrument manufacturers’ synthetic lines if at all possible, I am very interested in learning about their similarities, differences, and ultimately, whether the Aafab/Coolsma polyester instruments’ sonic qualities relative the Bernolin resin instruments’ sonic qualities are such that they justify the increase in cost…?…

    Thank you in advance for for your observations and analysis, and I avidly look forward to hearing from you!

    Sincerely,
    Tim K.

    #703

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Hello. I just found this forum and it looks pretty interesting.

    I have a Bernolin white resin alto (442), and like it VERY much. It sounds MUCH better than any regular plastic recorder I have ever played (and I have them all – Yamaha 300s, Ecodear; Aulos Haka, 509, 509B; Zen-on Bressan; G-1A; etc, etc).

    As I understand it, since it is a Stanesby Jr design, it favors the low to middle ranges. As such, the higher notes (high C#, D, E, etc) can be slower to speak than on some other recorders. I don’t want to place too much emphasis on this, because it is very good on such notes, but some people criticize it for this. Again, the Stanesby Jr design is deliberately made this way (from what I have read).

    Regardless, the sound of the recorder is much fuller and richer than anything I have ever played (including Moeck Rottenburgs in maple and palisander, a Dolmetsch rosewood model, etc; plus all those plastic models). It kind of surprises me every time I play it, especially if I have been playing regular plastics recently.

    So, as far as I can see, it is about the best bang-for-buck in recorders. You can tell by examining it that all the holes have been adjusted via shaving within each hole; this, of course, is the way high-quality recorders are made, and the amazing sound shows the result.

    Finally, I have small hands for a guy, and was VERY pleased that the Bernolin’s holes have about the easiest placement of any recorder I own. For exmaple, the reach for the left ring finger is nicely narrow (relatively), and the right-hand holes are excellent too (I actually have to bring my fingers together some after playing a regular plastic recorder). This is somewhat surprising because the recorder itself is somewhat LARGER than others, being about 2 ounces heavier, with a fatter center barrel and quite a large foot section.

    As far as the Aafab/Coolsma polyester models, I had never heard of them till I read this post. They look very interesting, but they don’t tell you much on their website, so buying one would be a pig in a poke, IMHO, especially considering how very pricey they are. Buy one and let us know! πŸ˜‰ Me, I wouldn’t even consider it without reading some things about it.

    Sarah Jeffery has a YouTube review of the Bernolin black resin alto here:

    She doesn’t say too much about how well she likes it, but I have noticed that in more recent videos she often uses it (and waves it around in her normal manner), so I think she is liking it pretty well.

    Hope this helps. If you have any questions about it, feel free… πŸ™‚

    #704

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    I’ve been looking into this Aafab/Coolsma “polyester” recorder some more. It’s hard to find any info on it, but from what I can see, they consider this synthetic material as just another type of “wood.” I mean that they just list it amongst all the other types of wood (maple, pearwood, rosewood, etc) that you can buy their models in. So that certainly implies that it has a typical block made from another type of wood (usually cedar), and thus would be much like a Bernolin.

    But yikes!, the prices are thru the roof with this pricing structure. Bernolin, in marked contrast, tells you all about his resin models and even tells you why they are 1/3 the price of his (presumably similar) wooden models.

    One interesting thing – Coolsma even lists a TENOR model in polyester! Of course, it’s even more ridiculously expensive, but that’s the first I have seen like this. Too bad Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos won’t step up and review one of these for us! πŸ˜‰

    #706

    Timothy Kogstrom
    Participant

    Dear Richard:

    Thank You for your response! I very much appreciate a second opinion/perspective…and though I have not had the opportunity to play the resin instruments of either manufacturer, I must concur with your general assessments based on your playing experience with the Bernolin instrument(s), as well as your research regarding the Coolsma offerings….prior to posting my inquiry on the “Recorder Forum”, I too researched as I could regarding both manufacturers’ instruments, and like you, found VERY little information regarding the Coolsma instruments, (and NO reviews…), price very possibly being a significant reason…

    Though I would much rather purchase both the Alto as well as the Soprano Bernolin resin recorders, (nothing like a complimentary/matched set), THAT almost doubles the cost…so that I am leaning toward the Alto…(I grew up playing the French Horn, and prefer the more “mellow” timbre/sonic qualities of lower instruments, and despite initially learning to play a Tenor, “C” instrument” about 40 years ago, my venerable keyed Moeck Tenor), I recognize that the Alto not only offers a greater(?) wealth of playable, period literature, but would continue to be playable as my fingers/hands become somewhat less flexible with time…

