Over the past couple of months I've had a number of students ask for my thoughts on the JP 3320 Rath trombone. I completed a detailed review a few months ago and hope it will help with some of your questions:
"Over recent years John Packer Musical Instruments have become synonymous with the manufacture of quality, free blowing, cost effective brass instruments, mainly aimed at the beginner/young student market. Our academies here in Abu Dhabi have previously purchased trumpets, french horns, euphoniums, trombones and alto trombones all from the Packer range and have been extremely satisfied with the quality and durability of the full range of instruments.
Over the last three weeks I have been fortunate (due to the assistance of the extremely efficient and knowledgeable staff at John Packer) to get my hands on a new JP332O RATH and give it a good test drive.
I have categorized my thoughts into three sections; technical specs, build quality and the all important playability tests."
"The JP332O RATH is a .547 large bore trombone. It has an 8 1/2 inch bell, closed wrap plug design with a nifty adjustable thumb pull to change the 'throw distance' of the valve. It comes with a Michael Rath designed and manufactured lead pipe which, as I'll mention later, has some considerable effect on the overall response of the instrument. The slide is made of a high grade 80:20 brass which, put simply, works very well indeed. The open wrap F design, valve and adjustable thumb lever ensure a quick and free blowing valve section. The hand grip is reminiscent of the 8H and maybe the newer Yamaha models but in itself provides a comfortable contact point for a well balanced instrument.
These specs obviously mean that JP Instruments have upped their game and are moving into the advanced level student/pro player marketplace.
One of the areas where certain manufacturers try to keep costs low is in the manufacture of the case. Sometimes cases just feel like afterthoughts, thrown together poorly and to a poor standard. Not so with the JP332O RATH. The supplied JPro case is not a hard shell case but provides ample protection for the instrument. If I am perfectly honest the durability of cases provided with earlier student model Packer instruments wasn't the best and, whilst I fully realize the JP332O RATH is aimed at a different marketplace, it is good to see that lessons have been learned and a fine, sturdy, practical case is now provided. It provides room for your usual mouthpiece, cream, metronome, bottle opener and all the gear players carry around, as well as a useful A4 size music folder on the outside. It also comes with sturdy straps for ease of transportation.
One small but effective addition to the case is both the slide and bell section come with 'felt like' drawstring bags. These not only protect the instrument but ensure that any moisture is soaked away from the brass once put back in the case. In addition to this another drawstring bag is included, full of slide cream, tuning slide grease, mist applier and care tips. All this is a huge improvement on previous efforts and reflects the obvious attention to detail that has been put into this instrument."
This is where I have to sing some serious praises. Whilst this instrument is manufactured in China, the quality of finish is exceptional. Yes, we have all had reservations about anything imported from China over the years but it now seems, in this particular case, that any doubts are well and truly unfounded. The soldering, finish and lacquering are all an extremely high standard. After scouring the model forwarded to me I can honestly say that I cannot find fault with any aspect of the manufacturing process. As to the durability of lacquering and soldering? Who knows, but I do wish to reiterate my initial impressions and say this really is first class trombone manufacturing.
Way back when I used to assist on the Yamaha Exhibition stand I used to get incredibly frustrated at players who picked an instrument off the stand, played a few notes, screwed their noses up and left. For me you cannot give an accurate account of an instruments response and tonal qualities without spending some time with it. Over the last three weeks I have played this instrument every day, and for most of each day in my practice, teaching sessions and rehearsals. It is only now that I feel I can give honest, accurate opinions.
The open instrument is extremely free-blowing, the Michael Rath leadpipe assists in ensuring the response, at both ends of an extreme dynamic range, is clear and immediate. The JP332O RATH has secure partials throughout the range with no insecure 'bogey' notes. As with every new instrument you have to get used to certain intonation changes, some more excessive than others with the JP332O RATH.
Throughout the trial period I have used a Bach 5G I have used since I was 13 (!) and I can confidently say that the JP332O RATH sings with a rich, full sound at extreme fortissimos. This is a personal preference, but I like the 'feel' of the instrument ringing/vibrating when it's played, Elkhart Conn players will know what I'm talking about here, and I do get this feeling when the JP332O RATH is played, in tune, throughout the louder dynamic range. The sound is also pure and response immediate at the quieter dynamics.
I have to be honest again here and say that I was somewhat skeptical about the JP332O RATH when it arrived. I knew nothing about the instrument, the cost, the target market and knowing it was manufactured in China I had the usual misconceptions as described above. However, having lived with it for three weeks I can say (and before you say it, I'm not getting a years supply of tuning slide grease for this review!) that I have been completely bowled over by this instrument. And I am saving the most surprising news until last. The current VAT inclusive price is 925 UK. Let me repeat that, 925 UK. We have here an instrument which compares very favorably to todays Conn's and Bach's for a mere fraction of the price. I would have no hesitation using this instrument in any solo engagement, ensemble recital or recording. The collaboration between Mick Rath and John Packer has raised professional trombone manufacture to a new level... at an extremely affordable price. What's not to like?