Zeus Review (A Short One)

Discussion in 'Horns' started by uatrmpt, Apr 8, 2004.

  1. uatrmpt

    uatrmpt Piano User

    Nov 29, 2003
    I had the opportunity to play a Zeus trumpet the other day in Symphonic Band rehearsal and just wanted to add my experiences to the tons of other ones.

    The horn was the Bach-copy (the G?) in brushed lacquer with the .470 tuning slide and a set of heavy valve caps. I was playing on a GR G66***

    The first thing I immediately noticed about the playing was that it took more air in the lower register than I am used to (I play a 1999 model Bach ML 37) but the horn tightened up when I ascended above High C. I couldn't get the horn to sound above high F (although the blame may not lie totally on the horn). The F is an easy note to play on my Bach and while I feel my Bach is stuffy in the upper register, it was more open than then Zeus. I think the .470 tuning slide may have contributed to the fact that I constantly felt winded while playing this horn. I wasn't able to complete phrases I normally would. The valves caps made the horn seem unneccesarily heavy and the horn seemed bell heavy as it was.

    I also had some tuning issues with the horn. I was never able to quite get the horn to lock in on the pitch and had some trouble blending with the guy on the left, playing a late LA Benge, and the guy on the right, playing a rather bright, vibrato-laden Bach. The ensemble was also very loud. I'd have liked to have had some time in a practice room with the horn and a tuner, but that didn't happen.

    Valves. Excellent, as Kanstul valves usually are.

    Fit and Finish. This is the one area I had some major problems with the horn. I've seen people rave about the finish on Kanstul horns and the Zeus's, but this one didn't quite live up to the billing. Granted, the problems were small, but a new horn should be flawless, $950 or $5000. There were burn marks in the lacquer where various things had been soldered on, such as the spit valve assemblies and braces. I also noticed some places where the solder had not been covered by the lacquer.

    There were two more issues with the horn construction I had. One, the third slide ring was two small. I prefer to insert my ring finger all the way into the ring so that I can have all fingers on top of the third slide. My knuckle kept getting caught on the ring. I don't have this problem on my Bach. I also thought that the fact the tuning slide was cut even on both the top and bottom made it more difficult to insert the tunining slide when I took it out. Making the bottom leg of the slide a bit longer so it is inserted first would help this.

    One additional point, I pulled out the main tuning slide and noticed something right on the inside of the slide that looked like instant mashed potatoes. I then looked down the leadpipe and found it was absolutely gunked up. This horn was only a week old and should not have been in that condition. It looks like it had been through a marching season of nachos and coke being blown into it every week.

    All that being said, would I buy a Zeus? Nah, because I'm not looking for another Bach (or copy, as the case may be). If the finish issues were cleared up and the mysterious gunk in the leadpipe disappears, would I reccommend them to my future high students? If Zeus is still around and there's a local dealer, probably. Would I recommend them to a student who wanted something better than a student horn but whose music career won't extend past college marching band? Definitely, as I think the Zeus has fulfilled its purpose -- a low cost, pro quality horn. Would I recommend it to a future music major? Probably not. Some teachers can be very political when it comes to horns (just ask the kid on TH that went to Hartt and sold his Smith-Watkins for a Bach). Perhaps my view on this will be altered by future acceptance by teachers, professionals, and the resale market.
  2. Zeusfan

    Zeusfan New Friend

    Mar 20, 2004

    Let me begin by saying that I am a ZeuS dealer, and the horn that Matt is talking about is my horn. You can take this for what it is worth since I will be accused of being biased just because I'm a dealer. Anyway, the ZeuS Guarnerius "Bb" is what he played. I haven't had the problems with the horn that he described, but every player is different. The reason the solder marks were showing is because it is a "brushed lacquer horn. I haven't seen the spots that Matt is talking about but we didn't get much time to talk after his rehearsal. I haven't had any intonation problems and I don't think that he would if he had time to play the horn in a less frantic setting. Don't let this be anything aimed at you Matt, but the symphonic band is pretty much a marching that stopped marching and decided to put on a tux for the winter. The group is not necessarily the best intonated group anyway. It would be extremely difficult to tune without previously knowing your horn.

