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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A brief review of Taiwanese saxes at the 2017 Music China show

Since this is a topic that comes up frequently, I thought I would give everyone a quick overview of the Taiwan built horns I saw at this year's Music China show here in Shanghai. In the cacophony of an exhibit hall floor it's hard to get an good feel for tone, but I can give my impressions on build quality and responsiveness.

In no particular order:

Aidis Instrument http://www.aidisflute.com.tw/english/index.html - this company has primarily been a flute builder, but introduced a sax line a few years back under the brand name "Hamata". They currently produce altos and tenors in copper, brass, and nickel plated copper finishes. The keywork is finished in nickel silver on all except the brass horns. The horns have flute style point arm cups. It's a unique look, but I personally don't find it attractive. They have models with soldered tone holes and others with rotary drawn tone holes. They have rubber grommets in the screw holes, supposedly to reduce fluctuation from wear. The horns had nice action and seem reasonably well built. I test played a tenor and it was easy blowing and had a comfortable feel.

Tenon http://www.music-tenon.com - they had a sample display of their Taiwan made Chateau line, as well as their new Kenny G signature models. They didn't show any Vietnamese horns. Gorgeous, well-finished, solidly made instruments. I test played a Kenny G GVI alto in a beautiful champagne finish with oversized F# keys. Fantastic feeling horn, smooth as silk, lightning fast keywork. Just the right amount of resistance. I don't like the G label beard on the neck, but I could get over it. They weren't selling the display, otherwise I would have it here at home.

Green Hill International (no web site on biz card) - this is the factory that makes the Sax Dakota branded horns; they had three on display as well as some unlabeled samples. I liked the sample horns much better than the Sax Dakotas, they seemed to be more solidly built with nicer finishes. They showed one of the best curvy sopranos I've seen, with a nice comfortably angled neck. I sampled an alto and a tenor and they had nice key action and were easy to blow.

Gu Tai http://www.gtsax.com - primarily an OEM factory, but also selling under their GTSax house brand. A very full line of horns - curvy sop, one and two piece straight sop, alto, tenor and bari in a wide range of finishes. All the display horns looked great and had nice, solid keywork. I test played a soprano, alto and tenor. Nice smooth action, easy playing horns.

Lien Cheng https://www.lcsax.com - one of the older factories in Taiwan doing OEM work and also selling their LC Sax house brand. Another full line of horns, beautiful to look at and solidly made. Nice, clean fast keywork. I didn't play any this time.

R & H Sax http://www.raresaxs.com - this one's a sleeper. It's a small shop and he had a small sample - an alto, a soprano, three tenors and a trumpet. The differentiator is he uses a titanium alloy for the bell and neck in the top end models. I played all three tenors. The first was a straight out Mark 6 clone in brass. Awesome - some of the fastest keywork I've ever played. He had a sound baffle so I could actually hear the horn and it had a fantastic, full tone. He said, "If you like this one, try the next one. It's better". The second horn was a copper body with 803 style keywork. Same type of feel - smooth and fast action and a nice centered sound. The third horn was a copper body with titanium bow and bell, same 803 keywork. It tried it first with a copper neck, then with the titanium neck. Night and day! The titanium neck was smoother, stronger and an order of magnitude louder. All the horns had nice, solid construction. The titanium horn had a kind of pinkish hue, but they were all good looking horns. He does make a full line from sopranino to bari, but since he was at the show all alone he didn't bring a big display sample. We had a nice chat; his pricing is incredibly reasonable & I will probably be putting an order in for a sopranino.

Sahduoo http://www.sahduoo.com - they had a small booth and were showing samples of their saxes and mouthpieces. They make a range of SATB in two levels - what they call semi-pro and pro. I tried one of their semi-pro and one of their pro tenors (which they had locked up in a glass cabinet). All the horns looked nice and were well built. The two I played felt OK. Their booth was in a very noisy part of the hall and I could barely hear myself. I couldn't feel any difference between the semi-pro and the pro horn, but the pro horn had double arms on the low C cup (not the bell, though). They were pushing me hard to try their mouthpieces; they may be great, but I passed.

Soar http://www.soar-music.com - really nice horns here and nice, friendly folks in the booth. Nice finishes and super solid construction. SA&T. A patented neck design (they have after market sterling silver necks for Selmer, too). Fast, comfortable keywork, easy blowing, great intonation. I played almost all their demo horns. Very consistent. Their "brass bronzed" models were some of the prettiest horns in the show. It was hard walking away from that booth without taking one of the floor samples home.