    I DO have a mild concern regarding the reach of my right little finger, in that about 40 years ago I fractured it, such that I can only extend it about “half-way”…(imagine a prim Victorian era woman drinking a cup of hot tea…lol…)… For this reason, I play a keyed Tenor, (the Moeck), as well as a Mollenhauer keyed alto. I do possess and am able to play the Mollenhauer Prima, as well as the Aulos and Yamaha keyless plastic altos, though the right little finger stretch can be a tiny bit challenging…I wonder how the Bernolin resin alto feels relative to those instruments, (and I will assume it will be similar, but I HOPE that perhaps the little finger stretch is a bit shorter…)…

    By the way, I very recently acquired a soprano/alto pair of the Yamaha Ecodear recorders from the Antique Sound Workshop, and must say that for an ensemble instrument and/or for inexperienced players/children who “need” a reasonably priced and relatively mellow/nice sounding instrument, these are the best compromise I have encountered! (I like the Prima sopranos/altos as well, however, they ARE somewhat more expensive)… I am curious about your perspective on these Ecodear instruments…

    From what you have stated, I can only imagine that the Bernolin resin instruments would be wonderful to play AND hear…the recorded sound bites are great, however, of course the do not fully capture the entirety of their sonic qualities. I noted that Bernolin no longer uses the “ivory” color resin for his instruments, and that the “ebony” is very slightly brighter…though the website suggests that the sonic differences are very slight…and not sure if you had detected a difference between your “ivory” resin model and the website recordings…

    In any event, again, thank you for your informative and very helpful response, and should you be inclined, I would like to hear back from you regarding the above.

    Peace/Namaste,
    Tim K

    #707

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Hi Tim. One thing I want to mention right up front – you say, “I noted that Bernolin no longer uses the ‘ivory’ color resin for his instruments…” You are mistaken. Both colors are still available – look in the Store area. It does appear that the soprano is only available in black, so maybe that is what mislead you. The alto is still in both colors, and the ivory is less expensive (the black used to be 50 Euros more expensive, but he recently raised the price of the black, so the new prices are 400 vs 475).

    My friend has a black one. There is essentially no difference in the sound, as far as I can tell.

    The only advantage to the black that I can see is that the black is more “professional” looking (as mentioned on the website), because it is essentially indistinguishable from an ebony wooden recorder from even a few feet away. I have even seen YouTube comments asking people if the black instrument they are playing in the video is a Bernolin, and been answered that no, it is an actual ebony one (how’s that for a switcheroo!). As far as the white one, yes, it is VERY pretty and probably looks like an ivory one, but how often do you see a real ivory recorder? So people aren’t likely to be fooled into thinking you borrowed it from the museum for the afternoon.

    If you can play a regular plastic alto recorder, reach-wise, you can play the Bernolin. As I mentioned above, “the Bernolin’s holes have about the easiest placement of any recorder I own… the right-hand holes are excellent too (I actually have to bring my fingers together some after playing a regular plastic recorder).” The larger and FATTER foot section of the Bernolin seems to work to bring the right-hand holes into easier reach than on standard plastic instruments. The hole spacing from the right-hand ring finger to the pinky is about the same, but the entire position is more comfortable.

    So, I obviously recommend the Bernolins. As far as alto vs soprano, you are correct that there is much more repertoire for the alto. Myself, I cannot stand the shrill sound of a soprano, even in the hands of a professional. My poor ears!!

    As far as the Ecodear alto recorder, it is the most unique sounding recorder I have ever played. It is much more mellow – muted – in tone than a regular Yamaha 300-series. Yamaha is saying that the the 302 and 402 recorders are the exact same design and that it is the “ecodear” material that makes the 402 sound and play differently than the 302. Just looking at the 2 models, yes, they appear identical except for the color.

    I was kind of suspicious about this, because it doesn’t seem that altering the type of plastic should make such an apparent difference. Well, when I compared the windway of the 402 vs the 302, the 402’s is MUCH narrower (thinner, top to bottom). Mystery solved. It makes a big difference in the sound and feel. The good news is that the 402 doesn’t seem to clog any more quickly.

    Having said all that, I think the Ecodear is nice to have because it is so unique in sound. But for a general-purpose alto recorder, I think a regular 300-series is better (or an Aulos model), especially for a beginner.

