Chiff and Fipple Forums

Beware of cheap ebay flutes!
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Author:  Aanvil [ Sun Oct 07, 2007 12:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Good sir, I believe believe your attempt to bolster our confidence in flutes produced by Empire Brass will be found lacking.

Your claimed testimonials are quite unintelligible I'm afraid.

I have no idea what point is being made.

All that I have learned from your posting is that you admit to lesser quality and that you would have us forgive over cost.

From previous examples given in this forum, specifically from the post by clearcreek1, there is more than just an issue with finish.

I find it laughable that you can claim to offer wonderfully made instruments yet due to some mysterious non disclosure agreement you cannot tell us who distributes them.

You mention Lark in the Morning yet they do not carry your line of woodwinds?

If there is a bulk of well playing simple system flutes out there produced by your company why haven't we seen any of them?

All that have come to light are indeed opposite of your claim.

Forgive me if I sound agitated, but feel you are attempting to take advantage of us.

Good day to you.

Author:  Tim2723 [ Mon Oct 08, 2007 6:22 am ]
Post subject: 

As one who brought up the Lark in the Morning flute as being a good quality instrument, I'd like to clarify that I was wrong to include it in this thread. Given this new information, it is obvious that the poor quality flutes in question are not distributed by Lark.

Although the Lark may be of Indian manufacture, the Lark flute is not one of these.

Author:  lesl [ Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:56 am ]
Post subject: 

ok - hi guys! I've just been directed to this thread, thanks Craig. I'm one of the lucky ones. I do have an Eb flute made by Empire and it *appeared* to've be a copy of a Boosey which was initially made for use by British troops in India. I say 'appeared' as
1- we id'd it by photo with someone who had an original - I didn't see it in the flesh (err.. in the ebonite..) And
2- as you can see I wrote to the company - but they would not confirm it.

I was disappointed they had no answer. Too bad. If it were true it'd have been a good selling point for them, to explain what their designs were based on and gain credibility.

Of course it doesn't sound like wood, but its ebonite and its not bad. It actually is in tune and is well made (that is to say the pieces fit together properly and there's no bits of ebonite hanging all over it, no sharp edges, its playable, keys work, etc). The wood/cardboard case is bad, but it held intact till it got to me.

I have no idea whether other Empire flutes are of equal quality or not and can't recommend - but I do know the person who sent me the flute as a gift had/has another decent one of the same kind.

I haven't trawled through this entire thread, but do we know the locations/names of the companies with the poor flutes? As far as I know Empire is based in India and not Pakistan.

Author:  jemtheflute [ Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:54 am ]
Post subject: 

A while back I acquired second hand what I assume, from its close similarity (including its case) to their ones on eBay, to be an Empire flute. It is in Eb, made of ebonite and quite tidily finished. It sounds quite well and is as in tune throughout the three octaves as any simple system flute is likely to get (using standard keyed and vented fingerings). The chromed brass keywork is a bit chunky but functions fine, except for the Boehm style foot-joint keys. These work perfectly well but are mis-designed - the touches project far too far up-tube so that unless one twists them away out of playing reach, one cannot finger the E hole (R3) properly. It seems unlikely to me that that is an accurate copy of whatever their original late Pratten style model was. It is certainly a daft situation - one wonders if anyone at Empire has tried to play one? As and when I learn to hard solder, I'm going to shorten the arms by about 5mm and re-attach the touches so that I can get my R3 finger onto the hole properly and use the foot keys too. The G# key touch is also a trifle short and could do with projecting about 5mm further up-tube, the long F likewise - they are reachable but not ideal; bear in mind I have fairly large hands - someone with small hands or short fingers would struggle here. The embouchure is not well finished - the undercutting is poor and not symmetrical. I'm sure I can improve it and make the flute speak more strongly. There is also, as mentioned before, a rather distinct burnt rubber smell to it, though this isn't too annoying.

Here are some pictures of it - including an attempt to illustrate the problem with the foot keys.






