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I'm a long-time drummer, new mallet player. I've been studying on a nice old marimba and I want to start working with vibes as well.

From what I can tell, the standard gigging vibe seems to be the M-55. Some guys like the Yamahas, some guys *really* like the old Deagans like the Commander or the Aurora.

Which vibes are useful for *gigging* on, i.e., are practical for packing up, transporting, and setting up night after night?
What are basic differences in tone between the major manufacturers (current and vintage, so Musser, Yamaha, Deagan, Jenco, etc)?
Folks seem down on Jencos, are they all kind of crummy, or are some OK?
How hard / expensive is it to have a set of vibes shipped after purchase? I'm talking about larger cities like LA, or NY.

The situation I'm running into is that it's likely that I may end up buying a set of vibes that I haven't had a chance to hear or play before buying. There just aren't that many around. So, any information at all is helpful.

Sorry if these questions have been covered in detail elsewhere, if so if you could just point me to an appropriate thread that would be great.

Many thanks all!!


Just to update this: I picked up a set of used Jencos over the weekend. 1.5" non-graduated bars, but they get a decent tone with a soft mallet. Not ideal, but I can play four-mallet stuff on it, so it'll do.

Motor works, damper works fairly consistently across the whole keyboard. The felt isn't totally worn out.

Intonation is good up to about C5, above that the fundamental is in tune but the harmonics are not so much. So, when I get to the point where I'm ready to play with other folks, I'll either need to have the bars tuned or else upgrade to a better instrument.

At some point, I'll probably want a better instrument. In the meantime, this one will keep me busy.

Now I'm gonna go play some tunes!


behng Mon, 05/16/2011 - 22:48

Everyone will probably have a different opinion, but I recommend an M46 with graduated bars or M55, so long as you have a car! I move vibes around alot, and while it's a hassle no matter what, I find Musser instruments to be the most portable.

The M46 is known as the "one nighter" vibe. Originally, it had smaller bars, but now the bars are the same size as the other models (if you buy a newer one). There is virtually no difference between the M46 graduated and an M55. I own a M46, M55, and a M48. I hate my M48, it's a pain in the ass, unless you need to fly somewhere, then it's good to have because it breaks down small. I like my 55, but not much of a difference with that and a graduated 46, except that a 46 is cheaper. Musser sounds best in my opinion. Hope this helps.


Randy_Sutin Tue, 05/17/2011 - 06:50

In reply to by behng

Yes, to what Behn has just said.

M48 is a nuisance. Goes out of whack every time you move it. Yes, it breaks down into smaller pieces that make it possible to move in situations where other instruments just won't go, so I think it is a good tool to have in the arsenal. Yes, I have one. No, I don't move it unless I absolutely have to.

M46 is fine to me. I have had them rented for me several times where the client is providing the instrument. Even the older ones are fine for two mallet stuff. However, I do find the sound smaller than the M55.

So, it's M55 for me just like Behn.

Yes, the Yamahas are also very nice. Never owned one.

Yes, the old Deagans have a sweet sound. I wish I had one to record on. To heavy to carry around, though. Steel frames.

If you can afford them, Nico's instruments are sweet too. He has the most advanced vibrato control system in the world. The new carbon vibe really looks like a gig contender. It would be on my list for Santa.

John Keene Tue, 05/17/2011 - 07:01

In reply to by behng

I agree with Behn, plus I'd like to add a few ideas regarding buying a pre-owned instrument. If you continue to check ebay for an instrument close to where you live, you may wish to contact the seller and make arrangements to drive there and check it out before bidding or buying. Even if you don't win the auction, you've still had the opportunity to check out a particular model. You may also wish to check out, and you will pay a lot more but it will come with a guarantee and be a secure purchase.

Also, and this is important - be sure to inquire if the instrument is tuned to 440 or 442. On a Musser, it will be engraved under the A bar, and on a Deagan it will be engraved on the top side of the bar. It may or may not make a difference to you, but I think you should know anyway and the seller can check this very easily for you.

tonymiceli Wed, 05/18/2011 - 00:30

i agree with these guys. if you're rich, then get an m55 and a vanderPlas gig vibe (with the blue bars) or a 4 octave! two incredible instruments IMHO!!

but the m55 is the most functional and locally portable instrument out there. WITH ONE EXCEPTION. the premiere vibes and also very very portable. they're a little smaller and the sound is a little more like a deagan (which is cool). and it's simple to pack up.

if you're in the states then the 55 is going to be the easiest to obtain.

now the 48. i originally put it down, but mike pinto loves his and if you live in a big city, with the 48 you could take public trans to get around or by a cooper or that other tiny car and you could fit the vibes in the car. you just have to take care of the 48. (i'm having mine rebuilt right now). the 48 can get on a plane.

we can thank gary for the 48 and i bet somewhat for the 55 (maybe?). he designed the 48 to get on a plane.

we need more manufacturers to build good gigging instruments. the vanderPlas gig vibe is along the lines of the 55 but not as easy to pack up. but man, when you play those blue bars you will die. they sound so beautiful.

russell Fri, 05/20/2011 - 07:10

Hey all, many thanks for the very helpful comments here, they are appreciated!