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Phoenix vs Minstrel


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Hey all, I am hoping to purchase an intermediate level 30 button anglo concertina for ITM in the near future. I am trying to decide between the Concertina Connection Minstrel and the McNeela Phoenix. Anyone have experience with either of these models. I will appreciate any input. 

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The Phoenix is made in China to my understanding, and while I'm not sure I *think* the minstrel may be made in America. If the tech for mass production has gotten solid enough, it may mean that these two may not be too far from each other in terms of quality. 

 

Wim Wakker (concertina connection) is a very detailed and meticulous maker and even if the minstrel is produced for him and not by him, I feel that id be likely more apt to trust his quality control and product support.  The Phoenix is sold by Mcneela and I cant say as to whether or not they have any concertina makers working for them in this department. 

 

My personal vote would be toward the minstrel, especially if you live in the States, but im sure other folks will have some input as well. 

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17 minutes ago, Oberon said:

The Phoenix is made in China to my understanding, and while I'm not sure I *think* the minstrel may be made in America. If the tech for mass production has gotten solid enough, it may mean that these two may not be too far from each other in terms of quality. 

 

Wim Wakker (concertina connection) is a very detailed and meticulous maker and even if the minstrel is produced for him and not by him, I feel that id be likely more apt to trust his quality control and product support.  The Phoenix is sold by Mcneela and I cant say as to whether or not they have any concertina makers working for them in this department. 

 

My personal vote would be toward the minstrel, especially if you live in the States, but im sure other folks will have some input as well. 

 

+ 1!  However, if you can swing it I'd go with a Clover, Cielli, or Edgley.  Those are just plain better and more user friendly. Just my $.02

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If you have large hands you might find the Minstrel too cramped, like the 1950's Wheatstones, with tiny buttons just too close to the handrest. I tried a Minstrel at Smythe's and found it really difficult to play and not the least bit enjoyable.

 

Unfortunately there seems to be no standard as to distance from "handrest to apex". My 1954 Wheatstone is 2-7/8" (7.3mm) and my Wolverton is 3-1/8" (8.0mm) and that extra quarter of an inch makes a huge difference. 1" high handrests also help.

 

Gary

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/4/2021 at 4:36 AM, gcoover said:

Unfortunately there seems to be no standard as to distance from "handrest to apex".

OR, as you imply, a standard hand size (excepting for safety standards etc).

 

For new build should almost be a case of "Here's your concertina,. Now, where do you want your handrest?", or indeed an adjustable hand rest position!

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I bought a used Minstrel through the Button Box & I'm happy with it. Being female I have smaller hands and had found the Rochelle too big for me and cumbersome. Bellows are easier to manipulate than say a Stagi, but still a little on the stiff side - the only other one I have to compare is a Herrington that has easier bellows.  The buttons are smaller and aren't as high  (sticking up height) as others. This may make it a little more tricky for larger fingers.  Whenever I try to play another person's concertina, this is what's most obvious to me. As for action, it seems fine to me and I can do ornamentation (beginner level rolls/triplets/cuts) without problem. I'd say that when trying to go fast I've noticed the notes get clipped & don't sound fully - a partial skipping sound. That's me really pushing the speed though for me and not playing realistically at my skill level. For moderately lively pace it seems to play fine, going faster is probably a lot to do with my level & not the mechanics alone.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello,

 

I am back to the concertina world, not completely yet as I am looking for a new (or used) concertina.
For my budget, I got the same conclusion, Minstrel or Phoenix. So did you decide ?

And because of Brexit, England is less an option to buy a concertina, huge customs tax to Belgium ! 
And not many shop in Ireland...

 

I have a favor for the Phoenix because of Tipo a Mano reed, but can't find any audio source of a notes by notes...
Here's a video of slow playing on the Minstrel, I like it (maybe more on the harsh side than sweet) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkE_Prbs0Ow.


But don't have any Phoenix comparison, I read it is sweet with Czech reed....

Any though on the Phoenix is super welcome !

Best
Nicolas
 

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18 minutes ago, papawemba said:

I am back to the concertina world, not completely yet as I am looking for a new (or used) concertina.
For my budget, I got the same conclusion, Minstrel or Phoenix. So did you decide ?