Yamakawa http://www.sun-holdmusic.com - small family factory. Dad, mom and two daughter running the booth. This is the factory that made the Stephanhouser saxes, so their horns had all the patented features - special neck, one piece bow/bell, spring loaded pins instead of screws. The horns felt nice and solid. I liked the feel of the keys under my fingers. They had SATB & I tried all of them. I liked the way the horns played, BUT they all had intonation issues. I'm wondering if that has something to do with their neck or bow design. They also had a one piece metal ring ligature. I tried it and couldn't really tell if it made any difference. Their booth was pretty busy. I was testing out the bari, and there were a couple of others trying an alto and a tenor - we wound up in an impromptu jam that brought in a bunch of spectators. I probably spent too much time there and I'm sure they were disappointed I didn't take one of the floor samples.

Wan Li Fu http://www.saxplayhouse.com.tw/en/index.php - another OEM factory, showing their Wongful house brand. More gorgeous horns. SATB. Nice finishes, nice keywork. I played an alto and a tenor. Smooth and fast. I asked the rep in the booth if they did any business in the US. He said they had an "important" OEM customer, but of course he wouldn't say who. They were nice enough but didn't give me a card or a catalog.

Yang Sherng http://www.yang-sax.com - they had a tiny booth in the corner; I almost missed them. This is the factory the makes the Allora saxes. They also have a house brand - H. L. Really nice horns with rolled tone holes. They were also touting their adjustable palm keys, which don't appear on the Allora horns. When I visited their booth they were only showing three tenors. I don't know if they had others and sold them off, or if that's all they brought. I tried one horn in a nice burnished brass finish. It played wonderfully, nice and smooth and fast. They offered to sell it to me for a pretty good price. I almost took it BUT for me the left hand key touches were a little too tightly bunched. I have pretty big hands, so it felt a bit strange. I told them I would think about it. Later I decided to go back and offer to take it if they would discount the price a little more, but they had already packed up and left.

Houli TOP Music http://topmusic.xxking.com - this one wasn't on the exhibitors list, I just happened to find them by chance. They had a nice display of SAT horns in a variety of finishes. I tried one of their tenors and it felt very comfortable, nice and solid with good key action. They gave me one of their English catalogues, I should have taken a Chinese one as their translation is incomprehensible. As best I can tell this is another small family factory.

Taholy http://www.taholy.com - they had a small corner booth in the far end of the hall. They had a handful of SAT horns and some mouthpieces on display. All the horns had nice finishes and were well made. I played a really nice tenor with no high F#. No cards or catalogs were displayed and the two guys manning the booth were busy eating their lunch and had no interest in talking, so I left.

Shuan Yin http://www.shuanyin.tw - another Houli factory. They had a big booth with a lot of horns. On the display sign they had "Sopranino" but they didn't bring one. A lot of their display horns had a kind of textured finish on the body I didn't care for, but the workmanship was solid. I played a soprano and an alto and they were nice and smooth. Nice friendly staff; they offered to make and ship a sopranino to me for a very nice price.

TK Melody http://www.tksaxophone.com.tw - I think most forum members know this brand as they were formerly sold by Viking. They had a big booth shared with their China distributor. They were introducing a couple of new models, including a sterling silver Anniversary edition and a "budget" model alto. They were also pushing a new metal alto mouthpiece. They sent a big team over from Taiwan, including a factory tech that made sure all the display horns were well setup. They also were offering all current TK owners a free tune-up. No Kaori Kobayashi performances this year, though :(. They were offering a big discount for horns ordered during the show, and on the last day they blew out all the display models. I took home the Yardbird baritone floor sample.

Antigua http://www.antiguawinds.com - I think everyone knows this brand by now. They had a big booth near the main door. A couple of new models were on display with a hand hammered finish. I've got picks in my other thread.

P. Mauriat http://www.pmauriatmusic.com - everyone knows this brand. A big booth with lots of live performances. Nothing new on offer, so I didn't spend any time there.

Two other brands that were exhibiting but I didn't visit were Cadeson http://www.cadesonmusic.com and Weissenberg http://weissenbergwind.com. I'd seen them before, and these brands sell for ridiculously high prices here, so I didn't go look at them.

Of course there were a number of Chinese exhibitors claiming their horns were made in Taiwan. I asked around at the Taiwan OEM booths and they all said it's BS, the horns are made in China.

Hope you find this useful. If there are any specific questions, ask away.

PS: Will some nice admin correct my spelling mistake in the thread title?
 

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Great post, thank you. Do we know which company makes RS Berkeley Virtuoso horns?
 

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Thanks for taking the time to write this. Do you know which factory was making the Viking horns? Is it possible to order factory direct from any of these places?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Great post, thank you. Do we know which company makes RS Berkeley Virtuoso horns?
I believe those are made in one of the mainland China factories, but I don't know which one. A lot of the OEM deals are confidential.

