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Beginner Sax Which beginner sax

sizzzzler

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Here is my bit on which sax a beginner or returner should buy.
For me it’s a secondhand student Yamaha. They are well made, good intonation, neutral flexible tone, rock solid lacquer and there are a lot around, so getting one secondhand with out lacquer damage, corrosion or body/neck dents is straight forward and cheap. A clean YTS 23 is £400-500 and holds its value.
S. Howard calls the YTS23 a giant killer Yamaha YTS23 tenor sax review
All student and intermediate saxes have a ceiling beyond which the instrument can’t keep up with the diligent practicers technique, voice and interpretation. For the YTS23 and later iterations, that point comes when the player is ready for a genuine pro level instrument. That is pretty good for a £450 second hand saxophone.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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Interesting comments, I don't agree 100% with it, especially this:
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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(sorry, edit time expired). Continuing.....

All student and intermediate saxes have a ceiling beyond which the instrument can’t keep up with the diligent practicers technique, voice and interpretation.
For a GOOD quality instrument, the moniker of 'student' and intermediate' is meaningless. Sax forums are littered with advanced players, some pros, some semi-pros, some just really good amatuers who don't gig regularly, who play models which current opinion labels as 'student' or 'intermediate' horns.
I know advanced player who when playtesting a brand's offerings, actually picked the 'intermediate' model of that brand instead of the more-vaunted 'pro' model, simply because they liked the 'lesser' one better.
It has been stated, with some validity, 'student', 'intermediate', 'pro' are not hardware labels, they are player level labels.

Just saying.

Second point - yes the Yama 21/23/25/26 have been the go-to, default choice horns for almost a generation now, and the reasons are valid. Reliable, consistent, relatively ergonomically friendly, their build quality is generally quite good, and very familiar to repair folks.

But...it isn't the only choice, and oftentimes on Forums I see a chorus of suggestions for it when there ARE other really good horns out there which are just as good....most of those other alternatives less familiar to players. Now, as I have serviced and refurbed over 1200 saxes at this point, I will say:

Simply by virtue of the fact that a horn has circulated less than a Yama 21/23...thus is less familiar to the sax community...thus fewer players are familiar with them...is NOT necessarily sufficient reason to dismiss them or state 'well, the Yama is BETTER...I wouldn't get that (other) one"

(which, sadly, I see people state/say/write all the time. And I do wish they'd at least refrain from that. One could say, for example "I recommend the Yama, but admittedly I am unfamiliar with XXX and YYY model").

So, given the Title of this thread, here's my short list of horns which are 'as good' or better, and generally in the 'budget' price range, used:

Keilwerth ST90
Jupiter 6XX or 7XX series
Buffet 100
King Empire (or Conn 24M, same horn)
Conn 7M
Grassi "Jade" series

Just off the top of my head....

I state this NOT to be argumentative...just to remind folks that there ARE other very good options out there....one model and one brand may have 'cornered the market' so to speak, but that doesn't speak to the relative quality of other offerings necessarily.
 

s.mundi

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I agree with Jaye's great comments.
My opinion is that a brand, legacy behind the brand, and tone are irrelevant. The most important aspect that any beginner should consider is reliability and seller because you have absolutely no idea when something is mechanically faulty. If you have a saxophone engineer in your Rolodex, then an old saxophone may suffice. My philosophy goes against the tsunami. I would never spend $500 for used saxophone because $1,100 could buy a new quality horn from a reputable company that ensures it is set up properly (example TJ).
Good luck.
 

Guenne

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Hi,
I would not make a confession out of it, but I agree with Yamaha as a very good choice.
My experience after teaching for about 35 years is that people have the least problems with Yamaha horns, they can easily be played in every musical setting, they can easily be repaired, even they are in a very bad condition. Noone ever had problems with key layout, keys are well made. In the 35 years, I've seen St90, lots of cheaper Taiwanese horns (Jupiter, Nova) die in student's hands.
Nevertheless, although I have no problems with the 23, I've found that students find it easier to play with the 25's "modern" octave key.