    As far as the high range goes on the horn, it seems fine to me for a ML bore horn. While I am waiting for my new Olympus to come in I have had to play this horn in all my "lead" trumpet playing. It definitely wouldn't be my choice for lead at all, but is has seemed to do pretty good over the past week or so. I can still command the band and scream over everyone else which is what the director wants. He hasn't said anything about the horn sounding any different or being weaker.

    Any pro's that have played this horn have had nothing but positive things to say. And everyone has been blown away by the Guarnerius "C." It is a gem! See you Monday Matt. Hope you have a good weekend.

  3. dHoff

    dHoff Pianissimo User

    Feb 13, 2004
    Woodstock, NY
    The finish issues are suprising but serious. Did you play the horn when it wasn't full of gunk? No matter how it got full, a play test of an instrument clogged with anything "that looked like instant mashed potatoes" is obviously not a valid play test.

    It just seems silly that you would publish a review of the way a horn plays and then say it was clogged.

    Kind of like publishing a terrible review of a new Porsche; saying the finish was bad (good point ) and that it accellerated slowly and handled poorly, only to follow up by saying it was missing one plug wire and the tires were under inflated. I would say, stick to talking about the finish issues. Otherwise, replace the plug wire, pump up the tires and drive the thing! Otherwise one wonders what the point is.

    If you said the finish was poor and the thing was dirty inside so you couldn't give it a real test, you would appear credible.

  4. dmb

    dmb New Friend

    Nov 6, 2003

    It's nice to hear the voice of reason. Even if only infrequently.

    PS I'm not trying to imply anything about the frequency of your reasoning. :D

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    Finish issues ... first let me say that I haven't noticed any in the ZeuS horns I have had. Of course, ZeuS does have some different finishes, the the brushed brass is going to show more than many other finishes.

    I have a brushed copper Olympus at the moment. Beautiful -- simply a fantastic looking horn. But that does not mean that a horn couldn't come from Kanstul with a flaw or two -- they come from Bach that way too at times. In fact, I have seen several Bachs I wouldn't buy (but demos in stores can have all kinds of problems).

    One additional point, I pulled out the main tuning slide and noticed something right on the inside of the slide that looked like instant mashed potatoes. I then looked down the leadpipe and found it was absolutely gunked up. This horn was only a week old and should not have been in that condition. It looks like it had been through a marching season of nachos and coke being blown into it every week.

    Your symphonic band must have a lot more fun than ours! Nachos and coke -- what fun. Did you have a beer too before trying the double G? :D

    All kidding aside, ZeuSFan needs to clean that horn. I demo horns often and even if you let someone play your horn (I always do) the different saliva and mixtures can make a mess. Any horn played by many people needs to be cleaned much more often.

    Have ZeuSFan clean that horn and then try it again with the tuner and some time. It will not fix the third valve ring. But no horn fits everyone. A competent repair person would have any size ring you wanted on there in minutes -- not a real good reason to not like a horn.

    I have to admit, though, I found your review refreshing and honest. No ZeuS lover or ZeuS hater trying to pound home a point.

    Perhaps my view on this will be altered by future acceptance by teachers, professionals, and the resale market.

