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Saxophones Gear4music Soprano Saxophone Review

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There are plenty of cheap chinese Sopranos around in both styles to choose from but in the UK none as cheap combined with a no hassle 28 return warranty which Gear4Music offer . There is currently only one model, the Straight gold laquer model retailing at just under £200, it`s the standard fare Yani 901 clone with 2 necks, plastic pimply case and gloves like most lower end Sops......

this one was a "nearly new" sold through the website which is basically a return which isn`t falling to bits wheres the "knackered but too cheap to send back to China" ones end up on fleabay as "ex Demo" or "Slight fault" , they sell these from time to time at a big discount .

G4M-Soprano-4.JPG


The Horn arrived in a box a bit bigger than the case with a bit of cardboard wadding only at one end, nothing at the other end or around the sides, the case itself doesn`t fit the sax at all tightly so it`s a miracle any horns from Alto & bigger arrive in one piece let alone playable.. 0 out of 10 for packing! - all stuff was present bar the end plug (which could have been disasterous), it comes with a crude plastic mouthpiece with lig and reed already fitted, cap , basic hook sling (Alto size), the two necks and the ubiquitous white gloves which the low end chinese makers love to throw in, the cork bell-key wedges were in the case and hadn`t been re-fitted (remember though this is a 'Box-shifter' store, not a musical instrument "shop") ..

Build is pretty much as expected, not the best finished around the smaller toneholes, there`s little play in the action though, only a couple of places which don`t affect pad placement, the keywork for the high F# and G are crude plates but at least no rough edges like chinesers of old, I really like the lower slung bell key rod system, its less likely to get wrecked than the tall system the higher end Taiwanese ones like the Elkhart Deluxe uses . the necks amazingly both have smooth mechs and decent pads, both needed the tenons rubbing with wet&dry to remove laquer which was making them an uneven tight fit.

G4M-Soprano-6.JPG


This "nearly new" example had been played but not for long, a few bits, on looking the horn over, the front F touchpiece is a bit "loose" , there`s no way of tightening it as it`s a collar but it`s just a mech and not a key as such so shouldn`t be an issue (hardly the most used key on a sop anyway) . there were a few sticky pads which are expected on a Sop with chinese pads though comically not the G#, the worst was the body octave key which was stuck down and probably why the horn was returned in the firstplace, easily sorted I`ve now gone through all the pads with Lighter fluid .. one pad (top stack B) has what looks like a manufactured split on the edge but on inspection its where the leather of the pad has folded to get it in, it`s not where the tonehole touches though . I don`t know what glue they use but there`s some on a couple of the keys ... I`ve gone through it lubing and tightening loose screws in the action and there were a few .. A couple of the rods don`t sit in the carriers but above them and the high Bb Trill hits one if you press it to enthusiastically (needs a thicker cork) ..

G4M-Soprano-5.JPG



After this I gave it a blow with the straight neck and stock door-wedge (after checking and then flattening the table on a piece of Wet& dry) ) this piece is a stuffy affair which is better at the high end than the low, the horn with this Handicap amazingly plays in tune, Intonation isn`t a mile out too ! , I have to say that the action is pretty smooth , this is no Elkhart Deluxe but "nearly new" at £130 half the price of a minty used deluxe, it ain`t half bad, remember that a Jericho is well over £300 , the G4M off the shelf costs £190 and both will need a setup .

after this check, I setup the RH table key tension and stuck a leak light in it (easy in a straight Sop, just powerful LED Lamp) and miraculously only ONE pad was leaking, the G# - OK playing C or higher but when you press the bell notes was lifing, it was the two regulation screws which were loose and out of adjustment causing a warble on the low notes , I adjusted them (inc the other which pushes the bis key) and fixed in place with nail varnish , all is fine now, I was amazed that the high F# and even high G mechs work well and smoothly ..