Cheers, Guenne
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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In the 35 years, I've seen St90, lots of cheaper Taiwanese horns (Jupiter, Nova) die in student's hands.
Intimating Nova and Jupiters to be the same level of quality is....to put it nicely...ersatz. The first decade of Jupes were learning curve horns, not all that impressive.
Since 2000, theor Taiwan factory has absolutely produced a horn equal to the Yama student models (and actually, the keywork is slicker and more responsive); and their mid-shelf models are quite good if one likes a modern-toned horn (as the Yamas are).


....they can easily be repaired, even they are in a very bad condition.
True, but.... Any good-quality brand of horn can be brought back to play condition, from bad condition.

Yama, Jupe, Conn, Selmer (USA or France), King, Martin, Buffet, the list goes on. Because they all have withstood the test of time. The product is overall of good quality. This takes around a generation to really establish, because one cannot iltimately tell how the longevity is gonna be simply by looking at a horn or taking it apart.

It's the newer brands which can be touch and go, particularly the cheaper ones.
There are a few newer brands which I have had on the table, and been pretty impressed with; but given the horns are at most 3-6 years old, it is still hard to say what will happen when year 8, 10, 12 comes around. Only time can reveal that.
 

CliveMA

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I offer my personal experience as a one-off anecdote. I don't have the generalised experience across many instruments of earlier posters. I am a hobbyist so my buying criteria are probably quite different from someone who might envisage becoming a "serious" musician (whatever that means).

I began learning on a Soprano because I like Sopranos, regardless of people telling me to start on an Alto. I had an Alto and very rarely played it. I probably played it only half a dozen times in 50 years because I just don't like Altos! I like the look of new. I don't like the look of old. Partly, I didn't play my old Alto simply because it was old-looking. As a hobbyist, my saxes are partly to admire, not just to play. After having had two second-hand saxes (Selmer Alto and Jupiter Sop), I was only going to buy new to begin dedicated learning.

I began on Soprano saxophone on a Jupiter 749-547 (unknown year of manufacture). I had it serviced and it was leak free. But it still had ergonomic issues that, over time, would tend to give me bad habits. The keywork and corks were spongy, not clean on/off - poor tactile feedback. The front high F key was really stiff and positioned too far away from the A key such that you couldn't roll on/off it. The left hand key table was too far from the LH3 key. On the other hand, it had very good intonation and a lovely tone. The Jupiter numbering system is confusing so I'm unsure whether it was a 5xx or 7xx series.

I chose to trade-in my Jupiter Sop for a Yamaha to get better ergonomics, and better maintainability. I am very happy with that decision. Right or wrong, I felt I needed to spend relatively more money for a Soprano to get a good-enough model. I personally believe the tone of the Jupiter was better than my Yamaha (on a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece) but, down the track, with experience and other mouthpieces, that was pretty much irrelevant.

With my Tenor, I also went with Yamaha to get the same keywork feel as my Soprano. I actually bought the Tenor before I traded the Jupiter Sop but sameness plus reliability was my thinking at the time. I really enjoy playing and learning on both.

As regards maintainability, there are few techs in my part of the world so buying a big brand gives some choice of repair/service shops because everyone has experience with Yamaha. I did want to try Yanagisawa Sopranos, too but was unable to locally find any store that sold the latest models. Yamaha saxes were available at many stores, making it easier to get a competitive price.
 

Guenne

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Intimating Nova and Jupiters to be the same level of quality is....to put it nicely...ersatz.
I don't understand, sorry.
I'm talking about these horns as I can compare them. We bought them at about the same time, so I can see what is still playable.
Yes, I know later Taiwanese horns, we have some of them made my Green Hill.
Yes, they are far better than the first Jupiters.
As I said, I don't want to make a religion out of it, you can buy what you want if you are happy with it. I personally don't play Yamahas as my instruments, but still recommend used Yamahas over used Jupiters, TJs or whatever. And I see students progress better with these Yamahas, they are easy to play, play nicely in tune, have a well balanced sound in every register. That's all I'm asking for as a teacher.

Cheers, Guenne
 

6441

 
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Fact or fiction? I was once told that Yamaha still has the parts to old models like the YAS23, the first alto I purchased used for $500. I purchased a full set of pads from the UK, but discovered I don't have the nerves to fix the one pad that absolutely needs it, since it fell off.

