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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just got off the phone with Dave Kessler about two hours ago, and ordered my Antigua Winds 4290RC. It should be here in Seattle this coming Thursday. Having play tested a few sopranos, including a 590LQ, over the past two years, I'm very excited, and can barely wait for the UPS guy to come knocking on my door.

First, a big, loving batch of thanks goes out to my wife for giving me the go-ahead to make the purchase. Timing is everything.

This endeavor took about two years of research, play testing, and waiting for the right time to pitch it to my wife. Yep, timing is indeed everything. And worth it.

I play tested a couple older Antigua sops that didn't cut it for me intonation and ergo-wise. The Yamaha 82ZR that I tested was nice, but I wasn't going to shell out $4K for a new horn. When compared to the cost of a new Yanagisawa at Kessler's, the Yamaha seems overpriced. And if I had the money, I would have gone for the Yani S991 or SC991 in a heartbeat. But that's not a viable option for me.

After testing the 590LQ last year, I walked out of the music store with a lasting impression. The horn felt sturdy in my hands, the intonation was remarkable for an inexpensive horn, and the tone I was producing was pretty effortless throughout the entire range. But the most lasting impression walking away was how much the ergos felt like those of my A991. I think this is a pretty important factor in playing an instrument: the last thing you need is a horn's ergonomics distracting you from focusing on the music you're playing.

Second, I want to thank Paul Coats for taking time to correspond with me the last couple of days, addressing any questions I had about these instruments, and providing tips about set-ups and what have you. He's a great resource, very knowledgeable, and an all around good-natured guy.

SOTW is also an excellent resource for finding information about pretty much anything saxophone related. If you do your due diligence, and read through the posts, you'll be able to glean a lot of useful information and form your own opinion before you move forward. But, before you buy based on anything you read here, you really should play test the horns you're interested in.

Finally, and not at all least, a big thanks goes out to Dave and Chuck Kessler. This is the second sax I've bought from them; the first was my Yani. In a time where it seems like most businesses are just out for your money, and could give a rip about after-sales follow-through, Kessler's is an oasis for customer service and support. In fact they get my vote for the Academy Award for Best Retailer.

My starting setup for this horn will be the Kessler Custom sop mp with La Voz medium reeds. I also bought a Fibercell Premier reed to see what those are all about. This should be good enough for starters until I can figure out what tonal concept I want, and then go from there for finding a different mp. But, you never know, the Kessler might just be the right one for the job.

So, thanks to everyone here whose posts that I read about these horns. It has been quite an adventure as well as an informative one over the last two years.
 

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Enjoy! I love mine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I'll post images after I receive the horn, and provide comments after I've played it a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Enjoy! I love mine.
Yep, I could tell from your videos. ;)

Also, the intonation is pretty even across the range on your horn, that's what settled the deal for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It's here! And it's very nice. I did my due diligence, and did a cursory inspection of all the pads and tone holes. Everything lines up perfectly. The rods and key work are solid, no slop, and the action is smooth. Ding! Ding! Ding! This horn is a winner. I play tested the horn for about an hour, before my lip tired out. First I used Antigua's mouthpiece and ligature with a La Voz medium reed. The mouthpiece isn't all that bad. Next I played with the Kessler Custome sop piece, Rico H ligature, and the LV medium reed. At first, I wasn't entirely happy with the reed setup. The horn sounded a little stuffy. So, I swapped out the LV for the Fibercell medium. Geez, what a difference. The low end sound nice, and deep, the high end was pretty crisp, the notes popped right out. Actually, I was very impressed with the Fibercell. I'm typically old school about certain things, like old sailboats, Craftsman homes, etc. But I really liked the synthetic reed. Surprisingly so. Chuck had marked the cork where the mouthpiece should be, and everything worked just fine.

I tried the La Voz medium one more time, and was able to get a tone that was less stuffy when I first played it, plus the high notes weren't as shaky when I first tried that reed. I think this is telling me that my soprano embouchure needs work.

Both mouthpieces were pretty free blowing. I think the Kessler will be my baseline for a while until I figure out what I want to sound like. Then I'll go on a little mouthpiece adventure. Hopefully, that won't be an expensive undertaking; maybe I'll be able to hit in the first two or three pieces. We'll see. Anyway, I'm a ways off before I start looking for another piece. Same thing with reeds.

I was going to post pictures today, but haven't had time to take any. But the red brass is very, very nice. It's not an overwhelming red; almost a pink gold hue in certain light settings.

Hats off to Antigua Winds.

