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Saxophones Three lousy saxophones


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A short review of three lousy saxophones

I buy and sell saxes as a means of financing my interest in playing. I keep some nice saxes for myself (Yani tenor and alto, and some vintage stuff) and all the rest pass through my hands quite quickly. I’ve been thinking recently about the need for a certain set quality of sax, or whether it would be tolerable to play some cheapo thing, and just enjoy playing. I currently have three saxes I’ll be selling soon, (two altos and a tenor) so I thought I’d do a comparative review. None of them are what would be regarded as top instruments…….

Intermusic Rikter

This is a generic Chinese sax. It plays just fine, and being a modern sax has good ergonomics.

  • · Feels good under the fingers
  • · Basic finish is OK
  • · Has adjustable metal thumb hook and high F# key
  • · Intonation and tone pretty good, played well with my Yani 7 metal and a RJS 2H reed. Even tone from bottom Bb to top F#.
  • · I’m doubtful about its long term durability
  • · Case is rubbish, cheap moulded plastic thing
Selmer Bundy II

US (or Mexican?) built student sax from about 25 years ago

  • · Basic tone pretty good. A bit less bright than the Rikter. Not exactly rich in tone, and doesn’t have the smoothness of the vintage saxes the body was allegedly based on, but OK.
  • · Lacquer seems to be incredibly tough. Despite a smattering of dents showing it had been used, barely any scratches.
  • · Played reasonably in tune, went a bit sharp at the top end, but OK. Reasonably consistent tone throughout the range.
  • · Feels very tough. Neck has a solid brace – pulling that neck down would be a real challenge.
  • · No high F#
  • · Ergonomics are awful, worse than my 1920s Buescher. Palm keys too low, G# key badly placed, thumb hook and left thumb button both too small.
  • · Assembly quality and basic finish very poor, lots of sharp edges.
  • · Case even worse than that of the Rikter.
So, a comparison. The Bundy will doubtless last better. However, the super cheapy Chinese sax is undoubtedly a better instrument for a new player to start to learn on. It’s so much easier to play without having to work around the shortcoming of the keywork. By the time a new player wears it out, they’ll have either given up or caught the bug and want a better sax.

Boosey and Hawkes Lafleur

An Eastern European tenor, built in the Amati factory in Czechoslovakia.

  • · Really big, beefy tone. I played it with a Theo Wanne Durga and a modified Link 10 with a big baffle. Played great with both. Great rock n roll sax. Deep rich bottom end, a bit thin on top compared to my Yani T992, but still pretty good.
  • · Roomy ergonomics, suit adult male hands.
  • · Tough build. Reasonable assembly quality.
  • · Action quite consistent through the range.

  • · No F# key
  • · Action a bit heavy
  • · Altissimo response not great
  • · Case so heavy it should come with an engine
I really liked playing this sax. Blaring out in the kitchen, it really brings out the rocker in me. I was able to compare it to my T992 and the 1970s Buescher Aristocrat I learnt on thirty five years ago. OK, I much prefer the T992, it’s slick and rich sounding, and is a real quality item. However, I preferred the Lafleur – by a long way – to the Buescher, despite my sentimental attachment to it.

So, a conclusion? We’re spoilt for choice these days, with cheap and playable instruments making the sax so affordable that anyone who fancies a try can have a go, and not be limited by the instrument.

And the other thing, which started this off in the first place. Blowing the Lafleur really made me think about this constant chasing for ‘the’ sax. Although I have what I consider to be my ideal tenor and alto, playing the Lafleur made it clear to me that it’s playing the sax that’s important. Not playing a specific sax, just playing, stop. If the only sax I had was the old Lafleur, I’d still be happy, and I’d still play it every day.
The Chinese generic sounds about right - prob similar to a Gear4Music

The Bundy-II has never had any respect - your review underlines why

the Corton / Lafleur / Amati Tenor is one of, if not THE most underrated of tenors out there , people lump them in with the likes of the B&M champion and other awful eastern bloc horns and that`s doing it a major disservice ..... Soundiwse I think of the Corton as a paupers Keilwerth SX90 - it`s not got quite the depth but it`s sure got the attitude . I`d still have mine as a backup if it had a "proper" LH table (Proper as in like a Selmer / Yam / Yani etc) , the pokey hole B / massive Bb drove me nuts as a second horn ..... another great thing about these Czech wonders (apart from the low price) is that the pads seem to last forever - I`ve never seen a re-padded one or one which needed it .

Soooooooooooooooooooo rename your Title - One Lousy American sax, one possibly lousy sax if you get a bad one and one excellent Czech horn ...... too long - Yeah, I know ......... Funny how the only actually Lousy one is the Vintage Yank !!
Thanks Jon, really useful comments.

One thing to watch on the Amati is that perfectly good pads can drop out. They used sealing wax(in German Kitt), not shellac, and it doesn't seem to last as well.

Sealing wax is based on shellac.

Many of my saxes have the awkward bottom B. But I much prefer the feel of the LH table on them to the modern spongy creaky articulated ones.

But I agree, the amati's are seriously underrated. Just listen to Taz... Huge sound. Must finish repairing mine.
That`s why I like my old Yams - proper selmer layout without the usual tilting rubbish . the Tilt stuff came in on the Mk2 62s .... the 32 has it and you can feel the difference)
The Bundy-II has never had any respect - your review underlines why

?????? I like them. And other blues sax players as well. Both "prof's and amatuers". The Bundy II tenors are perfect in a electric blues band. Listen to Eddy Shaw. One of the last true blues sax players. He is on a Bundy II. When he was with Howlin Wolf he was blowing a Super 20. Eddy Shaw sounds Eddy Shaw on all saxes!

The Bundy II is based on a Buesher from the 20's. They did some changes on the neck and tube to make the sound more contempoary. Selmer US sold lots of these saxes. I think the man behind the Bundy II was Ralph Morgan (mouthpiece designer as well). He was employed by Selmer US.

Eddy Shaw on Bundy II:
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I played the Bundy again last night. I didn't actively dislike it, it's just that it wasn't very good. The ergonomics on the alto were awful, forcing an unnatural stance. However, if it was my only sax it would still be playable, and a whole lot better than no sax at all. that was the thinking which really set off this post - the really important thing is play the sax, not playing a particular sax.
Yeah, I`d agree with that - "better than no sax at all" , which is I guess faint praise given that some saxes are worse than no sax at all (the B&M Champion I tried to start out on being a perfect example) .............. I`d far rather have a Shooting stars (Alto or Tenor, even a Mexiconn if it was working properly), Corton etc though ...

The Original Bundy has far more street cred, sadly never played or even heard one Live so can`t comment on it sound or handling
The only lousy saxophone is the saxophone that gets left on the stand, in the case or hanging off the wall not being played, I don't care if it costs £200.00 or $10k, if it's not being played it's a rubbish saxophone.

The only lousy saxophone is the saxophone that gets left on the stand, in the case or hanging off the wall not being played, I don't care if it costs £200.00 or $10k, if it's not being played it's a rubbish saxophone.

Not sure I agree with this. So a collector has a lot of excellent saxes, wants to keep them in excellent condition, doesn't risk messing them up and that makes them rubbish?

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