Can You Tell The Difference Between a
$200 Flute and a $12,000 Flute?
by Ed Ting
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
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!
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