Saxophones Keilwerth ST90 - Another student model worthy of consideration

JayeNM

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So I have been curious about these for a while, never really took the chance on buying a fixer and seeing what they were all about. Fairly ubiquitous on the eFlay US market, and they tend to go fairly cheap on auction.

Ultimately, I didn't have to buy one...a repeat customer of mine won one on auction and sent it to me for refurb/servicing.

ST-90, ROC-made (the first ones were actually assembled in CZ...at some point, apparently JK subcontracted to china).

This is a pretty good sax, really. I was pleasantly surprised. In general it is modeled after a Yamaha 23 as far as most keywork mechanics and such, although the feel of the JK's keys under the fingers is slicker, more responsive. Body gauge is quite robust, heavier than a student Yama. Offset lower stack holes, 'modern' ergonomics. Pinky table has tilted Bb with the tab connection to the C#; a regulating arm on the end of the B key keeps C# closed when Bb is activated. It's a nice-feeling table.

Point screws are nicely threaded, unlike many budget chinese makes. Posts are structurally solid, there was little key play on this horn - something quite common again in a lot of student model chinese horns. The lacq wear on this one was significant, lacq discoloration as well but I cannot say for sure whether that is because the factory lacq finish is so-so or because the horn was kept in a bad location as far as climatic conditions. (Previous owner actually stripped the lacq from neck and gave it a fake patina treatment (glad they stopped at the neck) ).

Blowing-wise, nice and free blowing. Sound wise, and this was a surprise...it sounds quite good. Definitely darker and lusher than your typical asian student horn tone. Sonic quality remained consistent up and down the registers, intonation was actually very, very good. People who are familiar with me know that when it comes to many china-manufactured horns, particularly student models, I take no prisoners - my general feeling on 'em is very critical and with good reason.
This one held up pretty well to my bench scrutiny, though.

On used US market, in good playing shape these tend to be priced similarly to a Yama 23 or such....but they do not get scooped up as quickly as the Japanese models do. I have seen many ST90's sit for sale for a while.
For those seeking a solid budget/student horn with perhaps a bit more sonic colour and a slicker feel, I'd say these are worth checking out of you get the chance. I may start hunting for some of these to service and sell.
Just passing along my impressions....



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thomsax

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Good saxes. The prices use to be lower if you compare to YTS 23/25. I think the last version was made in Taiwan (ROC) by KHS company ("Jupiter"). To built a student sax in Europe was hard after the iron curtain fell.
 

spike

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As far as I know there were two series of ST90's
the Series III and the Series IV
Good quality student horns, built at the Jupiter factory in Taiwan.
Don't know without checking my library, they may well have been assembled by JK.
I'll have a read when I get a minute.
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

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(Ah yes, thank you for that correction., Thom.....I errantly described it as China-produced, ROC of course = Taiwan....)
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

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As far as I know there were two series of ST90's
the Series III and the Series IV
Good quality student horns, built at the Jupiter factory in Taiwan.
Don't know without checking my library, they may well have been assembled by JK.
I'll have a read when I get a minute.
My recollection is the original models were assembled in the Amati factory, perhaps from parts fabricated at JK, Germany (?)....then the later ones completely fabricated and assembled in ......ROC....

But I go solely on memory regarding this, so please correct me if you find anything more concrete.
 

spike

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Just a bit of history without going into great detail:
That Amati connection confuses many people. It does require a little more research. As far as the ST goes ferget it.
Julius K. moved . . . (the entire family was forcefully deported) . . . from Sudetenland to Nauheim in 1947.
They were each allowed to take 50 Kgs. of belongings with them.
All the sax manufacturing stuff had to be left behind.
(That's where the Amati "conglomorate" connection comes in. The comrades jumped into the JK workshops and churned out saxes on the old JK machinery).
So from 1947 on Julius K and family firstly opened a sax repair workshop in an old bakery washroom in Nauheim - not far from Frankfurt.
Over the years they expanded and started manufacturing saxophones again. KING, TONE KING SPECIAL etc.
1968 they brought out a STUDENT model.
1989 JK was taken over by Boosey & Hawkes
Skip a coupla years - 1991 the Student model was renamed ST 90
(I'm not convinced that that date is correct, However I'm pretty sure that from date on the ST 90 became a Taiwan horn.)
and in 1992 the ST 90 Series II came on the scene.
Since then to now the Keilwerth company has been taken over and over again . . .
So I'll stop there cos I can't remember where I've left my other books, the problem with chaos is that it expands at the speed of light.

The history of all the European sax manufacturers is so difficult because it spans over 100 years and a few wars and revolutions.
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

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I wasn't conecting JK to Amati based upon their historical associations/origins in any way, FWIW.....

I had read somewhere online in the past few years that the modern JK factory indeed had contracted the modern Amati factory assemble the original ST90's, ostensibly in order to keep their fabrication costs down and the pricetag of their new student line affordable. Then after a while they realized they could get a better deal going in Taiwan.

Perhaps just a bit of internet lore that began to get repeated enough to make folks such as myself believe it :oops:
 

thomsax

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The ST and EX were not a "wide bow" construction. Todays production is just the SX that is "wide bow". Back in the late 60's Keilwerth bought thier student saxes from Amati. Both Amati and B&S made saxes, parts, ..... for other brands. Some companies were clear about that. Keilwerth was one company that informed the seller that they didn't make a model themselves. Other companies were UMI, King Musical Instruments ......
 

rhysonsax

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The ST and EX were not a "wide bow" construction. Todays production is just the SX that is "wide bow".
I thought that the EX model (at least at one time) used the same tube as the SX - do you know whether that is true and maybe it is limited to the main body but not the bow, bell and neck ?

