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Advice Needed for Purchasing Buffet R13 Clarinet

Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum and so grateful to have this resource. My son is an aspiring clarinetist and I'm wanting to help him as much as I can. He started in 5th grade and has excelled with the instrument ever since. He's now in high school and we're looking to upgrade his current Buffet. We once visited our local Music & Arts shop and he had the opportunity to play a new R13 and fell in love with it. So, I'm keeping a promise I made to him to find him one. I do not want to purchase a new one from Music & Arts because, frankly, we're not made of that kind of money. I've been to Reverb.com and saw some there, but there's just so much variety and, alas, I'm a noob when it comes to what's good and what's not. I read where one was listed as excellent but noted a crack in the bell. I don't know if that's something to be concerned about or to what extent. I've also read about fakes that are out in the market as well. I want to surprise him a solid instrument that will take him into college and beyond, so any words of wisdom you can share would be appreciated.

I apologize if this is answered elsewhere. If there's another thread I should be reading, please point me in the right direction and I'll head that way.

Thanks in advance,



Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
You are now my favorite newbie: you used the search function, you're polite, and you even used tags. Cool!

Before starting, please note that the R13 is no longer Buffet's top-of-the line and hasn't been for awhile.

First, probably the best thing you could do for us to help you is to list how much you'd like to spend.

Second, I have an SML clarinet that has a small crack in the bell. It's buzzy on occasion, but not bad. The crack is maybe 2" long and it's near the middle of the bell. Your mileage may vary.

Third, he should probably try some other horns beside the Buffet. It's the herd mentality: If you play a clarinet, it must be an R13. If you play a saxophone, it must be a 5-digit serial number Selmer Mark VI. Etc. There are a lot of good horns out there that don't have the name "Selmer" stamped on the bell.

Fourth, he should also look at mouthpieces. Great mouthpiece + decent clarinet = good sound. They're also a lot cheaper than buying a new horn.

Fifth, some folks are adamant in saying that newer clarinets seriously outperform older clarinets. Something you might want to keep in mind.

Sixth, it's possible that your son's college prof will say he "needs" to have a certain brand of clarinet and mouthpiece.

Seventh, and I almost forgot, yes, there are Chinese fakes of a bunch of popular instruments. If you have a question about one you're looking at, go ahead and post the picture here and we can help with that. I can say that you shouldn't use www.alibaba.com, as their percentage of fakes to real is very high.

All that being said, I'm now starting to agree more and more with Helen, one of our other admins, and stop recommending shopping on eBay, even though you'll get the best bang for the buck there. There are exceptions. QuinnTheEskimo (give him a call), one of our forum sponsors, wouldn't sell you junk ... unless he specifically says it's junk.

I did a little more than a quick check and the cheapest R13s I saw at any brick-and-mortar shop was in the neighborhood of $2200 for a 1960s or earlier horn. SamAsh sells them cheaper, but they need overhauls.

I did a quick check on eBait and someone's selling a nice looking Master Model for $1300. (Read the article about the Master Model here.) I'm not necessarily saying it's for you, but you can get it and get it overhauled for well under $2000. Unless there are cracks, bands or pins that I can't see.

Also remember that your kid's probably going to want an A clarinet at some point, too :D.
Thank you so much, Pete! I appreciate the compliments and advice. You have definitely given me an education (and turned up a few more questions).

Regarding my budget, I had $1200-1500 mark in mind. I had seen some R13s here and there for that price. I've also seen them go as much as $3000 or more. That's what led me to press pause on my search to get a little more acclimated to what I should consider. I saw people posting Pre-R13s, R13s from a certain era, etc. Add all the fakes to the mix and the waters get a little muddy for someone like me. I didn't know R13 wasn't the top-of-the-line. Honestly, it's the one he played at M&A and sounded great on it (maybe proving your point about a brand new model). We haven't explored other brands that may be just as good. His band director told us that for concert band they would like for him to have a wooden clarinet by their sophomore year. He's got a non-wooden clarinet that he's had since 5th grade that has served him very well for auditions and such. This year he borrowed a Buffet E11 and liked it OK, but we didn't think it was as good as the R13 he had played. I certainly don't want to follow the herd if there's a better path to my goal of support my son by giving him the best instrument we can afford.

We upgraded his ligature, but we haven't looked at the mouthpiece yet. We'll definitely look at that as well.

With all this said, what would you recommend?

Again, thanks for your advice. I really appreciate it.


Staff member
Our clarinet content expert, Steve Sklar has a nice web site Clarinet Perfection with a lot of info about clarinets, mouthpieces, instrument care, etc. He also used to buy & sell used horns - not sure if he still does that.

I would also endorse contacting Quinn The Eskimo. Very knowledgeable, and an honest dealer.


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Finding the one perfect clarinet or mouthpiece should not be your goal. There are many fine instruments and mouthpieces that would provide you a lifetime of service and satisfaction. If you can play test the candidates know that even like make/models can play and sound differently. So if a friends R-13 sounds perfect, unfortunately another one might play/sound differently.

Sometimes an instructor can be found to help your son with his journey to find a suitable setup. I work for Quinn the Eskimo and have helped many musicians get set up. But I only do that for folk who live in the Seattle area.

Also, the school band teacher might make a recommendation for an instructor who can help your son make his selection based on local talent? Good luck.
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Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
@Steve may work ...

Mouthpieces are fairly individual at this level. What I like (Selmer C 85) may not be what your kid would like. And I also agree that his instructor should be involved in picking something out. The new Selmer Concept and Focus mouthpieces look very interesting to me. Anyhow, good start would be to tell us a bit of what kind of music he likes to play.

Gandalfe's right: the R13 has been around since about 1955. That's 63 years. It's kinda obvious that there have been some changes in the R13 throughout that time. You're definitely going to have people saying that the R13 from this era is junk compared to that era. Heck, you can do this with cars: my (since sold) 2005 Mustang convertible was 50 times better than the 1987 4-cylinder Mustang I was given, but a 1969 Mustang Boss 429 puts them both to shame, even though it had fewer features. And no airbags.

The "Pre-R13" can easily fit ANY Buffet pro clarinet made before 1955. "Pre-R13" doesn't really tell you much. Is an R13 better than a "Pre-R13"? Sure. Buffet would say that.

I've really only played one R13 for any length of time and that was from the late 60s/early 70s (I was playing the horn in the mid/late 80s). I'd call it the equivalent of a Selmer Series 10, because that was also the clarinet I fooled around with at that time. Both were better than my (much older) Selmer Centered Tone. I also had one of the clear plastic Buffet B12 student horns, which really wasn't a bad horn. Traded that for a new Yamaha YCL-34 intermediate horn, which suited me quite well and I hung onto that for awhile.

Plastic horns are not necessarily "bad," nor are hard rubber or metal -- Gandalfe has a couple of really pretty metal horns that are definitely pro.

Anyhow, I'd really, really, really recommend trying some other makes and models, particularly the Yamaha Custom horns (CS-V, etc.) if you can. There are fans of almost every make and model, so you'll see a lot of opinions!
Thank you to everyone for the advice. I'll definitely get his instructors involved. There's obviously a lot to learn and your suggestions on what to look out for are much appreciated.
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