So, it finally happened.
I have long lusted after a fancy and very cleverly-designed Wiseman horn case. Although there has been a tiny renaissance of horn cases over the past 15 years or so, with lots of different case designs from companies like Marcus Bonna, Protec, Cardocase, and quite a few more.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve had a fair share of different cases (to go with different horns). From the stock, Yamaha and Conn cases to two different Marcus Bonna cases (MB5 and an MB7), a Thompson Edition case, and a Walt Johnson cut bell case.
They all had their pros and cons.
The two Marcus Bonna cases were a nice mix of lightweight, protective, and able to carry stuff. However, both of them seemed to start to fall apart at around 3 years, and there’s not much support from the Marcus Bonna company to work on them.
The Thompson Edition case was bulky and couldn’t hold much, but it was relatively inexpensive and quite light (considering its size). However, I’ve heard intermittent reports of orders from Thompson Edition taking many months, so if you have problems getting one from Thompson Edition you can try the Bags of Spain case – they are quite similar.
The Walt Johnson case was pretty great. It had a fiberglass exterior, so it couldn’t hold as much on the outside as the Bonna or Thompson cases, but it was sturdy and well made, and probably could have lasted quite a while, but I sold it with a horn. About a year after that, Walt Johnson stopped making horn cases (and now, apparently, has closed his case business entirely), so there’s no way to get a new one anymore. Bummer
As an aside, one line of cases that I have heard great things about, but never personally used, are Protec cases. Their screw bell and fixed bell cases appear protective, lightweight, and affordable. They are what I recommend to most students.
Until recently, I had been using an MB5, but it wasn’t in great shape. The inside is coming apart, and a few months ago one of the zippers failed and I got it replaced by a local case maker who makes great soft-sided cases for just about every brass instrument but French horn. The repair worked great, but I had been wanting to replace the case eventually, and this was a great opportunity.
I first found out about Wiseman cases from a horn list a few years ago.
Wiseman has been making high-quality and cleverly-designed cases for quite a few years. Starting with a tubular bassoon case and moving into other woodwinds and brass.
Their horn case blew my mind (as much as a case can, of course), with its interesting internal arrangement. It’s opening through a more narrow lid means that it can be used in confined spaces much easier than any of the other cases I’ve used (or seen).
Inside the Case
Like I mentioned above, the case opens vertically, with a relatively small lid that provides enough room to get the horn and bell out (it can be tight if you have a mute in the lid).
The inside of the case is quite modular – there are three pieces of velcro padding that can be moved and reattached at various places in the case, as well as a small insert that can be removed if you have a screw bell with a “taller” bell (like Yamaha). This means that you can generally find a good fit for any type of horn, but the amount of “adjustability” means that it may take a few tries before you find the perfect fit. Also, since the horn sits in the case with the bell tail up and leadpipe down, make sure to empty the horn before you put it away – otherwise you can end up with a small puddle at the bottom of the case.
For storage, the case comes with a small zippered leather bag (with velcro) to hold oils/accessories, an adjustable sheet music divider, room for three mouthpieces, and a couple of straps to carry two mutes. It’s not quite as much room as I had in my MB5, but the case is also smaller and more streamlined (and I started carrying an extra music bag for my tablet and teaching supplies) so it works well for my needs.
One of the most unique features (and one of the biggest reasons why it moved to the top of my case list) is that almost everything in the case is designed to be relatively easily replaced by the end user. Corner bumpers, zippers, moveable dividers, etc. are mostly attached by velcro, and can be pretty easily swapped out if they wear out.
Outside the Case
The outside of the case is leather, as are the handles and the backpack straps. I’m not sure of the exact quality of the leather, but it relatively thick and while it started off quite stiff and hard to manipulate (especially the straps), it has softened the few months that I’ve been using it.
The straps have a belt-buckle-like adjustment that is a bit easier to manage and less prone to slippage than the MB5’s tension straps. The handles, by the way, are also easily replaceable.
- I am a big fan of this case in general. Although I’ve never been one to spend extra for leather, the outside of the case looks sleek and the blueish-black velvet is really nice.
- Give yourself some time when you’re first fitting your horn – it’ll fit, but it may take some time to adjust everything.
- The efficiency of the internal design is incredible to me. However, it does mean that you have to put more thought into what goes into the case and what doesn’t.
- The case is a bit heavy – probably heavier when empty than my MB5, but it doesn’t feel as heavy when loaded up on my back. I think the fact that it can’t fit as much stuff plus better quality straps and a strap arrangement really helps with this.
- I have to be a bit more careful loading and unloading my horn, than with my MB5. This is true especially if you have a larger mute in the lid.
- The smaller footprint is great. It’s already come in handy quite a few times – especially in pits or sitting next to a timpani!
Although there are lots of good options and the Wiseman certainly isn’t the cheapest option (it’s actually one of the most expensive), I’m incredibly happy with this case. The company is also great to work with – I had originally planned to pick it up at the IHS 50th Convention, but due to work changes I was unable to do that, and they worked with me to ship the case on their way out of the country. They were also responsive to some emails I had after I bought the case. If you’re in the market for a high-quality case that should last a lifetime, Wiseman should definitely be on your short list!