John Packer Musical Instruments have been making brass and woodwind instruments for the educational market in the UK for a number of years now. With the range expanding to include upgrade instruments and with the JP brand gaining market share in many more countries, now seems like a good time to take a look at some of the Bb trumpets that are currently on offer.
JP 051: This is the entry level Bb instrument from the John Packer range and on the face of it, looks like any of the other similar cheaper instruments coming out of Chinese factories. Yellow brass bell, red brass leadpipe, adjustable 3rd valve slide ring… However, looks can be deceiving, this is NOT the same as the countless other options on the market. The blow is really even across the range, and it is incredibly easy to make a very satisfying trumpet sound with minimal effort. The mouthpiece (a 7C equivalent as you would expect) is actually usable, comfortable and doesn’t slice your lip! The valves (certainly on the model that I had the chance to inspect) were completely flawless straight out of the box.
And wait for it… the price. It retails for less than £150 in the UK and is generally available for less than $250 in the USA. As a teacher, I have always encouraged students to try to get hold of a student Yamaha trumpet, and where family finances are tight and with Yamaha prices sky-rocketing, I have been tending to recommend good rental schemes. The JP 051 has been a popular model with music services and schools for a number of years, and now I can see why. This is by far the best and most reliable trumpet that I have encountered at this price point.
JP 251SWS: The model numbers for JP instruments are straightforward to work out. The first digit places it in the range, with ‘0’ at entry level and ‘3’ at the top of their intermediate ranges. This model sits in the JP upgrade range and is packed full of great features. It has a Bach-style valve block with 1st valve hook and fixed 3rd slide ring, double braced tuning slide and 123mm yellow brass, medium weight bell. This is one of several models that have been designed in collaboration with and approved by Richard Smith of Smith-Watkins instruments, and also has some nice aesthetic features that you would associate with a custom build trumpet: Nice decorative finger buttons and straight bell bracing including one right on the bell bow. This bracing is a feature on all of the JP models from 151 to 351.
A very common problem with upgrade instruments is that they are designed to take more air from an advancing player, however the quality of the materials and the lack of care in design and assembly often leads to an overly bright sound and a lack of centre. I am pleased to say that this is not the case with the JP251SW! It can take a LOT of air, has a nice even blow across the range and has a brightness to the sound without becoming thin at the top. I had estimated the cost at around $1000 after reviewing it, and was amazed to discover that these sell from only $700 in the US and £400 in the UK!
JP 351SWLT: This horn is at the upper end of the JP intermediate range (as the ‘3’ prefix suggests), has large bore (11.73mm) valve section) and Smith-Watkins designed reverse leadpipe. It has a nice medium-heavyweight valve trim, and the look of a commercial trumpet. This LT model has a 123mm lightweight bell though, which gives a nice combination of ‘zing’ with some depth to the sound too. It has the open feel that you would expect from a large bore, reverse leadpipe instrument, however the cleverly-placed bracing (right on the bell bow as with the 251 model) helps to keep a great tonal core.
The price is a pleasant surprise too! From less than £800 in the UK, around $1400 in the US, you get a lot of trumpet for your money.
JP 351SWHW: This is a medium-large bore (11.65mm), heavyweight bell model, with stylish heavy valve trim and Smith-Watkins designed leadpipe. The leadpipe is a double-braced standard configuration, and it features the same straight bell bracing as the other 251 and 351 models.
I was immediately struck by the darkness of the sound. This is a remarkably responsive horn considering its weight, and creates a rich, dark sound that is easy to control across the range. Intonation is very good along with really nice harmonic slotting. The 351SWHW is the horn that I wanted to carry on playing after I had finished putting it through its paces for the review! The price is similar to the lightweight version and really does offer you a really interesting horn for the money.
Looking at the range as a whole, I have never seen so many pro features and interesting characteristics put into a range of ‘student-priced’ instruments. Not reviewed here, but hopefully to come soon is the JP by Taylor trumpet, a collaboration with custom trumpet-maker Andy Taylor. Obviously, if you are looking for a custom-built top of the range horn, that is exactly what you should be buying. If you are looking for some great custom-horn features on a nice-blowing, incredible value instrument, then look no further than John Packer Musical Instruments!
17th April 2018 UPDATE: You can now read my review of the JP by Taylor Trumpet by clicking here.