Oh yeah. This is the second horn I purchased from Dave and Chuck. Doing business with them is quite enjoyable. No pretenses. No B.S. They're both very knowledgeable and friendly. You can tell they're very proud of their business and what they sell. And... their customer service/support is very hard to beat, especially in this day and age.
 

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I've been playing soprano for twenty years or so and I'm still trying to find "my sound" LOL. I think that I have an idea now, though...good thing I'm not in a hurry! You'll love the Antigua.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks guys. I think I'm starting to get it. The soprano is definitely different; not that the other saxes are less challenging to play or whatever. This afternoon, after finishing up work and going to the market to forage for dinner, I went upstairs to get better acquainted with my new horn. So, this was the second time I've played this instrument.

Figured I 'd just play a few scales, arpeggios, and thirds; long tones of scales, arpeggios, and thirds, and a little free play; then tune the horn (which is another topic). I started with the La Voz medium, and ended up playing with the Fibercell medium.

After about a half hour of playing scales and what-not, my chops were getting pretty lame. Initially, the Ls Voz struck me as a bit stuffy, but I was willing to work with it--maybe it's more me than the reed. So, that's what I was doing. Also, I had played for about 30 minutes, typically not enough to strain my chops. But that's what was happening. Maybe my lack of practicing over the last two weeks was taking its toll.

The low notes came out easily in the beginning, but over time the notes were lazy. The high end was very resistant, but with a little effort I managed to get them out, as strained as they were.

Well maybe the reed is too hard; what's "medium" mean to me after I've been playing on a 2.5, sometimes a 3 over the past two, three years. I figured it was time to use the Fibercell. It was a medium, too.

Boy what a difference in ease of playing; the high and lower ends of the horn, not to mention the middle, were much more alive and had a some extra depth to work with. But this also made me wonder about if there is really any difference between playing a cane reed as opposed to a synthetic. Does the difference in metal--a bronze horn vs. a silver one--really matter? Maybe this line of thinking is totally opposite for reeds: does the difference in material--a cane reed vs. synthetic?

Most of my primitive sensibilities say yes; my deeper curiosity says, "Let's see." All the notes nice and open, easy to play. There's a part of me that thinks the Fibercell might lack some quality or nuance of sound that a synthetic losses compared to cane. I think there's some measure of richness that is lost by the one, but just so natural for the other. Can't prove it; there's no logic to it. But that's what I'm thinking.

I've been partial to Vandoren's line, and play a ZZ 2.5 (sometimes a 3) on my A991. I think I'll start out with a V16 2.5, and see if that leads me anywhere, and find out, for my self, if I'm right about the synthetic vs. cane thing.

So yeah, Greg and Randy, I'm getting a good feel for your sentiments about the Antigua being capable of allowing you to enjoy your potential as a musician. The soprano is sublime in its own right.

While cleaning my horn after practice, I was wondering about, after a few weeks or so, what it will be like play the alto.
 

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SteveD: I've come to the conclusion that synthetics (and in my case, Fibracells) are different from cane AND that synthetics require much more attention to the match between the particular mouthpiece and the synthetic reed. I have many sopranos and altos and even more mouthpieces for them. But I just can't slap a synthetic on any ol' mouthpiece and achieve playing success. However, once I find a suitable match, then the synthetics give me a much stronger sound than do cane on that mouthpiece. However, I must be concsious of how they tend to wear out my embouchure. Some matches I can play all day, others finish me off in short order.

Another thing, I've always used soft reeds and open tips, especially on soprano. But the synthetics don't seem to work real good for me on open pieces. They WILL make a closer-tipped piece play better, though. At least that is MY experience with them.

Given the results I achieve with synthetics, I've also reduced the strength for synthetics. When I DO find the right mouthpiece/synthetic match, I use the 1 1/2 Fibracell Premiere (or with the older Fibracells, a SOFT strength). I've seen various charts trying to relate cane strengths to Fibracell's strengths, and I don't believe them. In cane I use #2 (Java, ZZ, and Alexanders, mostly) but in Fibracells, I use 1 1/2 because the Fibracells are SO much stronger and substantial than are cane reeds I like. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the information Dave. When I first played the Fibracell, I thought the same about this reed producing a stronger sound than the La Voz reed that I ordered with the horn.

Yesterday, when I was practicing, I noticed that my chops were tiring out after about 40 minutes or so with the Fibracell. In any case, I was quite impressed with the synthetic reed and how affected playability and tone over the LV.

