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Saxophones Old and worn PALATINO TENOR SAX; what a surprise! So why do we buy expensive pro horns?


New Member
London UK
My first horn is a purple logo YTS 62. I recently bought a Hansons ST 5 for my daughter and I like it so much that I've let her use my 62 while I get to know the ST 5 better.
For fun (and a bit of extra cash) I buy and sell student saxes regularly. A week or so ago I got hold of an 'heavily used' Palatino Tenor for peanuts.. It wasn't blowing cleanly and obviously needed a service; so it got one courtesy of my usual technician at MCL media in Watford. I didn't go for a full overhaul which it could have done with, but just a simple adjustment as I didn'.t see the point in throwing more at it than it's worth. Well I got it back today and wow. The tone is warm and,fat all through the range and the volume dynamics and projection are really good. It plays beautiful sub tone as well.The keyboard and mech (which would definitely benefit from a full overhaul) is nevertheless slick, positive and effortless.
I'd say that all in all, it compares very well with a good intermediate horn of the same period, like a YTS32 or Jupiter 789-787; certainly on the sound and feel anyway and in all honesty, is perfectly capable of competing with a YTS62.
I don't know much (or care much tbh) about the detailed technical reasons why a pro sax can cost 8 times that of a student horn; I'm far more interested in the sound and ease of playability that the horn offers. And this thing is a really pleasant suprise.
So having said that I'm not really interested in why; I'm gna ask....why do we pay huge sums for a 'pro' horn and is it really worth the extra outlay?
It's a good and fair question, but ultimately subjective. So many factors and things that players think they want/need. For those who are unsure buying a "name" or expensive horn may give them confidence (Dumbo's magic feather syndrome). If your tone and technique isn't the best, then can that beginner or even an intermediate player really compare horns accurately? In many cases any horn that plays reasonably in tune and is mechanically good can work for the beginner or intermediate player.

For the more experienced player the question may be what type of sound do you want? Most of the time an audience won't be able to tell the difference (there are videos that demonstrate same player and mouthpiece playing different horns).
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What usually comes though is the player's style more than a big difference in sound. As a player though you are tied to that sound and how it "feels" for the style of music you're playing.

Ultimately it's up to the player to decide on the basis of name/prejudice, affordability, or ultimately what works best for them...which may not be the most expensive horn.

From a personal perspective: my favorite alto is a Martin Indiana which cost me around $250.00. I have two favorite tenors: a 1950s Martin Com III (cost around $1200.00) and a R&C Bronze R1 (cost around $6000.00). To my ear the two tenors have significantly different tone, but if I had to survive with one and was limited by budget the Martin would more than suffice (and did for more than 10 years before I got the R&C).
Depends a lot on the individual saxes. Some of the cheaper saxes I've had/seen are so badly made that a slight knock stops them from playing properly - or they clearly were sold because they were so badly set up. My favourite sax is an old Kohlert from the thirties. But my modern Yani is also good. My Santoni has a nicer tone, but ergos aren't as good.
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A pro horn is for a pro player. To withstand the two or three gigs a day. ( I wish) and being transported between. Standard, easily available parts. High quality meterials in all those wear points. Precision fit. Adjustment screws for regulation in all the right places instead of faffing with bits of felt and cork. Familiar enough for a tech to sort it in his sleep, so less time in the shop and on the bench. Nothing to do with playability, that's assumed and the sound? Well, that's up to you innit?

Precision engineering is where the costs are.
It is a matter of want, not need.
I took my wife sax shopping when i got my tenor. She has a decerning ear.
She immediately could hear the differences between student, intermediate and pro horns. We have similiar tates and i walked away with an expensice horn i still love. I rarely consider horn shopping. It does exactly what I want and its capable of far more than its owner.
If I bought a lesser horn before, I would still be looking at greener pastures.

...but that is me...not everyone. Play what makes you happy. Life is short.
I have Martin and King Zephyr altos, but am just as happy playing my super-cheap Boosey & Hawkes alto, which I picked up for next to nothing when the Zephyr was having a broken spring replaced. They all sound and feel different, and which one I choose really depends on the gig and my mood. But the B&H is definitely not cheaply built, and is in fact more reliable than my Zephyr.
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