Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Selmer saxes / SBA tenor changes?

User ID: 0665994
Jan 30th 7:35 PM
Anybody know if SBA tenors changed much during their run. I just saw a transitional 35xxx BA or SBA and it was pretty nice. Wondering how they changed from BA to SBA and then into the VI.
User ID: 0665994
Jan 30th 8:54 PM
I posted a writeup on SBA tenors(3 differences, mainly in bell) some time ago somewheres in SOTW, so you might wanna look around, was probably year or so ago.
BA is definitely different than SBA, so don't get the two mixed up. Plus, 'transitional' horns, in my experience, are really not so, just either one of either the old model or new model, with plenty of overlap in the serial number charts causing confusion.
User ID: 7830843
Jan 30th 9:13 PM
I'm not expert but from what I've noticed. There were some comestic as well as mechanical changes.

Cosmetic - double B/Bb keyguards into a single. Engraving styles changed. I think it go more elabroate in the Super Action aka (SBA) range.

Mechanical- the low B and C# levers changed. The earlier models there is a bar that closes the low C# key (the B and C# keys are also closer together). On the newer models the B key bar is shorter and presses a lever that closes the C# key.

The changes into the Mark VI include. LH thumb rest. Right hand adjustable thumb rest. The Left hand spatula. The octave lever. The low B/C# mechanism. Engraving.
User ID: 0665994
Jan 30th 9:45 PM
Thanks guys,
what about sound & intonation issues?
And are all SBA's basically the same?
Always talking tenor here.
User ID: 0714654
Jan 31st 12:44 PM
rollen, many BA's had the single low B/Bb guard. Cheers, Dave
User ID: 0143424
Jan 31st 1:59 PM


It changed during the BA run didn't it. Early BA, double later BA single. So, most if not all the Super Action (SBA) would have the single, correct.
Do SBA's also have double?
User ID: 1355924
Jan 31st 2:44 PM
no, you're incorrect, the change from two individual guards to one single for both the B/Bb happened during the SBA run...go dig up that post i referred to above, i went into all of this stuff...
User ID: 0665994
Jan 31st 10:10 PM
How does one go about finding old threads on the forum? I looked around and couldn't find it anywhere.
BTW guys I'm asking about more substantial issues than how a guard was designed.(not that I don't appreciate your expertise) Anyone with more useful information out there.
User ID: 9056633
Feb 1st 10:26 AM
amasax, sorry to dispute your undoubted knowledge of Selmers, but....... I have seen more BA's with the single low B/Bb guard than the double. I have yet to see a SBA with the double guards. I'm in the UK, so maybe it's a country issue. Lenny is right about 'more substantial issues' though.
Cheers, Dave
User ID: 9014973
Feb 1st 9:08 PM
So what is mine..BA or SBA ?? it's mint #390XX tenor lakkered. double bell guards..Still sounds fantastic on the orig pads. I love this horn and I'd like to know for sure. The gentleman I got it from called it an SBA he probably knows but this is an interesting discussion.Opinions are welcome. Right on Lenny, go for the tone..
User ID: 0735934
Feb 1st 10:37 PM

Officialy I believe that series was called "Super Action". Since they are similar to/succeded the Balanced Action, they are sometimes referred to as Super Balanced Action (SBA). Possibly to distinguish them from the Super Action 80 horns.

From the website History page:
"1949 the ‘Super Action’ saxophone is presented"
User ID: 9962683
Feb 1st 11:56 PM
all right, here we go, take notes, a few quick differences/details between the Balanced Action and 'Super Action'(Super Balanced Action) tenors(not altos, just tenors, here):

* BA - tone holes on body tube form straight line, SBA right hand tone holes are offset to the player's right a bit.
* More adjustment screws on SBA(F# 'helper' bar, etc.)
* SBA has removable bell/bow, BA is soldered.
* left hand pinky cluster minor mods/diff.

The main diff between horns in the SBA tenor range are:
1) early horns had 'short' bell and individual guards for low B & Bb(post above mentioning single guards on BA horns might refer to alto; all tenor BA of which i'm aware had single guards).
2) offhand, have forgotten(is late nite right now) which came next - the single guard on same/short bell, or the longer bell, still with individual guards.
At any rate, the other two types of SBA tenor implemented a single guard and a longer bell, with the 3rd generation SBA having both the longer bell and the single guard.
* The 3rd generation of SBA is the only one i'm aware of on which one could order an optional high F#(US$30 !). That doesn't mean it wasn't available on earlier horns(i used to own a BA alto with an F#, keyed differently than modern horns),but Selmer didn't advertise the F# in their US catalogs until around 1951 or 1952(have catalogs, forgot which year, tho). Since nobody in US knew about F#, it's unlikely many/any were brought over here. F# *may* have been available earlier in Europe, but i haven't seen any Euro catalogs to know. Also, F# on SBA tenor is *extremely* uncommon, i've seen 3 horns with this, ended up buying two of them(!). There are probably more out there, but people are holdin' tight on these.
On alto, is much easier to find optional high F#.

The guards don't mean anything, but Selmer claimed in some of it's literature that the longer bell helped tuning and gave a more 'bite' to the sound.
I can't comment on how much diff there really is between the 3 types of SBA horn, as the only SBA tenors i've actually played are all the latest type with long bell/double guard. Compared to BA horns i've played, the low range is not as sharp, and the tone is a bit different(not necessarily better, just different). It is possible, tho i've never verified, that the first SBA horns had a bell more similar to BA, with the modification to make the bell detachable.
My personal favorite combination on these horns is to use a BA neck when playing SBA horn. I also happen to like the BA sound a lot, but that's an individual matter.

