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Discussion Starter #1
I spoke to Dave Kessler at Kessler Music the other day, inquiring into purchasing my first tenor sax. After discussing the Yanagisawa T901 he followed it by saying that everyone who comes in and play-tests the T901 and the T991 always buys the T991. He went on to discuss the richer tone, etc. and the fact that if you are in the market for the T901 then it's only 25% more to get the T991, which he felt was a much better horn. So, a $2K+ horn leads to discussion of a $3K horn. Dave did say that the Yani's hold their value very well.

When I explained that I was just a hobbyist and played for my own enjoyment he then suggested that I consider his own hand-made horns as well, at $1895. He went on at length about the workmanship and quality put into the horns, and even said that many people who come in with the money and intention of buying the T991 leave with his hand-made horn instead, implying that his hand-mades sound/play as good at the T991 to many people.

I've dealt with Dave before, in purchasing an Antigua Winds soprano awhile back, and he treated me fairly at that time. So I believe he's a straight shooter, and more enthusiastic than dogmatic when talking about his house brand.

I have only found one or two people on these forums who stated that they bought one of Dave's hand-made saxes, so there's not much to go on as to reputation of the model. Is there anyone out there with first hand experience with the Kessler hand-made tenors who cares to chime in? Or someone who compared them to the Yani's and went that way instead?

If I'm going to go with a "non Big 4" sax, there are dozens of brands to choose from, each with their own loyal followings. I can read the comments on those forums very easily, and don't want to cloud the issue on my primary question here, which is to get some feedback on the Kessler hand-made tenor.

My alto is a Cannonball, and I've been happy with it, but there were a lot of reviews of Cannonball Ravens on this site when I was looking, and I was able to play a Stone Series alto (non-Raven) before I bought it, so I had some first-hand experience to go by. Since I can't get my hands on a Yani tenor or Kessler hand-made here in Central Florida (without purchasing one first) I was hoping to get a little more input from others before going the purchase (with return guarantee) route.

Thanks in advance.
 

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I own the Handmade red brass tenor. I am a high school student but I play enough to the point that my selmer 1244 just didn't do it for me anymore. My dad agreed to let me get the horn for my 16th birthday on the condition I was sure I'd play the horn through college.

I really do love the horn. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, it really provides a marvelous tone to my ears. There's not much I can say besides that i am blown away by the horn and would encourage it to anyone who would want a horn to play but has a budget. I can tell how special the horns are to Kessler because the quality of the horn speaks for itself. Though I'm certainly still an amateur player, I can see this horn help me progress as I get a clearer idea of what I want. I'm nowhere close to maxing out the capabilities of this horn, and I can't wait until I can. I say go for it, because if my experience is anything to get an estimate off of, you won't regret it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, BradWit. How did you choose that sax? Did you play-test one in Las Vegas, or just go by looking at it online and talking to Dave Kessler? I guess what I'm asking is, with the tons of saxes out there, how did you connect with that one?
 

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I had essentially wanted a new horn once I'd been playing my old one for about....three months. ;) It was so beat up and frustrating I just kept my ears open for anything. My sax teacher mentioned Kessler once in passing, and I just recalled the name. I started browsing their site among other places, and the competitive pricing as well as the respect for the name as I searched SOTW and other sources kept me interested. i knew we had a set price cap, I knew how important music would be to me in the future, so I wanted a horn that could play well and stand the test of time. I sent a few e-mails to Dave, called a few times, and he essentially told me up front that in his opinion I didn't need a play-test. He was so confident in his horn and by extension his family name that he said that I could order it, have it arrive, play-test it at home, and if I wasn't thrilled, I could send it back within their 3-day trial period. I was very careful about my chice, knowing that the horn I chose would be with me for quite some time. Upon receiving the horn, I'm positive I chose the right one.