Image Image

I'd suggest to Empire Brass that, if they consulted with some of us, they could easily solve these issues - especially the foot-key configuration. I hope they will read this thread again and I'd be very happy to correspond with them - pm me, Empire Brass! This is a decently playable Eb flute - I'd use it if I bumped into an Eb session. I am puzzled however that they market them as "D" flutes when they aren't - their original was either an Eb band flute at A=440Hz or a High Pitch D flute at around A=455Hz. They really ought to make that clear in their advertising. If they copied a good original in D at modern pitch, did something about the smell problem, improved quality control, especially on embouchure cut, and re-jigged the key designs, especially those foot keys, they'd corner the market in low-mid-range 8-key flutes. They aren't far off having something very decent. If they solved the issues I mention, I'd recommend them!

N.B. I too have picked up a couple of presumably Pakistani keyless wooden things that look nicely made on the outside but are quite unplayable, even with tweaked embouchures etc. The guys who make them are obviously competent wood turners - they just aren't using/being given sound design criteria or being subjected to proper quality control. If they were, I'm sure they have the necessary skills to do the job right, and if they did.....

BTW, the "swirly-headed" hardwood keyless (pics and clips on link) I sold recently may well have been from Pakistan originally, certainly if its case is any indicator, but it was well made save for the embouchure and a sharp low D. When I tweaked the embouchure, what had been a stuffy, unresponsive instrument really sang out - stronger than the Seery I have - and though the intonation isn't quite the best achievable on a keyless, it is well within acceptably playable tolerance (e.g. much better than a De Keyser I once had a go on that was quite unplayable!) and probably nearer to modern tuning than my R&R. Point being, you can't reasonably make complete sweeping assumptions about these things - it is worth checking them out, provided you don't shaft yourself financially doing so. I imply no recommendation here [because 1) I've no definite experience of them and 2) if they are the same thing, I had to tweak the one I had] but the ones often seen on eBay from "Sparkomusik" look similar to me (but in different cases). Anyone tried one?

Author:  fraxinus [ Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:48 pm ]
Post subject: 

OK - I'm new here and should have come to this site first - but I didn't!
What I am going to be given as an Xmas present is exactly the flute that you show here Jem - The Eb ebonite.

I'm not very worried about the key positions [yet] as I asked for it so I could get used to [what I thought was] an Irish D flute and then start using the keys slowly. I'll twist the foot for now and do the filing when I need to.

I wonder how many readers are wondering what to do with what they've bought - I live just over the border from you and its getting a bit cold to prop open the window.

I have made very simple bamboo flutes that play an octave and a half.


I will receive this flute either gift wrapped or inserted in the sunless domain. Can you advise me on adjusting the embouchure hole? I'll probably manage the rest OK.
Thank you for the positive bits javascript:emoticon(':)')

Thanks for any help you can give by PM or here.
If this reply should have been placed elsewhere [its not a warning] Mods please advise. Thanks


Author:  jemtheflute [ Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Pat/Fraxinus. If you are only in Telford, pop over to my local regular session some time - it is at The Cross Keys, Selattyn, near Oswestry (about 3 miles up a lane off the southern Chirk interchange on the A5) every Thursday from about 9 p.m. Friendly and welcoming, good beer and music (mostly) - and I'm almost always there - always happy to talk/compare flutes....... It would be about a 40 minute drive for you, I should think. Don't wait till you get your Empire Eb - not much use at a session anyway! Just come for the craic and make yourself known.

Author:  rama [ Sat Nov 17, 2007 5:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

do you think the manufacturers are trying to make real instruments for itm players, or do you think they are just making imitations of real flutes hoping someone will think it is an instrument?

Author:  mutepointe [ Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:09 pm ]
Post subject: 

i think they're trying to reach the entry level market who don't know any better. it's the same as those guitars at wal-mart.

Author:  fraxinus [ Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  damage limitation

Perhaps I should have started a new thread.

I would imagine from the quantity appearing on ebay that there are thousands of us [yep - I'm one] who have bought these flutes because a normal entry level flute is beyond our means.