    Some teachers and pros are getting there. ZeuS is fairly new. The resale market will take a LONG time. Compared to the number of Bachs out there, ZeuS is pretty rare. And very few who buy one sell it in a short period of time. It will be a long time before there is any secondary market for these horns. In fact, I would say that if you see any new horn show up a lot on the secondary markets, perhaps they are not liked all that well. Whether it is a ZeuS, a Wild Thing, a Kanstul WB, a Conn V1 ... it doesn't matter. When they show up on the secondary markets you have to ask "why?". I know in graduate school I sold my prized Yamaha 321 Euphonium. I wish I still had it -- but I needed the money. Some, I guess, could be selling for that reason :D

  6. Zachary Music

    Zachary Music New Friend

    Nov 10, 2003
    Your review is indicative of someone who plays a modern Bach trumpet. Not only are you used to playing your own particular horn, you are also playing a trumpet with its own idiosyncrasies, to which you are accustomed to. You have undoubtedly adjusted in correcting any or all the problems that your trumpet inherently possesses. All trumpets have idiosyncrasies and imperfections.

    Many accomplished players have played the ZeuS G and interestingly many of your comments are contrary to what others have documented. I believe if you had the opportunity to play the ZeuS G for a longer period, lets say several days and then picked up your Bach, you would find yourself disappointed with your Bach. This is precisely why most ZeuS G owners are former Bach owners.

    Picking up the ZeuS for a short time will not give you an accurate assessment of the capabilities of the horn. You should also play your Bach with both a regular and a round large bore slide and compare the difference before you make any comment, positive or negative.

    You can imagine that after about 4 years of selling the ZeuS G, I had many accomplished players scrutinize this trumpet for its playing characteristics. Overwhelmingly, every one of them has commented that for one thing, it has superior intonation to a Bach or at least to the Bachs they have played. Again, the lengthy period of you playing a Bach may have altered your playing to make your own horn sound its best, this is natural.

    In terms of fit and finish, you were looking at a ZeuS G with a brushed finish. I imagine that you are not used to playing or closely looking at a trumpet with this type of a finish. I suggest that you familiarize yourself more with this type of finish. I can understand how someone not familiar with this type of a finish may make these assumptions in the first few minutes of looking at the instrument up close.

    The two other criticisms you mention, one about the size of the 3rd slide ring and the fact that both ends of the tuning slide are cut evenly, clearly indicate being very accustomed to one trumpet, that of your own. I can certainly tell you that nobody else had trouble inserting their fingers into the ring, nor did they have trouble removing or installing the slide.

    The “instant mashed potato†part you included in your review adds a great comic effect. To be serious however, why is it that every time my Alabama dealer calls me he is chewing on something? I even have a hard time understanding him sometimes. He blames it on his cell phone and his southern accent but I can hear him munching away. I will have to sit him down and have some strong words with him about this. You may be right and I apologize on his behalf. He should know better and stay off the munchies, his girlfriend has already commented about his gut and he is only in his twenties. Keep an eye on him for me, will you?

    I would be really honored for you to be either a ZeuS G or Olympus player.
    I feel ZeuS would certainly give you an edge and highlight the uniqueness and individuality of your playing. I am sure that given more time you would have a very different view of the ZeuS G, after all, about 80% off all ZeuS players are former long time Bach players.

    I am happy you would recommend the ZeuS G to your students however it is very rare that a student buys a ZeuS G. Most ZeuS Gs are sold to serious and experienced adult players, who are long past their college marching days I'm afraid. The Olympus, new as it is, has been mainly purchased by professionals. For your students I would recommend the ZeuS ZTR 750. A good teacher must also be a great politician, you noticed that.

    I do admire your brand loyalty for Bach. Most companies would do anything to acquire that kind of a following. I am sure you have been playing Bach a long time and no other brand, regardless of how good or better it may be, in your view will ever quite match it. This is unfortunate, there is a lot of great stuff out there which you could explore. I think as these forums indicate many mature players really want more unique and more exclusive brands. One thing I am happy about is the great variety of wonderful horns played by players on these forums.

    In time, as a future schoolteacher, I really hope you will be a renegade among teachers and give your students the choice in what they play. Instead of telling them what to buy or to play what you play, teach them how to choose an instrument on their own for themselves. That will surely be of value to them in the future. Be careful it’s not easy being a renegade but its ultimately much more satisfying.

