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Non "Brand Name" Flutes?

Thoughts on the more obscure (and hopefully more economically efficient) flute brands and models?
Altus, Kessler, Yamaha (I would just like to talk about them for a bit), International Woodwind, Asian Makers (Sankyo, Marimatsu, etc.), and maaaaany more.
Mostly professional models?
Low B, Open Hole, ideally Split E, etc.

Vintage v. New models?
Although I feel the vintage horns have a better sound, but production and feel is much better on the more modern horns for myself. Plus, I find it a challenge finding Low B Vintage horns.
I'm rather interested in the new Kessler that's due to be released soon. I'm really wondering if these Kessler instruments are actually "playable". They work, but do they REALLY work. Long term quality? Tone? Intonation? I've read reviews on these horns, and have seen Dave Kessler talk about the new Flute model on his blog, and can't wait to actually get to try one of these horns. If they turn out to be playable, the doublers life might be getting that much easier.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
I've always had a fondness for vintage instruments myself. But I do have to concur that the feel of modern keywork is so much nicer.
Also on vintage flutes you may be limited to any customization, such as if you wanted a new head.

I play, when I do play it, a vintage Armstrong 80. I had at one time a 303OB but it was inline, and I prefer the offset split E keywork.

The 303 had a thin head, and the 80 has a heavy thick head which I prefer (the heads were not interchangeable between the models). Though the Embouchure Holes are completely different between the two the 80B head give me a darker more complex tone, and the 303 had a faster response though a brighter more cutting tone.

So the modern instruments offer a better feel overall and the keywork is probably more durable - on higher end models.
But the vintage instruments of course offer quite a bit lower cost (excluding refurbishments, fixes, etc).

I think if you just search out (eBay ?) and wait a vintage low B will pop up sooner or later.

I myself would love to have a pro level Sankyo or Marimatsu, but on the affordability factor it just isn't going to happen.


Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
I do not feel that vintage flutes have a worse feel than modern ones--it all depends on the quality of the keywork. The old Powells and Lots are absolutely wonderful, as are any number of others, including Rudall, Carte, Haynes, Bonneville, etc. With minor exceptions, keywork has not changed on flutes for over 100 years--very different than saxes.

Head design has evolved greatly, however. Not to say that older heads (with the exception of the very old ones with small oval blowholes) are not capable of volume and projection, but modern undercut designs, led by Cooper, have a much more open and freeblowing nature. I've got a Cooper head on my Powell that pretty much decimates the old Boston cut for ease of blowing and clarity of sound. I think that most doublers would be much better off with a modern head.

There is no limit on customization of vintage flutes--tubing sizes were not standard then and are not standard now. Heads can be fitted to pretty much any Boehm flute. One caution is that many older flutes are tuned to A = 435, and are not easy to play above 442 or so. You can cut down the head, but then you end up with the classic long octave. Doable, but not ideal.

If you are talking student horns, you are generally better off with a modern instrument, IMO, Japanese or Taiwanese. Yamaha, Altus, Muramatsu, Sankyo, some of the later Pearls, Miyazawa...

Since you asked about Kessler flutes (even if it's more than 2 years ago): From what I can tell from the pictures on the Kessler website (I now, you can never judge from pictures, but anyway) this is the flute I have (kessler custom, mine is silver tube)- not from Kessler but direct from China.
I am very happy with this flute regarding sound, intonation, action etc.
I won't need anothe flute.
You can order it for trial, so no risk.
If you do need a flute today...