Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
73 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Since selling my Conn bass saxophone 35 years ago I occasionally experienced a longing to play one of the big horns again. Each time, though, before I get too serious a more essential saxophone expense arose.

About 15 years ago I read about cheap bass saxes being made in China. Intriguing, but the frequently mentioned quality issues stifled any real interest. More recently I followed the development of Music Medic’s bass sax. Surely a better choice than all the $8-9,000 Jinbao basses on ebay, but at a price still difficult for me to justify.

Browsing SOTW a few weeks ago I read multiple reports from players praising their Jinbao bass saxophones, including three regarding the Thomann branded bass. Hmmm. Next I saw Thomann’s $2,699 price tag. Add $148 for UPS shipping, plus customs and brokerage fees, minus my credit card’s cash rebate, and the total cost tallys $3,057. What the hell, roll the dice!

I ordered the bass sax on a Thursday. Thomann took a day to set it up and shipped it the following Monday. Three days later the UPS driver slid a bedraggled but intact 56 pound box out of the back of her truck.

With a mixture of excitement and trepidation I opened the box. The case was safely suspended by four stout styrofoam inserts, providing a 2 inch safety zone on the sides, ends and bottom, and 4 inches on the top. The box was sitting upside down in the UPS truck, so actually it was 4 inches on the bottom. The case and sax arrived without the slightest damage. My only complaint is the horn was on the truck for delivery on Wednesday but the driver quit for the day before reaching my house.

UPS charged $12 for serving as the customs broker, a bargain given the paperwork required for a formal entry (required when the cost of an import item and shipping is over $2500). Please be aware that you do have to provide UPS with a tax ID - typically your social security number - as required for the US Customs forms.

Other than one short hairline scratch the lacquer finish is unblemished. The keys fit snugly with zero play between the posts and hinge tubes. The soldering is clean. The keywork is sufficiently quiet. As others have noted, the horn played from top to bottom out of the box.

I replaced the cheap felt disc on the water key with a section of dark green bumper felt, and the felt under the octave key with cork. The thumb hook felt marginally comfortable, so I replaced it with a Music Medic comfort thumb hook. This provided a good improvement in holding and maneuvering this heavy horn.

I played a Conn bass sax for 5 years using whatever dill pickle mouthpiece was in the case. For my new bass, I purchased a JDWoodwinds bass saxophone mouthpiece for $165 (3D printed, hand finished). This is a true bass saxophone mouthpiece, not simply a baritone mouthpiece with an enlarged chamber (Vandoren & Selmer) or modified facing (Caravan).

Regarding reeds, I tried Vandoren bass, Rico contrabass and Marca Superieur bass. And the winner is . . . Marca. The Vandoren reed produced a brighter, more baritone-like sound. The Rico and Marca both deliver the bass sound I expected, but the Marca sounds richer.

With a bass mouthpiece and reed the Thomann sax produces a distinctly bass timbre without a hint of simply being an oversized baritone. I would say this short wrap sax delivers 90% of the thunder of my long wrap Conn.

Intonation is acceptable throughout, except the left palm keys are about 20 cents sharp. I’ll play the horn for a few more weeks before taking it to a tech.

There is a model number and serial number etched below the thumb rest. The horn weighs in at 16.5 pounds (without the peg), and the case is 26.25 pounds. Thank goodness for the wheels.

I have yet to fit the peg as I find a Jazzlab Saxholder harness, which I also use for tenor and baritone, to be comfortable. I tried a Gemini harness, but it is a little awkward to put on, and for me does not distribute the weight as comfortably as the Saxholder.

My bass sax rests on a SaxRax bass stand. Very secure and convenient, and it serves as a discerning decoration for any room. Unfortunately this stand is hard to find since SaxRax ceased business, and the new owner is not yet in production.