    As far as the Coolsma polyester, I do see it for sale (I think) on the Courtly music website, described as the “Coolsma CAPL Coolsma Solo (Ivorine) Alto; Ivorine (ivory-like material), curved windway, Baroque turni.. $1,788.80”

    https://courtlymusicunlimited.com/inst-coolsma.php

    If it weren’t for the ludicrous price, I might give them a call. But, um, no… πŸ™‚ One wonders how/if Coolsma ever expects to sell one of these.

    #708

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Oops, one other thing – if you are going to buy an alto and are worried about the hole spacing, be sure to get a 442 (not a 415). The 415 is LARGER. There are other reasons too, of course, but you’d want the smaller one anyway. I have the 442.

    #709

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Yes, it’s me again. Here is a picture I took of the Bernolin vs the Ecodear altos (a fight to the finish!). It gives you an idea of the sizes and hole positions, I think.
    Bernolin alto and Yamaha Ecodear

    #712

    Timothy Kogstrom
    Participant

    Dear Richard:

    Thank you for that photo, “a “photo” is worth a thousand words”… πŸ™‚ …(not to denigrate the value of language…), and from my perspective the hole size and positions are quite similar, though I can see that the Bernolin IS just a bit larger in all outer dimensions…(and yes, the foot joint certainly beefier).
    From a very inconsequential, aesthetic perspective, I would like to the Bernolin to be manufactured with the “ebony” resin for the majority of the body of the instrument, with the “ivory” resin used for the beak, as well as “joint reinforcer” rings/bands as well as the foot joint cap, a la the Ecodear, however, I realize that THAT might drive the cost up prohibitively…

    Yes, for all those reasons, I would stick with the “A” 442/Modern pitch recorder, as it IS a touch smaller, as well as will play nicely with other modern-pitch instruments, and down here in southeast Florida, I know of no-one who plays at “A” 415, or 466 for that matter!…lol…

    I once again revisited Sarah Jeffery’s video on the Bernolin, which continues to whet my appetite. I trust that you DID find the Bernolin to be substantially superior to the Ecodear in its sonic/play-ability qualities…??…and the “fight to the finish” was simply a humorous reference to the “vs.”/contest wording… πŸ™‚ …

    Peace/Namaste,
    Tim K.

    #713

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Yes, the Bernolin is quite a bit better sounding than any plastic recorder that I have tried, including the Ecodear. It’s not really a fair fight! πŸ˜‰

    Concerning the size and hole positions, if you download that picture, you can see a little better (this website has downsized it some on the screen). The Bernolin is larger and fatter throughout (except the head, which is actually somewhat smaller). If you look closely at the right hand holes, you’ll see how they are closer together on the Bernolin, especially the first 3. And you see that the fatter foot joint RAISES the position of the pinky holes (they’re not so flat in line with the other holes), so it really is easier to reach.

    #714

    Timothy Kogstrom
    Participant

    Dear Richard:

    Ummm…oops…I just noted/read your note prior to the “442” and photo ones…

    I DO appreciate you experience and insight into the qualities of these instruments…it certainly helps me to make better informed decisions, so please do not hesitate to offer such…

    Peace/Namaste,
    Tim K.

    #715

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    No problem, Tim. Glad you spotted it. Too many afterthoughts on my part!

    I agree with you about how it would be nice if Bernolin made a multi-colored resin alto, but it would be considerably more expensive, I think. Also, it would weaken it, I think. He would essentially be cutting it to add “rings” to it, it seems. I have read that adding rings to wooden recorders (like ivory rings at the joints) actually weakens it at that point. He DOES have a traverso that is multi-colored, by the way. I think the instrument happens to divide that way as the way it is made. Oh well, can’t have everything…

    #724

    Matteo Berra
    Participant

    Good evening to you all,
    hope you don’t mind if I join to this topic to ask a question about the Bernolin’s resin recorder…no doubt the Bernolin’ is a wonderful instrument but, before buying, I would like your opinion whether it is worth the price; so, I would ask if someone could give a vote on a 1 to 10 scale to the following alto instruments:
    – Yamaha Ecodear
    – Aulos 709b
    – Bernolin (white resin)

    Thank you so much

    #725

    Timothy Kogstrom
    Participant

    Dear Matteo:

    Welcome to the thread!…

    As I was the one who started this particular thread, I did so because I TOO am debating whether or not I can justify spending over $400.00 U.S. on a resin instrument, (though I am very much convinced that it IS a good choice…)…therefor, I have not yet had the opportunity to play the Bernolin Alto…

    That said, I own and play, both in the soprano and alto ranges, the 700 series Aulos instruments as well as the Yamaha 400 series/Ecodear instruments, (as well as the 300 series Yamaha resin instruments).