All in all, you've dealt with him before, so you know how he operates. If you have the chance to go out and test it in their shop, then by all means. If distance is an issue, I'd ask more careful questions and then decide whether to take a "leap of faith" (it won't be one IMO, it's an amazing horn) or not. In my mind, it's more of where you'll be blown away by the horn. ;)
 

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I don't have a handmade, but Custom, and I'm not happy with because I think the metal qualitiy is poor. After 5 years the horn cannot sustain every day playing without maintenance every 3 months. That's a joke really. My Son's '26 Chu can be played every day without saying a peep!

Are the HandMade's the same? Dunno. Wouldn't recommend finding out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The handmades use red brass, but I don't know how much difference that makes. Sorry to hear about the issues you've had with the custom. I was considering them at one point, based up positive comments posted in this forum.
 

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Yes, I bought one because of all the recommendations as well on this site. However, the recommendations, or the people who gave them had no ability to speak to the instruments ability to hold-up over time.

Personally, I have found that there are way too many awesome vintage horns where I would not consider ANY new horn. King Super20, Buescher 400 THC, King Zephyr, Conn 10M, Conn Chu, Conn Tranny to name my favorites. I have an excellent tech as well who's an expert on vintage horns, so that makes vintage an easy choice for me. If you don't have that I understand the desire for new, but unless you buy from the big four there are certainly no guarantees about what's going to happen to the instrument in the future.

Best of luck!
 

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Can't speak to the "hand-mades" but I bought my grandson a Kessler Custom alto when he was 11. He is now 15, playing in his high school's jazz band, marching band, etc. I had to replace a pivot screw for one of the long rods (it backed out and was lost). Dave Kessler mailed me a new one and I put it it. Then I played the horn and it was solid as a rock with tone matching any of my own altos.

I had a Kessler Custom tenor, too, but that wasn't my voice so I gave it to my daughter who has been playing it in several different adult bands. It is holding together well, just as is the alto. DAVE
 

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Dave, how much time does your grandson practice? My son practiced for about an hour a day for three years and it was fine. Now, 5 years into he plays for 2 hours per day and the horn cannot hold-up.

I don't believe it's a "copy" issue either. Bad metal is bad metal. Now the HandMade is a different model, so maybe the problem has been corrected. But my guess is your Grandson hasn't logged enough hours on it to find its breaking point if you will.
 

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The horn is not sitting in its case while the boy plays video games. I know he practices regularly with it, played in the band every day (school is out now) since he got it, marched with it, took weekly lessons with it, so it is being played. Last Saturday I went through it with a leak-light to do some routine checking and it was solid. It has required a few minor things over time but nothing that raised concerns. The tenor didn't get that much use when I owned it but now my daughter is playing it.

What exactly went out of adjustment or failed for yours? You say "bad metal" but what does that mean? Are the posts falling off or moving? Are the tone holes folding inward? Are the key cups bending out of alignment? Are the bearing surfaces failing?

For me the reality is that unless one wants to spend a ton for one of the Big Four, if you want to buy NEW, it will be one of the inexpensive Taiwan/China/Indonesia-made saxophones. Among those, I trust the Kesslers to be competitive. I sure didn't think the brass or the construction used in the Kesslers I've owned or played was inferior to other similar horns. And, I am familiar with new and vintage USA and French-made saxophones (I own them), but even those require some tweaking over time. And some kids are not into the vintage thing - some are.

I tried to introduce vintage to both of my older grandsons but they much preferred the feel of modern saxophones. My other grandson is now a senior at the Air Force Academy and still plays the Yanagisawa 880 alto I gave him when he started high school. Both of them know how to take care of their stuff. DAVE
 

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What's happening is the horn is constantly going out of adjustment. The keys bend and the valves don't close as good as they should.One time the neck needed to be resized so it would fit back snug back into the body. My tech said he's really never seen a 4-5 year old instrument have a neck that loose. He said, "It should last twice that long." He also said, "This instrument will constantly require adjustments." He believed that when he graduates HS he'll need a better instrument. He certainly does not consider it anything but a starter instrument. When purchased it was talked about being an intermediate level horn, and he doesn't agree.

