Flute/Altus 907 VS. Yamaha 674HCT
I have been in the process of purchasing a new step-up/intermediate flute for my 16 year old daughter. She takes private lessons and has been informed by her instructor it's past time to move on from her original student level Gemienhardt. It has given us 5 good years but her talent far exceeds what the Gemienhardt is able to give back. She has 2 more years of high school band left, participates in multiple events outside of school several times a year, and plans to play during college. The goal is to buy a good flute that will take her all the way through those college years. We seem to have narrowed it down to either a Yamaha 674HCT at $3,500 or an Altus 907 at $3,700. We are leaning toward the Altus because of the projection and overall tone she's getting out of it but I am torn because the Yamaha is .925 silver head, body, and foot with features such as Split E, Gizmo key, and C# Trill key, white gold springs, etc. while the Altus is .958 silver headjoint only. Its body and footjoint are silver plated, stainless steel springs, and no "special keys". What is the MOST important thing to be looking for, ease of play and sound, OR if it's fairly close between the 2, do you go with additional features such as the ones on the Yamaha I listed above? Are we even on the right track?
I often get asked very open-ended questions, but this is an easy one to answer.
The ONLY thing to concern yourself with is how the instrument plays and sounds. If it isn't something that your daughter is going to look forward to picking up every time she plays, it doesn't matter how many extra bells and whistles the instrument has. Playability should ALWAYS come before specs.
If there was NO difference (and that never actually happens), I suppose I would choose the instrument with the extra "features," but ONLY if there was absolutely NOTHING that made either flute stand above the other. And it doesn't sound like that's the case.
It's also important to remember that the amount (or quality) of silver in a flute has absolutely no impact on how it performs. That is a myth which numerous scientific studies have disproven over the years. So the fact that the Altus is silver-plated is of no concern. Altus flutes are VERY well built, and the plated body is not going to have any negative effects. Similarly, there's nothing at all wrong with good-quality stainless steel springs. Properly installed and tensioned, they'll work every bit as well as 10K gold springs you might see on other flutes. It's not a better/worse situation....They are simply different. And the Altus does indeed have a Gizmo Key (as does nearly every modern flute with a B foot).
So the only REAL difference between the flutes is that the Yamaha has a C# Trill Key and a Split E. The C# Trill is a very useful key, but by no means a necessity. I personally prefer it, but it would not be sufficient to make me choose a flute that did not perform as well for me in terms of sound and feel. And I generally recommend AGAINST getting a Split E. Aside from the fact that any reasonably skilled player can learn to hit High E in tune and at any dynamic without it (rendering it of very minor use to begin with), it actually complicates the mechanism needlessly. With an Inline G key, it can cause binding of the keys, which is obviously not desirable. And regardless of the configuration of the G keys, it will prevent the use of certain alternate and trill fingering that can be very useful.
It is possible to buy an Altus 907 with a C# Trill for about $500 extra, so if your daughter felt a particular need for it, you could potentially get several 907s with a C# Trill from a flute dealer and choose the best of the lot. Frankly, I would not advise that however, since it seems your daughter has found a flute she is happy with, and there is no guarantee that a different 907 would play as well for her. These are handmade, after all.
So, to sum up, the thing to worry about when flute shopping is the performance of the instrument, not the specs. And in this case, the extra "features" of the Yamaha aren't really bonuses in most cases (silver, springs, and gizmo) and may even be undesirable (Split E). Only the C# Trill has any real use, and if you HAD to have an Altus with a C# Trill, that would be very possible. So if your daughter is happiest with the Altus (which it sounds like she is), I would recommend that you stick with it. Altus makes great instruments, and the 907 would certainly be a very good option for the uses you've outlined.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.