Again, the only shonky bit left is the slightly loose front F touch piece but it maybe like that on most of them, at least it doesn`t need vice grips to operate like some Asian tenors do !! . the whole thing plays and feels a lot better and you could almost say, the keywork is rather slick through most of the range, pressing the A isn`t "Yani slick" of course like the Elkhart 300 Curved was as it operates so much stuff and it`s a £200 Chinese soprano at the end of the day


Would I recommend it - as a new Purchase, I`d make sure you definately couldn`t get a used Taiwanese made Elkhart 300 or Deluxe first and if you do get the G4M, I`d get them to ship it to a Tech you can trust such as Stephen Howard so they can get the thing working properly or send it back and demand another depending on the state of the thing. it remains that ordering a G4M is pot luck regarding QC and going by the abysmal packaging (and poor fit of horn in the case) , issues could be compounded in transit , it`s a shame because the basic horn is pretty OK even after a bit of minor fettling by me . another well known Forum member had to "repair" his own G4M soprano also but his Alto was fine out of the box...
 

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The good thing Jim is that they warranty the "nearly new" ones for the same 12 months so if that pad tears or the high F# falls off, they have to fix it (though I wonder how when they can`t even check stuff over)

BTW its for the little lady , she plays brass and has got very woodwind-curious laterly, could only squeak on the Clarinet but on the Sop, even with the doorwedge can almost play a run - she`s finding a horn with more than 5 "valves" and that it works "like a recorder" rather weird, when the Esprit Mpc arrives it`ll be a lot better . I`m not the worlds best re-facing expert and the Doorwedge is hardly a slant link to begin with ;)
 
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kevgermany

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Thanks Ads.

Not so sure myself. I had one of their Rosedale sops for quite a while. Was used, but in good condition. Played Ok when I got it as it had been set up by a well known tech.

After a while I started having problems - adjusting screws coming loose, and a loose neck that leaked if you weren't careful. Made the lower notes and staying in the lower register tricky.

Eventually I got tired of it and decided to sort it properly. Into the techs for neck fitting. Then a close examination. Toneholes were terrible. They use really soft pads to overcome this. Net result is that leaks are the norm. To get it right I had to take so much off the small tone hole chimneys that they're almost flat on the body.

Now it plays well. And sounds great.

Really can't recommend these, unless you get a good tech to check it properly, not just do what's needed to get it playing. Just too cheap.
 

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How old is this Kev ? . .. My comment about having the horn directly sent to the tech echos your concerns .

The toneholes look pretty good and level and need minimum pressure to seal with the light (or playing), the pads seem very similar to those used by JinBao (Chinese Sakkusus), firm enough, looks like decent leather but can get sticky ..

I checked out the Rosedales on G4M and it`s a different sax - more expensive and I have to say Identical to the pics of the Jerichos - same weird LH B pinkie key and key touch piece stalks, the G4M generic looks 'rougher and tougher', the pad thing is probably down to age, the Chinese only relatively very recently have been making pads worth leaving on .
 
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It looks like the pads have improved over that time, I`ve seen those squishy pads on chinese tenors, the current ones are less "balloon-like"
 

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UPDATE: Another area which has needed looking at is the neck - or to be precise, the curved one..

She asked how to play in the upper register as it wasn`t working at all (she wasn`t attempting higher than B even) - now the supplied Mouthpiece maybe a joke but one thing it does OK is play in the upper register, I can get right to that high G# with ease , I pulled the horn out of the case, stuck on the straight neck (as I would) blew from D to high G in the upper and back down again .. Hmm,.. Handed it over, she pulled the straight neck . fitted the curvy one and the neck strap and tried the same , horrible noises emitted, I tried and Yup the same until I got up the top end where it was fine ..

Sop-Neck.JPG


The way the cantilever octave mech works is that the spring on the neck lever powers the cantilever action to lift the pip on the body, if this is weak (or the mech was stiff and unlubed as in this case) it either doesn`t happen, partially happens (which is worse) or happens slowly . I loosened the screw a bit on the neck lever pivot and lubed it all (I`d already lubed the octave mech previously) and all was well . I`d only checked the straight one .....

