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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
I've had my 4290RC now for a few weeks shy of two years; it seems like I've had it much longer for some reason. Anyway, I actually stopped playing it for the last few months, and spent much of my playing time using my A991. For some reason the sop just didn't feel right. I thought maybe that the key work was bit clunky in places, and that the tone got a little wonky. So I hung it up on its stand and started playing the alto for the last three months or so.

Anyway again, while my wife and I were on vacation two weeks ago, I thought I should take it into Scott Granlund in Seattle for a tune-up or whatever, thinking that he could do what's necessary to make it play right. I figured it probably needed a proper setup than what came from Kessler's. (Nothing against Kessler, mind you. They're great and I'd buy another horn from them any day.) I asked Scott to look it over and recommend what was needed to keep me happy with the horn.

When I handed the horn over to Scott, he gave it a cursory once over and found a leek in the lower C# key. Doh! He also mentioned that the keys in the upper stack and palm keys needed a bit of tweaking--the action was off--some of the keys were a bit heavy when holding them down; some were too light, especially the octave key. He should have it all tuned up sometime this week. I can't wait to get it back. And once I do, my A991 will be headed his way. I've had that horn about five years now, and haven't bothered to bring it into the shop. But it's overdue for a tune-up as well, even though it plays well enough.

I'll post a follow-up when I get the sop back.
 

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Hey Steve,
First up, thanks for these posts. I'm considering buying an Antigua soprano and its really helpful to see someone give their experience over a course of time with it. If you don't mind, I had a few questions considering your substantial experience with it:

1. I'm considering either the SS4290RC or SS3286BQ. Given the current price of both and since the SS4290RC comes with a Kessler mouthpiece while the other doesn't, figure it'd maybe worth the price difference to just go for the next version up. From your experience, would you recommend the upgrade? Have you noticed much of a difference with the "red brass" version vs. not? Also, would you miss the high G if it wasn't there?

2. You said in an earlier post that you still liked the Kessler mouthpiece as a starting point. Given where you are now, do you still feel the same or is there another mouthpiece you would recommend as a starting point?

3. I've read that someone had an issue removing the neck piece because the metal was "soft" (http://forum.saxontheweb.net/archive/index.php/t-96571.html). Have you had a similar experience with your Antigua?

Thanks in advance!
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
I got my sop back from Scott Granlund last week and used it in a jazz recital at the Music of the Northwest (mcnw.org) last Saturday. I used it on Moondance. But didn't really have much time to practice between picking it up from Scott and Saturday night. So that didn't give me much time to really play the horn that I would have liked to have. But I did notice that the new setup/tune up was a lot different from before. But there were a few things I had to get used to because the action is now a lot more smooth and even, which for me is a big deal; I don't want to be fighting the mechanics of the horn and have to adjust my actions accordingly when I'm playing. I think a smooth action across the range of the horn is crucial to ease-of-playing. The player should be focused on the horns so much as the sound your making and the ideas that your expressing. That last part is tough enough when you're on a learning curve with playing this type of music, let alone fighting the horn's action.

I haven't been focused on playing sop too much before I sent the horn in. So, the two or three days I played it before the recital, I felt like I was struggling with getting the sound that I wanted. I think that my chops weren't as conditioned for playing the sop compared to all the work I had been doing with my alto. As I mentioned earlier, the action was buttery, you gotta love it. So that took a little effort to control as I was sliding through all the keys and found myself compensating for what was no longer there in the way, i.e. an uneven action where it took a little more effort to press on a key and not on others.

Anyway, I was practicing for a few hours on Sunday, Monday, and yesterday, and really am quite surprised by the tonal resonance that I'm now enjoying! I think a lot of that has to due with the new C# pad in the lower stack--C, C#, B, and Bb are a whole lot easier to play, pretty effortless with a nice deep, warmish tone. As an aside, I was playing a resurfaced Vandoren Java 2.5 instead of the usual ZZ 2.5 (I ran out of the ZZs) on the LeBayle 8*. This turned out to be a nice combination that gave great results. I'd like to do a comparison test between these two reeds, but only after playing the Java for a couple of months. This is sick stuff. I'm turning into a saxophone nerd!

Anyway again, I'm totally amazed by the new setup with this horn. It's a different beast in a lot of appreciable ways--the ways that really count. Scott did mention that the adjustments were very delicate so be careful with the way I handle it. I wasn't sure how to take that. Was it a reflection on the build quality? Or was it a subtle hint that I might be a bit ham-fisted when taking it out of its case and handling it when cleaning it an putting it back. In any case, I a bit more careful with how I handle it when setting it up and breaking it down.

It's a great horn for the money, especially when you keep it tune-up.

Would I like a new S991 or better still, a new SC991? Yeah. I love my A991; it's a player. But the SC991 is around $3900.00 at Kessler's, and there's no "demo" pricing. Right now that's keep me out of the market. I think it was maybe a year ago that Dave had the SC listed as "demo" for around $2800.00. Things change really change in our new economic environment. Oh well. I wish, I wish, I wish... But I'm considering looking at Kessler's curvy when it comes out. Uggghhhh.

