This article was previously published in 2010 on a forum devoted to the bandoneon, I put it here up to date.
I started playing bandoneon in 1996, with an old Alfred Arnold (AA) of 1937, then a few years later with a second AA of 1938.
The first was completely dead and at the end of his life…
The second was in better condition and was still improving on the sound level.
On the other hand, he had, like the previous one, advanced age and great mechanical wear : a Russian mountain keyboard, a bellow lacking sealing and ready to be changed, keys blocking, springs that break, etc.
As I play a lot and in sometimes difficult conditions (a lot of transportation, open-air shows, playing in large rooms without loudspeakers, damp places, etc.), I needed a more durable instrument threatens not to break with each concert.
At first, the Bandonion Fabrik seemed to me to have a beautiful left-hand sound, very hot that reminded me (in more powerful) the sound of my AAs. On the other hand, the right-hand sound was small and not very thick. I had the impression that it would not improve with time. Moreover, the space between the keys were different from those of the AA and would obliging me to completely rework my fingerings.
When I took the Hartenauer on my lap the first time, I immediately had an excellent feel at the touch. The space between the buttons is very close to that of the AAs. The left-hand sound was less warm than the Bandonion Fabrik, but the right-hand sound was warmer and more powerful. The lower notes of the left hand and some of the right hand was blocking if I played them staccato (unpleasant effect also present in the right hand, but absent in the left hand on the Bandonion Fabrik). The instrument undoubtedly required a good honing!
Without wishing to relaunch the debate on the difference between unisonoric and bisonoric, but as is often the case, yes, there is a difference of sound. In AAs bandonion, the blades are of different sizes and therefore, the difference in sound is inevitable. On new, manufacturers say they use the same materials for both systems. The distribution of the blades on the plates means that the sound cannot be the same (distribution of masses, vibration by sympathy, etc.).
As a result, when I compared, the new bandonions unisonoric and the bisonoric, I always found a difference, whatever the mark.
After the tests, I orientated my choice towards a Hartenauer bandonion, Manoury keyboard & model Mayor. It was in 2006. I received it in October, 5 months after the order. For 2 years I worked the instrument by making scales to use intensely each note, and that at least for 1 hour a day.
As I was advised by Uwe Hartenauer, I did this work by playing as hard as possible (protecting my ears with attenuators and sometimes a noise-canceling headphones!).
From the first months, I heard the instrument improve and the sound being warmer on both hands.
Today, eleven years after the manufacture of this instrument, the lower notes start immediately, which was not the case at the beginning (even after one year or two of running in), and the right hand has grown in thickness and roundness.
Some notes in the medium of the right hand continue to block when I want to play fortissimo and staccato at the same time, I think this is a question of adjustments, but also that I will have to wait a few years before the instrument is at the top.
Today, after playing more than 650 shows and concerts, the instrument evolves more slowly, but it continues to improve. I can play all the notes from pianissimo to fortissimo and the sound has become warm on almost all the range.
From my point of view, the sound has approached that of AAs, but the instrument has retained its own personality, and remains much less warm than an old AA bisonoric. With a unisonoric, the difference will probably be less important. I am not sure that this instrument is ideal for playing tango, but as I do not, but as I do not, that’s not a problem for me.