Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Alto Saxophone / vintage vs new?

User ID: 9955583
Oct 29th 7:49 AM
A funny question come to think of it...
What is the different in sound of a vintage horn as compared to a modern horn, say Yana A992? Any where i can download free mp3 from to hear the difference?...or probably certain artist playing on A992 or some vintage horn?

How old is considered as vintage?
Would you rather have an vintage horn or a new modern sax like Yana A992?

User ID: 0136334
Oct 29th 10:43 AM
You're going to get a different answer from everyone who chooses to answer. I don't know about downloading free mp3s, is that your question? If you are looking to spend some money on a saxophone do you possibly think you can swing the money to buy one or two CDs?

I wouldn't consider every old saxophone to be vintage. Or maybe the term to re-coin is "classic". I have old junk, I call it old junk.

A horn does not sound a certain way just by being eighty years old. Everything else is subjective and there is also an ergonomic consideration. I can't tell you how many gripes I've read about intonation problems on vintage Selmers ... usually answered by advice on embouchure control, and the reality is I have a newer student horn here that doesn't seem to have this issue. A horn that sounds in tune to me is more pleasant than a horn with a "classic sound" that is woefully out of tune! That is my subjective opinion.
User ID: 0805074
Oct 29th 10:44 AM
Your question is difficult to answer. Different horns sound differently from player to player vintage or modern. For example I know a guy that sounds killer on his Conn "Chu" but weak on my A991, and the opposite for me. Does that make one better than the other? No, it depends a lot on the player. Why download mp3? Go out and try them for yourself, that's the fun part. Again some people love to play a Conn "Chu" and others prefer the modern horns. I don't think you can generalize the sound of saxophones. Others might have a different opinion.

You can check out some nice examples of vintages at
Roger Aldridge
User ID: 0735934
Oct 29th 11:27 AM

Bootman could be a good source for demo samples of different horns. But, I agree with the previous responses. Try a selection of horns and see how YOU sound.

When I read your question two paradoxical thoughts came to mind...

I don't think that I'm too far off base in thinking that a player's mouthpiece, reed, and ligature set up has the largest role in a saxophone's sound. One of my horns is 83 years old. Depending upon the mouthpiece that I use, an amazingly wide range of sounds can come out of that horn. It can sound 1920's or it can sound surprisingly modern.

Having made that statement, there are differences in sound between various types of vintage saxophones. This was evident to me when I switched from a "Chu" alto to a Buescher True Tone. Night and day difference! I used the same set up on both horns. To explain this difference we'd have to study the acoustical design of the Conn and Buescher saxes. Special attention would have to be given to the neck as well as to the bore.

While I stand by my comments about the essential role of the mouthpiece, it is a fact there are acoustical differences in the designs of vintage and new saxophones. Thus, I don't think that my Buescher True Tone will ever be able to sound exactly like an A992.
User ID: 0930774
Oct 29th 12:50 PM
my opinion is that a "vintage" horn is one manufactured pre WWII-to solve the dilemma of which to have, do what I've done and have both vintage and modern horns-sop-alto & tenors and use them gig specifically and on a whim.
User ID: 7601343
Oct 29th 2:39 PM
I have reached exactly the same decision as Thomas, some vintage and some new. I concur that Vintage is Pre end of WWII. Others will try to tell you that a mk vi is a vintage horn, I would disagree as this is the basis for all modern horns are based off.

I prefer a Buescher alto from the mid 1930's range as my main alto for the simple reason that it handles all styles, all gigs etc with ease. The intonationon this horn is exceptional, the sound is big/ broad, lush or bright. In a nutshell, the sound is flexible and versatile. This is what I need and require from any horn I have here as I can't afford to have one of every single horn ever made.

Most of all, test out each horn for yourself, see how they play and then come to a decision based on what you think the horn sounds like, how it plays for you and what potetnial you can see in the future with the sound of a given horn. In the end it is your decision and you have to live with the results of your decision. There are many great horns out there and what works wellfor one person doesn't necessarily work well for another.
User ID: 1363014
Oct 29th 5:30 PM
Probably oughta include Selmer's Super Balanced Action as part of the pre-war vintage, even tho it didn't come out till right after WWII. It was really an evolution of the Bal. Action, and probably would've come out sooner, but that the French had to deal with the Krauts for a few yrs.
User ID: 8868883
Oct 30th 6:11 AM
You will struggle to identify what a given artist is playing; many pros are paid to use Yanagisawas, Yamahas - whatever - in concert and in clinics, yet the recording studio is where they bring out their prized classic horns. Also, many of these great players are still readiily identifiable whatever they are playing.

Me, I prefer modern horns, as I like the easy keywork, good intonation and clean comfortable feel. Of course all these things can be had from a vintage horn, but too often you will find beat-up worn out old horns. The best ones almost by definition will stay with loving, careful owners and can be hard to find, though there are several specialist dealers you can trust.

Whislt 'Vintage' may be pre-war, 'Classic' definitely includes horns made to the '60s and even '70's - and maybe that is what you were getting at, thinking of things like Mk VIs, Super 20s, SMLs, Buffet SDAs, that sort of stuff?

