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Saxophones Bestler/Heimer/SML

just saxes

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This is genuinely a desperate (not that desperate, but at least some desperation) seeking of insight and opinion.

For around 20 years, I've wondered what the deal was with these "Heimer" saxophones I'd see on eBay and online that looked like they might be SML "stencils" -- I can tell you now, finally, thanks to Harmonicaboy (a saxforum avatar), that they are not "stencils" per se -- they do not play like "SML-lite," and the execution says to me that the company that made the Bestler I have in hand is not the same as the company that made SML -- but I always wondered what the story with them was, even beyond that. Clearly, they were either made with SML parts (bought by someone, tooled, assembled not by SML) or some company bought the tooling and began to manufacture saxophones with that tooling.

"Harmonicaboy," the owner's saxforum avatar, having seen a thread from years and years ago, sent me a "Bestler" alto that is in that vein -- looks exactly like a Heimer -- having decided he didn't want it and having seen some old internet forum threads I participated on, noting my interest.

He sent me his, asking only that I share my findings with others, and (I think) do something useful with the material, like recycle it in some way, if the saxophone sucked.

I finally had time to day to give it some service so I could play it.

This is pretty brief, but if it was me, and someone else playing, I could extract a lot from this clip. Because it's me, I can't.

I wonder what you all hear and conclude, viewing/listening to this.

I will say, in advance of you listening, and hopefully commenting, that what I hear from the clip is very different from what I felt playing.

I will make a longer post about this on the same Instagram account later, but I mounted this there because it's the easiest way right now to mount a clip over 25 megs.

 

just saxes

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I will add that on my phone this sounded to me like absolute sh--, too bright, shrill, unlistenable, but on PC it sounds better. The flaws that I felt playing do not seem to come through at all.
 

just saxes

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And I dunno how one can overemphasize this: I think it is impossible: I'm exactly the same way: I think Harmonicaboy sent me this horn because he wanted to recycle a mass of physical material in the best way recycling can be done: re-use.

I applaud it and appreciate it. I applaud you, Harmonicaboy. Thank you for making me part of this effort/project, which will be fulfilled as you intended.
 

saxyjt

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I will add that on my phone this sounded to me like absolute sh--, too bright, shrill, unlistenable, but on PC it sounds better. The flaws that I felt playing do not seem to come through at all.
For a quick take I listened to on my laptop it sounds pretty good.

It's a really nice move from @Harmonicaboy. Especially if it fulfills a long time search about these horns...
 

just saxes

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Totally agree, of course. Very thoughtful, generous & benevolent & very much appreciated thing for Harmonicaboy to do.

I think I hear what my friend commented about on there re Ornette Coleman -- kind of a thin, papery kind of edginess, and thinness overall that is sort of a bit reminiscent of how he sounded on the plastic alto.

I'm also hearing the slightly wonky intonation, which seemed a lot wonkier while playing and after first recording that, on my phone.

It actually probably can be a pretty decent alto with a lot more work -- full overhaul, probably needed for it to be pretty good -- but even then the metal is very soft and it probably wouldn't be worth doing all that work.

Its best service, I think, is going to be as a donation to a school music program, where it can serve well, get beat up, and be put to pasture.

I'm not sure how it's going to work out, but I made maybe 6 clips of approx 2 mins each while working on it, as a little collection of notes and review thoughts. You might enjoy that. Some design and repair notes in there, some of which are outside the norm.
 

just saxes

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Oh: also: this is maybe the more interesting thing about reality vs watching/hearing that clip: the horn does not feel very good to play. You can get a clear and decent sound out of it, but the horn is fairly resistant, and it's a bit of work to sort of narrow the tone down to a core that feels/sounds OK. Response is pretty poor, IMO, but I don't think that shows in the clip.
 

saxyjt

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I confirm that we can't really feel the resistance! :confused:

I had a few more listen and I wouldn't buy it for my collection!

Perhaps I should've played an alto tonight to compare, but I was busy following another lead related to the sound treatment of my den. I need to make some changes! And more experiments...
 

just saxes

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Grrr! I had another listen via Instagram on my phone and it sounded OK... :confused2:

Serious question: what did you hear that made you think, Naaa pass?

I don't think the resistance I felt playing shows up in the sound clip. You may have seen the multi-part post I made about the Bestler yesterday. The clip in that series might be (I'm not sure lol) different from the one I linked above.

To me the intonation was abominable live. But it felt more that way because the response (resistance/voicing/stability/attack-speed/sustain/etc.) was so bad to me, in terms of how it felt to play.

The worst note was C2. I actually spend a reasonable amount of time trying to make it better with keyheights adjustments, but not as much as I would have if the entire set-up was 100% on point. It's not, and I'm not going to overhaul and make it 100%, so there was a consideration of diminishing returns and a likelihood that it was a lost cause (though with overhaul it might not have been).

I hear the intonation issue more in the sound sample I posted in the multi-clip posting, not as much in the link I included above.
 
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saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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Serious question: what did you hear that made you think, Naaa pass?

I put myself in the shoes of a potential buyer. With what I already have, would I be interested? But to be honest, I can't really point at a specific issue. It's more a general feeling.

The clip in that series might be (I'm not sure lol) different from the one I linked above.

It looks and sounds like the same clip on both now that I have the two 'side by side'. I tried again with a different headset. I can't say what's bothering me. Perhaps I'm just not in an alto mood these days. That's probably why I keep delaying putting my Arta Guban back together...
 

just saxes

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It might be the same clip!

I would tend not to advise people to pursue Heimer/Bestler/Etc unless in a bind. I would put the inherent value, comparing this horn to others and their market values, at around US$300 eBay/wholesale.

They can be serviceable, but there are a lot of PRC-type shortcomings that good PRC horns don't even have any more (e.g. soft keymetal, pitted surface from imperfect buffing, slightly wonky intonation, manufacturing flaws related to sloppier manufacturing tolerances a la those old "Parrot" saxophones we thankfully don't see much of, any more).

It will be a good donation for an underfunded school program.

Really the ideal fate would be for it to go to a neighborhood kid that loves brass band music and can't afford an instrument, but now that I'm in CA those kids don't exist nearby.
 

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