Can You Tell The Difference Between a $200 Flute and a $12,000 Flute?

by Ed Ting Updated 4/11/04

Can you tell the difference between a $200 flute and $12,000 flute? I was recently asked to record a recital for a local pianist and flutist. Afterwards, I brought out my $200 DeFord flute from my elementary school marching band days (ca. 1974) and asked her to play the same 30 second musical selection on both instruments. The results were recorded and the 128 kbps mp3 files appear below.
The DeFord student model flute ($200) appears below. Although the nameplate says "DeFord" this could have been any of the countless budget band instruments made in factories across the US. This is a fairly common example of a "first instrument" sold to kids everywhere. The body is made of silver-plated brass, and it was made in Elkhart, IN.
The DeFord student flute

The Brannen Brothers flute appears below. Made by hand in Woburn, Massachusetts, Brannen flutes are highly sought after by demanding orchestra musicians all over the world. Many options and pricing levels are available. $12,000 may seem like a lot (and as a pianist, I'm already thinking of the kinds of pianos I could buy for this sum) but it's actually in the midrange of high end flute prices. Readers familiar with my telescope web page will know all about the excruciating waiting times for high end instruments. You give the company lots of money as a deposit, and you wait and wait and wait. Brannen flutes take about 4 months to complete. At this level, you tend to be very particular about what you want. The various head joints, for example, range from silver to gold to platinum in construction. The gold head joint on this particular flute costs $6,000 by itself.
The Brannen Bros Flute (file photo)

Ready? See what you think: Mystery Flute #1 (673K, 00:43) Mystery Flute #2 (735K, 00:46)
(2 Neumann KM184 microphones in ORTF configuration, Symetrix SX302 mic preamp, M-Audio 2496 Audiophile USB sound card. Digital editing and compilation done by Cool Edit Pro. Mp3 conversion done by Musicmatch.)
Click here for the results!
-Ed Ting E-mail me about pianos or telescopes Back to Scope Reviews Home Page