Jupiter Quantum 5050
Quantum's release of a full compliment of marching brasswinds
this year raised eyebrows and stimulated conversation amongst drum corps
observers and performers. Jupiter has garnered positive notice from professional
musicians in recent years for their professional line of instruments. But in the
marching world, a Jupiter bell-front marching instrument has been branded by
many with a negative stigma.
The roll-out of the Quantum line of brass instruments from Jupiter occurred
slowly and somewhat publicly. A
MySpace site and a smattering of press releases set the stage for a complete
redesign of trumpet, mellophone, baritone, euphonium, and tuba (all bell-front).
In an interesting and somewhat concerning sign of the times, no marching French
horn was part of the offering. Field percussion (Mapex) and sideline percussion
were also incorporated into the Quantum family of marching equipment.
The approach appears to be elegantly simple: identify the
best attributes of the best marching brass available and incorporate them into
one line of instruments. This simple approach was combined with some heavy
hitters in the brass performance world. Recognized performers and teachers Sam
Pilafian and Pat Sheridan consulted on the development of low brass instruments
offered an instant air of legitimacy to the project.
Rumors about the field tests undertaken at Arizona State University were all positive, or at least non-negative. A prototype baritone and euphonium made the rounds and it appeared Quantum was managing spin very effectively. Less positive rumors regarding manufacturing quality and a need for instruments arriving from Taiwan to undergo reworking before final delivery tempered the winter talk.
In early February, 2008, rumors of a prototype set making the rounds across the country increased the anticipation of seeing if these instruments were the real deal. A couple of instruments also appeared in the online retailer The Woodwind and the Brasswind (wwbw.com). This is the source of the instrument being reviewed by The Middle Horn Leader.
The Jupiter 5050 Series Quantum Marching Mellophone features a .462-inch bore with a 10.7-inch yellow brass bell with excellent projection and intonation. The 5050 Series also features stainless steel valves and a horn/mellophone hybrid mouthpiece. This hybrid mouthpiece is not part of this review. The instrument tested was shipped with a Jupiter 7C trumpet mouthpiece only.
The current street price places the Quantum 5050S (silver
finish) approximately $200 less than the Yamaha 204MS.
While it's probably unfair to compare the Quantum 5050 with the Yamaha 204, using the Yamaha 204 as a baseline will help in illustrating some of the pros and cons of the Quantum 5050. The two share some similar traits, but also have their own unique characteristics.
...but first a disclaimer:
Since the Quantum line of instruments has just been released, it's important for the reader to understand that the opinions expressed in this article are simply those of the reviewer. This reviewer is approaching the assessment of this instrument in a manner appropriate for a marching band instrument (as opposed to a custom-made professional trumpet). Obviously, my opinion may differ from others. If you don't believe me, just ask my wife.
The Quantum 5050 incorporates a very similar design that
is used by the Yamaha 204. This particular “cornet” styled configuration has
been popular since the late 1960s when it is generally believed F.E. Olds
first marketed it to compete with the more popular mellophonium design of
Without a mouthpiece, the Quantum weighs in at 3 pounds,
4.9 ounces (about a quarter pound lighter than the Yamaha 204 which has a
mass of 3 pounds, 9.7 ounces). Based completely on the subjective feel of
the Quantum in the hands, one would think it to be decidedly lighter than
the Yamaha. This could result from a lighter gauge of brass or the more
Mellophones are almost always a study in compromise. The design elements that help create the best tone and playability often wreak havoc with intonation. In the case of the Quantum, the same flare that provides the instrument its characteristic tone quality is also likely responsible for intonation or slotting issues. The Quantum’s slots are somewhat less assured than the Yamaha, particularly in the extreme registers. This is instantly noticeable when the horn is first played. For musicians with relatively strong pitch reference, they’ll be able to accommodate this flaw over time. Anyone who ever spent a summer behind a two-piston mellophone bugle can testify to this phenomenon.
Of particular interest is the intonation tendency of the
Quantum. The instrument’s tendency is to blow flat below the staff (which
isn’t an unusual characteristic in mellophones), but it’s sufficiently
below pitch to not require a slide extension to accommodate the low D or C#.
On the plus side, the fourth space E is very nicely in tune (not flat as
with most valved brass instruments). The high G is also under pitch, which
is somewhat unusual. From the perspective of a trumpet player, it’s kind of
nice to play an instrument with a fourth space E locked in tune. The
acclimation time required for the instrument will likely depend on the
performer’s ability to adjust to these unique pitch tendencies. While the
under pitched low register will be a challenge, the other tuning concerns
can be accommodated by most players.
The issues with the high F that plagued the Yamaha
mellophones is utterly absent from the Quantum. The upper register blows free
and easy with no “shudder.” It’s somewhat reminiscent in response encountered
with the King 1121. The Quantum also plays more open in the extreme high
register when compared to the Yamaha.
The Quantum utilizes a thumb saddle for the first valve slide, as well as an adjustable finger ring for the third valve slide. On this copy, the tuning slide and third valve slide move freely and appear to be fitted very effectively. Regrettably, the first valve slide on this specific unit is too tight to be of much use. I applaud Quantum for having a third valve ring. While the adjustable ring is the hallmark of student level instruments, it’s a welcome feature with this instrument, allowing performers to find a comfortable position for this ring for maximum benefit and room beneath the flare.
The pistons on the Quantum are lightning fast and smooth with no noise. The slightly rounded valve buttons are very comfortable. The valve stems appear to be approximately the same length as the Yamaha’s. However, faster valve passages felt easier on the Quantum than the Yamaha. This could be due to a lighter spring weight in the Quantum.
Overall, I like the Quantum. Its scale isn’t as even as the Yamaha and there are some intonation concerns. On the plus side, the Quantum is better balanced ergonomically and produces a very pleasing tone quality. If I had a choice between a Quantum 5050 and a Yamaha 204, I would choose the Yamaha 204. However, I would have no hesitation about performing with a Quantum if I were a member of an ensemble featuring them.
- Scooter Pirtle (email)
Be sure to check out Episode 39 at mellocast.com for a discussion about the Quantum 5050.
The most major problem with the mello that you have is that the third valve slide on that particular instrument is not of the correct specification. The one that you have is too long–resulting in the intonation concerns that you mentioned. The ring on that slide will also be fixed and non-adjustable.
Also, this review is discussed in Episode 39 of the Mellocast.
John Ericson obtained access to one of the Quantum 5050 mellophones issued to the Arizone Academy Drum and Bugle Corps in April 2008 and offered the following review.