Flute/Buying a piccolo
So I've been playing the flute for about 3 years now. I've started playing the piccolo this year and I'm currently using my school's Gemeinhardt all metal piccolo. I'm pretty sure that the piccolo wasn't that well taken care of because when I tried to clean the inside out, my cloth was black and the keys move around. So, I don't know it it's because its old and in pretty bad condition that it's not responding as well (I can't play fast pieces or else the notes won't come out and I have to press really hard). So, I've decided to get a piccolo of my own because I enjoy playing the piccolo! I went on flute world and eliminated the models that are out of my price range. Now, I'm stuck between a Di Zhao DZP-201, Piper Piccolo, Trevor James TJ-Piccolo, and three Pearl models (PFP-105E, PFP-105ES, PFP-165E). By the way, what's the difference between the three Pearl models that I've listed? Oh, and just so you know, when I get my piccolo, I'm going to be playing in a symphony not marching band or school band, just a symphony, so I also want to make sure that it's going to sound really nice in a symphony setting. Thanks!
It certainly sounds like you're right about that school piccolo; from your description, I'd say it hasn't been kept well. Congratulations on your impending piccolo purchase, though! It's a great instrument, and a very valuable one to be able to play well.
Anyway, I would recommend crossing Piper and DiZhao piccolos off of your list. They are Asian imports of the sort I have warned against in the past. While these imports are getting better, they are not yet on par with the instruments being produced by established makers, have almost no resale value, and can be very challenging to have repaired. Yet for some reason, the sellers of these instruments list them at similar prices to long-standing reputable makers! There's no sense to be spending your money that way. The Trevor James and Pearl piccolos on your list would be good options, however.
The differences between the Pearl piccolos largely come down to their headjoints. The PFP-105E and PFP-165E have what is known as a 'wave lip' design, which is a ridge running across the lip plate that helps direct the air down into the instrument with less effort. This may sound great (and for many less experienced or less serious players, it is), but by allowing the instrument to partially dictate how the air moves, you give up a certain level of control over the sound. For serious, dedicated players I always recommend a traditional lip plate, which you'll find on the PFP-105ES. The PFP-105E and PFP-165E differ in their materials. The 105 is Grenaditte (which is a composite material that is extremely durable and stable) throughout, while the 165 uses a Grenaditte body with a wooden headjoint.
As with any piccolo purchase, you should try to playtest these instruments before committing to anything. There's simply no way to know which piccolo may work best for you without testing. That said, if you are limiting yourself to the 4 makes on your list, I would choose the Pearl 105ES. The Pearl piccolos play very well, are built very well (and thus are reliable, and easy to work on when service is required) and are quite popular, so you should have no difficulties selling one in the future if that becomes necessary. I also encourage you to look at other flute dealers (Flute Center of New York, Carolyn Nussbaum, Flute Specialists, etc.) and test any and all piccolos that fall into your price range. You might be surprised by what you wind up liking!
I hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.