Carbonissimo's newest invention implemented Carbon Fiber, a composite material that is 5 times stronger than steel and with much lighter weight. It is a brilliant idea to use carbon fiber to make the clarinet accessories because it can reduce the overall weight. But the question is how does it sound like?
According to Carbonissimo "Carbon Fiber improves the performances in terms of ease of response and staccato, the flow of sound, homogeneity in all registers of the instruments and a good stability in extreme dynamics."
Carbonissimo is a dynamic and innovative brand focused on producing exclusive carbon fiber accessories for Clarinet and Saxophone.
Since 2014, Carbonissimo is the first brand in the world in producing ligatures, barrels for clarinet, and necks for baritone saxophone made of carbon fiber.
After years of trials, in December 2019, Carbonissimo launched their first ligatures to meet the main demands of the most exigent musicians. Later, in January 2021, Carbonissimo started to extend its range of products.
All Carbonissimo products are entirely manufactured and assembled in Spain (European Union).
Carbonissimo sent over their newest product of Carbon Fiber ligature and barrel. As soon as I open the package, my eyes were stunned by the beautiful carbon fiber pattern on the barrel. The barrel is very smooth and feels very "high tech", which is a plus for anyone who is pursuing the best look for their clarinet. The barrel feels surprisingly light, weighing almost half as other wood barrels. It also has a slightly curved cylinder and a very smooth bore.
The ligature is very light also, but don't get deceived by its simpleness. When I put it on the reed and mouthpiece, it offers a very tight fit, which is ideal for resonance. The screw on the ligature turns very smooth, and glossy carbon fiber looks just amazing.
In this review article, I'm going to test out several factors of the barrel and ligature. Including Quality, tightness, Sound and timber, pricing, and versatility. Also, I'm going to test its ability by playing it in both the jazz and classical genres, with extensive octave switches. In this test, I’m using Backun Model F clarinet, Legere #4 European Cut synthetic reed and Gleichweit #8 mouthpiece.
The ligature is very light but durable, when you hold it between your fingers you can feel that it is not easy to be bent or deformed. This is great because many of the metal ligatures tend to deform after an accidental drop on the floor. Carbonissmo's ligature screw has a smooth turn, and it can provide a very tight tension for the mouthpiece and reed. It is also customizable, with 8 colors to choose from at checkout.
In the test, I'm using the same ligature over a different set of barrels to avoid the mixed stats of the carbonissimo barrel. The ligature gives out a simple and straightforward sound, and it makes the clarinet sing with a slightly darker tone. It sounds very much like a steel/aluminum ligature because of its design.
Personally speaking, the vibration of the ligature isn't what I'm looking for in terms of sounding. It does offer a great resonance, with ease to play.
The price of the ligature is $150 USD, its a fairly expensive product due to its material and the complex making process.
The quality of the barrel stands out from all its competitor. The smoothness in hand gives you a futuristic feeling. The carbon fiber pattern is very visible and will attract lots of attention from other people.
The inner bore has a wood-like feel, yet very smooth, it looks like a machine filled with great care. It also has a company Logo on the bottom of the cylinder and looks like it is not erasable and very durable for long-term use.
The barrel fits the mouthpiece and the clarinet perfectly, the over quality is excellent.
The resistance of the barrel is low, which my airstream is easy to go through without too much "stiffness". It is also very open, and easy to make a great sound with a good octave response.
The timber of the barrel gives the whole clarinet a lighter and brighter sound. It also has a very centered sound and doesn't lose its volume when it is on the altissimo range.
I've played the barrel on classical, jazz, and popular music styles. However, I'm leaning more towards it being a neoclassical music or contemporary/popular music barrel due to its sound character. It is very easy to play with low resistance, which makes it perfect to play in a solo setting or even in electronic music. The octave response of the barrel is excellent, I'm able to easily articulate between octaves with ease.
The price of the barrel is around $350, it is a very expensive product compared to the market. However, I believe it is worth the price for a few reasons. First, the carbon fiber material and labor cost added its value. Then it is the first of its kind, as for now, using carbon fiber to make instrument accessory is still very rare. Also, the sound it produces is special, its harmonics are better than most of the clarinet barrels I've tried. Lastly is its durability, being a carbon fiber product, it can withstand force and accidental drops, most importantly, it doesn't crack.
The making process of the carbonissimo is very secretive. According to Carbonissimo's official statement, "The development process of the barrels was carried out with the opinion of professional clarinetists who designed the external and internal shapes and selected the woods by their density to adapt it to a hybrid manufacturing system of wood and carbon fiber.
We studied the formulation of the resin and the grammage of the carbon to obtain the best possible performance in terms of physical acoustics. Furthermore, the application of carbon fiber directly on wood is very important for obtaining a homogeneity of sound, but this is our "professional secrecy"."
My overall impression of carbonissimo's barrel and ligature is a must-try product. They can make a difference in terms of sound and versatility. I sincerely hope more clarinetists will be using this new product line in performances.
Article written by Ye Huang
Published by Clarinet U
About Ye Huang:
Clarinetist, saxophonist, pianist, and composer. Ye performs music across classical, jazz, pop and many other genres. He toured with world-renown musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Daniels, and many.