SYOS

Saxophones How much difference is there between brands?

randulo

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Another endless topic to revisit. I ask because I detest driving. I haven't needed to own a car for years. I have owned many, though, and now we rent them when traveling. In my view, there's little difference in cars of a similar class that can't be gotten used to or compensated for. This of course is from someone who sees a car as a utilitarian object. I know there are people who live and breathe cars. So do we live and breathe saxophones? I tried a very expensive Yanagisawa tenor and alto. There was one key that felt different enough from the Jupiter I was renting, but I'm pretty sure that practice would solve that. (This was when I had been playing saxophone for a minute.)
Within the same brand, prices vary a lot, so the models seem to make it clear the student at under $1000, the intermediate under $2000 and the pro at sell your first born clearly have different values. But what about the difference in brands?

I think we can pretend there are those three groups, beginner, intermediate and professional, even if there's more to it.

What characteristics do those of you who "obsess" over the qualities of saxophones in a similar group think are the most significant.
A short list would be weight, feel of the keys, material aspects, manufacturing durability (and parts availability?), sound in its many facets, etc.
It would be especially interesting to hear from repair people, instrument makers and longtime owners of many instruments, but the inevitable jokes and stories are all good.
 

CliveMA

Member
Messages
662
Other attributes:
  • Tech skills availability local to buyer/owner
  • Store stock of wide model range to allow easy playtest and comparison
  • Beauty (very important to some of us as absence thereof rules it out for me! )
  • Exclusivity/Generic - either or both can be important to some
  • Mouthpiece and reed friendliness - does that vary by brand? By vintage or modern?
  • Ease of low notes/ ease of high notes seems to vary by student/intermediate/professional categories according to professional reviews I've viewed.
  • Ease of intonation across range
  • Quality/robustness of included case - cheapo saxes often need you to purchase an aftermarket case
  • Availability of accessories eg custom necks
  • High value retention in second hand market
 

CliveMA

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662
I notice they are available for my YAS480. Why would I (or anyone) want one?
The necks supposedly have different sounds due to distributing the same volume with different bores. Also, the silver necks are pretty though claims of different sounds for different materials are dubious.

sax neck comparison.jpg
 

Wonko

Member
Messages
379
I think, as a beginner, one can't notice the subtle differences between the good and the better.
......
I consider myself to be a beginner (when I count the years that I have been playing, it adds up to about 10 years), I still play my first tenor (Yamaha YTS32) that I bought nearly 20 years ago.
About 2 years ago I had the opportunity to test the Dinant II by Adolphe Sax & Cie. I found that saxophone very appealing at that time (I still do to some extent).
It was a nice saxophone, played very well.
But the main conclusion of that event was "I can't play good enough yet to appreciate a better saxophone". Or maybe my YTS32 is quite good already, perhaps I don't need a better sax (yet).
 

NicholasCBV

New Member
Messages
18
I wonder if contemporary instruments are moving towards a form of homogeneousness in tone, spurred on by the necessity to cut manufacture costs, sourcing parts from the same factories and rise of the ultra-low-budget saxophone e.g. Ammoon? I would also be interested to know if there is the same appeal to play the sax today as there was when I was a kid (approx 3% of pupils at my school had lessons).

But these are probably entire threads of their own...

:headscratch:
 

randulo

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But these are probably entire threads of their own...
I'd find it totally appropriate to this discussion! What is made or even checked by gifted artisans today? I know there were videos on YouTube from saxophone factories. It's be interesting to see the process on my $350 Chinese curved soprano, for example.

A better build quality would certainly mean there are differences in the competency of the people involved.
 

davidk

Paints With Notes
Messages
357
Another endless topic to revisit. I ask because I detest driving. I haven't needed to own a car for years. I have owned many, though, and now we rent them when traveling. In my view, there's little difference in cars of a similar class that can't be gotten used to or compensated for. This of course is from someone who sees a car as a utilitarian object. I know there are people who live and breathe cars. So do we live and breathe saxophones? I tried a very expensive Yanagisawa tenor and alto. There was one key that felt different enough from the Jupiter I was renting, but I'm pretty sure that practice would solve that. (This was when I had been playing saxophone for a minute.)
Within the same brand, prices vary a lot, so the models seem to make it clear the student at under $1000, the intermediate under $2000 and the pro at sell your first born clearly have different values. But what about the difference in brands?

I think we can pretend there are those three groups, beginner, intermediate and professional, even if there's more to it.

