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Saxophones Can you recommend a vintage Tenor?

Pooleman

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We often see threads from beginners asking for saxophone recommendations but this request for advice is a little different.

I already own a Yanagisawa 902 Tenor, my first and only saxophone and consequently I am thinking along the lines of a vintage Tenor. I am not particularly looking for an investment instrument but something which offers possibly a degree of character and vintage nostalgia. What recommendations/ advice could you offer please?
 

GCinCT

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I am not particularly looking for an investment instrument
By this, do you mean one that is not expensive? What is your budget? There is a lot of expertise on vintage saxophones here in the forum. You will get plenty of information and advice.
 
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Pooleman

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By this, do you mean one that is not expensive? What is your budget? There is a lot of expertise on vintage saxophones here in the forum. You will get plenty of information and advice.
Thank you for coming back to me.
Well I haven't really set a budget. It would be easy to search for a Mark Vl, shell out upwards of £5000 and after reading a few reports on the www, be thoroughly disappointed with the experience. I was looking for a steer towards or indeed away from marques or models and hopefully end up focussing on a handful of hopefuls.

Are genuine and honest vintage saxophones available - I really do not know.
 

GCinCT

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Thank you for coming back to me.
Well I haven't really set a budget. It would be easy to search for a Mark Vl, shell out upwards of £5000 and after reading a few reports on the www, be thoroughly disappointed with the experience. I was looking for a steer towards or indeed away from marques or models and hopefully end up focussing on a handful of hopefuls.

Are genuine and honest vintage saxophones available - I really do not know.
There are many vintage saxophones available. Many very good ones in a wide range of prices. A Mark VI would cost a lot, as you stated. There are Conns, Kings, Bueschers, Martins and others You should be able to find something with that great vintage sound for a lot less than a Mark VI.

I'm going to let those who are more knowledge give specific recommendations. I will say though, that being able to try a vintage tenor before you buy it would be very helpful. I know that is nearly impossible right now. But vintage horns vary greatly in ergonomics. What some people find uncomfortable, you might find perfect for your hands. Intonation can also be tricky to manage on some vintage saxophones.
 

nigeld

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There are so many possibilities:

The 4 great US manufacturers: Buescher, Conn, White (King) and Martin
Their best-known models tend to be on the expensive side, e.g.
Buescher Big B Aristocrat or 400
Conn 10M
King Super 20
Martin Committee III ("The Martin")
But their student models, or less sought-after models can be very good too, and less expensive.
These are the ones I tend to think of first if we are talking about vintage nostalgia.
There are lots of good ones for sale, and probably lots of bad ones too.

The one and only Selmer Mk VI, or earlier Selmers: BA and SBA (very expensive)

The other French manufacturers: Pierret, Couesnon, Buffet-Crampon, Beaugnier, SML . . . - some real bargains here.

A host of German/Czech models (Amati, Keilwerth, Huller, etc.) (I don't know anything about these.)

Italians: Grassi, Orsi, Rampone . . .

It also depends how far back you want to go - you can get models from the 1920's and early 30's, for example a Hawkes Twentieth Century if you want English nostalgia.

In the UK there are dealers that sell vintage saxes. I would expect less risk if you buy from them, but you will pay more than a private sale.
for example: Woodwind Exchange in Bradford
 
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Wade Cornell

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IMHO you're smart to eliminate the Selmer VI as they are pricey and inconsistent. There are definitely great ones out there, but you'd need to play it first and be totally in love and recognize that many are quite used and mechanically worn out. It's now more for "collectors" who envision that they will make money by just holding onto one and then selling it in the future. Many think of American horns as THE classic vintage horns. The big makers there were Buescher, Martin, King, and Conn. The most popular of those in terms of players raving about them are Buescher Big B or 400, The Martin Committee III (Music man or Magna are fancy versions), King Super 20, and Conn 10M. Any and all of these can also be well worn and requiring an expensive rebuild, but there are also a lot that have been kept in excellent condition. The least expensive of those above is like to be a Buescher. They aren't as noted for having a "Big" sound, but are OK. The King super 20 or a "Silversonic" early models would be the most expensive and have the biggest sound and "fat" tone. They are also mechanically superior to most of the others. The Conn 10M has a lot of very loyal followers who love that particular tone, but it's not the best mechanically. The Martin has been the "sleeper" of the bunch with moderate prices considering that it's another big sound horn that's mechanically pretty good. Prices for them have been on the rise for a while.