My tech is as good as they come too, working on horns for many pro's in the Chicagoland area, and is an expert with many vintage brands. He's also a super nice guy. He let my Son test play his Chu, 10M and Mark VI tenor so he could see what these vintage horns are all about....with nothing to gain since he wasn't trying to sell them. I asked him and he said sure.

So you see, it's not my opinion. My opinion doesn't really matter, what do I know:mrgreen:

I wasn't trying to say your Grandson never takes his instrument out of his case, but on the other hand there are very few that are as dedicated to their music as my oldest Son at his age (16). The boy knows how to woodshed; over the summer he'll be shedding for over 20 hours/wk, so he's bound to stress the instrument more than the average kid, and his Kessler just doesn't last before I'm taking it back to my tech, 3-4 months is typical. It would be less if all he played was Alto, but he plays Tenor and Soprano as well.

By he way, he has three Alto's. Pan Am, Bundy I and the Kessler. He likes the keywork on the Kessler, most modern of course, but the Bundy is a better instrument in my opinion, and my tech's[rolleyes] and I paid $75 for it and $200 for overhaul. In fact, I think I should just sell the thing so I can stop paying to have it kept up.

Take care.
 

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So he determined that since the neck tenon is soft metal (which it is - my Kessler tenor needs a new tenon) that rest of the instrument's metal is soft. He is wrong b/c they are not the same.

The keywork on my Kessler is very strong as is the metal of the body. Try to bend a key with your hand and I bet you can't. I tried and could not.

Just b/c someone has worked on saxophones for X amount of years doesn't mean he knows everything about every horn made to date.

Also, Bundys are known to have soft keywork.
 

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Well, that surprises me, although I suppose anything is possible. I can't imagine what is so different from the Kessler Custom that it would show that kind of wear and inability to keep itself together. I mean, I'm kinda of the opinion that most of the Asian-made instruments (excluding the hi-end Japanese stuff, which I think are terrific instruments) are a lot alike. I jokingly say sometimes that I see one factory in each country spitting out the same product just putting different names on it.

I believe that much depends on the owner of the brand, though - some importers take more care than others to ensure that the instrument with THEIR name on it is the best that factory can produce - OR that it has additional features that less-caring importers don't bother with. That's why I'm a fan of the Kessler business. I know them and trust them to do the right thing with their brand name. But, there is no excuse for the ills you describe, unless the reason is poor handling. I'll leave that up to you and your son to sort out. And that is not meant to be an allegation, only a possibility, given that I don't know you. I hope your son makes the best use of his practice and turns into a star! DAVE
 

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I have a 4 1/2 year old Kessler Custom Deluxe tenor with no such issues. Therefore, I'm as surprised as Dave and Thad. Keywork is solid. I can't imagine bending these keys. Can't comment on the neck tenon specifically but mine is doing fine thus far.

That being said, and at risk of hijacking this thread any further, which now, with this issue, has nothing to do with the Kessler hand-made, I would be calling Dave and/or Chuck about the issues. They are notorious for customer satisfaction even this far removed from the initial point of sale. Dave went so far as to fix intonation issues of a second-owner soprano several years after original sale was completed. (I just don't remember the details at the moment and don't have time to search up the thread at the time.)
 

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I know this thread is several months old, but I stumbled upon it because I was looking for a couple back up horns. It appears to me that wwjdwithca has posted in many of the Kessler forums about his dissatisfaction with the horn, but haven't seen lots of other complaints about Kessler horns. FWIW it is worth, I owned a Mark VI which had adjustment issues every few months for the entire time I owned it. I wouldn't say that it indicative of all Selmers, but that horn drove me nuts and I sold it. I have never been a huge fan of a lot of the vintage keywork and unless the tech is going to replace and move some things they just won't work for me. I am still thinking of looking into a Kessler horn as a backup. Guess we'll see what happens.
 

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I purchased a Kessler Custom Tenor used earlier this year. It was a good enough horn although it had not been taken care of. Someone had been working on the neck tenon and screwed it up. I had it re-padded and the tenon replaced. After that it played pretty good. The horn did not seem cheap but I have realized I am just hooked on my Super 20 and nothing else works for me. Even my Selmer T100 which plays great now, takes a lot of getting used to when playing it in our community band. I am just so settled in with the key work on the 20 that anything else just feels strange.
 

