Sunday, 20 January 2013

My Horns No. 4 - Olds Studio T-10

For those that don't know, Olds was one of the major brass instrument manufacturers in the USA. I say was, for they folded in 1979. Over their history they produced many legendary horns, being noted mostly for their Super Recording and Recording trumpets and cornets (they also made fantastic Trombones, but I won't go into that here). A good resource for finding out more about Olds is Olds Central.

There is a general opinion out there in the "trumpet world" that the early Los Angeles made Olds are better quality than the later horns made in Fullerton, with quality deteriorating markedly in the 1970s. I'm not sure if this received wisdom is really all that accurate - I've had contact with several Fullerton horns, even some made in the '70s, and they've all been good horns for what they were.

Which brings me to my Olds Studio*. The Olds Studio went through some significant changes throughout it's construction life at Olds. As originally conceived in the late '40s, this was an instrument of yellow brass with a spun Nickel Silver bell flare, with the advertising material emphasizing a brilliant tone. Around 1966 the conception of the trumpet changed - long cornet-style valves were added, and rather than having a Nickel Silver bell flare, the whole trumpet was plated in Nickel. The marketing material emphasized the sonorous tone, increased resistance, and the ability to blend with cornets in a concert band setting.

The Olds trumpet lineup in the mid-late '60s went something like this (from cheapest/student to expensive/professional) - Ambassador, Special, Studio, Super, Recording, Opera, Mendez, Custom - so it can be seen that the Studio was bridging the gap between the more student horns (Ambassador/Special), and the pro horns (Super upwards).

My Studio was built somewhere around 1967, so is now over 45 years old. One thing that can be said for Olds trumpets is that they were built to last - the valves never seem to wear out, and they have a general feeling of solidity about them.

First impressions of this horn are - big and heavy. With its cornet-style valves, there is plenty of room in the wrap of this horn - I'm able to fit the first three fingers of my left hand around the casings, which I struggle to do with many other horns (I'm 6'2" - 188cms, with hands to match....). The Nickel plate I'm sure adds considerably to the weight of this horn - way heavier than my Yamaha YTR 634 or 732 which are lightweight horns.

 As with most nearly every Olds horn of the time, bore is .460", with a 4.8" bell (for those that think it's only bore and bell size that make the difference between horns, compare this horn or a Recording with a Super - all the same bore and bell size, but very different horns to play).

This is a pretty straightforward horn to play - it has a very clear bright tone that stays pretty even through all registers - it's not a horn that can do smokey or breathy ballads well, as even as soft volumes the tone is still clear and bell-like. I'd say this horn is more suited to orchestral or concert band music owing to these characteristics.

My Studio has a very even blow - the resistance does build as you ascend the range, but it never feels stuffy or constricted, and I find my higher range easier to access using this horn than some others.

The first valve slide trigger is big and meaty looking, so no worries about it bending, but it can be awkward to use, as it's not in a natural position for the thumb.

The valves are slick, with a longish throw, and are hexagonal (a la Schilke), and it has standard water keys.

This is not the favourite horn in my "quiver", but having written that, when I was recently asked to play trumpet in a performance of Carmina Burana, this is the horn I turned to, and it did that job very well.

I'd recommend anyone who mostly plays classical or concert band music to check these horns out - they seem practically indestructible - the only issue seems to be the nickel plate can start pitting (which doesn't affect the playing characteristics), and they are pretty cheap when you can find them.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

* No longer mine, has moved on to greener pastures, where it has more use than I was giving it.

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