Premier Percussion are (often and somewhat unfairly) much maligned due to problems behind the scenes and some dubious decisions on product development. However Premier timpani are good kettle drums. When I look at the state of some kettle drums that come in to be repaired, I can honestly say that if they were made by any other manufacturer, they simply wouldn’t be working.
It is a testament to the original design that although the drums have been developed over the years, despite the obvious and cosmetic changes, the mechanisms have largely remained unchanged. There has been development on the mechanism, which has on the whole made them even more reliable.
There is one main Achiles heel which I explain in how to release a jammed pedal on Premier timps, other than that they are very robust.
Musical appreciation is subjective, Premier drums have a “sound” which you either like or you don’t, but my thought process is who are most likely to buy drums like these, especially with glass fibre bowls? My answer is the education market, schools, colleges, music centres, etc. Now the glass fibre bowls are no way near as good as the copper bowls, but they are a lot lighter. So if you need a set of timpani for children to move around, crashing into walls and doors, do yourself a favour just buy Premier now so that you won’t have to go through the process again in a few years when you have to replace your shiny dutch crap!
Musser vibes are the industry standard. I have used the M55 model number because to me they all look the same. Yes sometimes I see gold paint instead of silver, sometimes there are more bits of useless metal getting in the way, but they all work the same. So if it looks like an M55, I call it an M55.
The M55 is a great vibraphone, but like most percussion instruments the design and build quality is sometimes a little dubious. Whilst I have this instrument in my workshop, and before I start doing any work on it, I thought that I would do another buying guide and supplement the first one I did on the Premier 751.
Premier Percussion’s 751 or 701 vibraphones are great instruments despite being often disparaged. It is true that I think there are some elements of the design that are flawed, but I am an instrument maker and I always strive for perfection – believe me that can be a curse (ask my future wife about it if you ever meet her!) However on the whole, as I have already stated, I think they are great and have a lot of positives.
First and foremost, the note bars sound good. Yes the tuning could be better, but you show me a vibe that is tuned properly off the shelf. Tuning can be improved whereas tonality and sustain cannot, and the 751 has both aspects in abundance. This is unsurprising to me since the note bars are more similar to the Deagan’s vibraphones than the Musser’s which are the vibes in vogue today.
To this day they are probably one of the most portable set of vibes, although they are made to be carried not wheeled about, and it is the wheeling around that I think causes a lot of the problems that I have to fix.
Considering the lightweight and portable design of the frame, they last well. I am frequently seeing instruments that are over 50 years old and still working! I would probably die of shock if any of the shite made today by other manufacturers comes in to be serviced when I am in my nineties. That would be Karma I suppose.
The 751 vibraphone has not been made now for a good number of years which means that the only way of acquiring one is to buy it second-hand. I often receive emails asking for advice on what problems to look out for when buying , so I have made this buying guide to give some pointers.
If you are looking at buying a 751 or 701 vibraphone, take a pad and make some notes, count up the missing parts and take some photographs. Then when you want to know roughly how much the repair bill will be, you will have the correct information. All of the parts are obsolete; some I have made direct replacements and some I have re-designed, but all take time to make and fit, and it is the time that ultimately costs you the money. When I compare the average repair bill against other instruments, it is the 751/701 vibe that has the widest range in value, and this is a direct consequence of obsolete parts.