Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 64 Posts

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a 65-year-old university professor in the humanities, close to retirement, on sabbatical, and a month and a half into alto saxophone lessons. I am very committed to the horn and am making good progress. (I had coronary artery bypass surgery in September, almost died, and nothing has been the same since.) I practice at least an hour a day, my teacher is impressed by my rapid progress, and he has begun to talk with me about moving past my student horn to a professional model. He is recommending an Oleg or a Yamaha YAS 82Z. Here's the thing: I have found a 1946 King Super 20 alto horn (serial number c. 285000) in wonderful condition. My heart desires the Super 20, but a new horn may be better for me as a pretty quickly progressing beginner.

I'd appreciate any advice any of y'all could give.
 

Registered
Joined
3,389 Posts
The Super 20 is an awesome horn! 2 of my 5 saxes are Super 20's and I love them. They have great ergonomics too, not too far from a modern horn. If that's where your heart is, I definetly recommend you stick with that. Have it well adjusted by a competent tech and I don't think you will be missing anything compared to a modern horn, quite the opposite.

Read about the ergonomic improvements that were made to the Super 20 over the years on saxpics.com I personally prefer the series IV but most people swear by the earlier series.

Glad to hear of your passion (I can totally relate) and good luck in your recovery.
 

Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
Joined
8,588 Posts
At your age, play what you want.
 

Forum Contributor 2008-2016
Joined
908 Posts
I'm 67 and don't play anything else anymore than my S20 (albeit a tenor). Fantastic beast. Simply be assured that everething is correctly adjusted by a competent technician, e.g. the octave mechanism.
J
 

Registered
Joined
667 Posts
Since your heart desires the King you probably won't be satisfied with any thing else. Having owned an S20 and a couple of Yamaha tenors (currently playing a Yamaha) I can tell you there are differences you should be aware of. S20 ergos are really very good for a vintage horn. Almost as good as a modern horn in fact. Yamaha ergos, for my money at least, are second to none. S20 intonation is pretty good. Mine was easy to play in tune but it did have a few little trouble spots but nothing worth worrying about. You learn to adjust for such things. Yamaha intonation is as good as it gets. If you can't play a Yamaha in tune it needs to go to the shop for repairs. Finally, the S20 will work you harder than an 82z. The S20 takes a lot more air. It was designed to play loud and it sure does. It will take all the air you've got and then some. A lot of players like that. At my age I prefer a horn that requires a little less effort. My Custom 875 will play as loud as I need to play without wearing me out in the process. One thing's for sure though. If you're into the whole S20 vibe there's nothing like it. Nothing sounds like a Super 20.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Here is a little more information about the horn:

It was owned by a big band professional who bought it new in 1946. He had it factory refurbished in 1970 and it sat in a closet until two years ago, when the guy's son tried to sell it on Ebay. He accepted an offer and had an antique mall mail it for him. It was injured in transit and returned. Here is the account of the repair technician who is selling it:

I believe during shipping the poorly packed sax was damaged and the compressed bell was partially flattened and pushed into the lower stack keys, low f, e and d keys - RH keys and the body to bell brace scarred the bell, from the impact of the case being dropped from about 6 ft.

I am pretty strong and have a LOT of tools and tapered mandrels and was able to basically reverse the damage by pulling the sax while on a wood mandrel and balancing the stress points in my hands and get everything back into alignment. I then removed all the affected keys and rods, straightening them and regulating mechanisms to play 100%.

I call this type of damage a soft hit. Like when someone sits in a horn or steps on a soft gig bag. I guess 38 years repairing paid off.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It does make me nervous. And I suppose my description "in wonderful condition" in my original post was a little hyperbolic. He describes himself this way:

I am a 62 yr old retired band/orchestra teacher who taught in the public schools for 33 yrs - taught band and orchestra classes, grades 4-12 and 10 years at a School of the Arts. During my last 10 years I worked part time and was in charge of over 10,000 instruments in 60 schools, including running a two man repair shop in the basement of an elementary school where I taught band classes 5-8th grades 2 days a week.

The asking price for the horn is $2750.

I won't be able to see the horn or have it tested until early March, when I am in driving distance for a conference.

Should I walk away?
 

Registered
Joined
54 Posts
Not that you'd be influenced by intangibles, but I personally find there is a certain pleasure in playing a horn with a history and dare I say, a soul. Obviously this is just a romantic notion and easily dismissed by pure attention to engineering. The thing is, only time can create history. There are more technically near-perfect Yamahas made every day, which is something you can't say about vintage Kings. Perhaps this is less an either/or and more a both/and? Although I would perhaps steer towards the King (or a better example of it) and a Yanagisawa A5 or A5 stencil. You may discover more about playing investigating in depth how several different horns respond and what adjustments you have to make for each one. (Just my opinion and perhaps not a common one.) Unless there is a specific requirement to have a top-end modern Yamaha that is.
 

Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
34,572 Posts
It does make me nervous. And I suppose my description "in wonderful condition" in my original post was a little hyperbolic. He describes himself this way:

I am a 62 yr old retired band/orchestra teacher who taught in the public schools for 33 yrs - taught band and orchestra classes, grades 4-12 and 10 years at a School of the Arts. During my last 10 years I worked part time and was in charge of over 10,000 instruments in 60 schools, including running a two man repair shop in the basement of an elementary school where I taught band classes 5-8th grades 2 days a week.

The asking price for the horn is $2750.

I won't be able to see the horn or have it tested until early March, when I am in driving distance for a conference.

Should I walk away?
Hmmm, so the guy ****ing on the horn is a school band instrument repairman. That's not a bad thing, but it may reflect his sensibilities about what constitutes "wonderful", "great", etc. Is there any possibility for you to have the horn evaluated by an independent repair shop? Ideally one with a reputation for working with professional-quality horns vs student band instruments?

BTW, I've been playing for 40+ years, and finally satisfied my personal jones for a Super 20 tenor this past year.

Bottom line: If you crave a Super 20, get one. But make sure you get a good one. There are others around, if that one doesn't pan out. I'd be concerned about whether the mechanism actually got properly sorted out, and whether the tone holes are level. I could imagine that it could be "serviceable" but not good. I had a Super 20 alto long ago that was done up by a not-so-great tech, and I had to sell it for a loss when I found it unplayable after his overhaul.
 

Registered
Joined
54 Posts
$2750 doesn't seem to reflect much of a discount for the damage, although perhaps the Series I is more valuable compared to later years. If the neck is original, it should definitely be silver if I am not mistaken.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Of course, I would not be buying it for its looks. My hope is that I'll have two or three more decades of playing. I want the best sound I can have for as long as I can have it.
 

Registered
Joined
54 Posts
It has a silver neck. He sent me eight photographs. It is a breathtakingly beautiful horn.
Sounds like you want it...so the rest is negotiation. I always think along the lines of trying not to lose money, or at least not too much of it, if I want to sell. It seems like needing to disclose the damage and repairs will always have an effect on the resale value. No matter what this seller says, you may need to spend more on it to get it into top playing shape which of course you want it in. I don't think the seller is in a strong position with this horn at this price.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
And I do want it, but I also do not want to find that I do have the horn I need. I think I'm good with its taking more breath and it sounds like the ergonomics will not be a problem. If it has the sound I've read about and heard, I think I would be thrilled. A friend of mine who plays professional sax and has used a Super 20 would drive with me from the conference to the shop for testing the horn in March. So, I would at least have someone at my side with skill and a good ear to help.
 

Registered
Joined
54 Posts
How do I determine a fair price for this horn?
That's the question all right. I guess it boils down to comparables.

Personally, it would have to get down to the $2000 range before I would bite. But that's just me and it might be unrealistic for a Super 20 alto of this vintage. And your seller's price may be firm, so that could take this particular horn off the table.

If you were willing to be patient I am pretty sure you could find a nice early Eastlake Super 20 alto in the $2000 range or possibly even less. Something that would likely be the equal of the horn you are considering. On the other end of the scale, a Series I alto that had no issues would likely command a premium, making it worth let's say $3500 or more. The seller has probably made some kind of calculation like this in pricing it at $2750, splitting the difference to reflect the horn's issues. I guess it could be a deal if there are really no further issues with the horn, i.e., it needs zero work, and you are committed to a Series I alto. They don't seem to come up as much, so you might have to go to a dealer if you wanted one quickly, and then you would certainly pay a premium price. If the Series I aspect isn't important to you then you might want to consider it against a later horn that hasn't been squashed, offer a correspondingly lower amount and take your chances. I personally would not get in a big hurry. But, on the other hand, if you buy it you will probably be thrilled. It's good you have a pro to go with you to test the horn. I would want to check the intonation very carefully.
 

Registered
Joined
667 Posts
Can I just be honest here? I have owned my share of vintage horns and I do have a special appreciation for them but I have been playing since 1967 and have enough experience to appreciate the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) character of a fine old vintage horn. I also appreciate the technical superiority of a modern professional grade horn like, for example, the 82z your teacher reccomended. I know all about GAS from first hand experience. We all do or else we would be practicing right now instead of posting on SOTW. Ask yourself this question. Which is more important, advancing as a saxophone player or having a really cool horn? If the former then get the 82z and get thyself to the woodshed. If the latter get the S20 and have the coolest horn on the block. At your stage of the game I'm going to guess you won't be able to appreciate the difference in sonic characteristics one to the other and I suspect a brand new Z will actually help you progress faster as a player than a beautiful old S20 that may or may not be in top playing condition. My advice, FWIW: Get the Yamaha and learn to play. When you reach the level at which you are confident enough to go on stage and play for money, buy whatever you want. I'm sure there will be a nice S20 on EBay.
 
1 - 20 of 64 Posts
Top