I went to Savoy Music Center to get my first accordion last year. I liked the way the Ariette looked, but playing it was something else. It took a lot of effort to get it to sound. Marc and Tina talked me into a Hohner 114. It doesn't look at all like a Cajun box and not nearly as pretty as the Ariette. But I really liked it. It was tuned much wetter than LA boxes and didn't sound much like the Dirk Powell DVD's and other instruction media. I closed the 2nd stop to take the wetness out, but it still wasn't quite right. I paid about $400 for it and, by far, Marc has the lowest price on them.
It wasn't long, however, before I wished I had spent another $700 for either a Bon Cajun or Jude Moreau box. They are about $1200 now and Bon Cajun shuts down July 7th.
Long story short, my step-fathers's sister from Ireland got my 114 and I have a brand new beautiful box from Larry. It ended up costing more like $1250 when I had it built like I wanted. But now (even though I still want a box from Jr. and Marc) I will live with this one forever. It's my baby and it's so pretty, I could just put it up on the mantel and stare at it. It seems the sound and feel of an LA box can't be duplicated by the Germans or Chinese.
I've only had my Bon Cajun a couple of months, and haven't had my Ariette out of the case since my beautiful Bon C arrived, but this discussion got me interested in a side by side comparison. The Ariette really doesn't sound at all bad. Tuned MUCH wetter, so certainly not as authentic sounding, but really does sound pretty nice. I kinda like the tremolo you get from the wet tuning. The main difference is the bellows are obviously much cheaper and are very stiff in comparison so Larry's so it is much less responsive and harder to play. The buttons are quite a bit "clunkier" too. Overall harder to play fast button and bellows changes. Of course, the wood is really cheap, and construction shoddy, so visually the master craftsman's box wins hands down. But again, the sound really is pretty decent, and for someone wanting an el cheapo to try it out and learn the basics it really is a hell of a bargain. I'm going to keep my Ariette intact until I send my Bon C to Larry for tuning, but once I get the master's box back, the Ariette is coming apart to see if I am any good at tuning.
Marc Savoy's instructions on how to tune an accordion was completely fascinating. Previously I had no idea how they were tuned. Really quite remarkable.