Rhys
 

rhysonsax

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I thought that the EX model (at least at one time) used the same tube as the SX - do you know whether that is true and maybe it is limited to the main body but not the bow, bell and neck ?

Rhys
PS I have just found my copy of an old Keilwerth brochure from early in the period they were owned by Boosey & Hawkes (1989-2003) and when Peter Ponzol was involved - I would guess 1990 0r 1991. The brochure says that "Extra wide bow for full sound and easy emission of low notes" was an advantage of "all Julius Keilwerth saxophones" and shows it applying to the EX 90 models.
 

spike

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an old Keilwerth brochure
I have a copy of a similar brochure from the Boosey era . . . with the " extra wide bow . . . " etc. in the EX90 Series II description.

I don't know enough about the ST model, I'll keep it in mind the next time I'm out and about. I don't visit my dealer as often as I used to.
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

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PS I have just found my copy of an old Keilwerth brochure from early in the period they were owned by Boosey & Hawkes (1989-2003) and when Peter Ponzol was involved - I would guess 1990 0r 1991. The brochure says that "Extra wide bow for full sound and easy emission of low notes" was an advantage of "all Julius Keilwerth saxophones" and shows it applying to the EX 90 models.
I really LIKE EX90's. No RTH if memory serves (?). Also not 100% sure the EX neck and SX necks are/were identical (?)

But a completely overlooked model, probably due to it having been a commercial 'failure' or at least 'underachiever'....and most of the time, relatively speaking, quite 'cheap' to pick up one on the used market.


I have a copy of a similar brochure from the Boosey era . . . with the " extra wide bow . . . " etc. in the EX90 Series II description.
I don't know enough about the ST model, I'll keep it in mind the next time I'm out and about. I don't visit my dealer as often as I used to.
The thing I (ostensibly) like about 'em is, rather than the mother company just subcontracting an asian factory to produce an asian-designed horn and slap the mother engraving on 'em, KHS actually seems to have tooled their facility to build the ST to the JK specs, at least to some significant degree. Because this doesn't sound or feel like an asian-made student horn.
 

spike

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Had an EX alto on trial for a weekend in the mid 90's.
As far as I can remember the EX was pretty much an SX without the pro bells and whistles.
From my experience having met and chatted with the folks and endorsers from JK over the years
I must agree with your thinking on the KHS ST.
JK have always had an excellent reputation for manufacturing solid and reliable horns from Student to Pro.
 

thomsax

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You are right, EX model come with the "wide bow " as well. I looked at some pictures on internet. But I've played and seen both ST and EX that were made in R O C (Taiwan) and I guess by KHS. My friend had a late EX Keilwerth stamped with ROC. A good sax . He is now on an over priced SML Rev D. I think Evette saxes were also from ROC. Both Buffet and Keilwerth were in Bossey & Hawkes group
 

rhysonsax

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Interesting, I had assumed EX's were made in Germany....
Julius Keilwerth - Wikipedia tells us (if it can be relied on) that since 1990:
  • SX90R: made in Germany by Keilwerth
  • SX90: made in Germany by Keilwerth
  • MKX: made in Germany by Keilwerth
  • CX90: made in Germany by Keilwerth (discontinued after 2010)
  • EX90 series I: made in Germany by Keilwerth
  • EX90 series II: made in Germany by Keilwerth until 2003[1]
  • EX90 series III: Parts made in Germany by Keilwerth. Assembly and finishing by Amati in the Czech Republic (discontinued after 2010)
  • ST90 series I: made in Germany by Keilwerth
  • ST90 series II: Parts made in Germany by Keilwerth. Assembly and finishing by Amati in the Czech Republic until 2003[1]
  • ST90 series III: Made in Taiwan. Assembled in Taiwan
  • ST90 series IV: made in Taiwan by KHS (continued as ST series after 2010)
Interestingly, that Wikipedia page includes as reference sources several instrument reviews by @Stephen Howard , including a couple he did of my Keilwerth altos. Fame at last.

Rhys
 

spike

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The plot deepens, this is a paragraph translated from an article written by Uwe Ladwig in the German Sonic, woodwind and brass magazine:

From around 1970, the beginner Models were purchased from Rampone & Cazzani, followed by Amati, then B&S, Amati again and finally Jupiter. Amati produced the middle class model "EX" as a stencil and delivered the Bell of the "SX" series.

The original article in German can be downloaded as a .pdf here: sonic Keilwerth article
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

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OK, yes that is where I had heard the Amati connection before - so my memory isn't total crap :) (but again, keeping in mind Wikipedia is by no means a concrete, error-free reference source..because as we see, Thom has already noted he has seen EX's with an ROC stamp on 'em, which would contradict the Wiki info noting all EX's having been made in Europe)

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thomsax

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Interesting, I had assumed EX's were made in Germany....
I talked to my friend (the former owner) and he also remeber the EX to be stamped with R.O.C.. But it can be fake sax? And I can't find any picture on internet with ROC stamp. Most pictures of EX's are Keilwerth design. So maybe we shouldn't look too deep into my info.
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

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I talked to my friend (the former owner) and he also remeber the EX to be stamped with R.O.C.. But it can be fake sax? And I can't find any picture on internet with ROC stamp. Most pictures of EX's are Keilwerth design. So maybe we shouldn't look too deep into my info.
Perhaps ....but you know...You are pretty experienced in all of this sax stuff .....looking at various details of the horn he had...I would bet that it would be revealed as a fake pretty quickly if it was one. Forgeries really do NOT hold up under visual scrutiny much beyond some of their aesthetic details.

You start looking at keycups, ferrules, octave mechanisms, posts, rollers, etc.....a forgery falls apart pretty quickly.

But unfotunately you say he no longer owns it. Too bad, because some photos of it would have solved the mystery pretty quickly....
 
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