Can we do anything positive here? It is very clear that some of you guys have bought or have seen these items. You are knowledgeable way beyond anything I will achieve. What can be done with these flutes so that those of us who have slipped on the first rung of the ladder can regain our footing and not abandon the flute - I've listened to many of the clips you have offered and would like to think that one day I can be just one quarter as good - but that will not happen without an instrument.

Thanks for listening,


Author:  Doug_Tipple [ Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:55 am ]
Post subject: 

Here is the body of the email that I received today. The website homepage is attractive, as well as the photos of the instruments. I have two Pakistani goatskin drums that I like, but I am going to pass up this kind offer to distribute the woodwind instruments.

Dear Sir
We got your contact details from the internet.
We are manufacturers & exporters of Flutes and
other musical instruments since 2 decades.Having
complete information, team of craftmen, full
capable to work in very economical way. Hope you
will lend us an opportunity of service to prove
our worth as being a reliable source for
your supplies. Wish to establish long lasting
business relations with your house.You can see
our musical instruments on our website.

Looking farward your kind & early response & oblige.
Sincerely yours
Ibrar Tufail
Export Manager
Habani Enterprises,Peer Haji Shab
Baba De Beri,Sialkot,Punjab

Author:  jemtheflute [ Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:12 am ]
Post subject:  Empire Brass Correspondence


Here is the correspondence I have had with Vikram Vaisoha of Empire Brass in India subsequent to their posting in this thread. It seems rather a "you can take a horse to water" kind of a situation.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jem Hammond
Sent: Friday, October 12, 2007 2:27 PM
Subject: Chiff & Fipple thread

Hello Vikram/Empire Brass,
Can I prompt you to have another look at the thread you recently contributed to on Chiff & Fipple and the discussion of your flutes? When you have read my post, I'd be very happy to talk to you if that might be helpful. I'm not a shop or a wholesaler, just a flute lover who buys and sells and re-conditions old flutes. If you check out some of my contributions to C&F on other topics you will see that I know what I am talking about. I think you almost have a good product that could be improved, without major investment in production, to a point where it could get a good reputation - which despite your comments and testimonials, it does not yet have, or frankly, deserve. Its faults are the more annoying because they could so readily be corrected! It is certainly in a different class from the mostly dreadful things that come out of Pakistan (and maybe from other Indian sources than yourself) masquerading as flutes, but it could so easily be so much better! I am sure you could make a proper D flute at A=440 with slightly re-designed keys for much the same costs as the present version. There would be some initial redesign and re-tooling costs, I suppose, but then you would just resume manufacture on the same principles as at present, with perhaps better quality control, especially regarding embouchure cut.
Jem Hammond (Jemtheflute)

----- Original Message ----
From: Synergy House <>
To: Jem Hammond <>
Sent: Saturday, 13 October, 2007 12:12:43 PM
Subject: Re: Chiff & Fipple thread

Hi Jem,

Thanks for your email. I do agree that we can improve our product quite easily but we want to go through that process with a regular distributor which we are now looking to set up in Europe now that our American side of our operations is in place. We do expect to address these quality issues in the coming year by finalising a branding arrangement directly or indirectly. So far our sales have been on price points due to which we havent worked on quality much but are expecting to up the ante a bit shortly once we finalise our distribution for our rather small production capacity of this line due to which we havent paid much attention to it so far.

Warm Regards.

Vikram Vaisoha.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jem Hammond
To: Synergy House
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 6:20 PM
Subject: Re: Chiff & Fipple thread

Hi again Vikram.
Thankyou for your response. I wish you good luck with improving the flutes and marketing them in future.

