Saxophones A Rich sounding Tenor sax with a very good ergonomics and ease of fast playing


Senior Member
Hi guys,
I have been in touch with some of you regarding nailing down the tenor sax that sounds rich and has a good amount of core sound to it.
Well, I settled on Buffet Crampon Super Dynaction. I really love the tone. My instructor has a 5 digit mark VI and he always complements the sound of the sax. SDA is good in hands of a pro but for me as a novice adult learner in late 40s with developing early minor arthritis in my finger joints is not catering an easy experience in long run practices and for fast phrases.
I like to buy a tenor saxophone that has great ergonomics and caters easy experience for fast phrases and long practice times especially for the pinky keys (especially left pinky keys) and palm keys.
Something snappy and with good / fast action.

I know that Yamaha saxes are famous for the ergonomics (as well as Yanagisawas and some of the Selmers perhaps but all too expensive for my budget). I owned a YTS-61 and loved it. Although I'm looking for something with richer tone than most of Yamahas. I play tested a YTS-82 Custom Z and it was a nice sounding saxophone but it's above my budget. I like to get something hopefully around 2000 dollars or even less (based on my current budget). I could save a bit more money may be up to somewhere below $3000 if I know it's a whole lot better sax quality I will be getting compared to the current options for the Taiwanese saxophones.

Some people praise on the rich tones of Paul Mauriat 66 RUL, Phil Barone Classic model, some of the Cannonball models, and Viking but at the same time I have heard complaints about some issues about the ergonomics like recessed (or short) palm keys which might have been catered toward Asian people who perhaps have smaller hands. But also I heard things like farther reach right hand keys, intonation issues with alternative fingering for high E, etc. which shows there could be some design issues.

Is there any good design, great ergonomics, and with a rich tone for sub $3000 or even sub $2000 modern tenor sax out there? I haven't investigated to find all the highlights and flaws of the asian built saxophones like above mentioned ones, and also Antigua, Kessler, Berkley, MacSax, Bahaus Walstein, and a few others that I can't remember right now.

I appreciate if you let me know.
Definitely this time around I have to prioritize the ergonomics and then the tone

and of course budget, otherwise it wouldn't be feasible.

Thanks a lot.
Trevor James Signature Custom RAW sounds like it`ll fit your bill 100% ..
No Idea what things cost in the USA, it`s £2500 here , isn`t stuff almost £ for $ over there ?
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Dunno, I`ve only seen these buzzwords like "core" and "dark" since reading forums and Steve Howards reviews, I either like the sound of a sax or I don't , they can sound thick or thin, warm or bright or a combination of either (such as thick but edgy - warm but thin ), where the "core" fits in I don`t know.

Stop Press - Missus says tongue in cheek - "isn`t that the fluffy thing you pull out before you stick the neck on"
Core and Dark to describe sound, harks back to the music hall days of the east end of London.
Critics writing in the local rag used to describe young female singers as having a good core sound.

Often heard from the cheap seats, when the latest young thing came on stage to sing.
"Cor Blimey, 'ark at 'er" or more usually just "Core"

The dark bit was when a door was opened at the front of the theatre when the stage door was open and all the candles blew out.
The sound really comes from the player first, then the mouthpiece, the horn last. If you want a sax with good ergonomics, I'd suggest you buy one which suits your hands, which only you can decide on. Personally I'd suggest starting with Yamaha or Yanagisawa, which $3,000 (£1850) should get you somnething good used.
Since you like your current sax, wouldn't it be possible to get the keys adapted to suit your hands? Might be worth asking a tech.....
Hmm, great idea in general but in this case, it`d be a shame to hack a pretty uncommon classic French vintage horn ..
Hmm, great idea in general but in this case, it`d be a shame to hack a pretty uncommon classic French vintage horn ..

There are lots of materials around to non permanently alter the keys. Polymorph is what I use. I think Aldevis also uses it.
I don't think you should consider the sax so important. I think most players sounds the same on whatever reasonable sax we have.

For me Martin Comm saxes are #1. Easy to play and control. From the top to the bottom. I think they are they are also tolerant when it comes to mouthpieces. But Martins ergonomics are not good for me. Hurting back, hands and wrists. I'm just playing for fun (I turn 59 next time) and I'm happy if I can play/practise 2-3 hours/week. So I went out on the market to see what if there were any "modern" tenor saxes for me. I played all saxes with my Rovner Deep-V D40 mouthpieces from #8-10.

Yamaha YTS-62: A purple logo horn from early 80's. Nice sax but I couldn't play the low tones. £ 1200.00! Too much for a renovationproject.
Yanigisawa T880. From the early 90's. Underslung octavekey and double arms on the low keys like old King Super 20's. I've owned one of this for some years ago. Now I remember why I sold it: Too perfect and cultivated. Very good playablity. £1400.00.
Selmer MkVI: From the mid 60's. £ 3900.00! They must be kidding!?!?! Lots of work to do on that sax. But it was sold some weeks later.
Keilwerth SX90R from -07. Goldlaquer with silver neck. £ 2300.00. To much money for me to spend on a sax. But this was the sax for me. Big sound and I had the same feeling as when I played King Super 20. If I could get that horn for about £1600.00-1700.00 I think I would be a Keilwerth owner/player. It was really good. The Rovner #10 and Keilwerth seems to be a perfect marriage.