Don't get hung up on serial numbers, as there's always overlap between model changes, and sometimes Selmer will make a discontinued model up on special order. Also, they sometimes phase in new models for different types in stages. For example, i've seen SBA soprano with serial number in either 57,xxx or 59,xxx, don't remember which right now, but according to the 'charts', this is outside the range for SBA. Likewise, i have a 55,xxx SBA alto 'should' be a Mark VI. Btw, of the SBA altos i have, there is no noticeable diff between serial ranges(have 38,xxx up to the 55,xxx and all seem to be same design, similar playing, etc., etc., etc).

Lastly, i wouldn't get hung up on which horn is 'better', because, as with all evalations, one should check the individual horn and make up one' mind, not go with the crowd.

I've always liked BA/SBA more than Mark VI(another opinion that varies from person to person), and judging by ebay lately, other people are coming around to this opinion. The entire SBA run for sop/alto/tenor/bari/bass encompassed around 20,000 horns, vs. around 13,000+- on the Balanced Action, vs. 200,000 for Mark VI. Since they ain't makin' any more of any of these, you be the judge of what' 'rare' and what's less 'rare'.

That's it, i'm goin' to bed now...
User ID: 9962683
Feb 2nd 12:01 AM
Ca$hsax, btw, you've got an SBA tenor, NOT a Balanced Action. You can easily verify this by seeing that the right hand keys/holes are offset to the right some, and it also has the detachable bracket at the body tube/bow bracing point.
User ID: 9962683
Feb 2nd 12:08 AM
oh, btw, saw Cashsax's 'Super' tenor up on ebay. Am i right that this is the Super that you really liked, Cash ? Guess that high $$ SBA tenor got you converted, huh?

Does seem that most people like the later Bal. Action and SBA tenors more than the old Supers/Cigar cutters, if for no other reason than the modern keywork on the BA/SBA.

Not sure how fast or what $$ Supers are going for these days...
User ID: 0665994
Feb 2nd 12:25 AM
amasax, Thanks alot That's a great post.
I'm getting the impression from what I've read here & other places that in general
1. these horns are pretty consistent (maybe more so than later VI's.)
2. They have a great dark sound and from what you say there isn't neccessarily a change in sound over the SBA run though maybe there is a difference between the BA's & the SBA's. Are the BA's even darker?
3. SBA's might tend to have better intonation than BA's
4. SBA's might have more modern keywork.

Does all that make sense for generalizations only.

Question in my mind is -
If SBA's were so great my did everyone go nuts over the VI's.
The keywork doesn't seem that much better is it?
Was it the begining of a change to a more focused sound?
My tech says he remembers that it used to be the rage to put a VI neck on an SBA.
User ID: 9014973
Feb 2nd 4:11 AM
Hey thanks guys, whatever it is I love it and the consensus seems it's an SBA..!
Amasax yeah I've got enough Tenors now to keep me happy and I'm letting the Super go. Hey pricing is another story who knows?? I'm open to offers on this one too, it's a great horn no doubt. But you're right the SBA and my VI Tenors are all anyone could ask for.
User ID: 8715613
Feb 2nd 10:43 AM
ok, refreshed, got decent nite's sleep, time to go at it AGAIN...
Lenny, you'll never resolve the Mark VI vs. SBA debate(or, for that matter, the Mark VI vs. Everything Else debate), so no sense going there. Suffice it to say that opinions vary, but for what it's worth, the SBAs are worth a look. I personally think the SBA altos are the best of the vintage Selmer altos, while for tenors, I like everything from Supers to SBA. Can't comment on soprano/bari, as have never owned/played these.
From what i've been able to personally observe/verify(have owned a lot of old Selmer saxes at one time or another, still have quite a few), i think there was a change in design going from the SBA that was much greater than what Selmer had done in prior times. This resulted in a quite different sound/feel in the Mark VI. Most of the design changes up through the SBA were mainly refinements in sound/tuning/key mechanism. The Mark VI, while not too different mechanism-wise, really marked(no pun intended!) a desire to go somewhere else in the sound.
An abrupt change like this also happened when Selmer finally made the transition through the Mark VI-VII into the Super Action I/II/III that we have today. Better? Worse? Different? You be the judge.

As far as necks go, this is where the most difference in sound occurs. I can swap necks between a silver SBA alto and a gold plated Series II alto(i own both) and get each horn to sound remarkably like the other, so i don't think the body/key mechaism is all that much of the diff.

Btw, these sound changes from BA to SBA to Mark VI really reflect what was going on in society and the playing scene at the time. I have a 1951 or '52 Selmer catalog that talks up the SBA as having the 'new' sound, with extra 'sizzle' that all the sax players want 'now' a days(does the term 'new and improved come to mind here?).

Unfortunately, the only way to resolve all of this individually is to figure out a way to try some of these horns. If you're tied into the college or playing scenes where you live, or have access to a vintage horn shop or old timers, these are resources to scope out. If not, it's gonna be tough, because with the advent of ebay, this stuff's coming outa the closets, which is good. What's not so good is that they ain't makin' any more o' these babies, and it's more of a seller's market. Be patient, but keep in mind that you better get 'em while you can...