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Saxophones A scruffy 84 year old alto -v- modern horns

sizzzzler

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Judging by the reviews there are some fine new alto saxophones around today. So I took myself off to one of our favourite stores and, using the same mouthpiece and reed, tried the selmer Seles, the AWO01 and AWO20. I recorded myself on all of them and on my old Martin Skyline. There was nothing in the ergonomics and tuning to note. They weren’t set up to my preference but could be.
The sound was my guide. I waited a few days before listening and I’m sad to say they were all rather thin cf to my scruffy and heavy early Martin Skyline, which can be bought for under £500. Infact I’d go as to say that the Martin is in a different league.
A lot of Martin owners will not be surprised. But it is disappointing that modern manufacturers can’t get that depth of sound.
 

Colin the Bear

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The mouthpiece and reed that suits one horn may not get the best out of another. Even modern cheap horns will sing with the right setup for that player and horn. You need to live with some horns for quite a while before you get the best out of them.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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My first bari sax was an old Buescher Aristocrat. I found the ergonomics challenging, so I decided, reluctantly, to change to a modern instrument. The first time that I tried out modern baris, I took my Buescher along to compare, and it sounded so much better than the Yanagisawa I was comparing it with that I decided not to compare with any others I tried. But after I had had a modern horn for 6 months I tried the Buescher again, and it was didn't sound any better than my Yamaha as far as I could tell. On the other hand, the Yamaha was much easier to play.

Similarly, I used to play a Yanagisawa tenor, and I once briefly tried out an early Martin. I was expecting a much bigger tone, but actually I found my Yani was just as gutsy and easier to play.

My assumption is that I adjust my playing to the type of horn that I am used to, so it is hard to compare it with a different sort of horn that I am not used to. Of course it may be that once I became used to a vintage horn, I could get more out of it than I can from a modern horn.
 

thomsax

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Similarly, I used to play a Yanagisawa tenor, and I once briefly tried out an early Martin. I was expecting a much bigger tone, but actually I found my Yani was just as gutsy and easier to play.
You can make the sound bigger on an old Martin by install oversized resonators. I have have oversized brass or sterlings silver resonators on my Comm saxes except from the Comm II alto. I played a YAN T-880 but i found that sax too "polite".
PICT0657.JPG
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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New Mexico, US
Judging by the reviews there are some fine new alto saxophones around today. So I took myself off to one of our favourite stores and, using the same mouthpiece and reed, tried the selmer Seles, the AWO01 and AWO20. I recorded myself on all of them and on my old Martin Skyline. There was nothing in the ergonomics and tuning to note. They weren’t set up to my preference but could be.
The sound was my guide. I waited a few days before listening and I’m sad to say they were all rather thin cf to my scruffy and heavy early Martin Skyline, which can be bought for under £500. Infact I’d go as to say that the Martin is in a different league.
A lot of Martin owners will not be surprised. But it is disappointing that modern manufacturers can’t get that depth of sound.
It's the classic, age-old situation. It remains the #1 reason why folks choose vintage over contemporary.
Very, very few contemporary models actually give you the same sonic/tonal quality and response.
So many folks will take the Sound even if they have to woodshed with the horn some to get the keywork and action under their fingers.


(and please DON'T anyone lay the "*80% of the tone is player and mouthpiece setup" thang on me. No. It isn't. It really isn't. Horn plays a huge role).

The eternal question still seems to be, however: given that today reverse engineering is so feasible and possible....why don't contemporary makers simply reproduce the body specs of a classic model and mass-produce 'em (with modern keywork if they so desire) ?

Many a thread on the 'net regarding this, and in those threads there are some replies suggesting that a few companies actually HAVE done this (meaning truly done it, as opposed to simply CLAIMING their product is a clone or reproduction).
But you'd expect (ok, I would) that if a current company actually DID this, reproduced the body and neck specs to a tee ...tooled the factory to make these...and then assembled/created the model...it'd be advertised up the wazoo.


I would buy one, new pricetag and all. Yup. Gimme a new horn with a bona-fide Committee/S20/10M/6M/THC etc. body and neck spec and 'modern keywork'...for $4000-ish....I'd buy it. Tons of folks probably would.

But you don't see that (FWIW...the marketing term 'modeled after' doesn't count - right there it is clear that 'modeled after' is not at all synonymous with 'reproduced the classic specifications').
 
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sizzzzler

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Great responses with lots of good points. I used an AL3 and traditional 2 (I get more control over the sound with the softer reed) which are a pretty good baseline sound.
I take note and agree with all the above, but surprisingly, and I was surprised, even the 2 yanis’ which are well thought of, didn’t have the same width of resonance on every note across the range and styles.
The Martin is heavy, the brass thick, it would take a proper whack to dent it. I wonder if this is the reason.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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Vintage horns sound different to modern ones and some prefer the sound of them.
Amazing what you learn on the internet.
Absolutely. There was actually a change in the sonic paradigm of the sax around the 1980's (the term I borrowed from Tim Price, btw). Some folks prefer the (for lack of a better term) 'modern' sound...which is cool....
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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But you still actually have to prefer the 'old' sound. I don't.
When I hear you play your Keilwerth I hear what I consider to be an old sound - big and full of tone. It's also why I like and want the only modern sax I can find that has that sound, also a Keilwerth (although the MKX).

