This last Friday and Saturday I was at the annual U.S. Army Tuba-Euphonium Conference at Fort Myer, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery--lots of interesting and/or enjoyable music featuring the instruments you would expect, all performed by artists of the highest ability. I also caught up with several friends that I see there every year. There were opportunities to do other things as well, wherein lies the point of this post. I visited the elephant room, as the area where the vendors are set up is called, and after relinquishing more than a fistful of dollars, I am now the owner of a new tuba, a B&S PT-1, bought from Custom Music Company. As they do not take trade-ins, I still have the 1970s Mirafone 186 I have been using for 35 years.
The horn was a demonstrator or floor sample or something like that. It does have a few blemishes and one small dent on the bottom bow, but that translates to a significant discount, and compared to the wrinkled appearance of the 186 (the bell was crushed during shipment to the dealer and repaired, which got me a very affordable price in the 70s, plus a few knocks and bumps since then), the damage is trivial and cosmetic.
I had been browsing the vendors with the thought of maybe buying something. I tried a new 186 with 5 valves which was nicer and responded better that mine, but it still felt ... just ... adequate, and at $7200 besides. I finally talked myself into waiting until some later time, and continued wandering around the exhibitors when I saw the PT-1, which I hadn't noticed earlier. I tried it; it spoke easily in the lower register, which I never had with my 186; it responded well to ascending scales and descending octave slurs, again better than my 186; it just started feeling right in short order. I talked with them of price, which seemed reasonable, and did not include any tax or shipping costs. "Let's do it!" and I walked away 22 pounds heavier.
Unfortunately, the vendor was wrong when he said he thought it would fit the same bag I have been using for the 186. I have discovered that the current 186 is a slightly larger horn that mine, with the bell being an inch larger in diameter. The PT-1 is another inch+ larger yet, and 2 inches taller, so I had to order the larger Pro-Tec tuba gig bag.
I expect to be very happy with my shiny new toy. Despite containing a larger volume of air, it is more nimble than my 186, and the larger size produces a more powerful low register. I only hope that my creaky aging joints will not complain prohibitively about the 2 and a half pound weight gain.