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Comparing the Buffet Crampon R13 and E11 clarinets: What are the differences?

Matt Vance, Woodwind Product Specialist, Buffet Crampon USA

Young clarinetists often begin their instrumental music study with a plastic student clarinet, such as the Buffet Crampon Prodige. As a student grows in ability and musical maturity, however, the need for a wood clarinet arises. Advancing to a wood clarinet presents many, many options for the consumer and it can be confusing as to which model is the best choice.

Buffet Crampon has long been recognized as the world leader in clarinet production. Of the many models offered by Buffet Crampon, the two most prominent choices for an upgrade are the E11 student/intermediate clarinet and the R13 professional clarinet. Of these two models, which is the best choice for the advancing young clarinetist?

The Legendary Choice of Professionals is how many professional players, teachers and students refer to the Buffet Crampon R13 clarinet. First introduced to the professional clarinet world in 1955, the R13 features the revolutionary poly-cylindrical bore, designed by acoustician Robert Carree and most closely associated with the “ring” to the sound many attribute to all modern professional clarinets. The R13 remains the most popular professional clarinet in the world, and for good reason: most orchestral players and university/conservatory professors play on the R13. Buffet Crampon claims approximately 85% of the professional clarinet global market share, largely in part to the R13’s continuing legacy in the clarinet world.

The R13’s body is made of stained African blackwood, also known as Grenadilla or M’Pingo wood, and is available with either nickel- or silver-plated keys.It is outfitted with double fish skin pads, which provide an excellent seal while providing terrific acoustics for any player. The R13 also features an adjustable thumbrest, blue steel springs for excellent feel and key action, an exclusive HB France ligature and mouthpiece cap set, and a deluxe naugahyde-covered hard wood shell case. Every R13 is play-tested and adjusted by technicians at both the Mantes la Ville, France, world headquarters of Buffet Crampon, and at Buffet Crampon USA, the North American distributor for the brand’s professional, intermediate and student clarinets, to insure each instrument is worthy of the R13 designation.

R13 professional clarinets are also available as Green Line instruments. Green Line is a material revolutionized by Buffet Crampon in 1994 as a way of conserving the African blackwood raw materials during production. By collecting the powder from the professional clarinet production line, technicians are then able to combine the powder with an epoxy resin, resulting in a material that captures the acoustic properties of the wood (as it is mostly African blackwood), while remaining incredibly resistant to cracks and climate/temperature variances. R13 Green Line clarinets are especially popular in low-humidity climates, often a problem for wood instruments that are susceptible to cracking.

Buffet Crampon’s E11 model has been the preferred “step-up” choice from a student clarinet for many years and is an affordable option when upgrading from a plastic instrument. Like the R13, its body is composed of stained African blackwood and has a bore inspired by the R13’s poly-cylindrical design. The E11’s bore is slightly larger and more free-blowing, allowing the young clarinetist to produce a quality sound with less resistance as their air support develops. The E11 also comes outfitted with a 65mm barrel, which compensates the clarinet’s intonation for the air column produced by younger players. E11 clarinets also have nickel-plated keys, which are easier to maintain and more resistant to tarnish.It comes with a mouthpiece specifically designed for young players, as well as a nickel-plated ligature and mouthpiece cap. A hard wood shell case completes the outfit.

So, what is the solution to selecting the right clarinet for you? The best way to select your next clarinet is by play-testing each model. Find a store that has both and playtest to see which is the best choice!