Review: Hercules DS538B woodwind stand

After my recent glorious victory in the Saxquest trivia contest, I had a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket and I decided to get a new stand to hold my saxophones and perhaps some other woodwinds in my office and on gigs.

I had been tempted previously by SaxRax stands, which I continue to hear good things about but haven’t been able to try out seriously in person. I find it difficult on SaxRax’s website to find out exactly what products they are currently making; I had to use their contact form and wait for a response to determine that their single alto and tenor stands can no longer be joined with a special connector, and the double flute-clarinet peg is no longer made (though some old stock are apparently still available). I had hoped to buy a single saxophone stand and eventually build onto it with a second, but now you have to buy a combo alto-tenor stand, and that is currently out of my price range.

Click for larger.

Next on my list were the stands by Hercules, which are more expensive than the various cheap stands but considerably less costly than the SaxRax. Hercules’s website is very clear about what products they make. I settled on the DS538B, which holds alto and tenor saxophones, and includes a soprano saxophone peg and two flute-or-clarinet pegs. Saxquest currently sells them for USD $69.95, plus a fairly steep shipping charge (the stand is a little heavy, I guess).

Many moons ago, I did some mini-reviews of various stands, including the Hercules DS543B flute-piccolo-clarinet stand. I had a complaint about it, that holds true for the DS538B as well:

It has yellow trim. Not on the pegs, which might be useful in the dark, but on the base, where its only function is to call attention to itself (and perhaps provide a little free advertising).

I got in touch with a Hercules representative, who pointed out a functional reason for the bright trim on the base:

The reason we make the yellow trim eye-catching is to prevent stumbling over the stand or instrument on the dark stage.

The DS538B appears as though I could disassemble it with an adjustable wrench; it’s tempting to attempt this and spray-paint the yellow parts black. (I can only assume that attempting something like this voids applicable warranties.)

The stand gives the impression of being sturdily built, with a respectable heft and stout-looking hardware. The main base has the two saxophone yokes built in, unlike the various cheapies that make you remove the yokes to fold up the base. Even so, it folds up surprisingly compactly.

I will confess that the way the legs fold up makes my OCD a little twitchy.

Due to the spring-loaded locking-pin mechanism on all the folding parts, it unfolds into a fully-locked position in literally about five seconds. Folding it back up requires finding and pressing each of the eight pins, which isn’t so terrible but is a little anticlimactic after the flair and ease of the unfolding. It takes me about 20 seconds. There are three pegs, which attach the old-fashioned way, by screwing into the base. The threaded bits are quite large in diameter, which gives an impression of sturdiness, and perhaps also ensures that competitors’ pegs are not compatible.

The stand’s four angled legs lift it a little less than an inch off the ground, which can be useful on stage if you’re dealing with microphone cables and such. The rubberized feet seem heavy-duty and should prevent slippage on most surfaces.

The alto and tenor saxophone yokes are easily adjustable to hold a horn of either size (just push—no need to tighten or loosen any hardware); you can use this stand for two altos or two tenors if you wish. I find that my saxophones feel quite secure in the yokes, and that even if I drop them in crooked the stand still hangs on to them (not true of most of the cheap stands). The yokes are covered in a foam that seems pretty much like what I see on the cheap saxophone stands, and I wonder if it will eventually separate from the stand like my cheap ones have done. The Hercules representative claims it will not:

You can feel safe with the foam on Saxophone yoke, they have been tested from our R&D team and not going to wear out easily. The foam we use is called Special-Formulated-Foam (SFF), and we have sold this item for more than 5 years, and we have never heard of the problem of wearing out worldwide. You may have confidence in them.

My clarinet feels quite stable on the flute-clarinet pegs, and my oboe even works pretty well. But as I reported previously, I’m disappointed with the peg as a flute holder. My flute sits on it without any immediate danger of falling, but it wobbles considerably, and I find this unnerving and unprofessional. The peg is simply too narrow. I think Hercules would do better to offer separate flute and clarinet pegs rather than try to make one peg that does both. (I’m not against a combo peg if it really does work great for both instruments, but I haven’t seen one yet.)

The Hercules representative indicated that the flute peg has been improved to reduce wobble, but they are unsure if mine is one of the improved models. They also pointed out that they make another flute/clarinet peg, which they believe to be more stable.

One thing I do like about the flute peg is that it has a tapered portion at the tip, which provides an extra bit of leeway when making a quick instrument switch (like playing basketball with a smaller ball). I haven’t seen that from many other flute stands, and I find it to be a significant improvement on the plain cylindrical design. The flute-clarinet pegs have a velvet-ish coating that seems to protect the instrument’s finishes well, and isn’t so grippy that it causes problems taking instruments off the stand.

The soprano saxophone peg has an adjustment that determines how high the instrument sits on the peg. I hadn’t seen this before, and wasn’t sure what its purpose was. However, with a little experimentation I was able to find a height where my tilted-bell soprano sits quite comfortably and securely, something I hadn’t expected. The soprano peg has the velvety finish at its base, and a foam-covered knob that goes up higher in the bore.

