This is my first post on this forum, so greetings to everyone!
I don't have any experience with high-end or vintage concertinas, but I play the Hayden layout for 1.5 year now, of which almost a year on the Elise (I started learning it on a self-made 64 button MIDI instrument based on W-H2 layout, and prior to that I've played a 20 button Anglo for a year), and I think I have a quite reasonable beginner experience to share:
As someone already stated before, Elise, as limited as it is, is still more versatile than 20 button Anglo, and in my humble opinion, than 30 button Anglo either, considered being specifically designed for melody+accompaniment play. Especially for my type of repertoire, consisting mostly of modern rock covers, polish street music of pre- World War II times and some usually accordion-played arrangements (like Dansbanan, Beirut and Yann Tiersen). Even with 34 keys it has enough room for transposing song accompaniments to match different voices (one or two tones). Of course it sometimes lacks fully chromatic layout, but for me it is the short range of bass side and small overlap that is most limitting.
On the manufacturing/durability side: there were and are no problems with reeds or tuning, bellows is still a bit stiff on the pull towards the end of the range but despite some wear it is still airtight. Straps stretch with time, so now I use them one hole tighter than in the beginning. My biggest complain is about keys: the original plastic ones are loose, domed ends made my figers hurt after half an hour of playing, and the buzz appearing on transitions between close notes was ruining any pleasure from having an analog instrument after months of playing only MIDI, so I decided to make new ones: made from machined alluminum (original keys are very light and I didn't wanted to change springs), fully felt-bushed (both end board holes and lever holes), gave the Elise much needed precision, feel and nice, quiet keyboard work. And improvement on the looks of entire instrument
Attached is a photo of the LH side, with accented A below middle C (on RH side, the A above middle C is accented). The leather belt around the side is a part of my neck strap.
To conclude: I think this is a fine learning instrument, with a new Peacock and Tedrow (quite) affordable wider-scale concertinas there is a room for an upgrade, at least to a fully chromatic instrument, and in my opinion, the Hayden layout is easier and more intuitive to learn not only than other duets, but even a piano keayboard. So I must join "a profound and heartfelt 'thank you.' " for Mr. Hayden for reinventing and reintroducing this great layout!
(Please excuse me any mistakes in this and further posts as english is not my native language.)