Bizarrely, I'd class a modern sound as a little bland and soulless.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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That'd be me then.
Ah, so you're cool ?!!! :clapping: ;)

When I hear you play your Keilwerth I hear what I consider to be an old sound - big and full of tone. It's also why I like and want the only modern sax I can find that has that sound, also a Keilwerth (although the MKX).
FWIW I'd also put JK's in the somewhat elite category of contemporary horns which maintained more of an old-school tone; lusher than something like, say, a high-end Yamaha or even a Yani....

If we are talking Baritones, I have found the JK's to be somewhere sonically 'between' the vintage toned horns such as , say, a 12M and the modern horns such as, again, a Yama.
 

thomsax

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If we are talking Baritones, I have found the JK's to be somewhere sonically 'between' the vintage toned horns such as , say, a 12M and the modern horns such as, again, a Yama
I think the low A bari is a watershed when you compare baris? The low A bari and they key of concert C are two good friends. Just a few manufactors that made low Bb and low A paralelly, so it's hard to compare. Conn (11M &12M), UMI (13M & 14M), Selmer Mk VI, Amati, B&S, Martin "Magna" ....were all made under the same roof. I guess we can find more manufactors ?!?!?! Some low A baris were built with an extension on the bell (11M and 13M, Weltklang ... while mk VI, Magna, Amati had a bell in one piece. Today the low A on bari is standard. The low A alto never became a success.
 

thomsax

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They weren’t set up to my preference but could be.
Do you mean the key heights? Or that some key touches didn't fit your hands .....

But it is disappointing that modern manufacturers can’t get that depth of sound.
Most of the major manufactors can built a sax with a sound à la Martin. And without the construction with soft soldered on toneholes. At least that I've told by guys how are into saxophone designing. But to sell the saxes is going to be hard. Who is going to buy a sax for £ 10000.oo? Not many. But even the old Martin Committee saxes (from HC-HC Comm II to "The Martin") are slightly (?) are different. A "The Martin Alto" neck is c 11 mm longer than a Comm II neck. The bell and flare on a "The Martin Tenor" is bigger compared to a Comm II tenor. The neck on my "The Martin Magna Tenor " is slightly longer than the neck on my "The Martin Tenor". They made changes on thier saxes because the music changed. With Rock & Roll a sax that could cut through became the Stratocastors best friend (or foe?) . Martin is a good Rock Roll sax that can cut through. But the design of the mouthpiece is also helping up..

As a saxophne owner I love Martin Comm saxes!!! But as saxophone player (hobby player in the Rocksax field) a used ultra cheap tenor is just fine. Or an Amati tenor with low C", B and Bb keys removed. I never used them All these tone holes are covered. Low B and Bb drilled up to get the best sound. And the low C# is a trouble maker. A rock sax keyed from high F to low C. Even cheaper than an ultra cheap horn..
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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I think the low A bari is a watershed when you compare baris? The low A bari and they key of concert C are two good friends. Just a few manufactors that made low Bb and low A paralelly, so it's hard to compare. Conn (11M &12M), UMI (13M & 14M), Selmer Mk VI, Amati, B&S, Martin "Magna" ....were all made under the same roof. I guess we can find more manufactors ?!?!?! Some low A baris were built with an extension on the bell (11M and 13M, Weltklang ... while mk VI, Magna, Amati had a bell in one piece. Today the low A on bari is standard. The low A alto never became a success.
Surely. But I think even a Low Bb JK sonically falls 'in between'. IMHO, I find a similarity between a Low Bb JK and a contemporary Low A JK, tonewise.

It'd be an interesting exercise to come up with more mfr's. who concurrently made Low Bb's and Low A's under their roof.....we probably could find some. Beaugnier, I would add....
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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Most of the major manufactors can built a sax with a sound à la Martin. And without the construction with soft soldered on toneholes. At least that I've told by guys how are into saxophone designing. But to sell the saxes is going to be hard. Who is going to buy a sax for £ 10000.oo? Not many. .....
THIS is what I had mentioned earlier as well. Many a thread on chat boards about this....

Certainly the ability to do so is there....modern manufacturers have chosen NOT to, You posit that cost is probably the main factor. In our new millennium, I would likely have to agree. Unfortunately, also commonplace and plentiful in our era is lack of foresight; bad corporate decisions; and funds which favor marketing tricks over true product R&D.
Why actually alter your tooling to create the clone ? When, simply - by using weasly semantics in your advertising - you can convince enough buyers it IS a clone...when in fact you darn well know it's nothing of the sort ?


The latter modus operandi is FAR cheaper for a company to pursue.

It is still a mind-boggler to me, personally: a company would only have to adjust their tooling once, and then push the FACT (with their genius marketing depts) that their bodies ARE exact duplicates of the III, S0, VI, 10M, SML, etc, etc.

NO, they would not necessarily have to reproduce the fabrication methods; just the resulting object.

IMHO demand would be SO high that the horns could be priced comparably to current upper-shelf models.

Nobody wants to risk doing this, it appears. Unless I am missing something (?)
 

InWalkedBud

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Canada
I don't get it either. If Antigua can use CAD to copy a Yani, your average modern manufacturer could just as readily copy a Buescher, Conn, King, or Martin. Maybe it'll take a change in the preferred style of jazz tone.
 
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