Your reply gave me a lot to think about while I'm going through the process of learning how to play the soprano. The next time I order up new reeds, I'll be sure to get a softer Fibracell. But, yesterday, I went ahead an ordered a box of ZZ 2.5s, and will see where that leads me; I'm using the ZZs on my alto, and have been real happy with them. In any case, I still need to build up my chops for the soprano. It's not totally the same as playing my alto, at least embroucher-wise.

As for mouthpieces, I'd like to try out a Yani 7 or 9, and see what the Super Sessions are all about, maybe a Meyer, maybe an Otto Link. I just need to find a store in Seattle that carries those. Better yet, I should just call Dave K, and find out about his policy for test playing a few mouthpieces all at once. I really like doing business with those guys, even though their in Vegas and I'm up here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Okay. I've had my Antigua 4290 a little over two weeks now. It's definitely a very nice horn for the money. Once you figure out the reed/mouthpiece combination, the horn really comes to life. The one conclusion I can safely say about playing the soprano is that it takes a bit of work to get the feel for how it performs. Even though I haven't played many sopranos, I'm using the word soprano generically, not just for the Antigua 590/4290 line. The embouchure requires a good deal of development to keep intonation accurate throughout the range of the horn, especially in the high end above D. This takes work as does a good mouthpiece/reed setup. I'm no pro here, just a 55-year old who attends an ensemble class on Tuesday nights, but these are my observations from practice, not just based from all the research I did on this forum over the last couple years as well as talking to the soprano players that I know.

I think the size of the sop mouthpiece makes a big difference in embouchure development compared to playing the alto and up. Also, it doesn't take much to disrupt your embouchure when using the palm keys. Maybe using a strap might help with keeping the horn steady; I don't know, yet. But I know that there are plenty of remarkable players that don't use a strap. So, I think the strap thing is not so much a solution as to how you adapt your stance to the horn.

As for mouthpiece/reed combinations--well this has been very interesting. I'm using the Kessler Custom piece that came with horn. I think Dave told me it had .063 opening with a medium facing, and a rollover baffle. Anyway, I've been narrowing down which reeds work best (for me) with this mouthpiece. The Fibracell Medium seems to be pretty responsive and projects well. I don't like the La Voz medium for this mouthpiece at all; it tires me out, and sounds too stuffy. The Java 2.5 was nice up until I played with it for about 45 minutes, then it felt like the tip of the reed was collapsing against the tip of the mouthpiece, resulting in losing the upper range of the horn. I had a Rico 2.5 laying around, and worked real well across the entire range; low-end had a deep, resonate tone, high-end showed a lot of potential in shaping the notes, but my embouchure still needs work. Not a big deal, just need to keep practicing. Just want to give Dave Dolson a special thanks to his previous post in this thread about reeds. It was very helpful. Thank you, Dave.

I gotta say that the more I practice and play music with this horn, my embouchure is improving, and playing around with the Kessler mouthpiece/reed setups is giving me a chance to develop my own sound. And it's really hard to put this thing once I get started. I haven't picked up my A991 since I received my soprano over two weeks ago. There is something definitely alluring about the soprano, isn't there?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My ensemble class started last night after a three-week break; brought both horns, but only played the Antigua sop. My Yani A991 stayed in its open case. Tuned the sop to A-440, playing middle B, and it popped into tune like a charm. We played a couple classical pieces, O Magnum Mysterium and Wachet Auf with alto, bari, and sop; the tenor didn't make it to class. After playing the O Magnum piece, I asked Fran what she thought: "It's playin' in tune." Thank you very much. I definitly dig it the most, Daddy-o!

I went ahead and ordered a LeBayle Jazz 8* from Brian at www.sax-ccessories.com yesterday. It'll be a few weeks before I get it. In the meantime I'm going to obtain a Vandoren Traditional 2.5 reed to see how that works with the Kessler Custom mpc. The ZZ 2.5 works okay with the Kessler, but I think I might get a little better results with the Traditional; it might be a bit stiffer than the ZZ. But I'm hoping the ZZ will work better with the LeBayle's 8* facing. We'll see.

All-in-all, I had a good time playing the Antigua in an ensemble setting. I'm going to see if we can get a couple jazz pieces in as well.

-Steve
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Went to my ensemble class again last night, played mostly on my Antigua sop. I really love playing it. But, towards the end of class, our teacher didn't have any more sop charts, so I had to take out my A991. Boy, what a switcheroo. My alto emboucher had to undergo some adjustments, especially working the bottom end of the horn; had a hard time getting the notes out. It felt like I was clamping down on the reed against the mouthpiece tip. I'd say there's a bit of difference between playing on sop and alto mouthpieces for sure.

