Rod, I (Mike,"harpomatic"), can surely compare and contrast both, steel and brass. Let me first describe two instruments:extended (custom)range amboyna aeola in perfect condition (it doesn't get any better), and 1860 or so Lachenal "tutor" model with original wood baffles, the most basic of "vintages"(can surely be called "antique" by all definitions of the terms). If you can make the instrument air-tight, and I did in about 40 minutes, by making a one piece gasket to go over the reed pan "web" of chamber dividers and bellows frame, simply laid between the reedpan and its corresponding end (action/palette board), the true sound and response can be compared, indeed. It is all about the sufficient air delivery to the reed, without that factor there is nothing to talk about. Now, when both of my concertinas are equally airtight, here's what I get:
1) no rust or corrosion on brass reeds - reeds look brand new with just a swipe of a brass cleaner
2)reed responsiveness is the same on both instruments
3) dynamic range is the same (will elaborate a bit further on that)
4) sound is indeed, very different.
5) volume is not as different as it seems, and as common opinion would have it, and here comes my "elaboration":
While, indeed my steel reeded aeola is a bit louder than brass Lachenal, at its extreme upper limit, the brass one can be played much more quietly at the extreme low volume limit (whisper level, you can play next to someone sleeping, without waking them up). Thus, the dynamic range is virtually the same, if we're talking about the "range", as such. To put it simply, where Aeola extends up, Lachenal extends down... Most playing resides somewhere in the middle, and there - both instruments are the same. However, it really doesn't seem so. The reason for a seemingly louder steel reded Aeola is a completely different sound. It is brighter, the difference being similar to the difference between a steel string guitar and a nylon string. In both cases, (concertina and guitar), steel will seem to be much louder than it actually is. Now, if I describe the sound of brass, it is just as "traditional concertina" as steel, but "warmer, woodier, darker, a bit more mellow - same set of descriptions could be used on nylon vs steel guitar. Beyound that, words fall short of an adecvate descriptions. As a harmonica player, I simply love the sound of a brass reed, it's as authentic as it gets. The ability to play extra quietly is more useful to an apartment dweller late at night than wining volume wars that cannot be won anyway. My final observation:the Lachenal has a couple of replacement steel reeds(it had a long life), from the start I made an effort to NOT remember which ones, so that I could objectively compare the sound difference. Now, I still have no idea which ones those are, as there is no difference whatsoever. Makes me think that its more about the rest of the instrument's construction that ultimately shapes the sound that one hears....
Ps. I have nothing to gain by convincing you and the greater concertina community that brass is good - rather, I'd have you all convinced that they are garbage, so you all start selling them off at rock bottom prices, thus providing me with a greater choice of great antiques. Vintage vs "cheap hybrid" there is no contest, if we're talking about Chinese or those "italian"(also Chinese) cheapies that range from $700 to 1,500.I hope one day such sums of cash will seem small to me, so I can also think of those as "cheap".
Edited by harpomatic, 05 January 2018 - 10:49 AM.