    If you are an accomplished and experienced player, then I am sure you realize that it is not fair, first and foremost, to yourself to make a critique of a horn after only a short time playing it. Doing it that way you will most certainly get an inaccurate evaluation of any horn. This is unfair to the horn and to you. Please don’t give your Bach to anyone and expect an accurate review of it in such a short time. That would not be fair to the fine Bach that I am sure you play.
  7. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    While Alex and I have disagreed a bit at times, I have yet to play a ZeuS G that I would consider to be lesser than the Bach Strad I currently play. Different to be sure, but not lesser. In fact, the last one that I played, a brushed lacquer model owned by Paul Artola (FatPauly) of Ellicott City, Maryland, played VERY good indeed, especially with the .470 slide. Maybe I liked the bigger slide a little more because my Bach is a LB (only .462, but LB by Bach's standards) but it certainly played well. In the upper register, I dare say that it was a little more clear, clean and even than My Bach.

    Then there is the "honeymoon" issue with horns. I only played this horn for a short while one afternoon, and who knows, it may have not felt so nice after a week or so, but I doubt it. But, I did put it through it's paces enough to get a feel for what it was doing. I played soft, I played loud, I played ballads and I played some hard, loud, rock lines too. It handled everything pretty nicely. I also didn't notice it to have any real intonation issues either, at least no more than any other trumpet that I have ever played.

    Matt, I think that you should give this horn another shot, especially after it has been cleaned. You may find yourself liking it.
  8. dHoff

    dHoff Pianissimo User

    Feb 13, 2004
    Woodstock, NY
    I think Zues Dealers Talk to much

    It is my opinion that the long winded and repetitive replies above do not fuel a positive image of Zues horns

    We know they are good. The buz created by controversy has lost its intrigue. The calm that has been present on these pages for the last month + helps reveal the "haters" for what they are and gives an opportunity for the instrument to become known.

    My olympus is beautilly made. Some love playing it some don't. The ones who didn't, didn't like the Wild Thing either.

  9. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Brush gold lacquer finishes can be applied without solder burns and excess solder showing through the lacquer. (Excess solder is a tell-tale sign that a horn was NOT assembled by a master craftman. It's an accident that happens less and less with experience). Several manufacturers successfully accomplish this (think Yamaha and Selmer Paris, for two). Using the brushed finish as an excuse demonstrates the general attitude toward quality control with this marketer.

    I'd like to hear a followup review with the horn cleaned up and a proper Bach-like tuning slide in place for use by a Bach player. I suspect that the gunk may have been excess tuning-slide grease. It might also be construction residue. No matter which, you see it on many horns (including Bachs) when delivered. I'd suggest a thorough inside cleaning with Simple Green and good brushes.

    An odd slide and wads of gunk inside a horn can wreck the performance of even the best custom-made horn. I think this Zeus deserves a second chance by the same reviewer.

  10. Zachary Music

    Zachary Music New Friend

    Nov 10, 2003
    Dave (tpt player form TX) wrote:

    “Brush gold lacquer finishes can be applied without solder burns and excess solder showing through the lacquer.â€

    What trumpet are you talking about?
    Was there a gold plated horn mentioned anywhere in this thread?

    Where is it ever stated that there is excessive solder? I believe the opposite is being claimed, that there is not enough solder.

    There is also nothing “odd†about the slide. The upper and lower inside slide tubes are simply of equal length, as found on most trumpets, like on yours most likely.

    You may have posted in the wrong thread and about the wrong horn. Please check it out.
    You also seem to be an authority on instrument manufacturing. If you are at least a professional brass repair technician please let us know. I don’t know about “master craftsmen†in the romantic sense of the term but these instruments are made in the USA by very trained workers who make some of the best trumpets ever made.

    I would like to hear a review of your trumpets by the same person after playing them for a short time.

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