In conclusion, I tip my hat to Jinbao and Thomann for delivering a well made and adjusted bass sax at a truly affordable price! Now nearly any player can afford to explore the bass voice, just for fun, or as the first step towards a more serious dedication. Just think, for another $20,000 I could graduate to a Keilwerth bass!
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
28,338 Posts
In conclusion, I tip my hat to Jinbao and Thomann for delivering a well made and adjusted bass sax at a truly affordable price! Now nearly any player can afford to explore the bass voice, just for fun, or as the first step towards a more serious dedication.
Three K is a lot of bread to gamble to with. And until you take it to a tech, you don't know if it's key heights or poor design that's responsible for your intonation problems. So just because you've got three K to possibly waste doesn't mean this is some bargain for others to explore. Three K ought to buy a horn that'll last a lifetime. How 'bout just coming back in two years to see how this thing holds up?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,502 Posts
Three K is a lot of bread to gamble to with. And until you take it to a tech, you don't know if it's key heights or poor design that's responsible for your intonation problems. So just because you've got three K to possibly waste doesn't mean this is some bargain for others to explore. Three K ought to buy a horn that'll last a lifetime. How 'bout just coming back in two years to see how this thing holds up?
Whoa, steady on there bucky. He SAID it was a roll of the dice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
102 Posts
Three K is a lot of bread to gamble to with. And until you take it to a tech, you don't know if it's key heights or poor design that's responsible for your intonation problems. So just because you've got three K to possibly waste doesn't mean this is some bargain for others to explore. Three K ought to buy a horn that'll last a lifetime. How 'bout just coming back in two years to see how this thing holds up?

grumps is on the money with his post.



Also, I really believe that a video and photos should be required with every horn/product review.

For one, it'd show that the player level. I'll give more credence to a seasoned player about their thoughts on a horn.

I question many reviews I've read on this site (not a new thing, I've read since at least 2007).

Perhaps SOTW should also look into steps to ensure there aren't any financial/special interests in the users/ posts as well.
 

·
TOTM administrator
Tenor: Eastman 52nd St, Alto: P. Mauriat 67RDK, Soprano: Eastern Music Curvy
Joined
·
7,738 Posts
Perhaps SOTW should also look into steps to ensure there aren't any financial/special interests in the users/ posts as well.
This already happens, and many users have been booted for shilling products without being upfront of their connection to them. But not that there are actual mods illegally pulling your private info and connecting your personal life to your online name. Just a close monitoring of behavior and posting to relationship with selling entities.

To OP: Congrats on the Big beast! Bet it's a blast to play.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,178 Posts
Three K is a lot of bread to gamble to with. And until you take it to a tech, you don't know if it's key heights or poor design that's responsible for your intonation problems. So just because you've got three K to possibly waste doesn't mean this is some bargain for others to explore. Three K ought to buy a horn that'll last a lifetime. How 'bout just coming back in two years to see how this thing holds up?
I was talking to @DavidW about this a few weeks ago and I've had similar discussions over the years many times and struggled with it myself since I am a doubler and have to have a lot of instruments in the stable. To me there are two parts to break down with this, one about buy once cry once and the other about bass saxes in particular.
My first new saxophone was a tenor sax that was stenciled by Prestini the pad company and imported from Taiwan. My parents purchased it for me when I was in 7th grade back in 2002 ish? and I can comfortably say that it is still going strong. A couple of pads have been replaced and a couple of tone holes needed to be leveled but that horn has seen some things. While I have since acquired a Yamaha 82z, the Prestini comes out for gigs on a regular basis and can still hold its own. My second horn was a bari purchased in 2004 that was another no-name stencil. Similar to the tenor mentioned above it has had a few pads replaced, a couple tone holes leveled, springs adjusted etc. but it has played on some big gigs over the last 15 years. I now own a Yani 991 that has been modified by Music Medic and had a full Uberhaul and while the 991 is undoubtedly an absolute monster of a horn and better in absolutely every way, my first bari has thousands of hours on it I'm primarily a bari player and still comes out for gigs though not as often because the Yani is in a Bam case which is much more comfortable to backpack than the Walt Johnson.
Based on those experiences, those no-name stencils out of Taiwan have proved durable and reliable enough to warrant retaining and while the 82z and 991 are undoubtedly better horns and I much prefer playing them, if I was not afforded the luxury of a job that allows me to purchase a multitude of idiotically expensive instruments holy crap are bassoons painful.... I wouldn't be seriously handcuffed by the cheaper horns.
To me the cheaper import horns are definitely in the small commuter car vs. luxury sedan or work truck vs. F-150 Limited. Both cars get you to and from work effectively and no one in the office cares as long as you can get to/from work effectively, and both trucks can pull trailers and haul loads of stuff but one does it a lot more comfortably than the other. For new players or those that need doubles and can't afford the big name horns the imports offer an affordable way to get into the wonderful world of saxophones and while they may require a bit more on initial setup than a brand new Series III, the harsh reality is that even a brand new Series III needs to go to a technician before you can play it to its full potential. I am admittedly biased in my affinity for vintage saxophones and saxophones that have a story. I'm selling my VI alto because I just bought a Keilwerth Shadow and while something like an Antigua, Kessler, Wilmington, etc. alto would more than serve my needs I can afford the big boy horns and I want one, so here we are. Same with owning a Selmer bass clarinet and Moosmann bassoon instead of a Kessler or whatever comparable horns are out there. They would more than serve my needs as a player, but I believe in buy once cry once and also in the last value of the instruments. The import horns I have I essentially treat as disposable appliances. There is no residual value to them in my mind and I think that is a safe way to view the purchase of these horns which leads me to the specific point about bass saxes and Grumps comment about them.

