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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentInstruments(Moderators: tbone62, Greg Waits) Axials Vs Rotors Is it Really Worth It?
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Noahharry
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« on: Nov 28, 2017, 10:54AM »

Im interested in purchasing an axial valve for my current horn, a Shires Q series that has a rotary valve.  I've never tried any other type of valve but I know that there are definitely differences in valve types.  And within the next month I am going locally to try out the Axial, and obviously that will decide on whether I purchase or not.  But in the meantime Im wondering, to you, what is the real difference between the two and why do/would you choose one over the other?
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SethMatrix

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« Reply #1 on: Nov 28, 2017, 11:05AM »

Im interested in purchasing an axial valve for my current horn, a Shires Q series that has a rotary valve.  I've never tried any other type of valve but I know that there are definitely differences in valve types.  And within the next month I am going locally to try out the Axial, and obviously that will decide on whether I purchase or not.  But in the meantime Im wondering, to you, what is the real difference between the two and why do/would you choose one over the other?

Axials are more consistent in blow and sound from the open horn to with the valve down. Assuming it's a standard rotor, the blow is more "tight" than the open horn, but the valve throw is shorter, and the maintenance is not as heavy. This is not to say that you can't make a consistent sound on standard rotors. It's mostly a trade off. Ultimately playing it yourself will give you an obvious answer of which you prefer.

There are other rotors that are more consistent in blow than "standard rotors". M&W, greenhoe, Hagmann among others. Shires rotors are pretty good in my experience.

The axial flow also changes the blow on the open horn slightly.

Basically any valve that's in alignment can be played with a consistent sound with practice, but for some people special valves make it easier.
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 28, 2017, 11:06AM »

Axials have a lot less air resistance than rotors.  In fact, it can make the F side feel like an open horn.

Some people like them.  Some people prefer having a little resistance.  

I prefer my Yamaha and King rotors to axials, but I'm not everybody.  On the other hand, I'd bet I'd prefer anything to the standard Bach 42 rotor.
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« Reply #3 on: Nov 28, 2017, 11:23AM »

Personally, I prefer rotors over axials for several reasons, weight and resistance being two.

I think a lot of younger players see someone else playing on something, and they think they should play that too. Don't worry about what other people do. If you're the only one to show up with a 1957 88h closed wrap rotary valve, non-modular, fixed leadpipe, but you blow them all away, that's the only thing that matters. Axial valves themselves have been around for some 30 years, so they're nothing new. They were just part of the "bigger is better" arms race where hardware just got bigger and bigger and sound got more and more diffuse. I think big valves like that really hurt things like phrasing and of course breath control. A bit of resistance in the horn allows you to make sound with less air.

Other reasons to keep rotors is that they are easier to maintain, slightly less expensive, you've already got one. An axial open wrap causes a water trap such that you'll get condensation in the wrap if you use it a lot cold. The rotor open wrap doesn't do this. Really, you need to have a local teacher, and ask them. Plus, if you want to make a change like this, you should have some idea as to why you want to make the change. Is there some problem you're trying to solve? Is this financed by the bank of mom and dad?

Finally, there are way better things to spend your money on. Lessons. Concerts. Music camp. Music books and sheet music. Paying your brother to mow the lawn for you so you have more time to practice. Save tricking out your horn for when its honestly holding you back. Change for the sake of change is not always progress.
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 28, 2017, 11:25AM »

On tenor, I can go either way. I've played great horns with both valves.

On bass, I prefer axials, since you spend so much more time in a register that requires blowing through one or two valves.

If you're not extremely unhappy with the rotor on the Shires, you may not notice a huge difference in blow, but more of a difference in response and sound.
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 28, 2017, 11:37AM »

Anything but axials...
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 28, 2017, 12:04PM »

Personally, I prefer rotors over axials for several reasons, weight and resistance being two.

I think a lot of younger players see someone else playing on something, and they think they should play that too. Don't worry about what other people do. If you're the only one to show up with a 1957 88h closed wrap rotary valve, non-modular, fixed leadpipe, but you blow them all away, that's the only thing that matters. Axial valves themselves have been around for some 30 years, so they're nothing new. They were just part of the "bigger is better" arms race where hardware just got bigger and bigger and sound got more and more diffuse. I think big valves like that really hurt things like phrasing and of course breath control. A bit of resistance in the horn allows you to make sound with less air.