    In my humble opinion, for what it is worth, I would rate both the Aulos AND the Yamaha ABS/resin instruments relatively highly for what they are…(roto-molded instruments)…I have purchased these instruments, (along with even more, (fine wooden instruments)), from the “Antique Sound Workshop”, (A.S.W.), where A.S.W. indicates that it corrects for intonation issues. With these resin instruments that I have purchased and played, I find that they all possess good intonation and response, and with a little care and fineness all are capable of playing very well. Perhaps I would rate them an overall rating of 7(?)…

    THAT said, they ALL possess some different characteristics…From MY experience, the Aulos 700 Series are fairly free blowing, with a relatively complex, “buzzy” timbre when played with higher breath pressure. The Yahama 300 Series is also fairly free blowing, with a somewhat blander, perhaps slightly warmer timbre…and the Yamaha 400 Series/Ecodear instruments seem to exhibit somewhat more air resistance, are quieter, and produce an audibly “rounder”, more “mellow” if not blander timbre, the alto in particular!…). I HAVE also found that they DO tend to clog a bit more quickly than their other resin “cousins”.

    As a “solo” instrument, or playing in a mixed consort, I would be more inclined to select the Aulos 700 Series instruments…as they are a touch more “distinctive” and/or brighter in timbre, with the Yamaha 300 Series coming in a close second for that application. In more general use application, I might select the Yamaha 300 Series, as it blends slightly(?) better in ensemble, but still yields good dynamic range. For purely recorder ensemble application, (where blending is principle prioritization, I would select the Yamaha 400 Series/Ecodear instruments, which appear to blend well together due to their inherent mellow timbre as well as their somewhat more limited dynamic range capabilities. In addition, for inexperienced players/children in mass(?) learning to play sopranos, for a relatively inexpensive, VERY durable plastic instrument, the Ecodear’s are so very welcome!… πŸ™‚ …

    I realize that I did not address your PRIMARY question/comparison with regard to the Bernolin instrument(s), however, I hope that my experience/comparison with the Yamaha and Aulos instruments might provide a modicum of value to you?

    Peace/Namaste,
    Tim K.

    #726

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Considering that scale, I think we would need to specify that we are comparing 3 high-quality recorders, so really cheap plastic or (especially) wooden recorders would not even be on this scale. So it is a given that the 3 are good instruments, so even a lower rating doesn’t mean they are poor or even mediocre. Given this, I would rate them:

    – Yamaha Ecodear = 5
    – Aulos 709b = 6
    – Bernolin (white resin) = 9

    This is ignoring the fact that I dislike the right-hand hole positions on the 709b so much that I gave up using it (and switched to the equally good Aulos 509B). Sarah Jeffery even mentions this in her review of the 709b (“Haka”). If the fingering doesn’t bother you, it’s very fine. If we wanted to add the Zen-on G-1A to the mix, I’d give it a 3 or 4.

    As far as the Bernolin, I think I’ve reviewed it pretty extensively above. I do want to point out that I consider this rating to be somewhat comparing apples to oranges. I consider the resin Bernolin to be the equivalent of one of Bernolin’s boxwood models, with the same careful adjustments done to both models (shaving within the holes, etc). Although I haven’t played a Bernolin boxwood, the material that a recorder is made of is the least important aspect of how well it plays, whereas the way it is made and adjusted is the most important (IMHO). Therefore, I assume they are very similar. So for the price, the resin model is a steal! (I really think this).

    #727

    Matteo Berra
    Participant

    Thank you very much for yours answers. I have found it very useful.
    I’m currently playing (studying is more appropriate to my poor level) some baroque anthology on a Yamaha 314b.
    Unfortunately, I’m obsessed with searching for a high quality tone, that for my taste should be round and mellow, never shrill as it is when I start playing my plastic alto from dry; I know you probably going to laugh but to my ears it seems as a little bit clogging really improves the timbre, diminishing or even abolishing any shrillness.
    I’ve got to mention that I purchased my instrument on Amazon instead of having it revised by the expert hands of professionals as for Tim’s instruments.
    According to Richard’s description, it seems as the Bernolin shall be value double as compared to my Yamaha 300 and that could give me that satisfaction, as concerns tone quality as I’m looking for.
    Since it seems to be durable it could be my ultimate instrument as well.

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