These imported bass saxes have proven themselves for a decade to be "good enough". They need to go to the doctor at least annually because the keywork is not as stiff as their modern European cousins or vintage American grandfathers and they go out of regulation on an annoyingly frequent basis. They need a BIG initial setup to the point that I would personally budget $1k just to get the pads all set, venting sorted out, spring adjustments, etc. Basically it's getting an overhaul with the original pads in it. This shows partly with the premium that you are paying if you look at the Wilmington bass which probably starts life the same as the Thomann but has had modifications to improve playability as well as all of that prep work done for you. Sure you're paying a premium because it's coming from Music Medic, but such is life. If it were me and I needed another bass, I honestly would have a serious look at the Music Medic. I don't like the Series II bass, never have, I hate feeling like I'm fighting a vintage bass when I play them and while I love my Buescher, it's not "easy" to play and the gap between a $7k Wilmington and a $22k Eppelsheim/Selmer is absolutely gargantuan and we need something in the market to fill the hole between a $5k vintage bass that needs $2k of work and a $1k case and a brand new $22k beast. While I think that the $3k is certainly a risk, we have had imported bass saxophones for as long as I've been on this forum starting with the IW horns and I know guys that are still playing on them to this day. Budget $200/year at the doctor for a full workup and I think you're pretty safe if you need a bass. Over a lifetime you'll probably end up at the $22k if you had bought the Eppelsheim, and unlike the Eppelsheim it will have no real residual value, but that's also the age old mantra about poor men buying cheap boots every year vs. a rich man buying the expensive boots once. Total cost of ownership is important but only if you can afford the upfront cost.

Edit: Mike, we need to have this discussion in person at next years sax symposium!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
73 Posts
Your Thomann bass sax came with a serial number?! Lucky... I was not fortunate enough to have a serial number with mine. When I contacted Thomann, they said that the bass sax "does not come with a serial number" 🤷‍♂️ How crazy is that? I knew that was a bs answer and that someone was just covering for poor quality control, but it's nice to have proof. I bought mine in March 2021 within the first month they sold them, so not sure if that had something to do with it.

I've been very satisfied with mine, especially considering what I spent for it. Mine too is very sharp in the palm keys. I'm adjusting for it with embouchure at the moment, but I may look into adjusting them in the near future.
I've landed on Rico orange box contra reeds for the most part. I did also find a Legere 2.25 reed that works great. Unfortunately it looks like the reed was new old stock and Legere does not make a 2.25 bass reed anymore. I'll have to give the Marcas a try next time I need reeds.

Glasses Facial expression Vision care Eyewear Font
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
I don't want to bump a thread that's losing momentum, but I don't understand this price at all. I've read this thread and the other thread, and the very fine web page documenting the low saxes, that identifies Jinbao as the manufacturer of this short-wrap style of bass. This one is less than half the price of even the no-reputation sellers on AliExpress, much less the other vendors/stencils listed on that page. Is there another differentiator? Is it the same horn but different pads? Are these the QC rejects? The price isn't even close.

Even if the others include a trip through the local shop for testing and adjustment, that shop is still on the other side of the planet for me, and then it has to get wrapped up and put on a boat again, presenting another opportunity to get all munged up. That price delta would pay for a nice trip to my actually-local sax shop.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
73 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Is there any flex in the keys and how soft is the brass on the body?
I hadn't noticed any key flex when playing, but after GaSax's inquiry I checked the horn over, and I would say the left palm keys certainly could have been made thicker. The body does not seem soft at all.

