Reuge vs. Sankyo
In the 60's and 70's Reuge music boxes were excellent, top-notch products by any standards. However, in the '80s Reuge's quality took a turn for the worse. Confident that they were the best, they let the craft gradually decline. At first it was subtle, but later became more obvious. The high notes did not sound as delicate as they once had. The comb adjustments became less precise. About 10 years ago, their last great arranger died, and the arrangement quality began to suffer.
Reuge has also made some bad judgments about arrangements. Did you know that they replaced some classic, quality tune arrangements with new arrangements of the same tune? Why did they feel the need to throw away their existing arrangements? I say the old arrangements were much better than their replacements, and other industry experts I have spoken with feel the same way. Reuge has also reduced their tune lists drastically, discontinued production of most of their classic arrangements. I had no idea that these good arrangements would eventually be thrown away, some being replaced with what they claim is new and improved music! Nonsense. I do not believe a word of it. If Reuge wanted to improve the music box industry, they should never have discarded these classic, quality arrangements.
Reuge's attitudes and policies toward the public are not as friendly as they once were. Reuge once openly sold movements to anyone who wanted them. Now they have become closed-minded, only selling complete music boxes, and at greatly inflated prices - far beyond what they should be.
The long and the short of our discussion is that Reuge is experiencing
a sad fate. In the past, I tried to talk with them, but they simply
would not listen. "Pride comes before a fall". Reuge claims to be
top-notch, but do not be deceived. Fortunately for them, most people
are quite ignorant. Do not be one of them.
Sankyo has been making 50-Note and larger movements for over 30 years and is developing and improving. Sankyo is a great source for any serious music box collector.
Even the Swiss bear this out. The Swiss firm Jobin buys the main components of their 50 and 72-Note movements from Sankyo to produce their "Swiss-made music boxes". They sell these in Switzerland and to other parts of the world.
The Japanese are known for precision manufacturing. Sankyo is known for robotics as well as musical movements! Sankyo's modern engineering and automated manufacturing allows them to offer exceptional music box movements - featuring rich tone and a very polished appearance - at unreasonably low prices.
Sankyo's handicap has been the oriental musical perspective. However as Japan has changed over recent years, their ability to understand and appreciate Western music has also developed. Sankyo is now producing better combs than Reuge. It is no exaggeration to say that many of Sankyo's tune arrangements are every bit as good as most of Reuge's classic arrangements, and are better than Reuge's newer arrangements. Sankyo's tune lists are much more extensive, with new and very good tune arrangements being added regularly.
I have heard some concerns about Sankyo's use of plastic and rubber parts, and I'd like to address it. Sankyo uses modern engineering, and has chosen the components best suited to the specific application, whether metal or not. Both Reuge and Sankyo use a black plastic or rubber part (on the "feather"), but Sankyo's has fewer failures. Sankyo's comb dampers last much longer than Reuge dampers. We have heard of no failures of Sankyo's components, except because of severe abuse or improper lubrication. Sankyo's quality is unmistakable.
It is important to state that Sankyo's movements should not be seen as a copy of Reuge, but rather a different musical movement. They are more reminiscent of an antique German or Austrian music box than a Reuge. Part of this is because Sankyo's comb will play louder than Reuge's. This difference of volume and musical texture is not a matter of quality, but rather allows for personal preference or taste: some folks prefer Italian food, while others prefer Spanish food. Both new Sankyo and pre-80's Reuge movements (if in good condition) are great movements.
As Sankyo hand tunes and adjusts their combs, there is some variation among movements, perhaps depending on the mental state of the craftsman on the day he worked on that movement. Even the best Sankyo movements don't have quite the sound quality Reuge and others had decades ago. We here at BetterMusicBoxes.com are developing the skill and equipment to produce the Bell-Like Tuning that has been missing from this size movements for at least 3 decades! Thus if you buy a movement (or complete music box) from us, you'll have a real treasure. Many of our movements now sound every bit as good as a Reuge from the golden years.Rick Epperly
Originally written: 11/28/06
Latest Revision: 12/30/2012