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Eastern Music Ref 54 Unlacquered Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Lets Start with the pictures first. The dark one is the Antigua ProOne.
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I did kind of a small research project on the ProOne and then a day by day as I was playing it, and wrote it up here: https://www.vesware.com/Saxophone/AntigueProOne6200.html
So, if you're considering this horn, there's at least some good links compiled there. I'll put most of the pertinent stuff below.

But anyway, the Eastern is my current horn, and I'm just seeing how others compare. The most recent challenger was a B&S 2001 Series, the one before that was a Selmer TS600, a 70's Cleveland prior to that. I keep the better one and return or sell the one that I don't like. The ProOne is the latest challanger.

The things that attracted me to trying it were a lot of interesting features, as follows, from Peter Ponzol:
1. Uses a custom brass which contains a higher amount of copper to match what use to be done with the French saxophones in the 50's. Which should give a warmer sound with more projection. (Eastern Music is a Rose Brass, high copper, and I do like the response of that instrument).
2. It's cryogenically treated. Apparently that's a way to destress the metal and improve the tone.
3. Reviewers say that it's substantial, heavy, and that gives it a darker tone. Feeling solid is a good thing.
4. It's a new neck design to give good tuning, and it actually raises the mouthpiece higher. That's good for me because I'm tall, but Peter also says that gets you to tilt your head up and open up your wind pipe. Combined with having two attachment rings, maybe my support harness won't need to be up so high.
5. There is a G# lifter mechanism. Every saxophone I've had the G# can stick because it's spring lift. This is a mechanical lift. Keilworth sax's, which Peter worked on also, have the same feature.
6. The five tone holes on the bell are all ringed, similar to rolling the tone holes. But this is the only instrument that has a mixture of drawn holes on top, and the ringed holes on bottom. Peter says that provides a more uniform sound across the full range and makes the lower notes easier to play. It also provides a consistent resistance from top to bottom.
7. Some of the bell tone keys also use trident arms, patented, with adjusters on them to stabilize the large keys and allow adjusting to close any leaks and stop flutter. This is one step beyond the double arms that you sometimes see on other saxophones.

It did come with a mouthpiece (looks just like a Yamaha 5C), one reed, neck strap, cork grease, cloth wipe and a swab (silk?).
Full rib construction.
Neck to body perfect fit.
Craftsmanship looks good.
Low D pad stuck pretty bad (hmmmm...)
1. The pearls on the keys are more dished compared to my 54. My fingers like it.
2. The springs are stiffer and feel very uniform across all keys. When first playing it I caught myself not pressing enough a few times.
3. The pinkie keys on both hands are well placed. Rollers work nice. On the right hand the keys are actually raised higher off the saxophone, than my 54, about an inch. I like where they fall. I don't need to reach as much. I do have big hands, so this will be nice for people with smaller hands. The left hand table keys are a bit closer, so less reach for those also.
4. Immediately feels comfortable.
5. The key travel distance is pretty short across the board. Everything feels tight and solid; well put together.

Played it for a couple hours initially. No complaints. On middle D with all keys pressed sometimes I get an octave higher. With the slightly shorter key travels and stiffer springs I just needed to work on the timing of getting all the keys pressed. I had this problem before on my 54 when making fast transitions from middle B to middle D. It was a finger timing issue. If the timing is off you end up blipping the octave key open.

After 12 days of playing it:
The sticking low D did not going away. Once I un-stick it at the start of a play session it still sticks a bit, more with time, not enough to be annoying, and not like when it's sitting overnight. That's kind of ironic that it has the no stick linkage for the G# and the D# sticks consistently. That's even after I cleaned it multiple times.
Compared to the 54:
  • One of the fingers for Bb is more of a dud on the ProOne. The all fingers down middle D is also more of a dud on the ProOne.
  • The lighter spring force on the 54 definitely allows me to move faster.
  • The difference in placement of the table keys is noticeable, but I actually like the placement of the left hand table keys being a bit further away on the 54. On the ProOne sometimes it did feel cramped.
  • The sound is very comparable, with the ProOne being maybe a bit darker, but not by much.
  • The low Bb may be a smidge easier to initiate on the ProOne. Overtones are compareable.
  • The ProOne is slightly heavier. But without an accurate scale that's just a feel. Sometimes that's because of balance.
  • Intonation is good on both. I don't feel that I need to make any adjustments playing back and forth between one and the other.
  • The 54 is more free blowing.

So, I'm returning the ProOne and the Eastern Music survives another challenger. Obviously the sticking pad is a problem that shouldn't be there on a new horn, that's the main reason I'm returning it. At first I thought I liked the firmer springs, but they got old. I prefer the lighter feel of the 54. The 54 cost me $800, the ProOne $2000 including tax (that's a good deal). But all the whizbang features of the ProOne didn't really seem to translate to anything significantly better in playability or sound quality. That's not so much a dig at the ProOne as it is a positive commentary on the 54. Basically both good horns, with minor differences. Will the ProOne have better longevity? That I don't know.