Anyway, isn't parts availability important? I think Yamaha would be good about this, even if the answer to my first question is "no!".
 

CliveMA

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Anyway, isn't parts availability important? I think Yamaha would be good about this,
Yamaha ease-of-maintenance: both tech skills and parts readily available are certainly on my short list of buying criteria. I want to play music, not learn how to be a saxophone repair technician. I'm mechanically challenged - I would never try to replace a pad or whatever. I need to know a good tech is available - and buying Yamaha (especially new) maximises your chance of both parts and skills.

When I had my Jupiter Soprano serviced it returned with more leaks than before the service! I accurately diagnosed them with the help of YouTube videos and SHWoodwind Web Site but I'd never break my sax by trying to fix them myself. Armed with my list the techie fixed them while I waited but I gained the distinct impression I would not have had this issue if I had a "standard" sax, a Yamaha. I walked out of the store with a Yamaha, having traded-in my Jupiter.
 

s.mundi

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I just don't like Altos! I like the look of new. I don't like the look of old. Partly, I didn't play my old Alto simply because it was old-looking. As a hobbyist, my saxes are partly to admire, not just to play. I was only going to buy new to begin dedicated learning.

That's funny. I'm not the only one that enjoys a shiny clean horn. Used saxophones are soaked with Bubba Ray's sputum!
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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I don't understand, sorry.
I'm talking about these horns as I can compare them. We bought them at about the same time, so I can see what is still playable.
Yes, I know later Taiwanese horns, we have some of them made my Green Hill.
Yes, they are far better than the first Jupiters.
As I said, I don't want to make a religion out of it, you can buy what you want if you are happy with it. I personally don't play Yamahas as my instruments, but still recommend used Yamahas over used Jupiters, TJs or whatever. And I see students progress better with these Yamahas, they are easy to play, play nicely in tune, have a well balanced sound in every register. That's all I'm asking for as a teacher.

Cheers, Guenne
Fair enough.

Although I do not see what is not to understand.

I merely stepped in and replied because your initial post intimated that Jupiters are 'cheap Taiwanese horns' which can 'die in a students hands'.

I have been repairing since 2002, and I have serviced well over 50 of 'em,

I simply am stating your comment is not an accurate descriptor of what the company has been producing since around 2000.

Cheers.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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When I had my Jupiter Soprano serviced it returned with more leaks than before the service! I accurately diagnosed them with the help of YouTube videos and SHWoodwind Web Site but I'd never break my sax by trying to fix them myself. Armed with my list the techie fixed them while I waited but I gained the distinct impression I would not have had this issue if I had a "standard" sax, a Yamaha. I walked out of the store with a Yamaha, having traded-in my Jupiter.
Interesting comment.

One brings a horn in for a servicing.
One receives the horn back in worse condition than when they brought it in.
Owner concludes the horn is poor quality.

I would think the more likely interpretation/explanation of your experience would have been:

Repair shop did a bad job.


If one brings a horn in for servicing, then the baseline expectation would be the repair shop would return the horn to you in better condition than when you brought it in.
Failure to do this somehow translating into 'it must be a bad brand'...is a curious conclusion to draw.

But aside from all that, Jupe has been around for 30+ years and has gained a solid foothold in the industry.
They didn't manage that by producing horns which go out of regulation immediately after a tech visit or horns which fall apart in players hands....

Not to be 'religious' abut things, myself, and everyone is entitled to their opinion - but again - when I come across comments like this, I have to reply - lest unsuspecting readers drop in and get lead to the wrong conclusion that a successful, established, reputable brand is cheap and unreliable.
 
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jbtsax

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So, given the Title of this thread, here's my short list of horns which are 'as good' or better, and generally in the 'budget' price range, used:

Keilwerth ST90
Jupiter 6XX or 7XX series
Buffet 100
King Empire (or Conn 24M, same horn)
Conn 7M
Grassi "Jade" series
I'm not questioning your opinion since you have far more experience with these brands, but doesn't the Conn 7M suffer with some of the problems other Mexican made Conns (MexiConns) are known to have?
 

jbtsax

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Fact or fiction? I was once told that Yamaha still has the parts to old models like the YAS23, the first alto I purchased used for $500. I purchased a full set of pads from the UK, but discovered I don't have the nerves to fix the one pad that absolutely needs it, since it fell off.