And because of Brexit, England is less an option to buy a concertina, huge customs tax to Belgium ! 

 

The Minstrel concertina is made by Concertina Connection in the USA. The situation is complicated, but I would expect you to pay more tax when importing from the USA than from the UK. As I currently understand it, you will need to pay VAT in both cases, but you shouldn't need to pay duty if you buy an instrument that was substantially made in the UK. You will also be paying VAT on the Phoenix because McNeela is a VAT-registered business.

Edited by alex_holden
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Thanks Alex, the Phoenix is sent from Ireland so not sure about that VAT unless there somehow a change with Brexit and Ireland but I don't think so...I ordered a Wren (but 2 years ago) and didn't pay any custom tax or VAT;

I emailed McNeela a few days ago about this and assure me that I wouldn't pay anything more...

 

But I am still stuck between the 2...  Also a shop here in Belgium (Geuns Harry) is working with concertina connection and can probably get the Minstrel without the import duty and all... (waiting for an answer...)

 

Best

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1 minute ago, papawemba said:

Thanks Alex, the Phoenix is sent from Ireland so not sure about that VAT unless there somehow a change with Brexit and Ireland but I don't think so...I ordered a Wren (but 2 years ago) and didn't pay any custom tax or VAT;

I emailed McNeela a few days ago about this and assure me that I wouldn't pay anything more...

 

But I am still stuck between the 2...  Also a shop here in Belgium (Geuns Harry) is working with concertina connection and can probably get the Minstrel without the import duty and all... (waiting for an answer...)

 

When you buy something from McNeela, they will include  VAT in the purchase price, so you may not see it but you're still paying it. You shouldn't have to pay anything else on top of that.

 

Harry Geuns will have to pay import duty at the appropriate tariff rate (I think it's a few percent - maybe 3.7%?) plus handling fees and Belgian VAT when he imports a product from the USA. That's unless he's actually building the Minstrel himself under license in the EU, which would be interesting if true.

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4 hours ago, Geoff W. said:

maybe you can get more of a sense for how the Minstrel sounds.

Geoff: 

 

Did your Minstrel have the standard bellows, or the optional extra Wakker bellows? 

 

In either case, what did you think of the bellows on the Minstrel compared to your Clover?

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3 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

Geoff: 

 

Did your Minstrel have the standard bellows, or the optional extra Wakker bellows? 

 

In either case, what did you think of the bellows on the Minstrel compared to your Clover?

 

I sprung for the Wakker bellows on the Minstrel, which I believe are the same type of bellows that come as default on the Clover,  they feel just about the same. There was a big difference in general smoothness of action and buttons, likely because the Clover has metal capped delrin buttons and feel a little wider than the pretty narrow Minstrel buttons I had.

 

Compared to the Rochelle, the bellows feel very supple and comfortable to play. Both concertinas felt great to play out of the package.

 

Comparing the Minstrel and Clover is Wim himself when I was e-mailing about this:

Quote

For many players that don’t want to spend the money on a traditional concertina, the Clover is the ‘final concertina’. It has the same MS58 brass action as Wakker models do, the same metal capped (‘real’) buttons, and low resistant bellows. The bellows are a big deal. We’re currently  the only makers that make free bellows (not on a rig) with 90% free travel.  see http://www.concertinaconnection.com/about%20bellows.htm  for more info on bellows.

 

The clover features a slightly more precise design and tonal woods (quartered european maple reed pans, Engelmann spruce soundboards) which produce a richer sound.
 
So the difference is: more refined sound, better performance characteristics because of flow pattern and resistance free bellows, action and buttons identical to high end Wakker concertinas.  
For some people that justifies the higher price, others are just as happy with their Minstrel.

 

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Thank you Geoff, nice playing !

Harry Geuns does not carry any Minstrel or Clover for the moment (and probably a long time) so it is not an option anymore.

So Phoenix is the one unless something come up, I'll wait for a (recurrent) sale...

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Looks like the Phoenix as a price raise of 50 euros ! Bump I was waiting for the sale, and I get a price raise ha ha

For a "few" (hum) dollar more, I can get the Claire concertina which seem like a great handmade concertina...I'll think about it, not easy to find a concertina without trying it. But there aren't that many hybrid in Ireland or EU anyway.

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