There were a LOT of Chinese factories exhibiting. I didn't have time to look at all of them. If I have time and energy I'll write another review thread on the mainland horns.
 

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Amazing also that I counted NINETEEN sax mfgs on your list and you say there were many more who you didn't even get to check out? Mind blowing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Amazing also that I counted NINETEEN sax mfgs on your list and you say there were many more who you didn't even get to check out? Mind blowing.
That's just the Taiwan exhibitors. I haven't tried to count the mainland China booths.

If you want your mind blown imagine this - all the wind instrument exhibits were in one hall. There were four halls for all the guitar & guitar related exhibits, and they spilled over into some of the other halls.

And then there are the violin factories, and the piano factories, and the percussion factories, and ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for taking the time to write this. Do you know which factory was making the Viking horns? Is it possible to order factory direct from any of these places?
It would be up to Rich Maraday to disclose that.

All the factories I reviewed above will take direct orders. I have contact info for most of them if there is one you have a particular interest in.
 

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Thanks, man! This really shows how incredibly much sax-making is going on in the East - its really mind-numbing how so many makers can stay in business. It also helps us to kind of put the various makers into a hierarchy of sorts. Your description was so good I felt like I had been there myself. Keep it coming! You're our man in the Far East!
I am particularly interested in the use of Titanium, principally for the key work, rods, etc. Years ago I envisioned a sax with gold-plated brass neck, body, bow and bell but Titanium key work, rods and guards, all in gold-colored Titanium Nitride. The sax would be very much lighter and the key work would be 'bullet-proof'. However, those guys making Titanium necks, etc., have gone in an unexpected direction. Titanium is devilishly hard to work so they must have developed a more malleable alloy with copper and possibly silver in order to make necks that can be formed without cracking.
Very exciting developments. Makes you wonder how good these horns can get.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Keep it coming! You're our man in the Far East!
Not much longer! Two more weeks and I'm moving back home.

Regarding the Titanium neck - I was really blown away at the difference it made. His horns seem to be Selmer clones, I wonder if the necks would fit on an SA80 or a VI. He had them in both SBA and SA80 styles.
 

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It would be up to Rich Maraday to disclose that.

All the factories I reviewed above will take direct orders. I have contact info for most of them if there is one you have a particular interest in.
Who makes Trevor James and Lupafaro ? See any of those platforms over there? Just curious ..
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Who makes Trevor James and Lupafaro ? See any of those platforms over there? Just curious ..
Trevor James had a booth at the show. I took a quick look at the horns, but I didn't play any of them and I didn't talk to anyone.

Lupifaros are from an outfit in Hebei. If you want a contact let me know.
 

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Not much longer! Two more weeks and I'm moving back home.

Regarding the Titanium neck - I was really blown away at the difference it made. His horns seem to be Selmer clones, I wonder if the necks would fit on an SA80 or a VI. He had them in both SBA and SA80 styles.
I'm surprised some of these companies have no internet presence I can find. I tried looking up R & H saxophones and found nothing except an empty Facebook page for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm surprised some of these companies have no internet presence I can find. I tried looking up R & H saxophones and found nothing except an empty Facebook page for them.
R & H is http://www.raresaxs.com, but it's out of date and doesn't mention the titanium products.

I updated the OP to include the websites for the mentioned exhibitors
 

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Thanks for all the great info. I've been thinking that a trip to the Houli district could be pretty interesting. Do you know if any of these manufactures/shops have tours or allow visits? Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the great info. I've been thinking that a trip to the Houli district could be pretty interesting. Do you know if any of these manufactures/shops have tours or allow visits? Cheers
If you're a customer or potential customer you can. For casual visitors it depends, you would have to ask. Some factories have a showroom for visitors.
 

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Oops ... it was under "About" ...

" ... sterling silver, Titanium-Nickel-brass, Rose coppes, bronze, brass..."

And talks about collaborating with Song-Power Musical Instrument Inc.

Anyway ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I am particularly interested in the use of Titanium, principally for the key work, rods, etc. Years ago I envisioned a sax with gold-plated brass neck, body, bow and bell but Titanium key work, rods and guards, all in gold-colored Titanium Nitride. The sax would be very much lighter and the key work would be 'bullet-proof'. However, those guys making Titanium necks, etc., have gone in an unexpected direction. Titanium is devilishly hard to work so they must have developed a more malleable alloy with copper and possibly silver in order to make necks that can be formed without cracking.
Very exciting developments. Makes you wonder how good these horns can get.
I saw a mention of "titanium-nickel-..." under "other". No details. Interesting stuff!
I was just looking through the GT Sax catalog and see they have a titanium alloy soprano. I emailed them and asked for a quote for a sample unit.
 
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