Sonare Winds Branches Out
When MMR last visited Sonar� Winds headquarters three years ago, company president Steven Wasser concluded the interview by stressing the new sister company of Verne Q. Powell Flutes was named Sonar� Winds � not Sonar� Flutes & Piccolos � for a good reason: other brass and woodwind instruments were on the way.
In 2007, that promise has become a reality � in spades. In a relatively brief span, the Maynard, Mass.-based firm has introduced the highly praised Sonar� trumpet with its Cliff Blackburn-designed leadpipe, the Sonar� SF-705 flute featuring a Powell Signature headjoint with keywork and finishing by Germany�s Schreiber-Keilwerth, and the brand-new SF 301 student flute based on a partnership between Sonar� and its manufacturing partner in China.
Not pausing for breath, in mid-April Sonar� Winds announced its appointment as the exclusive U.S. distributor for Keilwerth saxophones in the United States and Canada. In addition to the saxes, Sonar� is also distributing Keilwerth-manufactured brass band instruments, including E- and B-flat tubas, baritones, tenors, and cornets with a flugelhorn set to join the stable soon. Rounding out the expanded Sonar� Winds lineup, the company has been named North American sales agent for Schreiber bassoons.
Keilwerth has been making saxophones since its founding in 1925 and currently manufactures professional models in Markneukirchen, Germany (capital of the famed �music corner� musical instrument district straddling the German-Czech border) and �ST� student saxes in Taiwan. The line ranges from soprano to bass saxophones, including special models made from nickel silver. Keilwerth players of note include Dave Liebman, Mike Smith, Don Braden, Clarence Clemons, James Moody, Dan Moretti, and Ernie Watts.
Concurrent with the Keilwerth distribution, Sonar� Winds will serve as sales agent for Schreiber bassoons, providing marketing assistance and its rep network to promote the instruments, which will be shipped direct and invoiced from the Schreiber Keilwerth headquarters in Germany.
�Sonar� is a company that specializes in establishing partnerships with famous-brand instrument makers to provide instruments of the highest quality for the best value,� notes Steven Wasser. �Our distribution agreement with Keilwerth extends our high-quality, high-value products to saxophones.�
The addition of brass band instruments manufactured on the original Besson equipment also underscores Sonar�s quality and value credo. These instruments are marketed under the York name internationally, but due to an ongoing legal dispute, are for the time being known as �Brand X� around the Sonar� office. �There was a great positive reaction to these instruments at the recent convention,� reports Sonar�s marketing manager, Maryann Zschau. �Even though they currently have no brand name, once players heard they were made with the Besson tooling they flocked to our exhibit.�
Prior to introducing the recent spate of new woodwind and brasswind products, Sonar� Winds first made its mark with innovative flutes combining made-in-the-USA Powell headjoints with bodies manufactured to its specifications in China. As a result, players were able to attain �the Powell sound� at a remarkably affordable price point.
Now Sonar� has expanded on the China connection with the debut of the Sonar� SF-301 flute, featuring a nickel body, headjoint, and keywork, sterling silver lip plate and headjoint wall, and Powell design. The �secret ingredient� raising the SF-301 beyond the status of another me-too product is the input of former Powell executive Di Zhao, a skilled flute and headjoint maker who frequently travels to China. Serving as Sonar�s liaison with the Chinese factory, he works to ensure the coveted Powell sound and quality standards for the new model.
�The SF-301 is at the high end of the student market, but it outplays some competitor flutes that I have seen in much higher price categories,� remarks Wasser.
While Sonar� has reaped success with its relationships in China, Wasser admits some dealers prefer to avoid made-in-China instruments. For this segment, the company has now introduced the Sonar� SF-705, the result of a collaboration between Powell Flutes and Schreiber-Keilwerth. The SF-705 boasts a sterling silver body made by Powell in Massachusetts using Powell�s proprietary and patent-pending Zinki technology for tone-hole extrusion. The Powell body and headjoint are then sent to Schreiber-Keilwerth to take advantage of the German company�s advanced manufacturing processes and to finish the flutes. With a MAP of $2,249, the SF-705 represents an intriguing instrument that Wasser estimates is 40 percent American and 60 percent German in terms of content.
�The Price is the Price ��
Beyond the instruments themselves, the recent success of Sonar� Winds can also be attributed to the company�s straightforward policy with its dealer network. �From the start, we have said the price is the price is the price,� says Wasser. �There are no hidden discounts or volume discounts, so all of our dealers know they are getting the same deal. We are also quite selective in the dealer group we�ve assembled and our representatives are among the top people in the business.