Other reasons to keep rotors is that they are easier to maintain, slightly less expensive, you've already got one. An axial open wrap causes a water trap such that you'll get condensation in the wrap if you use it a lot cold. The rotor open wrap doesn't do this. Really, you need to have a local teacher, and ask them. Plus, if you want to make a change like this, you should have some idea as to why you want to make the change. Is there some problem you're trying to solve? Is this financed by the bank of mom and dad?

Finally, there are way better things to spend your money on. Lessons. Concerts. Music camp. Music books and sheet music. Paying your brother to mow the lawn for you so you have more time to practice. Save tricking out your horn for when its honestly holding you back. Change for the sake of change is not always progress.


The quote about young people seeing or reading about people playing something that causes them to assume they need that too is definitely not just for Axials.... I have seen a lot of students totally obsess over dropping huge amounts of money on a trombone with "geenhoe", "elkhart" or "mt vernon" written on it. They have no idea why, but assume that they will make some kind of special sound on those, where as really they just need to spend more time in a practice room. Gear envy is not really helpful for any type of instrument at a student stage.

To the OP, i strongly agree with the tail end of hyperbolicas post, it is so much more beneficial to drop money on method books and lessons etc.... If you are good at trombone, it really doesnt matter too much what instrument you have, and if you are not good at trombone buying an axial valve will not help you in any way.

The reason you would choose one over the other is that when you have established good technical and musical habits in your playing, gear choices can help in making a desired sound you want to produce slightly easier. Its possible to sound great on pretty much anything, but when you know what sound you want to make, and how to make it consistently, you want gear that helps make that as easy as possible. You need to spend a HUGE amount of time in a practice room figuring stuff out though before you are capable of knowing what gear you need.

Hoping to get there one day myself  :D
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 28, 2017, 12:12PM »

Im interested in purchasing an axial valve for my current horn, a Shires Q series that has a rotary valve.  I've never tried any other type of valve but I know that there are definitely differences in valve types.  And within the next month I am going locally to try out the Axial, and obviously that will decide on whether I purchase or not.  But in the meantime Im wondering, to you, what is the real difference between the two and why do/would you choose one over the other?

For tenor, I like the Trubore valve best. It feels the most like a straight gooseneck through the open side of the horn, since it has a straight path through the valve when the valve is not engaged, and the valve section is better than a normal rotor, anyway. The dual-bore rotor from Shires is also very efficient through the valve section, and so that's definitely a consideration. I tend to think that the standard rotor is better than the axial through the open horn, also, but that's not as clear a difference.

For bass, though, I prefer my axials. You'll spend more time transitioning between 0/1/2 valves when playing bass parts. The thayer has the most similar resistance across all valve closed and valve open combinations, and I'm willing to give up some efficiency (Thayers are designed to leak a tiiiny bit) and feel through the open horn for that benefit to uniformity.

Some things to keep in mind, though:
1. The throw of the axial valve is significantly longer than the equivalent rotary valve. This may or may not be a concern, but it's worth mentioning.
2. You can't really "half-valve" an axial valve like you can a rotor. This is only really a concern if you're playing with a conductor who knows the instrument extremely well and likes to do little tricks like that, but it does reduce the number of sounds you can make.
3. The maintenance for the axial valve is quite extensive compared to the rotary valve. If you don't want to oil your valves every time you pick the thing up, potentially ruining your slide lubrication due to negative interactions between the oil and whatever happens to be on the slide... stick with your rotor.

"Is it worth it"? If buying a new horn, choose the configuration that you like and buy it, whatever it happens to be- soldered/unsoldered bell, slide crook diameter, valve type, etc.

It's almost certainly NOT worth it to drop $1000 to modify it after the fact. If you like the horn, you'll be drastically changing its feel by switching out the valve, and if you don't like it, then why not sell it and get a horn that you do like?

Just my perspective.
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 28, 2017, 12:30PM »

Anything but axials...