Anyway, isn't parts availability important? I think Yamaha would be good about this, even if the answer to my first question is "no!".
Yes. Parts for the YAS-23 and YTS-23 are still available to the general public at Yamaha Consumer Account. Unfortunately they no longer have necks.

Yes, parts availability is very important---especially to repair techs like myself. Not only do some parts go missing, but they can also become too damaged to restore to the original cosmetics at a reasonable cost.

One of the things I like about Cannonball saxes that I see a lot of in my shop is accessibility of parts they keep in stock that are reasonably priced and provided in all finishes. I can't say the same for many of the other "off the shelf" stencil saxophones made in Taiwan, because some vendors don't support the saxes they sell or even disclose which factory they ordered them from.
 

CliveMA

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Owner concludes the horn is poor quality.
No, that's not how my reasoning went. And I did not conclude the Jupiter is of poor quality. If I left that impression in my prior post, I'm sorry as that was not intended. The Jupiter horn quality is not an issue.

I like my former Jupiter. It was a difficult decision for me to part with it but I am very glad I did.

The combination of brand, + my specific model + my specific sax + tech experience with my specific horn (Sopranos + Jupiter + 749 + 547) + tech experience with Yamaha Sopranos at the largest dealer in Oz + comparison of the specific ergonomic issues outlined in my prior post + curved vs straight ergo advantage + newness + lots of factors that escape me at the moment led me to conclude that my experience as a customer/player will be smoother with my preferred Yamaha Soprano at that service shop. And it has been. Note, the Yamaha I bought costs 5x as much so my experience ought to be better!

(As regards the Jupiter ergonomics, see my prior post).

As a player, objective quality is only part of my total saxophone experience. I need to optimise the whole situation. I conclude I best do that for me with a Yamaha 82ZR. So far, that is working out well.
 

CliveMA

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The keywork and corks were spongy, not clean on/off - poor tactile feedback. The front high F key was really stiff and positioned too far away from the A key such that you couldn't roll on/off it. The left hand key table was too far from the LH3 key.

For easy reference this is the brief list of ergonomic issues I had with my Jupiter Sop that I do not have with my Yamaha Sop. These affect my satisfaction. Someone else may prefer these "features".
 

CliveMA

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Oh, and I must add, I wanted both my Tenor and Soprano to be the same brand, same ergonomics, same service network, same warranty, same website, lots of forum-knowledgeable people on that brand, same people to deal with for everything, same whatever to simplify all my dealings. I just want to focus on making music. Cost was not an issue for me. Brand reputation for quality is only one part of a much bigger set of criteria.
 
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CliveMA

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Jupiter JPS-547GL soprano saxophone reviewed at SHWoodwind, December 2015.

"Tonewise, I'd say it's a slightly stiff blow. That's different from 'resistant' insomuch as a resistant horn can still still be punchy and bright...and the Jupiter isn't. My very first impression was that of having a 'frog in the throat' - that slight gritty huskiness in the voice that often heralds the onset of a sore throat or a cold".

"When all is said and done I feel the JPS-547 is a bit of a mixed bag. I'd say the build quality is just about bordering on under par for the price".
...
"when all is said and done, the 547 isn't a particularly joyful horn to play".

My reaction to the above review was:

(1) No thanks for hurting the resale value of Jupiter Soprano 547s.
(2) But that is not my Sop (technical details were different based on photo comparison).

I did take on board Forum posts suggesting the "Jupiter curse" was poor resale value and that that review was not helping resale value. FWIW, I liked the tone of my Jupiter but it is a stiffer blow than my 82Z.
 

s.mundi

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Here is my bit on which sax a beginner or returner should buy.
For me it’s a secondhand student Yamaha.


Does your opinion come from a student, technician, professional, hobbyist, enthusiast, or a beginner's perspective?
 
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