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I know this thread is several months old, but I stumbled upon it because I was looking for a couple back up horns. It appears to me that wwjdwithca has posted in many of the Kessler forums about his dissatisfaction with the horn, but haven't seen lots of other complaints about Kessler horns.
Your right, I am in the minority, but I think it's because the horn is used as a backup or as a student horn for the people who think highly of the instrument. I too thought highly of the instrument until my Son put a lot of miles on it, and now the thing needs to be adjusted every other month.

He has three alto's; the Kessler, a Selmer Bundy I (Buescher Aristocrat), and 30's-40's Pan Am. The Pan Am is he best horn by far, and I paid $175 for it as a backup to the Kessler. The Bundy is a tremendous horn and I paid $75 for it. Good, full tone, and solid construction. Just an excellent student horn, or marching band instrument.

In fairness to the Kessler, it does play up-and-down the scales the most pure of the three, but man it just does not stay in adjustment long, nor is the sound anything to write home about: Sounds like a Yamaha, bland and neutral, and unresponsive.

So yes, I would recommend it as a backup for a classical musician, but not for a Jazz musician at all. I am a Conn junkie when it comes to jazz horns. I personally think their sounds are second-to-none, and they are very inexpensive considering their tremendous sound. To my point:
Check this out:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/PAN-AMERICA...ultDomain_0&hash=item1e688a2179#ht_500wt_1413

You could probably get this horn for $150. That horn is a MONSTER! That's a Conn that is based on the 6M, the horn that The Bird played for so many years. Notice the left pinky cluster and the single-sided bell keys clearly marking the horn post 1930 model (don't pay attention to the serial numbers on PanAm's, don't match). Of course, you won't get the underslung octave key or the micro-tuner on the Pan Am versions, but still, one helluva horn for $150.

Sorry, I need to simmer down, those old Conns make my blood pressure rise:bounce: I'm ready to go buy that one, like I need another instrument[rolleyes]

Take care.
 

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The truth is, there aren't that many great saxophone techs. Even some of the most reputable ones aren't that good. A statement like this:
FWIW it is worth, I owned a Mark VI which had adjustment issues every few months for the entire time I owned it.
goes to show some techs just have no clue. I don't know the specifics of your issues with that VI docrob, but any knowledgeable tech with a SERIOUS intention to fix those issues would probably have tackled the task with success. It may have required some extensive work, maybe even a full overhaul with key swedging and a complete pad job, but I seriously doubt this MKVI was doomed.

So wwjdwithca, you may want to keep this in mind. I know you said your tech does jobs for pros in the Chicago area, but a lot of pros have a high tolerance for bad setups.
 

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So wwjdwithca, you may want to keep this in mind. I know you said your tech does jobs for pros in the Chicago area, but a lot of pros have a high tolerance for bad setups.
Yes, I can imagine that to be true. However, my Tech is well known in the Chicagoland area for his expertise, and there are people much closer that these guys could use instead, so that doesn't make sense. Furthermore, I have had plenty of experience with bad tech's........believe me. In fact, the reason I have three alto's is an extremely arrogant tech told me my Pan Am needed a total overhaul and wasn't worth the investment. He estimated $600-$700 worth of work. I bought a different horn and left the Pan-AM in the closet. A year and half later I had my current tech look at it, he made it operational for $25[rolleyes]. One of the people he does work for is a local area HS jazz band director, and plays a Super Action 80, with extremely light touch because he comes from a legit background and chooses this guy to take care of his instruments. In his own collection of tenors alone he has a Chu Berry, a 10M, a Super 20, The Martin, and a Mark VI. Several of which he let my Son play, and all of which are monsters. So not only is he good, he's a great guy as well. How many 15 year olds get to play those instruments to see how he likes them?

So your right, bad tech's abound, I think I've used every one of them:mrgreen:
 
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