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Discussion Starter #1
I understand the Big Bs are seen as the best of the Aristocrats. Never owned one, but I just picked up my second Series III Aristocrat. I previously had a 1957 and this one dates from 1950. I was impressed with the 1957 and regret having sold it, so I'm looking forward to the 1950. Is the Big B so much better quality than Series III? I haven't found a good explanation and I'm curious why they command such higher prices (sometimes double the price of Series I or III). Thanks
 

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I believe it is just hype. I had 2 Series I, 2 Big B, TH&C and the horn that survived them all and almost anything else is my Series III. I had a lot of time to go head to head and that one was my clear favorite. I also have another TH&C but sound-wise I prefer the Series III Sr.Nr 347xxx.
 

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In my personal experience and preference the Big Bs always sounded better that any of the other series. I do feel quality of manufacture and build is equal.
JR
 

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There is a lot of confusion on this because the "Big B" refers to the engraving on the horn, which of course has nothing to do with how it plays or sounds. There were a couple of substantive changes during the run of Big B horns, so you cannot generalize about them. The earliest Big B was essentially the same as the series one Aristo. Same horn except for ribbon key guards and Big B engraving. Somewhere in the middle of the run, the bell flare got larger, but otherwise it was still the same body and probably nearly the same horn (I'm not so sure about this one). Then toward the last of the run (still Big B engraving), the bell flare was increased even more, the bell itself changed shape, and maybe there were some other changes. This is the '156' Big B. Around '49 or so, the Big B engraving was changed to a script style engraving. This is the "series III" (156) and, according to Gayle at vintagesax, it is exactly the same horn as the latest Big B, but with a different engraving.

I have two horns that bracket the Big B run, a series one and a 156. They are both great horns but definitely different. Here's my point:

The early Big B is a DIFFERENT horn than the latest Big B (156). So you can't refer to the Big B as though it is one specific horn.

To answer the OP's question, the 1950 Aristocrat with script engraving is a 156, the same horn as the Big B 156 (the later Big Bs), but somewhat different than the earliest Big B with the smaller bell flare. These are all great horns. I think the 156 (Big B and script-engraved "series III") have a bigger, more spread sound, and are more 'free-blowing' than the series one and early Big B, which have a more focused, centered sound. And yeah, those are very subjective terms. I can't really decide which I like more.

Bottom line: You can't go wrong with a 1950 '156' Aristocrat tenor. It's the same horn as the later Big B, but different from the earlier Big B. Prices are almost meaningless. ALL Bueschers of this vintage are way undervalued, so you'll be getting more than your money's worth as a buyer!

p.s. When I had my 156 tenor in to the tech for a couple of new pads he told me the horn was so powerful he was afraid he'd blow the windows out of the shop! Of course he was exaggerating, but his point is right on.
 

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There are two different Big B tenors; the early ones that are similar to a series I. It has a smaller bell flare, and the Big B's with a larger bell flare and a bend in the bell column, like the 156.

The early ones are usually more desirable, say 294xxx- 310xxx, or up to whenever the larger bell flare Big B was introduced.
 

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Now you know, Big B aficionados always imply early Big Bs to be the most outstanding, I mean com'on now!
 

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Now you know, Big B aficionados always imply early Big Bs to be the most outstanding, I mean com'on now!
Yup,the ones with the larger bell flare and slight bend in the bell are spread sounding
the earlier ones more focused,imo.
 

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The early ones are usually more desirable, say 294xxx- 310xxx, or up to whenever the larger bell flare Big B was introduced.
More desirable to whom?? Only to those who prefer the way the early ones sound and play. Read Sakshama's post. The early Big B is not more desirable to him. As I said I have a series one (same horn as the early Big B) and a 156 (same horn as the later Big B). Yeah, they are different and I can't say for sure which I prefer. I could see where many players would prefer one over the other, but can't say which is 'more desirable' overall.
 

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I should have said, "to me".
It's just my opinion everybody.
That makes sense. I probably lean toward the more focused sound of the earlier horn right now also, but for a long time I really liked that big, wide open tone quality of the 156. I played it instead of my MKVI for over a year. So I can see where a lot of players would like it. Those who prefer a Super 20 or a Conn to the VI, for example. If you prefer the VI, you'd probably like the earlier Aristocrat.

My point is, while it's tempting to separate the Aristocrats based on the engravings, that is not an accurate way to gauge the differences. The main change (as you point out) in the Aristocrat run came during the Big B run when the 156 larger bell flare was introduced, not between the 'art deco' series one and early Big B, or between the later Big B and script engraving.
 

