Buffet is an industry leader in the manufacturing of clarinets. They are a world-renowned brand which features the Buffet R13 as their flagship clarinet, found in the hands of the majority of professional clarinet players around the world.
Their extremely popular intermediate model wood clarinet was always known as the Buffet E11. It was made in Germany by a company called Schreiber. It was at a great price point, and was a huge step-up for most students playing on a plastic student clarinet.
A few years ago Schreiber went out of business, leaving Buffet without their most popular model clarinet, the E11 “Made in Germany”. In a panic Buffet rushed out two new models to replace the beloved E11. The first instrument they introduced was the Buffet E11 France, it features silver-plated keys, is made in France, and built upon the bore design of an R13 clarinet. This clarinet is a step-up from the older E11 Germany clarinet, however its price point was quite a bit higher ($1495) than the E11 that dominated rental inventories throughout the country. **UPDATE 11/19/11 – Please refer to Dave’s post below for more accurate information regarding the closure of Schreiber.
In an attempt to offer a product that was priced similarly to the original E11, Buffet introduced the E11 with nickel keys, also made in France. However, the E11 “Nickel” as I will refer to it for simplicity sake, while Made in France had a nickel plated Chinese key set, and the bore was a new design that was not the same as the old E11. This product had mixed reviews, and unfortunately many were plagued with leaking tone holes, subpar fits and finishes, and overall quality control issues*. The E11 France also suffered from minor quality control issues, but was not nearly as rampant as with the E11 “Nickel”, and most issues were quickly corrected.*
Apparently, realizing the error their ways Buffet quickly purchased the Schreiber factory in Germany to continue the production of the original E11, which is known as the E11 Germany introduced in 2011. They seem to have rectified the problems in this latest run, while maintaining the price point of yesteryears E11 product, and maintaining the legendary performance and quality Buffet was built upon.
As of this writing, Buffet continues to offer the silver-plated Buffet E11 France clarinet in addition to the new for 2011, Buffet E11 “Made in Germany” clarinet (with nickel keys). Both clarinets are an excellent value and are a huge step-up from student clarinets. Buffet has been going through changes from the top down, and hopefully the outcome will be a stronger and better Buffet than we’ve seen before.
UPDATE 5/1/13 –
This has been a popular article, so I’ve updated to add the “E12F” instrument into the mix. Since the original writing of this article, Buffet has discontinued the E11 France clarinet. It has been replaced with a new instrument called the Buffet “E12F” – Made in Germany. Essentially, this instrument is identical to the E11 France, the only change is that it’s now assembled in the Germany factory and not the France factory. The packaging has also been updated, but the design, the clarinet itself, the case and everything else remains identical to the E11 France.
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