I would be interested in any specific responses you may have to the precise technical/design problems I outlined in my C&F posting - were you aware of those exact faults; have other people made the same points to you; are you going to improve those particular features and if so, how? I would be doubtful whether simply setting up marketing and wholesale mechanisms would necessarily drive you to effect the vitally necessary re-design. This is not just a quality control issue! Many mainstream music retail outlets that sell "traditional" instruments as a sideline do not have the expertise or interest in such instruments to identify the problems! If you don't sort out those foot keys in particular, it won't matter what systems you set up, the flutes will still be irritatingly sub-standard - and unnecessarily so! Similarly, you need to make sure that your main product is a flute in D at A=440 Hz, not an E-flat flute at A=440 or a High Pitch instrument. Of course, if you get the design and pitch issues sorted out properly, then there would undoubtedly be a market (albeit not a huge one) for instruments in E-flat, F and both high and low B-flat as well as the bigger market for standard D flutes.

Perhaps you would like to make your responses on the C&F thread as well as to me personally?

Best wishes,
Jem Hammond.

----- Original Message ----
From: Synergy House <>
To: Jem Hammond <>
Sent: Friday, 26 October, 2007 1:24:12 PM
Subject: Re: Chiff & Fipple thread

Hi Jem,

thanks for your email. sorry I took so long in replying since I got caught up with another shipment that has fortuantely now left and all is on schedule.

as for these instruments and quality issues, the reason I put distribution to be key is that unless we have a large enough market that is willing to pay, we would leave the product as it is to sell at bottom prices online etc..we would however further develop the product once we have a regular market for them..

I will try to get back to this thread on that website which I had addressed back then since it greatly affected our reputation..I would however still be happy to have a dialogue with you at that site..could you give me a link if available? thanks.

Vikram Vaisoha.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jem Hammond
To: Synergy House
Sent: Friday, 26 October, 2007 9:24:05 PM
Subject: Re: Chiff & Fipple thread

Hi Vikram,
No need to apologise - we're all busy! Thanks for replying when you could.

The link to the Chiff&Fipple thread you posted on before is:

Addressing your latest remarks, with respect, although I understand in part your commercial point, I think you are "putting the cart before the horse". If you do succeed in setting up distribution of your present product, you will simply get a name for selling a poor one - and if you then improve it you will have trouble overcoming that established image. That would be a pity. I won't re-write the points I made in my previous e-mails or on the C&F thread - but I would draw them to your attention again. I think you would have a better chance of a good distribution deal and of growing your market if you get the product right first! As I did say before, I think that could easily be accomplished.

Surely you could at least get some samples of an improved version ready with relatively little trouble or cost? If you were to do so, I would advocate you sending them for review to some of us with some expertise in these instruments who move in the circles that would be your potential market. Mainstream European Classical/Popular music shops do not have that expertise or market. Personally, I would certainly be willing to follow up the suggestions for revised design I have already made to you by reviewing a product made accordingly - helping to remove any remaining deficiencies and then willingly recommending a satisfactory end-product. The world of Irish Traditional Music works more by personal contact, "networking" and special interest community interaction than it does by standard commercial routes.

Have a look on C&F at the way some makers send out "review copies" of their instruments, sometimes to specific reviewers, sometimes on a "tour", then use the feedback to improve the product and also benefit commercially from the recommendations they receive. That is a far more effective marketing ploy in this specialist field than getting a couple of your flutes into every high street music shop where neither staff nor most customers will really know what it is and will treat it with disdain as "inferior" to a modern orchestral instrument.

Seriously, you have an opportunity for help with design improvement, expert review and commendation - not necessarily with me - I am not trying to empire build! You could easily research the online wooden flute and Irish music networks and ask for volunteers or hand pick advisers and reviewers. I am sure you would get a group of suitable people quite readily if you made it clear that you wanted to get your product up to an acceptable standard and commit to keeping it there before going into general supply. If you flood the market with deficient merchandise, no-one will take you seriously and your present borderline (a trifle unfairly so, and by misassociation with some real rubbish that comes from the subcontinent!) reputation will be permanently damaged.

I really would like to see you get these flutes right, but, to return to my equine metaphor, "you can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"!

Please do feel free to keep in touch. I shall be interested in how things develop for you.
Very best wishes,
Jem Hammond.

To date I have had no further reply, but I don't anticipate a change of heart/message!

Rama, was it these guys you corresponded with or another crew?

