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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings,

Though I've been the beneficiary of its many posts for years now, I've never posted to this site, so I hope you'll forgive me if I've posted to the wrong group or inadvertently violated one or more of the posting rules - constructive criticism happily accepted :).

After putting my beloved Mark VI alto aside for many years after my son was born, I've been getting back into playing now that he's 8, this time on tenor. I've been borrowing a nice Conn 10M from a friend for three years, while looking for a horn I could own. The Conn has needed constant attention, and is getting to the point where I don't want to put more money into a horn that's not mine (the owner won't sell). Due to family and work constraints, I can't easily travel around checking out horns, and because I'm not an expert, feel I need someone who is to vouch for something I'm going to spend thousands of dollars on, and so have avoided internet/long distance sales.

I have however been keeping tabs on what comes through our local horn shop in San Francisco, and was notified yesterday of two horns I might like: A 1952 SBA ($9,000) and a nearly new Reference 36 ($7,000). I played both briefly today and was allowed to take the Reference home for a few days to play. The purveyor of the shop is a widely-respected repair person and he vouches for both horns.

I'm not on a quest for the perfect horn, and though taken in at times by the Great Vintage Search, I've waited for years for an affordable, good condition VI with no success. Actually, I love the sound of the 10M and that of my friends who play Balanced Actions - but suffer from tendonitis in both my hands (I'm a data analyst) and the ergonomics on my 10M have been challenging at times.

The SBA I played today sounded sweet, but fingered a lot like my 10M - the Reference spoke more and had a little more of an edge (but not too much), which I liked, and the keys seemed to be right where my fingers were. I'd love any guidance/suggestions those on this site might be able to share with me - about the prices and whether I should hold out for other opportunities. I want a good horn, and could wait for other opportunities, but I also want to get down to playing, which is something I love more than looking for horns ;).

Attached are some pictures of the Reference. It comes with a ProTech case (shouldn't a nearly new $7,000 horn have the original case?) and has a few blemishes (seen in the first five images), which the shop said are mainly cosmetic and shouldn't affect my decision. Thanks so, so much for any guidance you're willing to share with me.

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That seems high for a “nearly new” Ref 36 - you can get a NEW one from Matthews for that price:


I owned a Ref 36 for many years - best modern Selmer in my opinion (I had a Serie III as well). If you have that kind of money, there are a lot of great horns available. I suggest looking around a bit. On the other hand, if that Ref really does it for you, and money isn’t an issue, you’re done with the quest - time to start hunting for mouthpieces!
 

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Martin Commitee 3 52bari & 56 tenor 49 Big B tenor 58 Buffet Alto, 28 Martin sop, bassclar Leblanc
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Here in france it's easy to try the referenceS tenor Selmer (36 & 54)
Many mark Vi players like the REF 36, a modern evocation of the ... mark VI.
most of the players and me don't enjoy the Ref 54.
A ref 36 checked and adjusted by a good tech can become one life's horn.
 

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If you pick the Reference you will certainly be happy. Traded my alto for this Tenor and I'm having a blast with the sound. Ergos are pretty nice as well.

Now 7K USD sounds very expensive for a "nearly new" (here in Spain you can find them new with tax for around 6.2K - 6.7K euros ). That being said you will more than likely have to setup the horn if you buy new.
 

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Another Ref36 fan here. I’m also surprised by the rather high price tag. And I agree, the very stylish Reference case should be part of the deal. Or at least a Selmer light case.
 

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Another Ref36 fan here. I’m also surprised by the rather high price tag. And I agree, the very stylish Reference case should be part of the deal. Or at least a Selmer light case.
You can get a brand-new Ref. 36 from sax.co.uk for only $7,401, or from Matthew's Music in the Netherlands for only $7,020! Sure, you'll have to pay shipping (and possibly import duty), but at least you'll get the original case. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That seems high for a “nearly new” Ref 36 - you can get a NEW one from Matthews for that price:


I owned a Ref 36 for many years - best modern Selmer in my opinion (I had a Serie III as well). If you have that kind of money, there are a lot of great horns available. I suggest looking around a bit. On the other hand, if that Ref really does it for you, and money isn’t an issue, you’re done with the quest - time to start hunting for mouthpieces!
Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Here in france it's easy to try the referenceS tenor Selmer (36 & 54)
Many mark Vi players like the REF 36, a modern evocation of the ... mark VI.
most of the players and me don't enjoy the Ref 54.
A ref 36 checked and adjusted by a good tech can become one life's horn.
This is really helpful advice. Unfortunately, haven't found a lot of places here in the Bay Area to try out different horns - thus my reliance on this shop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If you pick the Reference you will certainly be happy. Traded my alto for this Tenor and I'm having a blast with the sound. Ergos are pretty nice as well.

