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Leblanc Reviews (LL, L7, Concerto, LL/L7 "A")

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#1
I thought I would do some reviews on several leblanc model clarinets. Going from vintage to some more modern varieties. Leblanc has had a long line of professional clarinets; from their small cylindrical bore Symphonie model to the large cylindrical bore Dynamic (Pete Fountaine) model; to their more modern poly cylindrical bore clarinets.

Leblanc clarinets have had the following for very balanced scale, good ease of playing (medium sized toneholes) and great intonation. This, compared to other manufacturers also seems to limit their color and tonal flexibility.

Anyone is welcomed to provide a review =-)
 
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Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#2
L7 - approx 1974

I just managed to get my hands on a 1970s Leblanc L7.

Not much is known about the L7s. I've read that they have a straight bore which would be remiscent of the earlier Symphonie models.

When I first put my measuring tools on it i quickly looked at the numbers, and not realizing they were backwards thought it was an R13 copy bore. But these are the numbers

upper tenon of upper joint = 14.67mm / .5775 inches (this has a thin metal tenon covering)
lower tenon of UJ = 14.80mm / .583 inches
FYI, the socket bore of the lower joint was .583 and the lower barrel bore was .5775

versus an R13 of
upper = 14.76/.5815
lower = 14.64 / .5765

This is an interesting design as it expands throughout the bore versus a shrinking. I'll be taking my rifle bore measuring tools and checking out if there are any specific steps in the bore. I quickly rolled it in and out earlier and then thought everything backwards .. oops

The barrel is unmistakenly Chadash-like though.

it has bladder pads and cork pads in the upper joint. From use the keywok is a bit sloppy and such ... and a nice old Bonade ligature with the Vandoren 5RV mpc that came with the purchase.

So after playing a bit and adjusting my airstream and throat I was able to get a very nice core tone with a very nice R13 "ring" to the tone.

Velvetly transitions between each note was also possible due to Leblancs use of slightly smaller toneholes than Buffet - and smooth finger movement. This slightly smaller toneholes seem to restrict the ability of creating greater dynamics with all things being equal to the larger toneholes but also allows easier coverage of the toneholes and a slightly better easier ability of creating smooth note transitions. We are talking slightly here .... i've noticed the same on other model Leblancs in comparing to other brands.

This instrument is a joy to play right now though needs a mechanical overhaul. As soon as I finish a M'pingo Chadash type barrel for my R13 I'll have a better comparison to make.

Originally Posted by original posting for those that read it
But putting some measuring tools to the body bore I've found that it is actually an R13 copy including a Chadash type design barrel.

.....

I'll be making more accurate bore measurements soon


During the 1970s Leblanc tried a new form of nickle plating (we assume this) as many players found out that the plating starting kinda flaking in a way and creating burrs. The burrs are easily found on the ring keys. This can be quite annoying to any player. If you don't have a machine to smooth out these burrs then using 800grit or finer sandpaper would do just fine to making the rings nice and smooth again.

Quality-wise I find the L7 to be of great quality (other than the nickle plating, which is a BIG problem). all keywork is smooth in it's action, easy to reach etc. IT does come with gold plated wire stainless steel springs, unlike Buffet and Selmer paris who normally use blued steel springs.
 
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Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#3
Concerto - 1996

The Leblanc Concerto is an absolutely wonderful instrument to play. The flexibility of use of mouthpieces is fairly large; the flexibility of tonal quality is large and the flexibility of dynamics is large too. A great playing instrument.

The Concerto was the first model initially offered in the mid 1990s (?) - latest model being the Concerto II which itself is no longer in production. The Concerto was apparently a copy of the Opus (II) without some of Opus additional options. The Opus II is still available.

The keywork also is an improvement on Leblancs earlier offerings as it is more smooth and better pivot point locations. The keywork though is a tangent from the known Leblanc inline trill keywork, as it uses more of the Buffet style keywork design offset trill keys and keywork that seems closer to the body overall. The keywork is silverplated, though a thick silverplate as it may confuse some with a brilliant nickel.

Mouthpiece flexibility is very good whether using a dark mpc with no tip baffle to a brighter mpc with a roll-over tip baffle both sounded equally good on this Concerto.

