The JP221 has many features you would expect to find on a student clarinet.
The clarinet is constructed from a lightweight ABS making it comfortable to hold for students of all ages. Incorporating a ring-less bell which also gives the clarinet a modern look.
The addition of an adjustable thumbrest and sling ring gives players the chance to adjust the instrument easily.
It has strong and reliable keywork with bright silverplating, plus the tone holes are CNC cut providing an accurate tuning scale and focused sound.
Buying a student clarinet has changed a lot over the last couple of decades. Once it was a familiar choice between Buffet, Yamaha, Jupiter and a handful others, but recent years have seen an influx of mass-produced instruments from China. The first of these were no match for the established models, relying solely on the fact that they were shockingly cheap. However, as the years passed, manufacturers slowly started producing instruments that could give the leading brands a run for their money.
I have no idea whether the JP221 is manufactured in China, but it fits this general storyline nevertheless. A few years ago I reviewed an early version of the JP221 for MT; it was cheap and promising but also somewhat flawed. Now, Taunton-based wind and brass specialist John Packer Ltd have worked carefully with their manufacturer (who I would guess is based in China) to develop a new version of the JP221 – not really recognisable as related to the earlier model, and much improved for it.
Anyone who has been handling student clarinets for more than a few years will tell you that production values in this category have generally gone up, and the JP221 is no exception. This instrument gives an impression of quality, from the smart black case with detachable rucksack straps to the smooth wood-effect body and shiny silver-plated keys. Additionally, the design of the JP221 gives a pleasing feeling of individuality – not bad at this price point.
To play, the JP221 lives up to its exterior. The instrument I was sent had been superbly set up and was convincingly airtight – not always a given with student clarinets. The intonation was secure and the tone was full and even, giving little suggestion that this is plastic clarinet. The mouthpiece supplied was ample for the job, and the instrument also responded well with my own mouthpiece.
For readers who are wondering why I can’t offer any negatives, the reason is that there aren’t really any. For significantly less than the market-leading Buffet B12, this instrument should definitely be among those you try before you buy.
The JP221 is supplied with a JP6121 student mouthpiece, lightweight case, pull-through, ligature & cap set, cork grease and reed. The fabric case features an external pocket for small accessories as well as shoulder and backpack strap fittings. Two straps are supplied with the case giving players choice between backpack and shoulder options.