Now 7K USD sounds very expensive for a "nearly new" (here in Spain you can find them new with tax for around 6.2K - 6.7K euros ). That being said you will more than likely have to setup the horn if you buy new.
Very helpful - thank you. Other than the shop saying it's in "good shape," I don't actually know if it's been set up. I did see that - unless I'm reading serial number wrong - it appears to be about 20 years old - I didn't even know the Reference's were made that long! However, from it's looks it might have been sitting in a case for most of those years (which might also explain the corrosion on the bell).
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Another Ref36 fan here. I’m also surprised by the rather high price tag. And I agree, the very stylish Reference case should be part of the deal. Or at least a Selmer light case.
That makes sense to me. Is anyone bothered by the corrosion in the pictures? I'm told I can make a counter-offer to the owner - is there a price that - given the condition and lack of original case - members here think it would be a good deal? :)
 

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Selmer Paris Mark VI Alto 119XXX
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I think 6000 is a fair price given you can get a good (not pretty looking) Mark VI for 6K and I love the Ref 36 line because to me it gives what a Mark VI does but plays with better intonation even though this wasn't Selmer's intention with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I think 6000 is a fair price given you can get a good (not pretty looking) Mark VI for 6K and I love the Ref 36 line because to me it gives what a Mark VI does but plays with better intonation even though this wasn't Selmer's intention with it.
$6,000+tax, right? Thank you. It's interesting to me that you seem to be the second person to compare the 36 to a Mark VI - I thought the 54 was "referencing" the VI, and the 36 the Balanced Action, but it's very possible I'm mixed up :unsure:.
 

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Selmer Paris Mark VI Alto 119XXX
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$6,000+tax, right? Thank you. It's interesting to me that you seem to be the second person to compare the 36 to a Mark VI - I thought the 54 was "referencing" the VI, and the 36 the Balanced Action, but it's very possible I'm mixed up :unsure:.
Your not confused at all it's possibly one of the funniest happy accidents Selmer has ever done the ref 54 is just bad while the 36 is like a modern MK VI which is totally ironic.
 

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$6,000+tax, right? Thank you. It's interesting to me that you seem to be the second person to compare the 36 to a Mark VI - I thought the 54 was "referencing" the VI, and the 36 the Balanced Action, but it's very possible I'm mixed up :unsure:.
I agree with Ben on this one - that the Ref 54 is just another modern horn (not so different than the Serie III, but often more stuffy). Selmer describes the Ref 36 as an homage to the Balanced Action - and it doesn't quite make that, but it does have the most character of the modern Selmers. The Ref 36 does have a broader and richer sound than that of a mid/late Mk VI.

Be aware that there was substantial variation between necks during the early Ref production - I played (and measured) a dozen or more Ref necks, many of which paled in comparison to a good one. Mine happened to measure 0.510" ID. Most of the better playing necks had a similar ID. Those necks with considerably smaller IDs had poor tone and response.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I agree with Ben on this one - that the Ref 54 is just another modern horn (not so different than the Serie III, but often more stuffy). Selmer describes the Ref 36 as an homage to the Balanced Action - and it doesn't quite make that, but it does have the most character of the modern Selmers. The Ref 36 does have a broader and richer sound than that of a mid/late Mk VI.

Be aware that there was substantial variation between necks during the early Ref production - I played (and measured) a dozen or more Ref necks, many of which paled in comparison to a good one. Mine happened to measure 0.510" ID. Most of the better playing necks had a similar ID. Those necks with considerably smaller IDs had poor tone and response.
Fascinating. This particular horn seems to be from about 2001 - are there certain serial numbers associated with better and/or worse horns when talking about "modern" horns like the Reference? Is there any particular reason to or not to buy an older version?
 

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Mine is a 64xxxx and I can tell you (in my opinion) it sounds fine. Like Dr G mentioned, the neck is probably going to be the biggest differentiator apart from the MPC (and since it is not serialised you are welcome to try necks until you are happy).

Finally, if you are looking for modern ergos, have you considered any of the Japanese horns?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Mine is a 64xxxx and I can tell you (in my opinion) it sounds fine. Like Dr G mentioned, the neck is probably going to be the biggest differentiator apart from the MPC (and since it is not serialised you are welcome to try necks until you are happy).

Finally, if you are looking for modern ergos, have you considered any of the Japanese horns?
Not yet. I've been kind of limited to what comes through the local shop and I haven't seen any. What would you suggest I keep an eye out for?
 

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Fascinating. This particular horn seems to be from about 2001 - are there certain serial numbers associated with better and/or worse horns when talking about "modern" horns like the Reference? Is there any particular reason to or not to buy an older version?
No, it wasn't about serial numbers - it was manufacturing variability of the necks. For a horn that's 20+ years old, condition matters. If a horn was well-maintained, it could be better than new.

After several years of playing, I sent off my Ref 36 to Randy Jones at Tenor Madness for a setup, and it went from really good to great. He reset all the pads in their cups, changed out the soft materials, regulated the timing, fit the neck, and soldered the bow to the body. So if you played someone else's horn that had a factory setup, was played and seldom serviced, it would be an entirely different horn. Has that 20+ year old horn ever been repadded? Does it have accumulated wear from lots of playing?
 
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Not yet. I've been kind of limited to what comes through the local shop and I haven't seen any. What would you suggest I keep an eye out for?
I mean for 7K you can basically get any of the modern Yanis and Yamahas. I can only vouch for Yanis (and an alto at that), but you wouldn't do wrong picking either (assuming of course you like how they sound).

Ultimately it will depend on what sound are you looking for in a modern horn. Ergos are going to be mostly the same.

(I'm a data engineer and playing the Ref after a days job doesn't feel painful in the hands... but neither did my alto)
 
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