...which got me to thinking about the Tyner/Bartz show my wife and I went to Sunday night at Jazz Alley. Bartz had his Yani alto (I want to say it's an A991, but couldn't tell if it was brass or silver against the club's stage lighting) and, what looked like an SC991. Of course, he had no difficulty in switching between both horns. Yeah, I know, he's a major pro. But remembering him playing both those horns, made me think that I should spend at least, if not equal, time playing the alto as well as the Antigua when I practice.

Great show, by the way.
 

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I've enjoyed this thread, as I've been enjoying my A. Sop. For 7 years already. I've found the same problem switching saxes ( ESP. Sop) in needing to lighten up a little going from smaller to bigger horns. You will want to practice the horns equally that you're performing with until muscle memory takes over and your body adjusts to each horn when you pick it up without you thinking. Not a bad situation to be in with the wonderful family you're putting together!
Have fun, and happy playing!
 

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In the meantime I'm going to obtain a Vandoren Traditional 2.5 reed to see how that works with the Kessler Custom mpc. The ZZ 2.5 works okay with the Kessler, but I think I might get a little better results with the Traditional; it might be a bit stiffer than the ZZ.
I've been really pleased with the pairing of the Kessler Pro Soprano 5 MP with Vandoren blue box 2.5s (on my Kessler Custom Deluxe) -- a clear, pure sound which has drawn compliments from a number of players.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yeah, the Kessler is a good mouthpiece, for sure. But I've since moved on to a LeBayle 8* with a ZZ 2.5. I feel like I have better control over the high notes, and the the lower notes have a richer sound with this setup. Anyway, just my opinion base on what ears tell me; don't mean to start up a controversy over mouthpieces with anyone. I like Kessler and their products. They're honest and down to earth. Anyway again, I enjoy playing my Antigua. The idea of getting a Yani is not an imperative, but more of a curiosity. Sounds stupid, but I just don't have the cash for G.A.S., and the Antigua is a great value for what I think will become a great in the minds of the players that use them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well, it's been a year since my first post. It's time for an update. There's no doubt in my mind that the 590 (4290RC) is a very nice horn because I just can't seem to put it down. So much so, that' I'm neglecting my A991. It's my go-to horn for my jazz improv theory and jazz combo classes. The horn is holding up very well.

But I will admit that there has been a couple of nits about the fit and finish. One rod had to be tightened on occasion when it interfered with the the G#/Ab key mechanism. I tighten every now and them, no big deal. It just forces me to regular maintenance on the horn every month along with cleaning the mouthpiece. The curved neck is a bit difficult to take off, and sometimes it wobbles. But this doesn't affect the sound/tone (which is great) or playability.

Compared to my A991, the Yani's fit and finish is better, and that might not be a fair comparison to the Antigua because the A991 is an alto, not a soprano. But I do think it's indicative of the overall craftsmanship of both horns. Handmade vs. CAD (if I'm correct in the assumption of the Antigua's build process). This doesn't mean I'm unhappy with my sop; I play it more than the Yani. That's probably because I'm addicted to the sop's tone. But, then again, I'd like to get a Yani SOP, most like one of the new black SC991's from Kessler. That's not going to happen anytime soon. The Antigua is fine, and I can live with it very well. And even if I did get the SC991, I'd keep my 4290 as my straight vs. curved option.

Another observation is that when Yanagisawa came out with their first sop, they probably took a lot of heat as being "Made in Japan," and weren't all that worthy of any kind of respect that they have now, including S6s from the past. Maybe all that is changing for Antigua as well. Just something to consider. There's always the psychological effect of branding; is Selmer really better than the other Big Three makers? I think it's pretty much subjective. Not to say that the Antigua sop's fit and finish is anything like a Yani or Selmer, but I think it's getting there.

-Steve
 

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But I will admit that there has been a couple of nits about the fit and finish. One rod had to be tightened on occasion when it interfered with the the G#/Ab key mechanism. I tighten every now and them, no big deal. It just forces me to regular maintenance on the horn every month along with cleaning the mouthpiece.
Consider removing the rod and keys to see if they will rotate freely about the rod. It could be that there is friction in the mechanism that is slowly backing out the rod.

Thanks for sharing the update.

Enjoy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks Dr. G. I'll check that out. I'm not much of a repair person. I've been thinking about contact Scott Granlund, here, in Seattle to have him give it a once over as soon as I get some extra cash. The neck's cork is going to be in for an upgrade.
 
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