Author:  rama [ Wed Nov 21, 2007 1:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

i had email exchange a few years ago with one of the ebayer's, not the manufacturing folks, had to do with the advertising.

Author:  talasiga [ Thu Nov 22, 2007 11:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Clarification from Empire Musical Co for our flutes..

empire_brass wrote:

Lastly we are the `only' company from India with these value for money products and since we are selling them unbranded at most times, we are now finding copies of our products around the place which are actually quite shoddy so do consider this to be a caveat to our Indian (not Pakistani) flutes, etc. .............

Thank you for your time and attention and I do hope to have more opinions from you all so that we can continue to improve ourselves and our products.

More info on our products is available at

Distributor/wholesaler enquiries to be sent to

Dear Empire Brass,
welcome as a new member to this global forum.

I am surprised that you have introduced your India based company in a topic about Pakistani made flutes. Therefore I have started a separate topic to take up your invitation of our opinions as to how you may improve your Indian made Irish flutes.

You may be pleasantly surprised.
Best Wishes,

Author:  Aanvil [ Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:29 pm ]
Post subject: 

Wow Jem that was pretty enlightening and rather generous on your part. Good on you!

Its quite clear these gents are not in any way truly interested in making any effort to create a playable instrument but to off load crap to unsuspecting future flutists.

How many people will be discouraged in taking up the flute after struggling with their unplayable tooters?

Legions I imagine.





Author:  jemtheflute [ Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:46 am ]
Post subject:  ?Empire? Brass Eb Flute - demo clips.

I'm copying below a post I've just made for Talasiga's "Indian" thread - which I think really belongs here with the rest of the stuff about Empire Brass....

Peri/Aanvil wrote:
It's quite clear these gents are not in any way truly interested in making any effort to create a playable instrument but to off load crap to unsuspecting future flutists.

How many people will be discouraged in taking up the flute after struggling with their unplayable tooters?

Peri, I disagree with you about the playability issue regarding these specific flutes only. I agree they don't seem to have much intention of improving them, which is plain silly on their part for reasons I outlined to them and which your view reinforces, but their product as it stands, whilst of limited usefulness (Eb) and with deficiencies, is playable, unlike some.


Right, FWIW, here are some demo clips on the Eb ebonite, Pratten style flute I have (2nd hand off eBay). I assume it is one of the ones by Empire Brass as it looks exactly like theirs (see pics above) and I haven't seen any others closely similar advertised, but obviously I cannot state with certainty that it is an Empire flute.

I have not (yet) modified this flute in any way other than to put in a replacement stopper in the head as the original was loose and leaked. It really is not that bad - certainly not unplayable. I realise the production quality may be inconsistent and I have only tried this one, but if they are mostly around as good/bad as this, they are fit for a bit more than ornamental use, unlike some of the cosmetically pretty but musically truly dire keyless ones one sees.

I have no interest in these other than to see fair play. They do have deficiencies, as I outlined in my detailed description/critique of this one above, and as these clips show - though bear in mind that my playing is also deficient, especially on a flute that I rarely pick up, leading to missed fingerings and not necessarily properly adjusted embouchure. As I said before, I have played keyless flutes by current "reputable" makers that were worse out of tune with themselves than this is. I still think that a re-cut tweak to the embouchure will get a much stronger tone from this flute, and the very flat keyed C natural hole can be tuned up, although it is really not in the right place. The only other adjustments necessary are to the design of the keys to put them in comfortable reach.

This is close - frustratingly close - to being a decent entry level 8-key flute. It is NOT quite there and I'm not trying to make it sound better than it is, but neither does it deserve some of the oprobrium being thrown around. Listen to the clips!

Chromatic Scale - low "C" to 3rd 8ve G#

Slip Jig - An Phis Fliuch (Sorry for inflicting this one on you all yet again, but I find it a really good tune for testing out a flute.....)

Double Jig - Queen of the Rushes

Reels - Maid of Mount Cisco & The Musical Priest

NOTE: I am cross-posting this on Talasiga's "Indian" thread.

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