The F.E. Olds NA340 ¾ size baritone horn is ideal for younger players due to its smaller size and bore compared to the full size euphoniums. Three stainless steel valves and upright bell provide a warm rich tone that complements other low brass instruments. Included with the instrument are a mouthpiece and sturdy molded plastic case.
The baritone horn differs from its cousin the euphonium in several ways. The baritone is generally of smaller bore, but it also has more cylindrical bore tubing for more of the instrument, like a trumpet or trombone. This gives the baritone a more centered, projecting, soloistic tone. The euphonium is generally larger bore, and is as conical as possible for the length of the instrument like a flugelhorn or tuba. For this reason the euphonium is sometimes called a tenor tuba. Baritone horns may read sheet music in Bb treble clef like a trumpet or bass clef like a trombone. It depends upon the gig. The 3/4 moniker isn't really necessary. This is a full size baritone horn, but it's 3/4 size compared to a full size euphonium.
This Olds has some very nice attention to detail. The body is made of all brass with nickel trim and nickel plated parts. All the inside and outside slide tubes are nickel - a nice touch. Using more of this slightly harder metal improves center, clarity and projection compared to only brass. The leadpipe is red brass. The higher copper content of the red brass is more resistant to corrosion. Some delicate sheet bracing adorns the top of the slides. Three water keys are standard, as is a mount for a lyre. The case is very decent, with some small interior storage space. Buffing and polishing are are clear and the lacquer is smooth.
I can't confirm that the included small shank mouthpiece is anything remarkable. I tested the horn with a Ferguson 11 and 1S, akin to a Bach 11C and Bach 5GS. The tone is very mouthpiece dependent. With the 11 the tone was clear and bright and trombone-like. With the 1S the tone was more diffused and broad and euphonium-like. Several Denis Wick mouthpieces in small shank may also work well on the Olds.
The Olds baritone is fun to play. The response is fast and attacks clear, even when slurring. The pitch seems right-on throughout the range. First valve C and Eb are fine, 1-2 G in the staff is fine. The tone is easily flared, and you can play around with it a bit. Malleable, and the false tones are ok too. The piston action is flawless, even before I added valve oil. Stainless steel piston construction should last nearly until the sun goes supernova.
The F.E. Olds company has a long history, over 100 years. Their famed years of US instrument building ended in the 1970's, and since then the company has imported very reasonably priced instruments like this one. They've been doing it a long time and they get it right. The workmanship is nice, mechanisms are smooth, attention to detail is high, and it's nice playing horn.
The Olds would be excellent in a brass band or brass choir, concert band, double with trombone in an orchestra pit, or an outdoor job where you prefer a lightweight instrument. Also the circus. Includes a 10-year warranty through F.E. Olds USA.