Tubas are one of the largest instruments used in ensemble orchestras today. The most expensive tubas produce deep, rich tones that never fail to bring down the orchestra—in a good way!
The tuba is a Germanic/Prussian invention that dates back to 1835 at the original patent of the “bass tuba.” The word “tuba” in Latin means trumpet. The tuba is the largest of the brass instruments with the lowest pitch in the brass family.
Tubas are one of the more “modern” instruments in orchestras today as it was first used in the 19th-century. Unique in their design, tubas are made with tubes and valves that control their sound. Valves are either rotary or piston, but it’s not uncommon to find a tuba that includes both.
Rotary valves were invented by Joseph Reidl, based on the original patents. In the 1840s and 1850s, piston valves became common after their invention from François Périnet. Rotary valves require less maintenance but are difficult to disassemble. While, in opposition, piston valves require regular oiling but are easy to disassemble.
Most commonly, tubas include three to six valves. The 3-valve tuba is often reserved for amateurs or sousaphones (tubas used by marching band players).
Tubas are found in various pitches. The most common are F, E♭, C, or B♭. When referencing pitch, tubas are often classified as F, E, CC, or BB-flat. Each pitch corresponds with a different purpose and often delegates the tuba’s use within the orchestra or in solo practice.
What Makes Tubas Expensive?
What makes the most expensive tubas costly is their size and the amount of metal used to make them. Often, the tubing within the tuba can be anywhere from fourteen to sixteen feet long. Metals like silver and gold also make tubas more expensive to build and purchase. However, most tubas are made of brass.
One intriguing fact about the making of tubas is that they are polished with ground walnut shells! This is because walnut shells have a high oil content that is suited for polishing the metal.
Famous Tuba Players
Notable tuba players, called tubaists or tubists, include Øystein Baadsvik, Roger Bobo, Carol Jantsch, John Fletcher, and Yasuhito Sugiyama. The Juilliard School of Music in New York has also featured several professional tubists from around the world.
When it comes to incomparable charm and quality, tubas are exceptional for their low range and rich intonation. Below is a list of the ten most expensive tubas in the world. These tubas were crafted with rare metals, include unique valve systems, and resonate clear and remarkable notes, which cause them to stand out amongst the rest.
10 most expensive tubas in the world
Table of Contents
- Tuba History
- Tuba Pitches
- What Makes Tubas Expensive?
- Famous Tuba Players
- 10 most expensive tubas in the world
- 1. B&S 3198 5/4 CC Tuba 3198-S
- 2. Adams Selected Solo F Tuba
- 3. Miraphone 281 Firebird 5/4 F Tuba 281G
- 4. Miraphone 1292 CC 5/4 “New Yorker” Tuba
- 5. Miraphone M7000L Ambassador EEb Tuba M7000S
- 6. Miraphone 1291 Series 4/4 BBb Tuba 1291-4V
- 7. Miraphone 188-5U 4/4 CC Tuba
- 8. Miraphone 186 Series CC Tuba 186- 4VC
- 9. Jupiter XO Professional 1680S Silver Plated CC Tuba
- 10. King 2341W Series 4-Valve 4/4 BBb Tuba 2341WS
- Tubas: Unique and Grand
1. B&S 3198 5/4 CC Tuba 3198-S
The B&S 3198 Series Tuba is a 5-valve (4 pistons and one rotary) CC tuba in a size of 5/4, making it an excellent fit for the average tuba enthusiast. This tuba is constructed of yellow brass and coated in a clear lacquer for a high-end and glossy finish.
What makes this tuba so fascinating is its unique 5-valve structure and its classification as a contrabass tube, making it ideal for use in a symphony orchestra. It has defined itself for its stunning craftsmanship, making it the most expensive tuba in the world.
2. Adams Selected Solo F Tuba
The Adams Selected Series 5-valve F tuba is known for its exquisite intonation and perfected tones. This instrument is regarded as an intensely tested instrument by endorsing artists who confirm the clarity and evenness of this tuba in all registers. From resounding low notes to beautiful singing high tones, the F-solo features a wide breadth of crystal tones perfect for solo and ensemble practice.
Its bell is constructed of yellow brass, and the instrument is finished in a stunning silver plating. The bell has a diameter of 420mm, and its five valves are all rotary.
3. Miraphone 281 Firebird 5/4 F Tuba 281G
Coming in third for most expensive tuba in the world, the Miraphone 281 Firebird rivals all other F tubas with its clear resonation and unsurpassed projection. Ideal for a soloist, this tube includes 6-valves, a unique quality amongst similar tubas in this class. It’s made with a rotary design, 5-valve for the right hand, and one for the left.