The seller apologized for not catching the pad issue and offered a replacement, but with no advantages, and some clear disadvantage, and higher cost, I passed.

I think this will end my horn investigation. I had high expectations for the ProOne, thought it would be a keeper. I think at this point to get something "better", I'm looking at the big bucks, which I'm not willing to spend. $2000 was my limit. The thought has crossed my mind, well how good a used Yani, Yami or Selmer can you get for $2000. But not going down that road. Had enough headaches with used instruments. There was a previous Selmer T44 which was suppose to be in great shape, for $1700, NOT.

Hope you find this useful. Your mileage may vary.
 

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Eastern Music Ref 54 Unlacquered Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for sharing that, Ves.

FWIW, sticking pads and stiff springs are common on new horns, regardless of price, and easily fixed. Things such as tone character, response, ergonomics, and intonation are not so easily fixed. I look for the long term potential of a horn and dial in the adjustments in the first few months of getting to know a horn.

It‘s a good feeling to know that you’ve tried more than a few horns and are happy with what you’ve got. Enjoy your horn.
Yeah, I've had some sticky pads before, but not like this. I'd hit the key with enough force that would normally overcome the spring force plus some, which was pretty high, and it wasn't enough. My pinkie would just stop dead, I'd miss the note, and have to push harder. Not sure what the problem was. From what I could see the seat was off center, the pressure wasn't even around the pad, and it was sunk in more on one side. So, I think the pad was acting like a cork on one side, and I'm literally pulling it out; hard to describe. And that was one of the tone holes with a ring on it. Takes a lot of pressure to sink in the pad that deep over a relatively large surface area. It was just wrong, and appears to be that the pad is not parallel to the surface of the tone hole, aggravated by the high spring force. But if the spring force hadn't been that high, it probably would not have sealed all the way around.

So, you'd buy a pro level horn, and then fix it? Not me. I have a problem with having to fix brand new things. Especially expensive new things. Especially for no significant gain. The higher the price the less tolerant I am of defects. If it turned out to be so much better then maybe I would have gone for the exchange offer. But it's not; response, ergonomics, and intonation.

But yes, if you wanted to fix that pad and change out the springs, then it would just be that one of the Bb fingerings and the low D are stuffy. Otherwise, the ProOne is a nice instrument.

If anyone wants to buy one, they still have some on Ebay. That authorized dealer is having a year end closeout. But looks like the price went up. One is $2500 another for $3000. Ouch! Maybe they'll sell my return for less, after they fix it. Why the price difference? The $3000 one says it's Cryogenically treated, the $2500 doesn't say it is, but they are both the CA model, which on Antigua's site says is treated. So, don't know what that's about. But at that price, get you an Eastern Music for $800 and fix whatever is wrong with IT, if anything, and you'll be way ahead of the game.
 

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Eastern Music Ref 54 Unlacquered Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You don’t yet seem to understand how saxophones work. You don’t have to change out the springs to adjust their tension. And yes, you can just change out one pad for very little effort (or money). If the rest of the horn rings your bell, it’s a good way to go.

If the seat and steering wheel of your new car were in the wrong position, would you send it back?
No, I don't think you understand. It's not the pad, it's the alignment of the pad holder to the tone hole, and a new pad won't make any difference. But, I'm not going to go and start messing with holders, springs, or pads, or take it in to a shop to mess with them, whether that means replacing them, or bending them, or whatever.
You want to fix and adjust new horns, be my guest. I expect it to play out of the box and I don't care what brand it is. If it doesn't, it's gone. If a company doesn't have the Quality Control to insure that every instrument is flawless, at that price, I'm not interested.

If we're going to be using car analogies. Yeah, if I take a car for a test drive and find out there were some things broken on it, and some things I didn't like about it, I'm not buying that car, because I'm not buying a new car so it can sit in the shop. Is it just that car, was it assembled on a Monday.. I don't care. I'm not going to trade mine in when it doesn't have problems and performs just as well, and I have 0 payments remaining.
...
The Eastern Music (Yes Eastern, not Eastar); full rail construction, metal resonators, Italian leather, rose brass (higher copper content), blue springs, unlacquered, intended as a Selmer 54 copy, with a Eastern Music power neck. $800 new didn't have any issues, 8 months later still doesn't. And yes it actually has good intonation, and sound (but that's a personal preference). The point here is that the sound is similar enough to the ProOne... with my MP and reed and me playing it. And I don't know anything about Eastern Music, what factory they use, their reputation in the industry, etc.. I didn't originally buy it because of the name. I bought it based on listed features for the price. Value. You may make a different value judgement.