Dave Dolson
User ID: 9209903
Oct 30th 9:06 PM
gosh: Being the owner of an A992 . . . and a Buescher TT . . . and a Conn "Chu" (all altos, but I also own similar sopranos), I can tell you that MY A992 is the most resonant of any of the modern altos I've owned/played (including a nice VI). But the two vintage altos (TT and Conn) have a certain sound that I have been unable to duplicate on any modern alto. Yes, the keywork is different, but I'm not prepared to say the A992 is better in that regard. It is just NEWER. Because I own both (new and vintage), I can't answer whether I'd rather own a vintage saxophone or an A992. I like them all. DAVE
User ID: 9955583
Nov 1st 11:55 AM
Thanks everyone for your inputs :)
I'm glad to have look at different views.

Dave, as for the A992, the resonance...are you referring to the richness, darkness, smoothness, responsiveness of playing it? Does it also include the vibration felt on the saxophpone while playing it? :)

I've always hear great things on A992. This really makes me wanna try one in future. Probably you'll enlighten me why A992 could be more resonance than, say a YAS 62.

User ID: 7601343
Nov 1st 4:16 PM
You really need to get to a shop that ahs a lot of horns in stock that are in excellent repair so as to be able to compare various models, old and new. This is the only way that you will then be able to make an informed decision.
Dave Dolson
User ID: 9209903
Nov 1st 5:23 PM
gosh: By resonance, I mean the way the horn "sings" when I play it. And, I agree completely with Bootman when he says you must play everything you can lay your hands on. When you hear it, you'll know it.

It is hard to describe what I hear when I play saxophones, but I know it when I hear it. I recently bought a 1925 Conn "Chu" alto. Before buying it, I played most of the altos in the store (because I didn't have mine with me at the time; all I had was a back-up mouthpiece/reed set-up). I played a new YSS62, a new silver Yamaha Custom, another Conn (circa 1948) and a fairly decent MKVI. NONE of those horns had the zing of the '25 Conn. I returned the next day with my best alto (a silver Buescher TrueTone) and proper set-up and remained impressed enough with the old Conn to buy it.

For my money, the old Conn has it all over the new saxophones, even the A992 - and like I said, the A992 I own is the best new alto I've played. This is not to say that someone else may have found a really good Brand-X model, but I sure didn't find any new altos that tripped my trigger like the A992 - and the vintage horns sound even better to my ears. DAVE
mostly alto guy
User ID: 0122954
Nov 2nd 10:11 AM
I have both "vintage" and new altos, and I can't say which is better. They're different, that's all.

(The above discussion about what qualifies as vintage is interesting. By the pre-war standard, I have no vintage horns.)

I don't have any of the much-sought-after vintage American horns (not yet, anyway), but I do have a couple of older French horns (not Selmers), and I love them. One has a very rich, dark sound. I would call it "reserved." A great ballad horn. The other has a lighter, very focused sound that I would call "sweet." Perfect for classical. Both play in tune, and each one is suits some aspect of my playing.

Modern horns can be great, too. I have two altos made within the last three years, and they are tonal opposites just as the two old French horns are. Their keywork feels more "modern," a bit heavier in terms of effort, but slicker in execution. They play in tune, are well and sturdily built, and are more adaptable to setup changes than the vintage horns. Their sound (one warm and one more edgy) is bigger than their older buddies.

If I have a favorite among all of these, it is simply the one I'm playing at the moment. Most recently in my hands was a 1949-50 Buffet, and it has some special charms. Later tonight I'll be back in the studio with a Buffet that's 52 years newer, and it has a completely different set of charms.

I think serious players can do no better than to experiment with lots of different horns, the more of them and the more different the better, as long as they select one or two main horns that fit their tonal concept(s) and work hard to get the most out of them while still fooling around with others.

If a player can afford only one pro horn, I'd suggest a modern Yamaha or Yani, as these are reasonably priced and are most likely to provide satisfactory service to the greatest variety of players across the tonal board. Some say these horns are vanilla, but who ever said vanilla was bad?
User ID: 8924643
Nov 3rd 2:38 PM
I find that the more I work on my own sound with harmonics, long tones, pitch bending exercises, and the like, the less dependent I am on the horn itself for a specific sound. I have a Vito and a Balanced action alto, and I get a very similar sound out of both horns; the BA is a tad more mellow and consistent, but the Vito has a touch of that modern brightness. Either way, I played them for blindfolded listeners and other sax players familiar with this sort of thing, and they could not tell the difference based on the horn I was playing.

Often vintage horns are less resonant than newer ones simply because they have old worn-out pads, small leaks, and other similar problems that can be corrected by a specialist. Many discriminate because of this. However if you like the intonation enough, the overall sound of the horn enough, and most of all for me, the projection, then you will be willing to put in the extra bucks to get it fixed up to your needs.

Others prefer the ease of modern horns and the psychological satisfaction of: "yes, this is new, in perfect adjusment, and it has very good intonation. It will play well without major overhaul for a LONG time to come." Vintage horn players have to ignore that psychological negativity of: "this is an old horn, a real fixer-upper, I will have to do major maintenance regularly." If you can deal with that and are willing to ignore the obvious drawbacks that often occur, then go vintage.