Why not? Can you speak for Noah?
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 28, 2017, 12:50PM »

Why not? Can you speak for Noah?

I cannot speak for Noah.  None of us can - he'll need to try them and decide for himself. 

Why don't I like them?  I don't like the blow.  I don't care for the sound I get when playing them.  I don't like the mechanical feel.  I don't like the physical feel.  AND, I think they are ugly.   Way cool  Basically, for ME, there is not one redeeming quality.
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 28, 2017, 01:21PM »

I had Shires axials for a number of years and switched to Shires rotors.  I've been completely happy with them.  Yes, axials blow very "open," but there are others ways to make a horn feel more open.  For me, the Shires axial sets I had (two of them) were heavy and never very fast, even when oiled all the time.  I prefer the core the sound of the whole horn gets with conventional rotors and I love the throw, weight, and ease of maintenance of the rotors.  I don't notice a huge difference between the open horn and valved notes.  If it's there, it's easily overcome with little to no thought/effort.  The regular rotors aren't stuffy at all.

These are just my experiences in owning Shires basses since 2002.  Your mileage may vary, especially with other brands of valve.
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« Reply #11 on: Nov 28, 2017, 03:11PM »

Paying your brother to mow the lawn for you so you have more time to practice.

That can potentially be more expensive than a horn in long term.

Sorry, off topic.
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« Reply #12 on: Nov 28, 2017, 05:38PM »

There are differences between the two. The real question that only you can answer is which differences help and which hurt. You have to play them for yourself.
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« Reply #13 on: Nov 28, 2017, 10:09PM »

Having experience with both axials and rotors, I would honestly say at least for me, it really depends on the horn and how it plays in the trigger range on tenor, or with bass trombones both the trigger and double trigger range.

I've had played a few axial horns and based on my personal experience, they really open up the lower register even on the tenor Bach 42T I tried.  On bass, I tried a Getzen 3062AF and I liked the blow of them, but I honestly felt that the sound just didn't fit jazz settings and was too much of a workhouse, especially with the dual bore slide and my large Schilke piece, but work and sounded good in wind ensemble. 

I would say on the downside for me (basses with axials) is that, although I would love to try axials with dependent configuration, they're (at least for me) hard to come by and the two brands that have them (at least that I know of) are Edwards and Shires.

Now for tenor, I'm honestly fine with any valve, all that matters to me that the horn plays well in all ranges and that the valve is great in the low range and alternates.  If it's an older horn (ex. 1970s) I would think about it and play it more to decide if replacing the valve is necessary.  But if it's like a newer Bach 42B and the rotor just feels really uncomfortable even after some time playing as is, then I would probably change the valve with any other valve.  That's just me.  On Kings, Conns, Yamahas, Holtons, I leave it as they are as in my opinion, they don't need axials, hagmannns, etc.  They play fine just the way they are! :)

To go more into depth on bass trombones, pretty much same process with tenors, but on single valve basses, I would be fine with a rotor valve as I honestly think that they don't have any playability issues.  On single like a Holton 169, Bach 50B, Conn 60/71H, that are fine with rotors and have less issues in playability.  With double plugs (independent or dependent), I would do some with tenors, but they're are some cases on a older bass, especially a older Bach 50B2 or 50B3, then I'll see if they really need an update on the valve sections.  On vintage horns like Conn 62/73H, all king basses, Holton 180, and all Yamaha basses, they're fine just the way they are! :) (to me that is... or even most)  If I had to make some mofifications, I would probably have the rotors split and that's just about it.

If it's a custom, I'll try both to see which plays best for me, you'll never know, their rotors will probably be better than most standard brands. Custom brands like M&W or Greenhoe just to name a few, are great examples of how rotor valve basses or tenors can be great and are much better than the rotors of which they're based on.

So bottom line is, try to see which works and feels best for you!

Happy Hunting!
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« Reply #14 on: Nov 28, 2017, 10:58PM »

Ben Griffin has a very good post on this in the Shires Q&A, but its buried in there somewhere maybe around page 30.  In short, they typically put the valves on a spectrum where thayers are the most broad at the expense of some degree of articulation. Rotors are the opposite with a focused sound that has easy articulations at the expense of some depth of sound.  A neckpipe basically splits the difference between these two and a Tru-bore is a little bit more towards the Thayers whereas the Dual-bore rotor is a little bit towards the traditional rotary.