Brian, you want to believe it or not, that's up to you. But to say that the comparison is invalid... Why don't you go do a Youtube search for Eastern Music and have a listen to the videos that are up there about it. Regarding the B&S, I actually bought a B&S 2001 because you were one of the people who recommended it. It definitely had worse intonation than the Eastern. If one end was in, the other was out, and some of the middle notes were way off from one to the next. Had to do so much jumping around with voicing, it was ridiculous. And it was completely gone over before I bought it. Did I just get unlucky? Maybe, but it's gone, because it didn't live up to expectations and it didn't perform better than the Eastern.

And like I said. After six saxophones, I'm done searching, because if a $2000 ($2500/$3000/$5000 or whatever the non sale price is) instrument isn't leaps and bounds above an $800 dollar one, I'm not interested. And it's definitely not leaps and bounds, it's barely a match, with issues to boot. All the whizbang stuff doesn't matter much when basic stuff isn't right.

I would have been willing to bet the ProOne would have done circles around the Eastern, and it was going to be the new keeper. Ah well, it's not. And honestly, should it really be such a surprise? China and Taiwan make everything now, and everyone is swapping parts with everyone, and one Taiwan horn is just as likely to have the same parts on it as a different one, and the same factory makes them for multiple vendors. Technology is improving. Inexpensive doesn't necessarily mean cheap any more, necessarily.
 

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Eastern Music Ref 54 Unlacquered Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I’m sorry not sorry but the OP lost me when he states that the B&S didn’t “make it” compared to a completely generic horn made with slave labor wages. I know for a fact, his comparison will not hold up because I’ve own several EM horns and at least 8 B&S and to say the EM is a better horn is absolutely ridiculous puffery. Maybe he finds the horn is a good fit but those EM horns have no core and are not well built at all when compared to a well thought out design that produces better intonation, better build and frankly better resale value. I say “better”resell but that’s an understatement.
Mental note... Brian can get sax's at discount prices...

Well, now it's pooped on so I'll have to go cry in my soup.

Seriously, I'm not oblivious to the fact that the B&S and the ProOne general construction is more refined. The ProOne in particular has some serious credentials, which is why I tried it in the first place. And I get that you guys are like the braintrust of the saxophone world and I'm just a home hobby guy, play 10-20 hours per week. So, my opinion is nowhere near as refined, and I'm not suggesting you run out and sell your Selmers and Yanis and $20,000 saxophones. That's the two horns I had, I did the research, I told you how it came out.

Funny thing, last night, the seller suggested that I accept a replacement and they will even set up the springs for me on the new one, at no charge. Apparently they do have a full service shop there. Hmmm... Well, them doing it, and taking responsibility for the work, is a lot better than me taking it to some shop, paying for the repairs, and screwing up the warranty. But I asked him, how would we come to an understanding of where to put the spring forces? My guess is lower by about 40%. But if the ProOne is as well thought out as we would like to believe, then maybe, the higher spring forces are there because they are necessary. Those keys with the trident arms especially may have some mass. If the spring force is too low, maybe the action will be too slow. On the other hand, for the always closed holes, will they still seal properly? Just because they can do it, is it a good idea to do it? He couldn't answer that question and said he check with his senior tech.
 

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Eastern Music Ref 54 Unlacquered Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I’d recommend sticking with the EM since it works for you. Hopefully you’re a more solid player with a better idea of what to expect when buying a saxophone next time you grace us with a review…or whatever this was.
Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't meet your standards for a review? I'll be sure to check in with you as I progress, and ask you when you think it's OK to talk about my instruments on this site. Get over yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
After my brow beating here, I was like ***, I know some of these guys have Eastern Music horns, so someone else must have concluded they were decent horns. So, I did a quick search and found this:
One of your esteemed members talking about how good Eastern Music Instruments are, and that they are comparable to the higher end like.. Antigua and P. Muorawhatever. Hmmm.. imagine that.

So, me, Johnny Come Lately, with less than one year of play time, buys one before ever joining this forum, makes that same conclusion, independently, but my opinion is pooh poohed, because I don't have the credentials to have an opinion. The guy tells me I'm comparing Apples to Oranges, but when he says they are comparable in quality, it's ok, because he's got the credentials to say whatever he wants.

Whatever, I get it. There's something to be said for reputation, and I have none here. I wrote what I wrote, and I stand by my conclusion.

All I can say is, WAY TO ENCOURAGE NEW MEMBER PARTICIPATION!

My replacement ProOne is now on it's way, hopefully without the problems, and a lighter action, and I get to evaluate it all over again.
 
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