I took the horn to a tech recently, and after making a few annoyingly condescending remarks about Chinese saxophones, he pronounced the sax to be free of leaks. He raised the key heights on low C#, B and Bb to allow them to play easily in tune. Next he lowered the key heights on high D-F# to bring them more in tune. Subsequently, I shaved some cork off here and there until I achieved the best balance between these notes sounding fully, yet slightly less sharp.

After a few months of playing the horn I decided I was ready to consider a different mouthpiece. I dug an old Vandoren V5 baritone mouthpiece out of my box of spares. The intonation was very good on D-F# when paired with a Vandoren bass saxophone reed, however, the horn's sound was more baritone-like than I am seeking. Surprisingly, the bari sax mouthpiece produces the best bass sound when matched with a Rico bass sax reed, so that's my setup for now.

My next step is to purchase a Selmer bass sax mouthpiece. A little expensive, but Jon at Saxquest recommends it for a short wrap, as well as a couple folks on SOTW.
 

·
Distinguished Member
Joined
·
1,574 Posts
I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one playing one of these that finds the palm keys are way off. Of course, aren't the palm keys a big part of the mods that Music Medic did for the Wilmington? How are Selmer Super 80 palm keys? Anyone compare?

Also, how are you're lower octave A - C#? For me these were really flat. With practice it's improving so I'm still not sure how much of it is me figuring out embouchure pressure, breath support and mouthpiece placement vs inherent issues with the horn.

Aside from these issues though, I agree it's a remarkably good instrument for the money. I am curious about longevity though...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
73 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Of course, aren't the palm keys a big part of the mods that Music Medic did for the Wilmington?
There are two versions of the Wilmington bass sax. One is a Jinbao that has undergone Music Medic's set up process,
". . . we spend a significant amount of time on each instrument to set up the key heights, the pad heights, timing, perform our tuning and toning process, and reduce key noise by adding synthetic materials such as ultra suede, tech cork, and teflon to the mechanism as needed for a quiet and smooth action." For an additional $3,700 the second version adds two additional octave vents to address the middle D issue.

At this point I am confident that the overly sharp palm keys can be addressed through a combination of key heights and possibly tuning crescents, in combination with the right mouthpiece for the player and type of music. I have a Selmer bass mouthpiece coming next week. If any high notes are still overly sharp I'll address them with tuning crescents.

Also, how are you're lower octave A - C#?
Fortunately, my horn's in tune with lower octave A-C#.
 

·
Registered
Conn NW II Soprano, NW I Alto, 10M Tenor, NW I C Melody & Allora Bari.
Joined
·
305 Posts
Thanks.
I hadn't noticed any key flex when playing, but after GaSax's inquiry I checked the horn over, and I would say the left palm keys certainly could have been made thicker. The body does not seem soft at all.

I took the horn to a tech recently, and after making a few annoyingly condescending remarks about Chinese saxophones, he pronounced the sax to be free of leaks. He raised the key heights on low C#, B and Bb to allow them to play easily in tune. Next he lowered the key heights on high D-F# to bring them more in tune. Subsequently, I shaved some cork off here and there until I achieved the best balance between these notes sounding fully, yet slightly less sharp.

After a few months of playing the horn I decided I was ready to consider a different mouthpiece. I dug an old Vandoren V5 baritone mouthpiece out of my box of spares. The intonation was very good on D-F# when paired with a Vandoren bass saxophone reed, however, the horn's sound was more baritone-like than I am seeking. Surprisingly, the bari sax mouthpiece produces the best bass sound when matched with a Rico bass sax reed, so that's my setup for now.

My next step is to purchase a Selmer bass sax mouthpiece. A little expensive, but Jon at Saxquest recommends it for a short wrap, as well as a couple folks on SOTW.
Thanks.
 

·
Distinguished Member
Joined
·
1,574 Posts
I have a Selmer Series II Bass, I use the Legere synthetic bass reed with the Selmer S80 bass mouthpiece the instrument came with. The palm keys, from my perception and using a Peterson strobe tuner, are spot on in pitch.
OK, interesting. I asked because this is a copy of the Selmer, and supposedly a pretty accurate one. I wonder where the differences lie....
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top