August 31, 2012
When I purchased my cello almost three years ago it came with a soft-sided case. As soft-sided cases go it is nicely appointed. It has wide, backpack-style shoulder straps, wheels, an external pocket for music, and two extra handles in addition to the main pair. The zipper is well-made and has a weather proofing flap along the inside to slow, if not halt, water penetration should you get caught in the rain. The only identifying manufacturer's mark is a tag on one zipper which reads "S. Eastman". The cello itself was made by Eastman, so I am guessing the case is an Eastman product as well.
For sometime I have wanted a hard-sided case for my cello. One that will stand vertically while I remove or put away my cello. One that will carry the bows inside the case where they are protected instead of in an external pocket where they are at risk of being broken or damaged. After discussions with my teacher and reading all the case descriptions in the Shar Music and Johnson String Instrument catalogs I finally decided on a Bam Classic 1001S or 1001SW case. The S model comes without wheels, the SW model has built in wheels. As I rarely use the wheels on my current case I decided to get a case without wheels.
I placed my order with Johnson String. The online order form let me know that the case was currently on backorder. I called Johnson String and was told that they were expecting a shipment from Bam soon and that my case would come from that shipment. A week after ordering from Johnson, I got an email from Shar Music saying they had 10% off sale on cases. A quick check showed they had the Bam 1001SW case in stock. A call to Johnson String revealed that my case was still two weeks away. I canceled the Johnson String order and placed an order with Shar. Imagine my delight when the case not only shipped immediately but was scheduled for delivery just two days later.
This morning the new case arrived while I was at work. Taking a quick break from the day I raced home to see it. I've got a rehearsal this afternoon and being able to use my new case for that was exciting. My excitement soon turned to dismay and disappointment as the Bam 1001SW case proved to be flimsy and not at all what I had hoped for.
The case is made from ABS plastic, which makes it very light (only 12.6 pounds), however, it also means that the case is only rigid when it is closed. Like an egg shell the case is nicely strong and rigid closed, but once opened it loses all structural integrity. Slipping my cello into the case while it was upright was very easy. Unfortunately, once the cello was in place the case wanted to fall face forward on to the cello. Not at all acceptable.
The case exterior was unblemished and nicely finished. Closed the case was stable standing on end and, empty, it was very light. There are two grips and a pull handle for maneuvering the case. The primary grip, where you'd hold the case to carry it by your side, was suitably thick and comfortable. The other exterior hand was opposite the carry handle, on the upper bout of the case. I suppose you might use this handle while getting into or out of the backpack straps.
The case included two backpack style straps and has mounting points for attaching them. The straps utilize a carabiner-style clip at each end. The spring latch on the carabiner does have a threaded collar to prevent it from being accidentally opened. The straps aren't very wide or thickly padded. If you had to carry the case for any distance I think the straps would cut uncomfortably into your shoulders.
The pull handle on the back side of the case would allow you to roll the case behind you. The handle is not recessed but is spring loaded to hold the handle against the case when not in use. It only opens 90º or perpendicular to the case. Reaching back to the handle with an underhanded grip (palm up, thumb toward my body) resulted in the head of the case being agains my forearm. Using an overhanded grip (palm down, thumb away from my body) changed the geometry enough to keep the case from hitting my arm. I'm 5'8" tall, I suspect taller people might not have the case against their arm in either hand position, and shorter people may have the case against their forearm in either position.
The weather seal on the case seemed very good. With the case lying on its back on the floor closing the lip required a minimal amount of adjusting to get the two halves of the seal to line up. Once seated the "soft-touch" clasps were very easy to use. There's no u-bolt to catch over a clasp to make it work, you just flip the clasp handle down and it's closed. The case has eight clasps in total: three on the head, one the neck, one under the carry handle, and three on the lower bout.
Inside the case there was surprisingly little padding. There was a nice pad for the bottom of the cello to rest on/against, with an elastic loop to secure the end pin. The loop was rather small and not something you could easily catch just by lowering the cello into place. Maybe with some practice you'd be able to set the collapsed end pin into the loop as you put the cello away, but I had to squat and hook it over the end pin with my free hand.
There was a similarly nice pad for the top of the body of the cello. The internal music pouch (which was large enough to hold my music folder) also had a small pad for the back of the cello's belly to rest against.
The strap designed to hold the neck in place used a plastic pinch-clasp, like backpack straps or the child retention straps on supermarket shopping carts. Velcro would have been better here I think. There was also a strap to secure the scroll into place. It too used a pinch-style clasp for adjustment. Opposite of the scroll there was a small pouch where you could put rosin or a tuner.
On the inside of the lid were two bow holders. This being my first hard-sided cello case I don't know what is typical, but compared to my wife's Bobelock Fiberglass Half Moon Viola case, the holders in this Bam case were very disappointing. A velvet pocket for the bow tip and a velcro-closed pouch for the frog. Her Bobelock case has nice twist-to-lock clasps to hold her bows in place.
Overall the fit and finish of the case was good. The new "graffiti" style Bam label centered on the head of the case is a bit ostentatious. Perhaps stylish, but not my style.
Fit and finish: 9 out of 10
Carrying handles: 6 out of 10
Shoulder straps: 5 out of 10
Bow holders: 6 out of 10
Ease of use: 2 out of 10 (Yes, it could be used laying down, but I already have a case like that. For $616, it needs to stand)
While I don't own the world's most expensive cello, my instrument is very dear to me and I intend to keep it for life. I want a solid, reliable case that will last for a very long time, and one that will be suitable when I decide to purchase a new, more expensive or valuable cello. The Bam Classic 1001SW is not that case.
Shar Music was outstanding when I called them to explain why I was unhappy with the case. They immediately emailed me a fully-paid return label, and I am getting a full credit on my credit card. Having the return be handled quickly, professionally, and courteously took some of the sting out of my disappointment with the case.
I cannot recommend this case. For $631 it just isn't worth the money. Backstage at a performance or rehearsal is crowded and filled with cases and people. Having a case that can't be safely used in a vertical position is a liability. I'd rather spend more money and have a slightly heavier case as long as it will stand up when in use.