The Miraphone Firebird is 5/4 in size. Its bell is made of Nickel-Silver Bell Garland, a rare quality for tubas and most famous in Miraphones.
4. Miraphone 1292 CC 5/4 “New Yorker” Tuba
Another exceptional CC tuba is the Miraphone 1292. Created by Miraphone in collaboration with Alan Baer, the Principal Tuba player for the New York Philharmonic, the Miraphone 1292 produces honest notes with focused clarity. This is the perfect tuba for all interests ranging from large ensembles to solo events.
The 5-valve system includes 4 pistons and 1 rotary with a bell of 470mm. The silver finish polishes this tuba with a high-end look and outranks other tubas through its sophisticated quality.
5. Miraphone M7000L Ambassador EEb Tuba M7000S
The Miraphone M7000L is similar to its brother, the M9000, also created by Miraphone. What differentiates this tuba is that it’s an EEb tuba. EEb pitch is unique and often reserved for an ensemble or song that requires a deep tenor.
The Miraphone M7000 features a 4-valve piston system, 3 top, and 1 side. Due to this structure, the M7000 tuba is best for marching and brass band work. The nickel silver mouthpiece also allows for a quick turnaround of sound and clear intonation.
6. Miraphone 1291 Series 4/4 BBb Tuba 1291-4V
A compact 4/4 tuba, the Miraphone 1291 series, is similar to the 1292 CC-tuba mentioned above. This tuba features a BBb pitch with a 4-valve piston system. While it may not be as exceptional in terms of structure and playability, its smaller size makes it versatile and capable of several playing situations.
With a beautiful lacquer finish, this tuba also produces a broad and even sound that suits ensemble or soloist performances.
7. Miraphone 188-5U 4/4 CC Tuba
The Miraphone 188-5U series 5-valve is an improved CC tuba with advanced bell tapers and valve action that produces a broader and richer sound than previous versions. Its innovative design allows this tuba to exceed expectations in intonation, clarity, and volume.
The Miraphone 188 tuba is excellent for all playing situations, whether for solo performances or grand ensembles. It is a compact size at 4/4 and includes 5 rotary valves positioned at the front. The striking brass finish and clear lacquer make this instrument a true beauty with impeccable attention to detail.
8. Miraphone 186 Series CC Tuba 186- 4VC
Similar to the tuba above, the Miraphone 186 is an extraordinary instrument. Said to produce the classic “German” sound, the Miraphone 186 tuba features a 4-valve rotary system with a CC pitch. This tuba is great for all playing situations, just as the version above. It includes a 17.75″ bell with a nickel silver garland, a quality that enlivens and enriches the playing experience.
9. Jupiter XO Professional 1680S Silver Plated CC Tuba
A responsive and contemporary instrument, the Jupiter XO Professional tuba, is a stunning CC tuba with silver plating for a high-quality finish. This tuba features improved tonal quality and enhanced projection through the use of its 17.4″ bell, crafted with sleek stainless steel and yellow brass.
The Jupiter XO 1680 features a 5-valve system (4 pistons and 1 rotary). The elliptical tuning slides offer ease of playability and quick sensitivity for optimal use. With superior intonation and a wide tonal range, this tuba by Jupiter XO exceeds expectations.
10. King 2341W Series 4-Valve 4/4 BBb Tuba 2341WS
A lovely BBb tuba made of bright yellow brass is the King 2341W. A light size at 4/4, this tuba is exceptional, offering the ability to be played in several situations. This tuba is most noticeable for its rich intonation and clear sound. With a 4-valve front piston system, this tuba offers ease-of-use and quality playability. What makes this tuba notable is the ease with which tuning is made thanks to the front action valves that offer the ability to fine-tune during a performance. This tuba concludes the list of most expensive tubas in the world.
Tubas: Unique and Grand
The tuba is a low, rich-sounding instrument that evokes beautiful tones that blend harmoniously within any orchestra. As mentioned above, this instrument is known for its size and breadth, making it one of the grandest instruments in the brass family.
Like trombones, the quality and sheer amount of metal that goes into the elaborate production of this instrument is what makes it so valuable and irresistible. Multiple valve systems provide exceptional playability and quality control, while the silver plating and stunning lacquer showcase this instrument’s true beauty.
Tubists and instrument enthusiasts alike may only revel in the elegance and sophistication of the most expensive tubas in the world. While they offer unparalleled quality of performance, they also come with a hefty price tag. However, these brilliant tubas provide a sense of tasteful appeal that many avid tuba lovers can enjoy.