What characteristics do those of you who "obsess" over the qualities of saxophones in a similar group think are the most significant.
A short list would be weight, feel of the keys, material aspects, manufacturing durability (and parts availability?), sound in its many facets, etc.
It would be especially interesting to hear from repair people, instrument makers and longtime owners of many instruments, but the inevitable jokes and stories are all good.
Hi

When buying my latest tenor, the shop assistant left me in their room of saxes with my mouthpiece, and I was able to try every horn in the shop. My main reason for buying was wanting something that I could play quietly down low (I practice in an apartment), as well as something that gave easier altissimo.

I gave the key rods a wiggle on each one and quickly dismissed those with loose key work, which were by no means the cheapest.

I played a chromatic scale along the full range of each horn, which highlighted any further loose or noisy key work. Also I played each one as quietly as I could at the extremes and in scales and arpeggios, which determined resistance as well as letting me hear any key noise.

I ran through the overtone series and was able to get higher on some instruments than others. (For this exercise I found the saxophone made more difference than the mouthpiece).

Finally, playing some licks with various intervals showed me the character of the sound. Once I got a shortlist of three or four that I really liked, the key spacing, finish and price moved to the fore.

So my priorities for saxophones within a given budget were:
1. Build quality
2. Ease of response
3. Ease of altissimo
4. Sound character
5. Feel
6. Finish
7. Price

Others will have different priorities, but I found that horns within a given price bracket all had different strengths and weaknesses in each of these categories. When the shops are open again I recommend performing the same exercise. It's a good day out for a saxophone player. To summarise, even within a given price bracket, all horns are not created equal.
 

randulo

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Have you tried overtones on just mouthpiece + neck as per video?
I'm not big on that kind of thing in general, but I always play and bend a few notes with just the mpc and neck before I put it on. I did several hours of just mouthpiece and The Silencer in the early days. I can't do an octave down, but I can get decently far. Never really occurred to me to try overtones.. I shall, next time just to see.
Funny, on the soprano I can hit the first 5 overtones of the low notes.
 

randulo

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So my priorities for saxophones within a given budget were:
1. Build quality
2. Ease of response
3. Ease of altissimo
4. Sound character
5. Feel
6. Finish
7. Price

Thanks for that great list! I guess many of us have price much closer to the top. I have not had much luck hearing the difference when I've tried different instruments, which was only once or twice. I don't know if it's my hearing or my lack of sax education. I do believe #1 Build quality is important because it'll last and be resalable more easily.
 

davidk

Paints With Notes
Messages
357
Thanks for that great list! I guess many of us have price much closer to the top. I have not had much luck hearing the difference when I've tried different instruments, which was only once or twice. I don't know if it's my hearing or my lack of sax education. I do believe #1 Build quality is important because it'll last and be resalable more easily.
You're welcome. I had a cap on the price, so this was a comparison of saxophones that I could afford. Therefore I guess price was a more important factor than the list implies.
 

randulo

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I think it's telling that many of the greats play the same horn for their entire career. Habit? Comfort? Or lack of the need to move up? Or, there is no real 'up'?
Most of you would know more about this than I.
 

swhnld

Member
Messages
62
There are definitely differences between saxophone brands, just like differences between cars. basic construction and material quality have an impact already. For example less strong brass results in easier damage and repair cost. Wrong or no screws the same.

However, in my opinion there is 1 big difference, that is the reason behind buying a car or saxophone. Like you mentioned, you don't like cars and only use them when needed. But a saxophone or other musical instruments are generally bought and played as a hobby, not because it is needed, because then a musician or keyboard can be hired.

As soon as something becomes a hobby, then other aspects come into play. Fun, change, trying something are all part of that hobby, any hobby.

So for a true hobby player, there is a difference, and even professional players have their favorites for certain types of music or performances, the feel and sound have an impact for them.
 

Phil

Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
717
Aside from build quality I think the real question is, "what is the difference in saxophone designs"

Some companies have or steal better designs. Some companies have designs/models that work better than others in their own lineand/or against competing brands.

Its a pretty broad wuestion that will lead to more travel rather than less.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,873
I wonder if contemporary instruments are moving towards a form of homogeneousness in tone, spurred on by the necessity to cut manufacture costs, sourcing parts from the same factories....
I believe so. If you look at the vintage heydey of saxes (say, mid '30's-late 60's), the diversity of instruments available was much greater, in respect to their tone as well as keywork layout, aesthetic appearance, mechanics, etc...

The thing is, today, most brands are to a greater or lesser degree a knock-off of a couple if Selmer France models. Thus you go from one asian horn to another, really they are all using the same departure point: the Selmer design.

Of course, this is where that ends. Depending on manufacturer/factory ability and what end of market they are shooting for....the end result might be a fabulous horn...or a pure dog.
 

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