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I picked up a cool 1948-ish Buffet pre-R13 clarinet for a few hundred bucks over the weekend. It needs a lot of work (we're talking full overhaul), but has potential, I'd say.

What I didn't notice until I got home with the horn, however, was the mouthpiece in the case: a Frank Kaspar Ann Arbor.

My understanding is that the Ann Arbor mouthpieces are from the elder Kaspar's later years, after leaving Illinois. They don't seem to be the highly sought-after items that the Cicero and Chicago mouthpieces are, which have inspired a whole category of modern mouthpieces attempting to recreate their magic, but it's still pretty cool to come across something from the hand of the master.

The blank has three lines above the logo stamp, which I think indicates that it's a Babbitt blank, not the Chedeville that he and his nephew both used in the Chicago and Cicero Kaspars (could be wrong about that). There's also a pretty significant nick in the tip rail that looks like a mouthpiece cap was jammed on a little too hard at some point, but it doesn't go all the way through the rail. There's a bit left there! The facing has a little nick on the right rail. This is definitely not a collector's piece.

With that said, I couldn't wait to throw a reed on it and play it. I have no idea what the facing is like, but it felt like it wanted reeds that were a hair stiffer than the Vandoren B40 I've been playing,a V12 #3, for reference. Maybe a #3.25 would be ideal, but I'm playing the harder V12 #3 and softer V12 #3.5 reeds on it right now.

I'll confess that almost everything I know about Kaspar mouthpieces comes from the ad copy of people selling "Kaspar-style" mouthpieces who tend to use the word "dark" a lot, since "dark" = "good" in clarinet marketing, as far as I can tell. This is definitely not a dark mouthpiece to my ear. It has a wonderfully clear, focused tone, a refreshing departure from the B40 I've been playing lately, which tends to be a bit covered and unfocused for my liking. Maybe the relatively brighter tone is a result of the Babbitt blank? I like it a lot. I have a hard time believing the nicks on the side and tip rails don't affect the sound and playability, but it seems to play fine for me.

I've been really interested in older recordings of Anthony Gigliotti with the Philadelphia Orchestra lately. He had such a cool sound. Very clear, direct, focused and powerful. Not edgy, but not dark at all, to my ear. And he always seemed to move so much air! I've always admired his playing and wanted to have a clarity like that in my sound. I don't know what he played, but playing this mouthpiece, it seems easy for me to get a clear, powerful, centered sound while voicing in a way that feels comfortable and relaxed.

I'm under no illusion that I sound like Anthony Gigliotti, but I have been on a clarinet mouthpiece hunt lately and this really seems to be clicking for me right now.

I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should contact the seller about this and give them more money. Right now I'm leaning towards not. This isn't the collector's item that sells for $500+, even if it were in super clean shape, which it isn't. This thing probably wouldn't fetch $200 if I were upfront about it and I also don't plan on selling it or treating it like a collectible. I'm going to play it. Plus, it's not like I haggled at all on the price of a clarinet that needs an overhaul to even be playable.

But what do you think? I attached some pictures to give an idea of its condition.
 

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Keep the mouthpiece and enjoy it. You don't know yet what exactly it will cost to bring the Buffet back, and whether it will turn out to be worth the cost. Dark is a relative term. Robert Marcellus was considered to have a "dark" sound at one point. Few would consider his tone to be dark nowadays. Dark is a matter of taste. I've heard some wonderful clarinetists with what I would consider a dark tone that has life and projection, David Shifrin, Ben Lulich out here in the Seattle Symphony, and many others. Or, dark can mean unresonant and dull. Depends on what you like.
 

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Cool find! I love when that happens. A colleague of mine buys dusins of older clarinets for refurbishing. Imagine all the fun mouthpieces he hands over to me!

Keep us posted how it goes with the Kaspar!
 

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This has been a really fine mouthpiece. I recently picked up a Fobes 10K in a 4L facing, which has been great and sort of a super-refined B45 (to oversimplify a lot). Lots of color and flexibility. Compared to that, this Kaspar is quite dark! By comparison, my B40 seems painfully dull and muffled. Right now, I find the Fobes to be slightly preferable for the added tone color, which gives the lower register quite a bit of kick, but does require a pretty relaxed voicing up high to keep from getting too bright for some settings. I've got both in my case because I am a lucky boy. I'm trying to decide if I should go for the Kaspar for some (casual) orchestral playing later this week. We'll see.

Interestingly, I got the Kaspar measured and the tip opening is only 1.02mm with a 17mm facing. That's almost exactly the same measurements as a Fobes CF+ that I've had around for a while now, but the Kaspar has a lot more resistance and takes almost a full strength softer reed. Apparently the exit bore is quite large, which adds quite a bit of resistance. I actually am using the same reeds on the Kaspar, Fobes and Vandoren, with 1.02mm, 1.12mm and 1.17mm tip openings, respectively. Which I guess just proves that there's a lot more to a mouthpiece than tip opening!
 
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