There are several other (besides Selmer) French vintage horn makers, but I'm not as familiar with those. Others may be better at describing them. The Keilwerth 1950s horns (New King) are well built (like tanks) and have a distinctive tone. There are also other European Makers but probably not as well known or regarded as Keilwerth (Amati, Kohler, B&S etc.). While there are excllent modern Italian makers, their vintage horns should probably be avoided.

Hope this helps.
 

Wade Cornell

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There are so many possibilities:

The 4 great US manufacturers: Buescher, Conn, White (King) and Martin
Their best-known models tend to be on the expensive side, e.g.
Buescher Big B Aristocrat or 400
Conn 10M
King Super 20
Martin Committee III ("The Martin")
But their student models, or less sought-after models can be very good too, and less expensive.
These are the ones I tend to think of first if we are talking about vintage nostalgia.
There are lots of good ones for sale, and probably lots of bad ones too.

The one and only Selmer Mk VI, or earlier Selmers: BA and SBA (very expensive)

The other French manufacturers: Pierret, Couesnon, Buffet-Crampon, Beaugnier, SML . . . - some real bargains here.

A host of German/Czech models (Amati, Keilwerth, Huller, etc.) (I don't know anything about these

Italians: Grassi, Orsi, Rampone . . .

It also depends how far back you want to go - you can get models from the 1920's and early 30's, for example a Hawkes Twentieth Century if you want English nostalgia.

In the UK there are dealers that sell vintage saxes. I would expect less risk if you buy from them, but you will pay more than a private sale.
for example: Woodwind Exchange in Bradford

Ha! Posted at the same time...glad we agree on that list!
 

JayeNM

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Well, I refurbish and resell vintage instruments so this one is right up my alley (although all above suggestions are very good....so I pat myself on the back for the company I keep :cool: )

Yes Conn, Martin, King, Buescher were 'the Big 4" back in the day.

Depending on what you'd like to spend, there were many excellent models they offered.

King:

~ Super 20 was their creme de la creme, and with reason. This was one of the only horns which gave the Mark VI some serious competition in its day. The completely 'bloged out' ones...Silversonics, silver bell and neck, full pearls, etc can run upwards of $3500 easily; BUT the ones which are aesthetically plainer and from the mid 60's-late 70's can be had for a song sometimes ($1500ish)...essentially the exact same instrument minus the bling

~ Zephyr - the horn which preceded the Super 20, and from serial 260,XXX to around 390,XXX they had identical body specifications to the S20 (the S20 basically evolved from the Zephyr). Prices range $1200-2000.

Buescher:

~ Aristocrat, any made before around 1961. Top-notch instruments in every way. $1400-ish except the Big B's (referring to the engraving) era ones, which can top $2000.

~ 400 (Top Hat and Cane/THC) - their top-shelfer, exquisite instruments although personally, not dissimilar enough form an Aristocrat to warrant their market values. The 400 is sonically 'wider' than the 'Crat, which is sonically more 'focused'. $2500-ish

Conn:

~ 10M, the legendary horn. Nothing sounds or blows like one. It also has a reputation (not undeserved) for not being the most responsive or comfy, ergonomically. But, super-popular simply because of their tone and blowing response $1300-3500 (IMHO I would never spend over $2g on a 10M...when the price point starts pushing into Super 20 territory, the latter gives you more).

~ 16M, the 10M's cousin (aka Shooting Star, Director)...basically, a 10M minus the bling. Pared down keywork (but IMHO better in pinky table than the 10M), exact same body and neck specs as the 10M, minus the rolled toneholes. $700-ish

Martin:

Pretty much EVERY model they ever made from the time they moved the bellkeys to the same side of the bell.

~ Committee III (aka "The Martin") is the one which gets the most attention, but a Committee II (aka "Lion and Crown") and Comm I (aka "Skyline", "Cityscape", "Alien Invasion") are also exemplary horns. Personally, I prefer the ergos on the I and II to the III, myself. III's can get as high as $2500, as can II's (of which there are the fewest ). I's are about $1400.

~ Indiana - DON'T knock these, they were (*like the Conn 16M) the company's 'second shelf' model, but quite honestly, Indianas are just really GOOD. Not quite as dark as the committees, but still plenty dark and big-toned. $700-1000

Holton:

I add them only because they are the maligned American maker...very bad info, outdated, on the web about them. If the yardstick one uses determines that the 10M, Committee, Super 20, Zephyr, Aristcrat, etc....are all great models, using that same yardstick applied to a Holton 241 or Revelation will yield the exact same conclusion. But sadly, that isn't how internet reputation works, sometimes. Either of these can be found for under $1000 in decent shape, a cherry one might fetch $1200-1300.