Oh, I'm taking my A991 into Scott this morning. It's in bad need of a tune up as I've been playing non-stop for about four or five years. It needs a high F# pad and one other that I can't remember where as well as some key adjustment, and new neck cork.
 

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Steve, just ordered the Antigua SS4290RC myself ... before I read these postings. Currently have a Yamaha YSS-475 which I am not overly pleased with ... especially the left hand configuration .. had it for 2 years and I still get hung up ... nice playing horn though ... but I wanted to start looking at a replacement ....specifically a yani S992 ...but the almost $5k price tag was a real show stopper. Spoke with a few different people at Kessler and was leaning towards the Kessler model. Found many good postings about the horn but also a few postings regarding some negativity. Plus, an old guy like me really reacts negatively to the "Made in Vietnam" aspect of the horn. So, since my initial desire was for a yani, I opted towards the Antigua as a cad copy of a yani ...
My tenor is a 1973 Mark VI and my alto is an A-991(1 year old tomorrow) ....
Looking forward to taking a few days next week (supposedly shipped today) and really comparing the two horns ... I figure if I dig the Antigua I can sell the 475 for close to what the Antigua ran me. If I don't care for it, Kessler is GREAT at offering a 3 day trial ... so let's see what goes!
Just an aside, one thing I have only learned recently ... as you see I have been playing my Mark VI tenor for over 40 years and had a school model the previous 5 or 6. was always a tenor player ... I have been wracking my brains out trying to figure out why this Yammie soprano was sounding like a kazoo on steroids ... I started back on long tones and tone matching over larger intervals. Listening to Grover and loving his tone. Listening to Coltrane and hating his soprano tone .. In fact mine was more Coltrane than Grover style. A slew of mouthpieces and reeds entered and left this studio. Finally an Epiphany! I have been trying to play the soprano like the rock and roll tenor I have been playing for over 40 years. Giving it as much air as the mpc would take .. kazoo after kazoo ... wrong wrong wrong !! ...She's a different lady and needs to be treated as such ...even when playing rock and roll !!! So I have backed way off on my definition of a Forte sound on this horn and have truly been impressed what that has done ...
It is true what they say ... soprano sax is a different animal than the other horns. Just recently saw a youtube video by Walter Beasley saying that exact thing ...

So anyway, maybe we'll be keeping this thread going for a while ... or else I may start a new one title YSS-475 vs. Antigua 4290 RC ... this should be fun! Looking forward to next week!
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Allen, from my posts you can tell I've been pretty happy with my 4290, especially since I got it back from my tech, Scott Granlund, a few months ago. I think it plays a lot better than when I first got it two years ago. So a good setup is a good thing with these horns; not to knock Kessler's or anything, they're great when it comes to doing business and supporting their customers.

Yeah, not that I've played a lot of different sopranos, but they are a different beast (probably a bad analogy) altogether, especially when switching between a bigger horn due to the change in embouchure between the two. I find that when going from alto to soprano or the other way around, if I don't compensate for the difference in embouchure, I tend to squeeze too much on the reed, making it difficult to get the tone that I want. So I try to practice with both horns during each session, keeping my embouchure open without putting too much pressure on the reed for each instrument.

Sometimes I fantasize about a new Yanagisawa curved, but the price makes it unaffordable for my budget. But the Antigua certainly makes up for it the more I play it. Yeah, there's been a stigma attached to Taiwanese horns in the past. But from I've been reading on this forum, I think most players have accepted them as well-made horns that are good for stage performances. I can only imagine that Yanagisawa and Yamaha suffered from the same stigma in the '50s, '60s, and '70s.
 

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Steve, received my Antigua yesterday...sending it back tomorrow ... not for me ... nice tone, perhaps better than my 475, but the key work doesn't work for me ...won't get into it to deeply ...just feel the 475 fits my hands better ...especially the pinky keys ... really glad you like yours and good luck with it! Kessler has been FANTASTIC to work with and they are taking it back totally without question. they say this is the first one to be returned! I believe it since it does play nice ...just that I will never get use to, what I feel, is an awkward key layout ...

Best of luck with yours! super glad you are happy with it ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
I completely understand, Allen. Comfort is everything to me: the less I have to focus on ergos the more I can focus on tone and presence. That's why I chose my A991 over the 82z. The black lacquer 82z that I play tested had a sweet distinctive tone and was beautiful looking. But the lower pinky keys were a stretch to reach; not overwhelmingly so, but enough to be uncomfortable for me where I was very conscious of the reach so-much-so that it was a distraction. I'll admit that I had my heart set on the Yani anyway, but I needed to compare it to a horn that had a great reputation, quality build and satisfying tone to be sure of my decision. I didn't have access to a Mk VI, and that was okay because it was way out of my price range and couldn't justify that when I could get an equally great horn at a more affordable price. The Yani's ergos were perfect, and I mean perfect, for me.