Then I saw a Yamaha YTS-25 from mid 90's. £ 400.00. Not played much. Good condition and playablity. The Rovner # 8 was best on YTS-25. (Rovner #10 is now working as well. I had to swithed to softer reeds). I bought it and send right away over to a tech for an annual service. He charged me £150.00 for that. Of course all the horns above are much better, if they are playable over the whole register, compared to a YTS-25. On the other side I'm just playing for fun and I sounds terrible on all horns. The YTS-25 is easy to own and I have some money over to spend on taking over musicians to Sweden for Rocksax workshops and gigs.
We can talk about what is the components that make up the sound we make, and say the player has the most influence, but it still comes down in the end to what the player experiences when he plays a particular horn. A violinist that loves to play a Strad over a modern Violin will sound the same to the audience playing either Violin. Tests have proved that. I have found that with some Saxes I want to go through my practice routine and technical stuff, but with others I want to play a ballad.
Hit the nail on the head there Jim ---- who`d choose a battered to death Yamaha 21 over a Yanagisawa 992 ? no one in their right mind on cost or technical grounds but, I really enjoyed letting rip on the RAT 21 the 9 months I had it, I`ve played a couple of Yani Altos one of which was the 992 and its a precision piece of engineering no doubt but one which left me cold in the emotion department soundwise ..

People play the oddest of horns and put up with the weirdest ergonomics because they love the sound , thinking of that infernal Typewriter again - some may even include the dreaded MkVII tenor there and I Have been guilty on the latter count (it took me a while to play a "normal" tenor to gigging level after) .. it`s down to what THEY get from the horn when THEY play it , to others playing the same instrument, totally different .
it must have an absolutely unbelievable sound, that`s all I can say !!!
palm keys can be modified a bit using palm key risers etc, the left hand pinky table is more of a problem...
(I hate using the word 'pinky' but it's quicker to type than 'little finger')
I've got small hands and mainly play alto, I find that playing tenor for any length of time gives me arm ache.
I don't get on at all with the prevalent Yamaha style L/H pinky table that seems to be omnipresent on all the asian made horns - for me, the positioning is weird and the low Bb is unreachable, so bear that in mind with what I'm saying here...

If you're having problems with ergonomics I think it's important to take some time to analyse exactly what you don't like with your current instrument, this will help when you're looking at other alternatives. Knowing what you don't like is sometimes just as important as knowing what you're looking for
If you can go out and try a Yamaha and see if you get on with it, that'll give you a good idea of the ergonomics of most of the new horns currently available. If you prefer the Yamaha, you're in luck, you can start looking at the Mauriats, Vikings, Cannonballs etc.
If you find the Yamaha as bad as, or worse than your Buffet, then you might have problems finding anything new that is easier and may have to start thinking about a vintage horn like a Conn 10M - the 50's one's might still be affordable.
For me, ergonomics is becoming more important with my choice of saxes, I was lucky, my first Martin alto instantly felt comfortable, I don't get that feeling with modern horns, which is a pity since I'd like to gig with a sax that I can actually get spare parts for
Agree 100% with Altissimo, my first Martin's ergonomics were ideal for me. The Infernal is even more so!
A good tech can adjust the positions of the LH table keys to a certain extent, adjust spring tensions and make small changes to key heights. In my experience after two weeks of playing any saxophone the placement of the keys becomes familiar and one becomes comfortable with the ergonomics. The possible exception might be the palm keys which are easily customized to fit the player's hand size using riser material.
Thanks for all your advice. Definitely playing horn is the only answer to find out if it works for you. I will do that as much as I can in this town. I don't have problem with key positions of the Yamaha or Yani. Even my SDA is not too bad. The problem is the stiffness of the movements of the keys (for instance low C#) which is not to do with springs because my repairman already loosened springs but the design of the rods and length of the levers, etc. makes the opening / closing moves a bit slow and hard. Of course the difference magnifies when your fingers don't do as well as they did before (because of arthritis).
What I'm trying to get at is: Let's say the new modern design asian horns have better mechanism and easier playing experience by means of the rod design, etc. and they are more affordable. If I have to short list them, for those that are commonly known, which ones have better design and people seemed to compliment the sound? I heard feedbacks for not using proper screw so the play is too much, intonation issues in alt. fingerings, etc. so I like to pick something with a robust design which have a shorter short-coming list from these: Kessler, Antigua, Bauhaus, Viking, Paul Mauriat, Phil Barone, RS Berkeley, MacSax, etc. (you can throw a few more; I can't remember them all).
Thanks again.
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