4-valve contras/tubas: Worth the extra money?

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To have a non-Covid-19 topic: There are 4-valve contras and (to the best of my knowledge) marching tubas. With the extra parts comes extra cost.

Topic question: Is the 4th valve worth the extra money? What practical benefits (ie- musical benefits that would be noticed and contribute to scores or overall sonority to an audience member) does the 4th valve provide, if any?

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For your start-up groups (or even for your average group), I'd say it's not worth it at all. There might be some intonation gains from being able to play low E/F/etc with more clarity. But with your average performer, these gains are usually negated by how heavy the instrument gets (or how anti-ergonomic the weight gets). Tension ultimately kills tone.

I played on a King BBb with a separate valve on the left side in the mid-00s. The horn was awkward to maneuver and had really bad soldering. It sounded fine, but I would've rather had a horn that survived tour.

You can get the job done with three valves. Yamaha's BBb is great to move around and easy to re-sell. Crown/Bloo/SCV all use Yamaha and are able to achieve their respective sounds with three valves. Certain pitches might be harder to tune (low C), but I'd say it's a worthy trade-off.

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That’s a Texas-sized negative. 

Sure, you can put low C in tune. Any other alt. fingering gained is borderline moot. 

Anything heavier than current Yamahas is borderline unacceptable with today’s physical requirements on the visual side. An extra valve isn’t only not worth the weight and cost - I would actively pay money to keep it *off* of my horns. 😀

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I would suggest for the most part the 4th valve is pretty unnecessary in the marching environment. Yes, it absolutely makes a difference from a musicality standpoint, but I think the extra cost and the extra WEIGHT of the instrument is not worth the intonation tradeoff. I played a 4 valve System Blue at Kidsgrove Scouts BTW. I'd have been happier with a three.


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