That is a big question. We could write many pages on this topic. Here are some of my thoughts and opinions.
First, I suggest either a 4 reed LMMM model, or 3 reed LMM. For zydeco, a 2 reed MM won't really cut it. That bass reed adds what most people would consider to be an essential part of the sound for zydeco.
The preferred key is F-Bb-Eb, although you will occasionally find G-C-F. Other keys are almost never used.
My primary triple row is a Guerrini. It is 4 reed LMMM, in F-Bb-Eb. I have been pounding on it for 25 years and it has help up well. I did not like the factory installed mic, so I replaced it early on.
I also have a 1960's vintage Hohner Corona III R. It is in G-C-F, LMM. I don't really play it at gigs, but it is nice to have it around the house to just pick up and play when I feel like it.
A few years ago, I bought one of those Roland digital triple row accordions. It is pretty amazing in a lot of ways. There is no feedback, which is a real blessing. Also, you can change the key by pressing a couple buttons. That's cool. It's also lighter than my big old Guerrini, which is a bit of a plus.
Nowadays, it appears to me that most of the Pro zydeco guys from Louisiana are playing Dino Baffetti accordions. I don't have one, but I have played ones that friends own. They are very, very good. I don't think you could go wrong with one of those.
I don't think I would really recommend the US Gabbannelli accordions. They are OK, but not as good as Baffetti, and they are very over priced in my opinion. There was a time, maybe in the 90's when it seemed all the big name guys had them. But I think they had problems with them, and they are probably playing Baffettis or other brands now.
If you can, avoid any accordions made in China.
The exception to the rule is Cedric Watson who plays a 2 reed hohner.
If you can afford it a Dino had that great zydeco sound.
thanks for everything !
I suggest you contact Rees Wesson
He sells new and used accordeons and plays both Cajun and Zydeco.
He is in Wales /England/ UK
He may be able to help you find what you need.
Do NOT buy Gabbanelli that was intended for the USA (America) low quality high prices.
In Europe there is another Gabbanelli.. Elio Gabbanelli who has nothing to do with the USA Gabbanelli. He makes very fine accordeons but they may be more than your budget.
Contact Rees and tell him that I sent you there if he wonders how you found him.
Queen Ida plays 3 row 2 reed Hohner Corona accordeons.
Here is another interesting site using an inexpensive Hohner for Zydeco
Best of Luck.
Man thank you very much !
Rees is at a music festival this weekend..
I sent him a message about you and he sent one back..
He would be pleased to try to help you .
If you go to his web site or to you tube you can see videos of him playing various accordeons.
You are welcome.
Dan, did you once have a Roland FR-18 Diatonic Triple-Row (Red)? If so, I think I bought yours on EBay a year ago. Very challenging, but lovin' it more & more - especially now that I'm finally getting more & more realistic Zydeco sounds/tone out of it.
I've been gigging with it as my primary triple row for a couple years now. Lot's of good things about them.
Yes I did.
I would never get used to the buttons on the Roland.
I play hohner corona iiir live and a compadre with an external mic. I like the two reed box because I'd play some Calypso stuff on it.
Yeah, the buttons on the Roland are not the best. I've gotten used to them, but I would prefer something else. The main thing I don't like about them is that the edges are not rounded off, but have a somewhat sharp edge. It makes it harder to slide your fingers across the buttons smoothly and quickly, in the way that I am used to on other accordions.
Someday, I think I will fix that by buying some "normal" buttons and drilling a threaded hole in the center so that they can screw on the way the Roland buttons do.
John Doucet has some aluminum buttons that might work.
It's disappointing Roland didn't spec it exactly the same as an acoustic set up, the sounds were phenomenal, I struggled with the air intake and the buttons.
To deal with feedback issues,
I ended up having a mic made by a guy in Canada who worked for Shure for 30 years, it's external and I use it in a band where I play country) Americana.
I'll post photos if anyone's interested.
I'm interested in photos.. please post them.