Posted 29 March 2020 - 17:13
Mine is a Trevor James Masters model which is discontinued. The model had already been discontinued when I bought it, so it was being sold off and was cheaper than any of the entry level models. TJ replaced the Masters series with the Recital series, but they are not the same. They have different headjoint cuts.
I did quite a bit of looking around before I found my alto. I'd tried the Pearl a couple of times and there was something that just wasn't quite working with it for me. Also tried a couple of second hand ones at All Flutes Plus when I had to go down to London for a work event (did a slight detour on the way back to Kings Cross, had no way of fitting in a Just Flutes visit). I found my alto when Windstruments had a trade stand at a woodwind event I went to down at Leeds College of Music. It just felt right for me as soon as I started playing it in a way that none of the others had. They also had the Pearl there and for me there was a big difference. I couldn't get the tone colouring or intonation right on the Pearl (top octave was miles sharp) but that was down to the fit between me and the instrument, rather than the instrument itself. The person I was with got on better with the Pearl than the TJ Masters - but agreed that I sounded much better on the TJ. I booked a visit to their shop down in Harrogate a couple of weeks later and tested the TJ Masters against both the Pearl and a Jupiter model. The TJ was still by far the best one for me, with the Jupiter second choice. It just felt right and so it came home with me. I'd been looking for quite a while and didn't think I'd find anything better within budget, and if I waited until I'd tried a Just Flutes one and the Trevor James Performer then I could well have found myself unable to get a TJ Masters anywhere with it being discontinued.
The Pearl is a perfectly good alto, it just didn't suit me. For concert (normal) flutes I get on well with Pearl instruments and my piccolo is a Pearl. I haven't tried one myself, but have heard good reports of the TJ Performer model and the Just Flutes one. I've also come across people who didn't like them (just like me with the Pearl), so it really is individual. I seem to go for flutes with slightly more resistant headjoints (a lot of people seem to find my normal flute too resistant and in exchange I usually seem to find that theirs just don't give me the response and colour I want).
You may still be able to get a couple of flutes sent out on trial from either Just Flutes or All Flutes Plus. I know that Just Flutes now have a thing for sterilizing flutes and therefore still allow people to test flutes provided they haven't had recent coronavirus symptoms. If you really cannot test before buying then it might be sensible to get one which comes with both headjoints, as you won't know whether you prefer a straight or a curved headjoint without trying. Alto flutes are a lot heavier than normal flutes. The headjoint shape does not change the actual weight of the instrument, but does affect how that weight is distributed compared to your body. I prefer a straight headjoint with modified key work (left hand has keys towards the top end which you use to close the tone holes, rather than pressing keys above the holes themselves). I cannot play straight headjoint models without the modified keywork because they have too much of a left arm stretch and aggravate an old viola-related shoulder injury. I dislike the curved headjoints because it feels wrong having my left hand so close to my face and then a huge gap to my right hand - but again all of this sort of thing comes down to what is best for the individual player. As always, the best advice is to try before you buy, but that is something you can only do immediately if they are happy to send instruments on trial.