Tonally, the instrument has a very nice ring to it and a nice focused sound. It is designed with a polycylindrical bore. Notes were full from top to lower notes - this instrument was overhauled with new cork and leather pads throughout. Keywork had good response though the LH side spatula C# key was a little finicky as pad height may cause an inteference problem as it goes underneath the RH spatula keywork with very little room for pads of varying height in the cups. If too deep in the cups, the C# pivot arm will hit some keywork and cause a metal "clink" sound.

Overall an excellent instrument. I wish I had a Concerto in my repoertoire as it's overall flexibility is fantastic.


Concerto Upper Joint upper bore = 14.82 mm
UJ lower bore = 14.62

versus an R13 of
upper = 14.76/.5815
lower = 14.64 / .5765
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#4
LL - 1970

The Leblanc LL has a long history of a fantastic professional clarinet.

In mouthpiece testing I picked the LL because it has a "medium" 14.80mm cylindrical bore as compared to the two other instruments in my testing, a Selmer Centered Tone with a large 15mm cylindrical bore and a Buffet R13 with a polycylindrical bore. Thus the bore design would act differently to various mpcs.

I could have chosen a smaller 14.64mm bore Symphonie model to do this test. But the Symphonie, even though fantastic clarinets, always seem to limit my playing style. This "limit" is in relation to the amount of pressure one has to dictate to get good dynamics. Basically, (mpc excluded) the larger the cylindrical bore the greater ease of dynamics one can obtain. A duex or polycylindrical bore clarinet has differing dynamic capabilities due to the varying bore design.

Regardless, the LL has been one of my mainstays for a number of years. It is a fantastic sounding clarinet, ease of playability, great intonation, really good keywork.

In comparing it to more modern Leblancs it falls short in several categories. Thus the evolution to newer models and designs.

One, the keywork, though nice and smooth just isn't as smooth and nice as modern keywork on a Opus or Concerto/II This could be due to the shorter ring arms (un measured) thus quicker in a sense but not as smooth action.

Two, tone is superb, though dynamics is more limited due to the bore size. The Leblanc Dynamic (Dynamic H, Pete Fountaine models etc) are large bore and give greater ease of dynamics though with a more centered and reserved tone compared to a Selmer CT due to the smaller toneholes.

Though the LL is a great instrument with a great history, it is becoming harder to hold on to considering I have a L7 too.

If you play primarily concert/symphony settings the LL would be a great instrument to have. If you play in more performance, jazz or even big band settings the LL may limit ones flexibilities.
 
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#5
I just purchased a Leblanc (Vito) VSP Bb clarinet (serial# B79750) from Ebay, that appears to be in very good condition, for $300.00. I should get it in the mail tomorrow.

I can't find much information about it on the internet. On one site (clarinuts.com) it's rated as a good intermediate clarinet and another web poster considers it one of the better intermediate clainets.

I was hoping someone can tell me how good the clarinet is considered to be. I've recently purchased (and received) a Selmer Signet Soloist that is also in very good shape and sounds wonderful.

Thanks!
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#6
I just purchased a Leblanc (Vito) VSP Bb clarinet (serial# B79750) from Ebay, that appears to be in very good condition, for $300.00. I should get it in the mail tomorrow.

I can't find much information about it on the internet. On one site (clarinuts.com) it's rated as a good intermediate clarinet and another web poster considers it one of the better intermediate clainets.

I was hoping someone can tell me how good the clarinet is considered to be. I've recently purchased (and received) a Selmer Signet Soloist that is also in very good shape and sounds wonderful.

Thanks!
I have two VSPs and they scream. Undercut tone holes, composite bell with automatic excess moisture compensation (ie. your spit just dribbles out), the works.
Seriously, it's one of the best, most free-blowing instruments I've ever had. I had to find a 64.5mm barrel to bring it to A=442, now I'm all set. My backup instrument for everywhere I wouldn't dare to bring my Marigaux.
I'll supply serial numbers if you're interested.
 
#7
As I recall (and I may be wrong), there were Vito VSP clarinets made in France, and later, Vito VSPs made in the US. My understanding is that the French model was considered superior to the US version.
 
#9
Leblanc Sonata

Hello all,

I'm a newbie here. 53 yr old, non-professional but play in ensembles around NYC when I can (working hard on piano these days actually).