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I'll keep my comments to a minimum because this is about tenors. I have a Big B alto (#320xxx) which I date to 1949, marked 140 on the back. I recently had it overhauled by John Frazier (honeyJ on SOTW) and it is by far the best playing alto I've ever played.

I own seven altos ranging from a mid-20's King up to Ref 54, including three Bueschers (TT, the Big B, and a TH&C), a Cigar Cutter, and a MKVI #110xxx.

It is ALL in how the particular horn is adjusted, in my opinion. Make the pads seal easily and I doubt if early, mid, or late matters much. DAVE
 

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It is ALL in how the particular horn is adjusted, in my opinion. Make the pads seal easily and I doubt if early, mid, or late matters much. DAVE
I think there's a lot of truth in that Dave. But with the tenors, there is a fairly marked difference between the earlier 'Crats and the 156 'Crat. And that change happened DURING the Big B run.

You're right about the horns needing to be in top playing condition, though. A lot of players discount vintage horns because they've only tried crappy condition, leaking, out-of-adjustment horns that need work.
 

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Mine is a early pre-War Big B tenor. Other than keyguards and engraving, it's very close to a Series One Aristo if not identical. The bell is fat but the lip is small. And it is the best tenor I have ever played as long as I put a cork stopper down the bell. :bluewink:
 

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Discussion Starter #16
There is a lot of confusion on this because the "Big B" refers to the engraving on the horn, which of course has nothing to do with how it plays or sounds. There were a couple of substantive changes during the run of Big B horns, so you cannot generalize about them.
JL - thanks for the insights; this is all really interesting. I remember my 1957 Aristo having a very big sound (I was also playing with a Meyer 8 at the time which may have been overkill). I paid $800 for the 1950 Series III that arrives today. Supposedly, it recently had a full overhaul, new pads, etc. If it is actually set up well, it will be a great deal considering that a full repad costs around $500 locally. The horn has almost no original lacquer, but I think it actually looks kind of cool that way. It also comes with an extra neck that the seller says is from a Buescher 400. We'll see about that as well...

In general, though, I agree that all of these Aristocrats seem like a lot of horn for the money, considering the prices that 400s from the same era go for.
 

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I remember my 1957 Aristo having a very big sound (I was also playing with a Meyer 8 at the time which may have been overkill). I paid $800 for the 1950 Series III that arrives today..
That's a great deal for $800, especially with a recent overhaul. I bet you'll love that horn. I don't know if the '57 would have been different; it's rumored that the quality started to do down by the mid-'50s, but I have no idea if that's true or not.

A Meyer 8 is not overkill at all. Maybe not 'enough'. I like my RPC 120B on my Bueschers. They roar with that mpc.
 

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I think there's a lot of truth in that Dave. But with the tenors, there is a fairly marked difference between the earlier 'Crats and the 156 'Crat. And that change happened DURING the Big B run.
And, in fact, the tenors even changed catalogue model numbers from 127 to 156 during the Big B run. The 127 was also the model number for the TT tenor, though they are quite different in terms of the keywork and other obvious physical features (bell keys).

I've played several tenors from each version, to include Saintday's soldered tonehole series 1 (which is a very unique beast). There are many keywork changes, some subtle but noticable (bis key placement, pinky table angle), some not so (bell key location). The sound evolved as well and there are noticable differences in tone and presence between them -- particularly Saintsday's horn -- that are more than just the variation between two identical horns.

Yet another clue: The altos did not change model numbers between the Series 1-3 horns, yet they too are quite different in terms of sound and ergos. The keywork looks the same on the series 1, but it's placed differently on the instument. Tonally, there's a significant difference between the series 1 and 2 horns. This over a period of 10 years.

This tells me that Bueschers instruments continued to evolve with a least minor changes over time that were more than just cosmetic -- as did everyone else's. I agree that a 1950 "script" 156 and a 1949 "Big B" 156 are probably as close to identical as two largely handmade horns can get despite the engraving, but I'm not convinced that's the case at the end of the "script"s production run -- certainly isn't the case from the beginning of the Big B run.

Which is best? I think that's subjective, but like RandyJ, my vote is for the later Big B.
 

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Which is best? I think that's subjective, but like RandyJ, my vote is for the later Big B.
So you prefer the later '156' Big B / script horns?

Not to split hairs, but I didn't hear RandyJ say which Big B he preferred (assuming he's tried both the early and late models).
 

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Please quantify "earlier/later" with serial numbers (for those of us on the outside looking in) when you come to consensus.
 
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