The stand did not ship with any warranty information in or on the box, and another quick visit to the website did little to clarify:

Hercules has different warranty policies for different countries. Contact your professional local distributor with any warranty inquiries.

I ended up contacting Hercules, KMC Musicorp (the U. S. distributor), and Saxquest to ask about the U. S. warranty, and here is what I learned. From Hercules:

Please feel free that your products are surely covered by the warranty policy of KMC, our US distributor. They provide life-time warranty, and therefore, your right and products are fully protected. … If you, unfortunately, find malfunction of the stand, please feel free to contact either KMC or us, we are more than happy to assist.

From KMC:

There is a non transferable limited lifetime warranty on Hercules stands. The stand is covered from manufacturer’s defects (excluding rubber and plating).

A Saxquest representative wasn’t sure about the details of the warranty, and took that to be a good sign:

It’s a very good question. They must be built well, because I’ve never had a warranty question come in, in 5+ years of selling these stands.

The verdict

This seems to me like a generally good saxophone/clarinet (or even oboe) stand, and a marginally passable flute stand. It scores points over the various cheap stands for fast and easy assembly, overall robustness of construction, and secure saxophone grip. It’s also pretty reasonably priced—as much as two cheap stands, or a few boxes of reeds. I remain unconvinced that the bright-colored trim is a good idea, and I would have preferred not to have to dig for warranty information, but overall I am satisfied with my purchase.

Comments

  1. David A. Wells

    Nice thorough review!

    I’ve got one of their bassoon/bass clarinet stands (DS561B) with the DS602B peg (which I use for clarinet). I’ve found it to be rock solid, although I too could do without the bright yellow base.

    Just for fun, I put my wife’s flute on the combo peg. While it does move around a little, it seems to be much less than the wobbling you photographed above. My guess is that the “deluxe” peg’s extra inch or two of length is what’s adding stability.

    Recent blog post: My Daily Tool Kit (July 30, 2012)

    Reply

    • David Heine

      I have both the standard and the DS602B pegs and I definitely prefer the later for flute. And it also works with clarinet and oboe. I also have the DS562B alto flute stand. Unfortunately, the alto flute “peg” has a smaller thread and doesn’t fit on the other stands, but it holds my alto flute securely. I have been switching over to the Hercules stands; I just wish they made an English horn peg.

      Reply

  2. Ronnal Ford

    I too have the bassoon/bass clarinet stand (DS561B) and DS533B on the way (Sax+Soprano). I also have a Belmont Sax stand that I’ve had since about 1999/2000ish. It came with clarinet/flute pegs as well, that actually fit into my Bassoon/Bass Clarinet stand quite nicely! I’m not sure if the pegs on that are any longer though, but it is worth noting that they do fit. The standard hamilton/BG pegs are too small though.

    Reply

  3. Merlin Williams

    I have a few Hercules products, and all of them have proved to be useful and durable. I recently acquired the bass clarinet/bassoon stand, which I’m now using for bassoon in the pit. The rubber cup does a much better job of holding the boot of my bassoon, which has a WINC leg hook attachment. The alto flute stand also does great service as a bass flute stand.

    Reply

  4. Richard Krishnan

    I have found that with my Hercules bari sax stand (DS535B), the padding on the yoke has torn after less than two years. Granted I have used it nearly every day and in a lot of shows, so it may have just been one quick maneuver that tore it, but it is torn. Just a fair warning about the yoke padding.

    Reply

  5. Eddie Marshall

    I like the stand much better than anything I have ever used.
    I think the yellow is just a brand thing, but I have had need of being
    able to see things in the dark sometimes.
    A few times I have put the tenor in one yoke and sort of let my Bari
    rest in the yoke with the bottom just sitting on the floor with no damage to the stand or the horns.
    With traveling thats one compromise I’ve had to make.
    The pegs work for me.
    I own a single and a double.

    Reply

  6. Bagnew

    As far as I know, the Soprano Sax peg is the same as the Flugelhorn peg. Flugels tend to have more variation in bell flare than sopranos, so the adjustment of the peg is useful to be able to have the foam ball sit snugly inside the bell, and still have the flare supported by the peg.

    Reply

  7. Jonatas

    This leg is left DS538B the model could be retractable, reducing its size to fit symmetrically.

    Reply

  8. B. J. Perez III

    I have noticed stability issues with the flute/clarinet peg for flute, also. My solution was to purchase the German clarinet pegs, which are slightly slimmer, but longer compliments of pegs being extended by a spring-loaded feature. I also have placed 2 washers from a DVD stack on the peg to protect the flute from hitting the hard base of the peg. These German clarinet pegs also work VERY well for Eb clarinet and oboe! I purchased the German pegs off of Ebay, but have seen some music supply websites.

    Reply

Leave a comment

Commenting policy