STL Aria: Very disappointed

simon
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simon
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Joined: April 13th, 2018, 10:05 pm

April 26th, 2018, 3:22 pm #1

A bit of background: I pretty new to ocarina (so feel free to take my view with a pinch of salt), however, I have been playing music on other instruments for many years (including recorder).

First the benchmark: I recently bought a Stein Model D - It was my first ceramic ocarina. I cost less than the Aria and arrived with a padded bag, cleaning tool and microfibre cloth. It's matte black and this is clearly part of the firing process. The finish is immaculate, indestructible and silky smooth.

Even as a beginner I was able to produce clean focused notes right off the bat. The intonation is perfect and apart from the top E note, it's pretty much free from breathiness. It doesn't seem to require an acute bend to play higher notes.

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Much as I'm growing to love my Stein ocarina, I wondered if I could get something a little better, and the long tail of the Aria (for ease of playing) particularly appealed to me.
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The Aria arrived today - It cost quite a bit more than the Stein. The box contains no padded bag or extras other than a very thin book of John Dowland tunes (which are easily available for free online)

My first major shock was the finish, it's horrible (particularly when compared to the Stein). It's semi-gloss with faint brushmarks and it's tacky to the touch. Rather than a glaze, this ocarina seems to have had black paint applied to it after firing - and it's not fully dried. Just to test, I scratched the underside of the instrument with my fingernail, and sure enough, the black paint came away showing white beneath it. Needless to say, this is probably the worst possible texture for smooth finger movement.

The Aria is unbelievably breathy across the whole range. It sounds like I'm being accompanied by someone letting air out of a tyre. As you can imagine, soundwise the Stein eclipses the Aria, but I've just picked up my plastic Night Noble and that also puts the Aria in the shade. Really, the Aria is pretty much unplayable.

I'm aware that my first impressions fly in the face of all the glowing Aria reviews, and I'm sure some people will want to tell me how much they love their Arias, but for me, this doesn't look, feel or sound like a high-quality product. From now on, I think I'll stick with Stein/Focalink.


P.S. I've just noticed that the right-hand sub hole is actually outside of the indent, making it almost impossible to play.

Last edited by simon on April 26th, 2018, 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Kae
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Joined: January 22nd, 2017, 6:17 am

April 26th, 2018, 4:23 pm #2

You could have gotten a faulty ocarina. I would request an exchange to find out. Also keeping in mind that the aria could have different breathe requirements, are you playing it with a tuner at all? I have never used an aria but in my experience some stein ocarinas can be much more forgiving.
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Saki
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Joined: January 3rd, 2011, 3:09 pm

April 26th, 2018, 5:42 pm #3

Honestly I think STL has some quality control issues lately. I also ordered an Aria a year or so back... It seemed to have a damaged voicing and was incapable of playing above high C...

Contact STL costumer support and they should be able to help you out. They sent me a new one which worked much better.
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simon
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April 26th, 2018, 7:23 pm #4

It's the same here, anything including and above high C is pretty much unplayable. I guess it could just be a damaged or faulty one. Frankly, I wish Stein made an instrument with the extended horn. The overall design concept of the Aria is very sound, it's just a pity about the execution.
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Kae
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Joined: January 22nd, 2017, 6:17 am

April 26th, 2018, 10:34 pm #5

To be honest I think quality control has always been an issue with them. They have a couple ocarinas that usually seem to be consistently good, but overall it feels like russian roulette. I stopped considering their stuff a while back because of quality issues, and I also hate the idea of paying $8+ in shipping and waiting a week to get something 20 minutes away.
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simon
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April 27th, 2018, 9:20 am #6

Well, I've fired off an email to them explaining the situation. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if they get back to me.
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Harp Player
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Joined: September 5th, 2013, 7:52 pm

April 27th, 2018, 7:40 pm #7

SLT is an ocarina reseller. I suggest you buy from instrument makers instead. A reputable maker will stand behind their product, and will fine tune and test it before shipping it to you.
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Kae
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Joined: January 22nd, 2017, 6:17 am

April 27th, 2018, 10:03 pm #8

You may want to call them if you don't hear back in a few days. I had issues with them responding to emails and they did make it much more difficult than it needed to be. I'm sure I mentioned this a hundred times now but they made me send a sound sample just to tell me their expert said it sounded fine so I had to send a sample of what it should have sounded like for them to compare and then agree it was off. Things got done a lot quicker once I started calling.
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simon
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April 28th, 2018, 12:39 pm #9

Thanks, Kae, but I live in the UK so I'm not going to embark on a series of long-distance calls. I feel like it may be just throwing good money after bad. Frankly, sending out faulty, low-quality goods and then following up with zero customer service doesn't seem like a recipe for financial success, but maybe things work differently in the U.S.

Also (based on my limited experience), I tend to agree with Harp Player: By ordering direct from a (reputable) manufacturer in China, I'm likely to get a better, cheaper and more quickly delivered product.

Also, as someone who occasionally has cause to visit China on business, I anticipate that on my next return trip I may be accompanied by a suitcase full of ocarinas. I realise to many people, China has become synonymous with low-quality, high-volume manufacturing (and I'm sure both Amazon and Taobao are littered with examples of low-quality ocarinas), but it's worth remembering that in the area of ceramics, China does not and has never had an equal. During the hight of the British Empire, English potters strived to emulate the ceramics that were being imported from China, but never really succeeded.

Anyway, I've been looking at the Stein site and noticed that the Model B has quite a long tail. I think this ocarina will do me nicely, and I doubt it will arrive having just been sprayed with clack aerosol paint.

We live and learn.
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Harp Player
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Joined: September 5th, 2013, 7:52 pm

April 28th, 2018, 6:08 pm #10

Contact Robert Hickman He makes an excellent Ocarina and he is right there in the UK. Here is his website:

http://pureocarinas.com/

I have also heard good things about Jade Everett's Ocarinas she is also located in the UK. Sadly I don't have her website.
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