One of the first wind instruments I tried to acquire when I started at St. Croix Prep was a bass clarinet. It was a good choice because I had enough clarinet players, the transition to learn the instrument is not too rough, and it helped reinforce the bass lines in our music. The first instrument we got was a loan from my dad's school. We used it for two or three years (makes me wonder how many schools have extra instruments sitting around--I know I've had some things spare in the past couple of years) before I had the school purchase a Selmer 1430P. There are many good reasons that that model is one of the standards for schools. It has a solid tone, its durable, and the low-Eb key is on the body. The one the school owns has performed well for several years now. After returning the loaner to my dad's school, though, I needed to get a second bass clarinet for my school. Trying to save some money and intrigued by Tempest Musical Instruments, I decided to go for their bass clarinet.
First, what is distinctive about the Tempest Bass Clarinet? The body is two pieces, the neck has a tuning adjustment, and the octave key mechanism is more complicated than the Selmer.
Especially when the corks are new, the bass clarinet can be challenging to put together. Trying to keep it aligned without squishing rods or bending keys is even more difficult for a student.
For me as a non-clarinet player, it plays as in tune with as good of a sound as the Selmer. The upper register (up to C above the staff) plays easily.
The case is okay. Since the bass clarinets pretty much live at school, I wouldn't expect it to take too much of a beating, but ours has quite a few nicks and scratches. On the inside, the soft covering has ripped away from the rigid foam padding underneath in a couple of places.
One thing I really like the screw on the floor peg. It has wings so that it is very easy to adjust.
Still, if I were going to purchase another bass clarinet for the school, it would probably not be the Tempest. While the features it has are advanced, none of them are necessary for the literature we play and some of the distinctiveness might be seen as negatives. Having a two piece body (with the Eb key on the bell) makes me nervous as a teacher because there is more stuff for students to mess up. If a student were really dedicated to the bass clarinet, I would recommend the instrument for them to purchase on their own. At $1600, I'm not sure there is anything else priced similarly that offers as much.