As it happens the curvy one was the one the original buyer had tried (straight one arrived wrapped up & sealed ) so no doubt a combination of the stiff curvy neck pivot and the stuck down body octave pip ruining the lower upper register of the horn and the lifting (so leaking) G# when the bell notes were played due to reg screws loose killing or warbling the lower notes sent the sax packing back to Gear4music ..

What bothers me is that this was then re-sold as a fully working "nearly new" rather than dumped on E-Bay as a "Repair seconds" .. Though the previous buyer if a beginner may have thought it was "them" and decided to take up the guitar after all so G4M wouldn't know it was faulty .. as I say, G4M are purely a box shifter and you can`t expect the kind of service or QC which music shops (should) give but they really need someone who knows woodwind to make sure the returns are faulty or not ..
 
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Colin the Bear

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I would suggest, and have warned before, that imo all the returns are faulty. Nobody sends back a good horn at their prices. Their good stuff is good. Their seconds need attention. If you're handy ie can repad a sax and maybe solder a little and have a mechanical bent, they're worth a punt. They're not for newbies, till they've been fettled, and if you can't fettle 'em yourself, the cost of a technician will outweigh any savings you're likely to make over their regular gear. Not to mention the sharp intake of breath and the long face.

If you're on a budget and have some skill with hand tools you get a brand new, shiny, modern instrument for very little outlay of cash.

As well as the two own brands, they sell Yanis , Yams, Trevor james, oddysey, elkhart ,conn selmer and buffet crampon too

Treasure or trash? Neither. These returns are projects. I wouldn't buy another sop return because they're fiddly to work on, being so small and my eye sight isn't what it was. The bigger horns...yes I'd have another when the time comes.

Customer service and quality control costs would probably be more than manufacturing costs. Their own brand is sold as an economy instrument. The damaged or not quite right ones go really cheap,

Welcome to my world lol
 

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This "Nearly new" bought from their site isn`t as bad as the E-Bay horrors in need of soldering, key straighning etc and does come with the full 12 month warranty but it did need a bit of fettling , as probably will a good proportion of the ones sold as new .

This is why I recommend Jerichos over G4M to newbies here buying new , if you`re a café member you can opt for a free setup by Stephen Howard , the Altos aren`t horrendously more expensive than G4M though the sops are and the Jericho sops look just like the G4M Rosedales .

I agree with the "Neither" opinion on Treasure or Trash regarding G4M, Lottery would be a more accurate description. if you get a good one or one which is close enough for a DIY tweak regardless if its unopened or a return then it`s great , if not then it`s time for Sax-Tennis , returning them until you do - thankfully there`s no cost to return .

With Altos and Tenors there`s tons of choice new or used but with Sops, at the under £200 price very little.. New, only other no-name Chinese horns with likely as many out of the box possible issues and worse warranty / returns situation., Used less common than larger horns , you have to really look.
 
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Colin`s Bari Esprit arrived this morning (thanks a lot Colin !! ) , I had one when I had the Elkhart 300 curvy and found its darker nature tamed the bright balance of that horn nicely , though its narrow gap meant needing hard reeds ,a great beginner and also occasional player piece for those who don`t want to lash out £100 for a USA HR .

Well as all here would expect, it`s transformed the G4M straight sop - Dark the Bari maybe but it`s not Stuffy like the throw-in . the horn plays easier, reeds match, the sound is far more refined and has taken on clarity . in all fairness, as I said, I knew it would but a Kenny-G fan on a budget wanting to learn to play wouldn`t and think either the horn or more likely themselves was to blame.

Why any maker supplies a mouthpiece in a beginners horn which makes playing the instrument four times as difficult is a mystery , cloning the Yamaha 4C or the Bari Esprit isn`t rocket science, surely a machine could spit the things out at minimal cost with the same quality .. I made the supplied wedge playable with wet & dry and although it wasn`t up to much , it was enough to give her a first go and allow me to set the horn up.. before my crude table de-burring the thing was worse than useless.

In defence, at least G4M put a Rico Orange reed on the plastic doorwedge, a nice touch for those who ordered an Esprit as well , they`ll have a decent reed . (I was expecting a flying goose brand one - LOL)
 
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