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Newbie report: Aulos A309 vs. Woodnote alto recorder

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 12:56 pm
by ganchan
After learning on an Aulos A309 alto recorder, I've just received a matte black Woodnote alto to compare it to. I should warn you that the following comparison has been prepared by a relative beginner, so the results I'm getting may be influenced by current playing level. I know Woodnote recorders are based on the Yamaha 300 series, but I've never played the Yamaha so I don't know whether my findings would also apply to those instruments. Perhaps someone who has compared the Woodnote and Yamaha altos directly can shed some light there....

Tone: The Aulos most definitely sounds like a recorder, with the characteristic roundness of tone and a tendency for some notes to pop out more resonantly than others when playing a straightforward two-octave scale. It is a very clear sound, with just a bit of an edge to it. The Woodnote seems to have a softer, more velvety timbre, and it seem to produce a more even scale, though this might be an aural illusion of some sort. The overall effect is darker, quieter (dare I say "stuffier?"), more flute-like and less "Baroque."

Playability: These instruments are relatively easy to play, but not in the same ways. The Aulos flies right up to the top of the scale with the greatest of ease (well, when my technique is cooperating, anyway), while the Woodnote can sometimes be reluctant to yield its high F. (High G, oddly enough, pops out much more easily.) The Aulos produces a noticeable, and in my opinion sometimes obtrusive, degree of chiff on the lower notes, but I suppose a skilled pro could use this for expressive purposes, and it's just one more thing that makes the 309 sound thoroughly "recorder-ish." The Woodnote is less prone to this, which can make smooth attacks easier for beginners like me. I get the impression that I have to uncover less of the thumb for upper notes on the Woodnote than I do on the Aulos.

Other stuff: I like the look of the Rottenburgh-styled Woodnote better than the Coolsma-styled Aulos, though the Aulos is finished a little more carefully. The matte black finish gives it a nice faux ebony look. I didn't check the tuning of all the notes, but on the Woodnote, low F will play in tune if I reign in the breath, while middle f is fine and top F CAN be fine with the perfect combination of airspeed and thumb position. (I tend to hit it flat for some reason.) On the Aulos, it's slightly easier to pull the low F into tune (I drop my jaw slightly), middle F is OK but a little finicky, and I find the pitch of high F more reliable than that of the Woodnote (but this could be due to the fact that I'm used to the Aulos.)

I like both of the instruments for their respective strengths. I could see someone switching back and forth between them to suit different types of music. I'll probably continue to use the 309 for "Early Music" and whip out the Woodnote for other genres/periods.

[UPDATE: I'm getting more used to the high register on the Woodnote; it isn't "stuffy" really, just darker and more soft-grained than the ultra-clear Aulos. The top F is also working better for me now that I've attached a thumbrest, so we'll have to chalk that issue up to user error... the Aulos is still a little easier up high, but the Woodnote has the advantage down low.]