In general that largely matches my experience. But I will say that they aren't necessarily interchangeable in the sense that the horn is a collection of its parts. I have a Shires for sale at the moment on consignment at the brassark.  TB4762/Thayer/1Y.  One of the first ones made.  Awesome horn.  Not my cup of tea, but really good player. (I like my T47LW,2RVET7,Rotor).  But when I swapped out the rotors between these horns, I liked neither of the horns.  Neither worked as well.  Swap the slides out but keep the bell and it gets closer, etc. etc. 

Or in other words, its hard to compare valves by themselves because the horn is the sum of its parts.  Too much depth and its really hard to articulate. Too much crispness and its too bright. A matter of finding goldilocks for you.  I'd suggest changing the valve only if you've first made sure the current valve on the horn is in good working condition and if you want to make a change in the direction that I paraphrased from Ben earlier.  That's the definite benefit... and detriment... of modular horns. You can try a graident until it works... or the horn itself is no longer playable (in extreme cases).
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« Reply #15 on: Nov 29, 2017, 12:02AM »

In short, they typically put the valves on a spectrum where thayers are the most broad at the expense of some degree of articulation. Rotors are the opposite with a focused sound that has easy articulations at the expense of some depth of sound. 

I cannot agree more with this statement.

For me, which valve I use has little to do with the notes I will play with the valve and everything to do with how that valve effects the playing characteristics of the horn in general. I'm at a place in my career where I must tailor the instrument to the needs of the ensemble over what I personally find most appealing. In Presidio Brass, I play the XO Brass 1236 RL-O which is a rotor horn with open wrap and gold brass bell. I use this become all over the instrument, the articulations are more clear/distinct and the sound is more focused and compact. In the context of the brass quintet, this is most desirable. When I'm playing in the orchestra, I switch to a 1236L-T which is basically the same horn with an axial flow valve. I do this because the sound all over the instrument is more broad and allows me more flexibility to shape the many styles of articulation necessary when playing in an orchestra. The rotor horn sounds great in the orchestra as well...I'm just fortunate to have an array of instruments available to me.

Choose a valve based on your own playing characteristics and not that of the description of a valve on a manufactures website. Some players are naturally a bit more zippy or energetic and can use the axial flow valve to balance out that characteristic. Others have a more natural playing style that's more broad, and can use the rotor valve to bring them a bit more to center.

All that said, when you're young...pick something and stick with it.
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« Reply #16 on: Nov 29, 2017, 07:06AM »

I just play the valve that comes with the horn.
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« Reply #17 on: Nov 29, 2017, 05:22PM »

If it's a Shires, the "improvement" is debatable. It will be different, but you won't know whether it's better for you or not until you try it.
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« Reply #18 on: Nov 29, 2017, 06:02PM »

You will eventually pick the valve type that works best for you.  I like the Rotor valves on my Edwards B502 and I like the Axial valves on my Shires but they are really different horns.  I play the Shires mostly but if I were told tomorrow that I had to play the Edwards only I could certainly do that and be happy.  Play them, pick one, go practice.
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« Reply #19 on: Nov 29, 2017, 06:44PM »

In my Demi-godly,  all-knowing opinion....which that & $6 gets you a coffee at starbutts....

The axial on a tenor,  for most people,  is too much valve for the 0.547 bore horn.  It's TOO open and a vacuum for the lungs. As long as the valve section is built well with little or no tension,  a rotary valve will work just fine.
That said,  there ARE some folks with strong breath support & embouchures that appreciate this set up.
The newer designed valves with the similar thoughts of a continuous bore through the valve,  mimic the axials,  but with a bit of resistance.
Good or bad,  up to the player.

One thing I MUST harp on is the thought of maintenance.  As a tech,  I feel the axials are no more labor intensive to maintain tha any other rotor!  In fact,  they are somewhat easier to disassemble for service!!!  The only screw needing a tool is the stop arm screw,  but everything else comes apart with rings & threaded braces!


Just my late evening ramble.


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