Has anybody played a Leblanc Sonata? I just bought one on ebay for $325 (had a "click" barrel that I replaced with a Backun that I happen to have). Restored it (repad, re-bumper, wash and oil the wood). The wood is rough I have to say, either not as well finished, or a coarser grain. The keywork has a Noblet flavor to it (an "N" under the LH A key) but WOW what a clarinet this is! I have had LX2000s, LL and the Classic II (a Symphonie model). This Sonata plays much more like a Buffet R13 except everything is in tune. A fat low end (unlike the LL or Symphonie IMHO). What a deal this clarinet is! A great clarinet for High School or College. I am using it for travel. (I use Buffet Vintage clarinets at home).

Glad I found it. Won't feel so bad taking it around. Doesn't have that awesome keywork that the LL or the Classic has with the gold springs and separate posts for the Eb/Ab key etc. But a really nice instrument.

Regards,


Jerry
 
#10
I recently purchased a new, old stock Leblanc Ambience Bb which was introduced about the about the same time as the original Concerto model, and seems to be almost the same instrument as the concerto. It came with a 65mm barrel but plays extremely flat with my mouthpiece of choice, a Pomarico crystal. To play at A440 when the clarinet is cold I have to use a 62mm barrel. I've never had to use this short a barrel on any other Bb clarinet I've owned. What is amazing is that even using this short a barrel this clarinet has better intonation than any clarinet I've ever owned. I anticipated that the throat tones would be sharp but they're perfectly in tune even when the instrument warms up and I have to pull out the barrel or lengthen an adjustable barrel I've been using lately. The key layout and the placement and
size of the toneholes is just right for this doubler.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#11
Leblanc LL v Leblanc L7 "A" clarinets

Initially tested with a Vandoren M13 mouthpiece, this becomes important later on as you will read.

Here I have two vintage Leblanc "A" clarinets that I've tweaked but have not refurbished as of yet. In my background I have loved both the LL Bb and L7 Bb. I've always liked the L7 Bb a bit more than the LL Bb as I've found it more flexible in dynamics with a good tone, though I've also really have liked the tone of the LL just a bit more as it is more colorful. I've always stated the LL is better at chamber music and the L7 at Jazz arena, though of course they can be used for any genre at any time. Just the idiosyncrasies of the two at the same time have me thinking that way. Back in the day when only the LL was around you used it for anything.

Looking at one of those idiosyncrasies, the air pressure balance of the L7 was a bit more stable over the entire instrument versus the LL which is a cylindrical bore and seems to have a variance as one plays down the instrument. This isn't as obvious as say a Selmer Centered Tone which is a large bore and large toneholes but one can still feel this variance with the LL, even if it is slight.

I fully expected a similar result with the sister "A"s, but it actually was a bit opposite.

Using the Vandoren M13 mouthpiece the LL A's tone seemed a bit more full and it was very well balanced from top to bottom. I was able to easily get some good dynamics out of the instrument with the fortissimos requiring a good (though not overwhelming) amount of air support.

The L7 A was a bit disappointing. The dynamics were not quite there. The tone was not as full and robust as the LL A. There was something a bit missing from everything, excluding the dynamic aspect of the characteristics.

Keywork and mechanics for both instruments were superb as normally is with Leblanc clarinets. The keywork is right where most people would expect it, right underneath your fingers. No need for extra finger stretching.

The L7 A did not have any of the problem of it's siblings Bb in regards to the nickel plating. The nickel plating on this A was superb, visually and by feel. In the Bbs it seems as though the nickel playing bubbles at finger touch locations causing an irritation to the fingers, much less the visual oddity and devaluation. Repair people have to spend some significant time sanding down bubbling nickel plating to get it smooth to the touch without making it look like it has plating removal due to the smoothing. But the L7 A has none of these deficiencies.

So in this particular case the LL A won over the L7 A with a fuller more round tone and excellent color. Whereas the L7 A just lacked a bit in all areas to the LL A.

BUT from past testing I've known the L7 A to wanting a bit more airflow. So now I pulled out my Vandoren M13lyre, which is slightly more open than the M13.

The extra air flow makes the L7 A come more alive, more of a full robust and slightly more spread tone than the LL A with the M13. Now the dynamics are an ease for the instrument, and the fortissimmos can be reached much more easily and more of it if needed. This is the way the L7 A should respond to the player.