Yeah, so comfort is everything. Don't blame you one bit for your decision. Let me know what you end up with...
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Well, I was at a practice session last Thursday for our class concert at the Music Center of the Northwest this coming Saturday, and I knocked my sax stand over. My 4290 was on the peg and went down with it. Ughhh. And ouch. A big ouch. The G# key go trapped under the C# articulation in the left-hand pinky cluster/table and knocked everything out of alignment. Upon first inspection, the lower stack leaked like a sieve.

This last Monday I brought the horn to my tech, Scott Granlund. I explained what happened and check the keys and looked down the bore and found that the impact had caused a post to push in on the body (in the area of the G#/G tone holes), which he was kind of weird because of the horn's ribbed construction. It appeared to be a very slight dimple but can be repaired. The horn needs to be stripped down, the dimple pushed out, and the affected tone holes might or will need to be leveled (I hope that doesn't affect intonation), and the leaks fixed. Ugghhh. I've known Scott for several years and he's a champ with repairs. I'm just hoping the horn plays as well as it did (maybe better (a big hope)) than it did before the knock-down. I have really enjoyed playing this horn, even if it's not the coveted S991. Yep, I'm going through sop withdrawals.

The takeaway from this episode: never, ever place your saxophone stand anywhere near your left or right foot; keep it out in front of you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Ouch. You WILL keep us posted, I trust. DAVE
I will, Dave. It's going to be about three or four weeks before I get it back as the tech is out on vacation. I'm hopin' the repair goes well. I've really grown into this horn over the last three years, and as much as I'd like an S991 or SC model, I can't afford to buy one to replace the Antigua. Although, I'm working on a strategy to get one or the other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
I got my sop back from the shop this morning. All is good. Happiness reigns once again! Scott Granlund (Granlund Woodwind Repair in Seattle) made the repair. $150. You gotta love this guy. He straightened the body at the low key posts, and made sure the G, G#, and F# tone hole lined up with the pads. And perfectly. This horn feels great under my fingers, better than when I first bought it. Last year I took to Scott for a tune-up. There was a clicking sensation coming from the lower stack rods; it was a screw that kept loosening up at the lower end of a rod and brushed up against key or something. Scott fixed that problem permanently. The was much more comfortable to play than when I first bought it.

Now, the horn feels even better, especially at its lower end G through Bb. Everything is smooth. Pretty much like my A991. The tone hasn't changed. It all comes out the why you want to define it.

I've also been thinking about buying another Antigua sop, the F# curved straight, as a backup in case there's another mishap.

I think I went through some sort of mild withdrawal for the last few weeks. Playing the alto was getting a little monotonous; I missed the sop. There's something in their tone that I find alluring that the alto doesn't resonate with me. (Although I do enjoy playing my alto. The sop doesn't have what resonates with my alto.)

Anyway the horn's ergos feel much improved since it took its fall. It's a joy to play even if my sop chops haven't been exercised in 4 weeks.
 

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Glad to hear you got the horn back better than ever! I can definitely empathize with the feelings of withdrawal that coincide with a horn going to the shop.
 

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Good to hear the happy ending! I've had my 590 (same horn) for ten years, now. Zero trips to the shop and the pads are still good. I play it a lot, too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Good to hear the happy ending! I've had my 590 (same horn) for ten years, now. Zero trips to the shop and the pads are still good. I play it a lot, too.
I was playing it in my jazz combo class last night, and confirmed that it plays better than before. Yep, the Antigua 42XX/590/589 series are keepers. I don't think I'll get too hung up on paying $3K+ for a new S991 anytime soon. Although I would like to get a curvy.
 

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While I would love to have a Yani, it ain't gonna happen (we po'). I'm really satisfied with my 590. Eventually, I want Joe at Soprano Planet to work with me on a custom mouthpiece that plays like my Bari but with a little less resistance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
While I would love to have a Yani, it ain't gonna happen (we po'). I'm really satisfied with my 590. Eventually, I want Joe at Soprano Planet to work with me on a custom mouthpiece that plays like my Bari but with a little less resistance.
There is hope on the horizon for a Yani sop. Maybe. My wife mentioned that maybe in a couple Xmas' I can get one. But I'm not holding my breath.

I've been using a Lebayle Jazz 8* with my Antigua. Nice mpc. It's open and keeps the horn blowing freely and warm. I've had for, I think, three years; it was the first thing I replaced when I got the sop from Kessler (kept the Rico that came with it). But yeah, I like the custom option on mouthpieces instead of off-the-shelf, and don't mind paying the extra ducats for it because I believe/think that the mpc-reed combination is most important. And, btw, it's all subjective anyway. There's no substitute for skill. In my opinion, not that I'm a professional.
 
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