Topic: Evolution of Fox professional bassoons

I'm a reasonably competent amateur who is considering upgrading from my 1980-vintage sugar maple Fox 201.  It's a nice instrument and very responsive, but the tone is a bit thin (especially compared to my teacher's Walter) and I am hoping I can find something easier to play in tune.  (Probably a Fox, for the same reason that I keep buying Hondas.)  I play in a variety of groups (quintets, orchestras, bands) as both first and second so I would like as much flexibility as possible, but ideally a more powerful sound without sacrificing intonation.  That said, I don't think I'm ready to invest the $30,000 or so that a new top-of-the-line Fox costs.  I have seen a fair number of 601s from the 1990s for around half of that, which is more affordable.  How would these compare to the newest instruments, and mine?  I know Fox has continued to modify the design, for example the high-resonance finish, but I don't have a sense of how much difference these would make, or how big of an improvement over my 201 I can expect.

(I realize that I can't actually be certain about this without trying instruments, but since this is likely to involve some significant shipping costs I'd like to do some research first.)

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Re: Evolution of Fox professional bassoons

Painting with a broad brush, you will find that newer Fox instruments have more resonant sound than ones from the '80s.

The 601 will have a different feel and different pitch tendencies from your 201. You will probably find the 601's low E and D in better tune (not as sharp) than the 201. You may find that your 201's highest range speaks easier. Etc.

Of course, you'll want to look at the condition of the instrument(s) in question.

There is a lot to say for 601s from the 1990s.

You'll have to try instruments. You may need to adjust your reeds to accommodate different models. Longer term, you'll probably also have to play with different bocals. The bocals from your 201 may or may not work well with another instrument (e.g. 601).

Will it be worth the extra money? Only you can answer that. It depends on your budget, how much of an improvement you perceive over your current instrument, etc.

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Re: Evolution of Fox professional bassoons

If you hit a professional Fox with a serial number of about 20,000 or higher (roughly 1992 or so) you begin to enter what I consider a "modern period" for Fox pro instruments. They figured out something about the wood around that time, and instruments from the very late 19k serial numbers but more into the 20k and up numbers tend to be far superior than instruments with a less than 19k serial number.

That's not to say that a 201 with a serial number of 12,000 won't be a potentially great instrument for a lot of people, but the ones made in the early 1990's are going to be better.

That said, you'd be hard pressed to find a new professional Fox model for close to $30k, even now after a recent price increase. Most will still be in the mid $20's for a while.

You might consider "downgrading" to a model 260. That is their new Renard model, but it's a thickwall bassoon, built along the same lines as a 660 in terms of design structure (short bore, thick wall). But a 260 from today may be a better instrument for you than a 201 from the early 80's. The retail for the 260 is in the <$15k range.

Last edited by Trent (2014-07-11 07:38:21)

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Evolution of Fox professional bassoons

I recently attended the Glickman/Popkin Bassoon Camp where I had the opportunity to try, and hear "all the latest Fox Bassoons".  I play a 30 yr old Model II Fox which I bought new, have had the factory resonance upgrades done, and have been lusting after a new Bassoon for a couple years figuring that the newer Foxes would be somehow "better".  Based upon my experience, I expected to find a 601 I really loved among the new instruments, and was interested in the new 680 as well as the 260, just because they are the latest from Fox.  I found the new 680 to be excellent, both in Red Maple and Mountain Maple, with a preference for the Mountain Maple with Heavy Bell.  I also liked the new 260 quite a bit.  I was surprised at my low enthusiasm for the 601s I tried there..they just didn't do it for me.  I LOVED the "Hugo Fox Model II" in Red Maple they brought.  Of course, The Hugo Fox Bassoon is closest to what I currently play, so that was not a great revelation.  All things considered, I could learn to play any of the newest Fox Bassoons I tried, and would be quite happy with any one of them.  According to Tony Starkey, Fox CEO, the price (list) of all Fox Professional Bassoons in any wood is currently right at $25k plus, of course, any extra key modifications.  What I did discover, to my surprise, was that my 30 year old Model II is a quite viable instrument and not in any way an inferior instrument to the "latest and greatest"  It is important to keep my Model II properly serviced (Thanks Paul Nordby!!!!) for it to play its best, and I am currently quite happy with my 30 yr old Fox II!  Your opinion regarding any particular model of Fox Bassoon may certainly vary from mine.

Last edited by BassoonII (2014-07-12 06:44:18)

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Re: Evolution of Fox professional bassoons

As Frank says if your current bassoon is in top condition the difference will be less.
Over the years I have serviced quite a few instruments prior to the owners selling them having bought a new one. The comments are very interesting! 'Why did I buy a new one before getting my old one fixed?' being a typical reaction.

Re: Evolution of Fox professional bassoons

Check with Charles Double-Reeds or Miller Marketing. They usually have newer used Fox bassoons for sale for much less than the new ones, if not spending more $$ than is absolutely necessary is your goal.
Charles McCracken

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