Now reed response is different between the two clarinets. The LL A bore being a higher pressure and than the L7 A bore with the same reed/mouthpiece combination. This messed up my tonguing on fast passages until I adjusted between the two. The high pressure kept the reed reacting quicker, and thus a faster responding instrument with the M13lyre mpc. We are talking very slightly here but I have played a particular piece (Mozart quintet for strings) numerous times and when I swap between the two on a few fast tonguging runs I have to tongue slightly "before" I normally would on the LL A. This I have found a common problem when I use my long lay (facing) mouthpieces. But in this case we created this issue in relation to how the instrument's bore in relation to the back pressure is related to the mouthpiece/reed vibration. Very interesting science here.

But overall, the LL and L7 "A"s are very evenly matched. with the LL seems slightly better overall as it can handle a wide variety of situations and flexibility a bit better than the L7 while provided a slightly sweeter tone. The L7 is no slouch in this regards but the production run of the L7 was approximately from 1968 to 1978, and the LL's were far before, and after that L7 production (LL harmony clarinets continued even later). The L7 were known to have bad plating issues (L7, L27, L200, LX2000) but for some reason the "A"s were fine and LLs seem to be much better in that time frame too (truthfully I haven't kept track of LLs as the other Ls were more obvious).

So for me, I slightly preferred the LL A as being more mouthpiece friendly while providing a top notch playability and tonal color with the L7 being a slightly brighter instrument preferring the more moderately opened mouthpieces. Two fantastic A clarinets, neither are a loser in my book but both have a particular purpose if played next to each other, otherwise they are both perfect at any scenario the player needs.
 
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#12
I have an opportunity to buy a very good condition Symphonie Sn# 61** or a pre 1964 LL Sn# 51**. I like playing jazz and Classical....is the Symphonie so tight that it won't do jazz well. Both are in pretty good condition.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#13
I have an opportunity to buy a very good condition Symphonie Sn# 61** or a pre 1964 LL Sn# 51**. I like playing jazz and Classical....is the Symphonie so tight that it won't do jazz well. Both are in pretty good condition.
Let me see if I understand you questions a bit better.

Does the vintage Symphonie (and not the more modern one) which has a smaller bore and smaller toneholes, thus restricts ease of high volume in order to balance well in a jazz type setting, versus an LL which has a bit larger bore and toneholes and is a bit easier to balance with other instruments in a jazz setting ... which one is better to use in a jazz setting ?

The LL will allow a bit more ease of more dynamics than the Symphonie. I'd pick the LL for both classical and jazz. But of course, any clarinet can be used well for any genre, some just a bit more easy than others which is totally dependent upon the specific environment and requirements you would have. That's why manufacturers make more than one model of things nowadays.

This also doesn't mean that the player doesn't play both types of clarinets the same way. A player may sound exactly the same with both clarinets, and not change their playing attributes to better suit everything. A mpc may also restrict larger dynamics, or force the player to struggle more with a particular mpc than another. But, the LL will offer a better platform than the Symphonie for any genre type if you ask me. The LL design was made for decades in a large variety of keys, Eb, C, Bb, A.
 
#14
I have an opportunity to buy a very good condition Symphonie Sn# 61** or a pre 1964 LL Sn# 51**. I like playing jazz and Classical....is the Symphonie so tight that it won't do jazz well. Both are in pretty good condition.
Let me see if I understand you questions a bit better.

Does the vintage Symphonie (and not the more modern one) which has a smaller bore and smaller toneholes, thus restricts ease of high volume in order to balance well in a jazz type setting, versus an LL which has a bit larger bore and toneholes and is a bit easier to balance with other instruments in a jazz setting ... which one is better to use in a jazz setting ?

The LL will allow a bit more ease of more dynamics than the Symphonie. I'd pick the LL for both classical and jazz. But of course, any clarinet can be used well for any genre, some just a bit more easy than others which is totally dependent upon the specific environment and requirements you would have. That's why manufacturers make more than one model of things nowadays.

This also doesn't mean that the player doesn't play both types of clarinets the same way. A player may sound exactly the same with both clarinets, and not change their playing attributes to better suit everything. A mpc may also restrict larger dynamics, or force the player to struggle more with a particular mpc than another. But, the LL will offer a better platform than the Symphonie for any genre type if you ask me. The LL design was made for decades in a large variety of keys, Eb, C, Bb, A.
Thanks for the reply..... How about a Dynamique Sn# 6** vs. the LL?
 
#15
I have an opportunity to buy a very good condition Symphonie Sn# 61** or a pre 1964 LL Sn# 51**. I like playing jazz and Classical....is the Symphonie so tight that it won't do jazz well. Both are in pretty good condition.
Let me see if I understand you questions a bit better.