Europeans:

Beaugnier-made horns (many stencils, also Noblet, and the earlier Vitos) $900-1600

J. Keilwerth - the Couf Superba I and II, Couf Royalist I, and many iterations of the "New King" model (mostly stencils) Couf I can get to $2500, the others around $1300-1500 range.

B&S - love them Blue Labels

Grassi, Italy - anything from the "Jade" models up to the Prestige, 2000, and Professional 2000 models are all superb. Rarely do I ever seea Grassi Tenor exceed $2000

SML

Buffet - Dynaction, Super Dynaction, S1

I can keep going, but will stop for now. Lotsa fun to be had when researching vintage saxes....
 
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JayeNM

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Oh, also keep in mind....Vintage vs. Modern keywork. If you have NOT tried many saxes sporting the former, you should do that.

Personally I think the subject is over-emphasized, but there is no doubt that the feel is different.

Price:

You can get a great one for $750usd equivalent, or you can spend over $3g for a 'grail' model if you so desire. Some might argue (with some foundation) that what the latter price point gets you is solely the 'grail' status; as far as quality, performance, tone, etc. many times the less-expensive options have all that going for them as well...
 
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JayeNM

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Availability:

Plenty, all over the dang place.

You have 3 routes buying used:

1) walk-in shops where you can playtest 'em and buy there (keep in mind pricetags will be at least 33% higher than prices you see online; sometimes close to double, actually)

2) buy online - from a seller with a return policy who guarantees the horn is in good playing shape or you can get a refund.

3) buy online - a horn which seller does NOT guarantee to be in good playing shape, but it is the model you want.
In which case, wise to set aside maybe 300-400quid of your budget to have the horn serviced by a tech once you receive it.


(oh, typo up there in my reply #8...meant to write "blinged out" when referrng to the S20's)
 

GCinCT

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~ 16M, the 10M's cousin (aka Shooting Star, Director)...basically, a 10M minus the bling. Pared down keywork (but IMHO better in pinky table than the 10M), exact same body and neck specs as the 10M, minus the rolled toneholes. $700-ish
I can vouch for the 16M. I've got one and I like it a lot. It has a big vintage tone, seems very solidly made and the pinky table was not that hard to get used to.
 
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nigeld

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@Pooleman - Your Yanagisawa T902 has excellent modern keywork and good intonation.
Vintage saxophones will feel different and may have less “dialled-in” intonation.

You will find a lot of disagreement about the ergonomics of vintage horns. Certainly you should try before buying one to see if it suits your hands - you may find the keywork uncomfortable (but this also applies to modern saxes). The pinky keys are the ones to watch out for,

I went through a vintage sax phase, and briefly owned a Buescher Big-B bari and a Buescher True Tone alto. They sounded great, especially the alto, but I couldn’t get on with the keywork. I found that a Yamaha was so much easier to play, and thus more fun.
 
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Pooleman

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Astounded by the response, many thanks one and all.

The forthcoming answers were exactly what I was looking for and will focus my further research.
 

thomsax

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I've owned and played many so called vintage tenors over the years. I ended up as a Martin Committee player. Perfect for me as I'm into blues and rock music. I guess you want your comming vintage tenor to be with a modern touch? Modern pads with resonators/reflectors instead of a plain pad?

I wouldn't call an Indiana a vintage sax. They can be very good players but the built quality was uneven. I have a 1960 "The Indiana by Martin" tenor. My tech had to spend lots of hours to get that horns in good playing condition. I bought it as a mint (closet bargain !!) sax. I can understand why it was in mint condition. I was not playable due bent keys, uneven keycups ...., But when it was ready, it's a good player. Not as good as my Comm saxes.

A modern vintage sax is YTS 61. That's the real Mk VI killer. They almost knocked out Selmer. The YTS 61 have a darker sound compared to YTS 62.
 

tenorviol

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I've tried a few 'vintage' horns but not bought one yet. I've not yet found one I got on with or whose sound 'blew me away'. Unless you are an expert in these matters, probably safest to buy from a dealer that sells them (unless you can take your sax tech with you).

