I have been a keen flute player for as long time, around 50 years, but this is the first ALTO flute I have tried - and I have to say I am well pleased, both with the instrument, and with the service from Thomann.
Choosing an instrument like this is not easy ! Alto flutes are not sold in great numbers, so prices are significantly higher than "C" flutes. You won't find much below EUR 2000, probably twice the price of a normal flute, and all for just 4 notes ! Ah, yes, but they are special notes:)
Next question is where and how to buy ? As a Brit, I considered buying in London, where there are a few shops (eg 'Just Flutes' in Croydon) that keep a modest stock of this deeply unpopular instrument. But in mainland Europe where I live, options are much more limited. In Paris, Brussels and Madrid you might just find somewhere where you can try one out, but you will probably have to make your mind up on the spot - and will have difficulty returning it if you subsequently change your mind.
So I decided to buy from Thomann. I even chose Thomann before I chose the specific instrument ! The reason is that the standard 30 day return option applies, giving you the chance to evaluate the instrument thoroughly before committing. In my case, that included a trip to my regular flute repairer, who checked things I would have overlooked.
I chose this PEARL flute because (i) the price is affordable, and (ii) they have a good reputation for contruction and long life (something my repairer confirmed). Additionally (iii) it comes with both straight and curved heads, which saved me having to make a quick decision between the two options (and also apparently facilitates future resale, in the event I decide longer term not to keep it).
The purchases was not completely trouble-free. To my surprise, the first instrument that arrived had an obvious maufacturing fault in the wooden case, whose parts closed properly in the middle but flared out to a 2-3 mm opening at both ends, allowing dust and grit to enter. I was frankly astonished the quality control had not picked this up. The two heads both fitted the body and turned smoothly enough (ie no rough spots) BUT the curved head was rather loose, allowing it to rotate out of position under pressure from the lower lip. A straight head, of course, is not exposed to this risk - and yet oddly enough, the straight head was noticeably stiffer ! Again I was surprised, and wondered if quality control were perhaps on holiday that day ?
I returned this first instrument. Thomann accepted the return without complaint and duly ordered me a replacement, which arrived just a couple of weeks later. This time, things were much better ! Not perfect, but good enough to keep. There was still a small error, though: they had despatched the instrument without the standard cleaning cloths and the wooden threading baton, which of course is a special size - and also includes the gauge for setting the head end-stops (a notch marked in the wood). I reported this to Thomann by email, and received the missing bits at about 2 weeks' notice.
I now need to spend some quality time adapting my embouchure to the alto - which is significantly different - but as an ardent jazzer / improviser, I already know I am going to enjoy the experience. I already like the sound and the easy and solid action of all the keys.
In summary, I have some reservations about Pearl quality control, but found the Thomann buying experience unbeatable. Without the option to return, and their solid customer support, I would probably not have made the purchase. No regrets.