Does the vintage Symphonie (and not the more modern one) which has a smaller bore and smaller toneholes, thus restricts ease of high volume in order to balance well in a jazz type setting, versus an LL which has a bit larger bore and toneholes and is a bit easier to balance with other instruments in a jazz setting ... which one is better to use in a jazz setting ?

The LL will allow a bit more ease of more dynamics than the Symphonie. I'd pick the LL for both classical and jazz. But of course, any clarinet can be used well for any genre, some just a bit more easy than others which is totally dependent upon the specific environment and requirements you would have. That's why manufacturers make more than one model of things nowadays.

This also doesn't mean that the player doesn't play both types of clarinets the same way. A player may sound exactly the same with both clarinets, and not change their playing attributes to better suit everything. A mpc may also restrict larger dynamics, or force the player to struggle more with a particular mpc than another. But, the LL will offer a better platform than the Symphonie for any genre type if you ask me. The LL design was made for decades in a large variety of keys, Eb, C, Bb, A.
Thanks for the reply..... How about a Dynamique Sn# 6** vs. the LL?
There's also the Classic and L7....Which is best? Money is not an issue....
 

TrueTone

Clarinet, Sax, Oboe, History
#16
The Classic is very similar to the original Symphonie Model.
The Dynamique and L7 are also very good Clarinets, I'm not sure how they compare with the LL but I know people with each of them that they use as their main Clarinet.
Steve breifly compared their Bb versions above, and said that the L7 would probably work better for jazz, although both could still play it easily.
I'd imagine the Dynamique would also work well in these situations, though probably all of these would still be able to work well.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#17
The Dynamic/Dynamique is a large bore clarinet with smaller toneholes in comparison to a Centered Tone.
It definitely has more power/projection ease than the other Leblanc clarinets and allows you to push it more for greater dynamics. It was considered the "Jazz" Leblanc clarinet that is equalled adept at any genre. It morphed into the Pete Fountain clarinet.

The L7, even though a nice instrument, I wouldn't put it in the top 5 Leblanc clarinets. The LL, Dynamic, Concerto, Opus and I think the LX200 were my top 5.

If money were no object, and staying in the now defunct Leblanc brand, I'd search out a Concerto or Opus.
 
#18
The Dynamic/Dynamique is a large bore clarinet with smaller toneholes in comparison to a Centered Tone.
It definitely has more power/projection ease than the other Leblanc clarinets and allows you to push it more for greater dynamics. It was considered the "Jazz" Leblanc clarinet that is equalled adept at any genre. It morphed into the Pete Fountain clarinet.

The L7, even though a nice instrument, I wouldn't put it in the top 5 Leblanc clarinets. The LL, Dynamic, Concerto, Opus and I think the LX200 were my top 5.

If money were no object, and staying in the now defunct Leblanc brand, I'd search out a Concerto or Opus.
What about an LL vs. Dynamique in the Jazz vein.....
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#19
The Dynamic/Dynamique is a large bore clarinet with smaller toneholes in comparison to a Centered Tone.
It definitely has more power/projection ease than the other Leblanc clarinets and allows you to push it more for greater dynamics. It was considered the "Jazz" Leblanc clarinet that is equalled adept at any genre. It morphed into the Pete Fountain clarinet.

The L7, even though a nice instrument, I wouldn't put it in the top 5 Leblanc clarinets. The LL, Dynamic, Concerto, Opus and I think the LX200 were my top 5.

If money were no object, and staying in the now defunct Leblanc brand, I'd search out a Concerto or Opus.
What about an LL vs. Dynamique in the Jazz vein.....
Dynamique/Dynamic is a larger bore clarinet. Thus it is more easily pushed and can create greater dynamics with more ease.

Being able to play above a jazz band may come in handy if one does not have a microphone. Thus larger bore clarinets can be very handy with the appropriate mouthpiece. If there are microphones around, or you get really good projection the advantage of a large bore clarinet is minimized.

One time I substituted in a concert band as they were short on clarinets. They had the 4-5 clarinets all play the first part. I played the 2nd and 3rd part more relevant parts. I played my Centered Tone. I had the ability to easily bring the part out to be heard no problem and balance with the 1st clarinets. It would have been harder to do that with my LL.
 
#20
Thanks. So if I had a choice between a Symphonie, Classic, or Dynamique which should I choose...which would be more balanced...and which mouthpiece would go best with each.
 
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