In my personal opinion ergonomics do matter - I tested one recently and the 'button' under the thumb that you rest the left thumb on for the octave key I found very uncomfortable. The pinkie table was weird, but manageable.

You've put that you're in Poole - I don't know sellers in that neck of the woods (I'm sure at least one of our resident techs is based somewhere near there who may be able to advise?). In northern realms, there's Woodwind Exchange in Bradford, Curly Woodwind in Liverpool, and Hanson in Marsden in Yorkshire also have some vintage stock. In all cases it is worth checking if they have been serviced etc (I know that Curly Woodwind do).
 

JayeNM

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I wouldn't call an Indiana a vintage sax. They can be very good players but the built quality was uneven. I have a 1960 "The Indiana by Martin" tenor. My tech had to spend lots of hours to get that horns in good playing condition. I bought it as a mint (closet bargain !!) sax. I can understand why it was in mint condition. I was not playable due bent keys, uneven keycups ...., But when it was ready, it's a good player. Not as good as my Comm saxes.
How is an Indiana not a vintage sax ? They stopped being produced in the 60's. ;)

Regarding your experience, I am glad you posted that here....ALL vintage horns need to be brought up to good tack in order to serve their owners well. Your story indicates once the Indiana was put in good tack (it was NOT in good tack when you took ownership) it proved to be a reliable, good player.

(This is what murdered the reputation of Holtons back in the early 2000's. The saxpics founder was collecting data on a variety of mfrs then and from that data and experiences created saxpics. Unfortunately (and I literally found these old threads/discussions from back then)...all of the info he collected from a very small sampling of owners of Holtons... were from people who had just acqured their horns as-is, or had had the horns in the closet or attic for a decade or two...and had put no $ into getting them into good playing shape.
Thus all of the feedback/impressions collected on those horns were basically based on horns which hadn't been upkept , hadn't received repads, overhauls, etc.
Sadly, he failed to make that discernment, and proceeded with posting his Holton 'information' on the web.
End of story. Bad information, poorly collected. But it 'got there first', and it was the stake thru the heart of the rep of a number of good sax models.
How is a horn which was last serviced in 1979 ever going to be a sample which can provide an accurate picture of the instrument's qualities and capabilities ?)

Your experience with the Indiana is a common example of what may happen when one delves into vintage horns. I am sure you have had similar experiences with other old horns. Rarely do they arrive to their new owners in very good playing shape. This has NOTHING to do with the intrinsic quality of the model/brand.


It is of paramount importance that the vintage horn be in serviced, very good playing condition. It is unreasonable (and unfair) to expect any horn which is NOT - to be able to perform adequately when compared to a current horn of yours which IS. This seems obvious, but is missed by a lot of people.

Thus, again, a new buyer of vintage has to get that assurance from the seller. OR, have a trusted tech do the work on the horn after the new owner has acquired it.



*Many people ASSUME when a walk-in shop is selling a used horn, the shop has obviously had it go through their repair shop PRIOR to them hanging a pricetag on it.

Do NOT make that assumption. You have to ask if this has been done. Oftentimes older horns are consignment horns, and all the shop does (and I mean even very reputable shops) is take the owner's word for it and hang it on their display wall. Even if not consignment horns, but acquired on a trade-in or something, the store will NOT have invested adequate attention to the instrument before putting up for sale. They want to turn a profit, after all. And having their tech spend 8-9 hours on a trade-in is not gonna give them the most profit on turning the sax around.
So if you find one of interest, INSIST that the agreed-upon sale price includes a complete "play condition" servicing (not just a cursory one) from their shop.
 
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tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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...
*Many people ASSUME when a walk-in shop is selling a used horn, the shop has obviously had it go through their repair shop PRIOR to them hanging a pricetag on it.

Do NOT make that assumption. You have to ask if this has been done. Oftentimes older horns are consignment horns, and all the shop does (and I mean even very reputable shops) is take the owner's word for it and hang it on their display wall. So if you find one of interest, INSIST that the agreed-upon sale price includes a complete "play condition" servicing (not just a cursory one) from their shop.
I think this is an important point: some do and some don't so it's necessary to check.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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I love my modern Hanson...but I've been tempted to look for a vintage conn for a while.
The most interesting thing about owning and playing BOTH modern and vintage horns is you can get a really, really good impression of the diversity of qualities a sax can have....it gives the player the ability to paint with a much larger palette. To me, that is what is the most compelling aspect.

Same instrument, really. But so much wonderful variety in tone and performance.
 
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