Amati Low-C Bass Clarinet
The Amati Bass clarinets (ACL 691 and ACL 692) are available in Prague. Compared with, say, a Buffet bought in the UK, the price difference is (or was) enough to pay for the trip and a few days' holiday for two. In my opinion the instrument compares very well with the Buffet models. It is true that there are fewer adjustment screws, but mine has needed no adjustments in the three or four years I've had it and been playing it (though immediately after purchase it needed some tweaks on the register key and the articulated C#/G# closure lever). The low-C-extension thumb keys may not be to everyone's taste, though I find it satisfactory; it is pictured below.
There are official details of the Amati models on this page of the Amati website..
CLICK ON A THUMBNAIL PICTURE TO GET THE FULL-SIZE VERSION.
|Front and side views of the instrument, on a Hercules stand.
There are two permanently-connected tone-holes closed by the F/C little-finger keys (or F#/C#): this system gives correct hole-size and spacing for tonal reasons, and good bass clarinets - but not all - have this feature. On the other hand, there is no open side-hole in the bell, as there is on a Buffet instrument; if this is supposedly deleterious to the tone, it is not noticeable.
|The upper part of instrument, showing register keys and tuning joint.
The upper register hole, on the neck, applies above right-hand D, with the lower hole taking over for the lower notes D downwards. The lower one doubles as the throat Bb, for which the usual r.h. side-key Bb is an alternative. The low-Eb extension key + register key gives a rather sharp Bb, and is not usable except in passing or with a lot of lipping-down.)
|The main keywork, showing the position of the little-finger keys, and also the lever that closes the articulated C#/G# pad when a right-hand main key is depressed.
The right-hand little-finger low Eb key automatically closes the E key, while the thumb equivalent, below, does not. There is no little-finger low D.
|The right thumb keys for the low notes.
Pressing C closes all; pressing C# closes D & Eb; pressing D closes Eb. It is necessary to hold down the low E, or the little-finger Eb, for D, C# and C to work: this has some disadvantages and some advantages, one of the latter being a quick change from low C to G by lifting the E key. I have encountered one passage where the the thumb Eb key was useful, the right-hand little-finger alternative normally being the obvious choice.