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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone.

I have been watching the marketplace lately and am astounded at the apparent price drop on used horns with what appears to be the notable exception of King Super 20s and anything Selmer Paris. I attribute quite a bit of this to the influx of some very good and inexpensive Asian horns.

While I don’t need a horn today (thanks to a fine Asian tenor I bought from saxcop), it is hard to ignore these apparently good prices.

Here is my question.

If you had between 1-2K (including overhaul costs if necessary) to get a used tenor today, which brands/models would you go after?

My priorities are the following:

1) Intonation. I am still struggling with hitting some of my notes in the green on the tuner.
2) Quality workmanship.
3) A big rich tone when played properly (I will get there)
4) Reasonably modern keywork (I only have so much pinky strength).
5) Relative value versus historic prices (so that I have some chance of reselling and not losing my shirt). This is last on the list because I don't see reselling unless the horn doesn't work out for me in the short term.

Thanks!

Tom
 

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The whole market has gone down, which includes S20's and Selmer. The best bang for the buck horns IMHO are Buescher, and especially the Aristocrats. A properly set up Big B tenor is around $1500. Martin committee models are also a steal right now. Both of these have good quality workmanship.

Make sure you have a good mouthpiece.
 

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I attribute quite a bit of this to the influx of some very good and inexpensive Asian horns.
And I attribute this thread to not being entirely happy with one. :bluewink: But vintage American horns are only worth the Ebay gamble if you've tried them at least in some similar form and feel they're for you. I know there aren't many shops that have them in stock, but get to know folks on the forum who might be in your area who might be willing to let you try a horn or two. I remember about ten years ago, a group of us from Maryland and bordering states had a get together and we each got to try dozens of different horns that we had all brought. It was really an eye opener, and confirmed what I had supected all along... that I favored American vintage saxophones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
And I attribute this thread to not being entirely happy with one. :bluewink: But vintage American horns are only worth the Ebay gamble if you've tried them at least in some similar form and feel they're for you. I know there aren't many shops that have them in stock, but get to know folks on the forum who might be in your area who might be willing to let you try a horn or two. I remember about ten years ago, a group of us from Maryland and bordering states had a get together and we each got to try dozens of different horns that we had all brought. It was really an eye opener, and confirmed what I had supected all along... that I favored American vintage saxophones.
Thanks Grumps. I plan to try out some vintage horns at PM Woodwinds in Evanston to understand better what I need. I will concentrate on the Buescher and Martin horns for the moment. I have seen a Buescher Big B on craigslist that intrigues me, but I am unsure if it would need an overhaul.

http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/msg/4228650358.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The whole market has gone down, which includes S20's and Selmer. The best bang for the buck horns IMHO are Buescher, and especially the Aristocrats. A properly set up Big B tenor is around $1500. Martin committee models are also a steal right now. Both of these have good quality workmanship.

Make sure you have a good mouthpiece.
Thanks for the help here! I am currently playing an Otto Link Tone Edge 7* hard rubber mouthpiece.
 

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Listen to Grumps! Try as hard as you can to try them out first ... especially the older ones. If your top priority is intonation, you might be best with a more modern used horn, intonation has advanced in recent years.

And ... if you are not sure about your left hand pinky strength, make doubly sure to play the horn first. Some of the pinky tables are beasts. The worst one so far that I've encountered was on a Buescher Aristocrat (that I sold), the best one (that nearly plays itself) on the Yamaha 61. For me, personally, I'd put tone as the first priority.


Turtle
 

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I keep an eye on my local Craig's List, armed with info I get from the smart folks here on the forum. A couple months ago I found a '48 Big B tenor. She was asking $1200. I went over to try it out and it turned out to be a great playing horn. I managed to talk her down another $50 bucks. Came with an aftermarket case and a couple mouthpieces that I'll never use. I believe it has all the original snap-ins. Didn't really need any work other than a little tweaking on the upper stack that my tech did for free.
 

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Thanks Grumps. I plan to try out some vintage horns at PM Woodwinds in Evanston to understand better what I need. I will concentrate on the Buescher and Martin horns for the moment. I have seen a Buescher Big B on craigslist that intrigues me, but I am unsure if it would need an overhaul.

http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/msg/4228650358.html
I'd definitely check that one out. If it plays top to bottom and the keywork seems tight its a good deal. I've also got a '51 martin tenor and as an over-all horn for everything from R&B to jazz I prefer the Big B. Martins are really nice vintage horns, too. Your preference may vary...
 

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A curious assertion, that the influx of cheap asian horns which aren't half as bad as they used to be is causing the price of a Super 20 to come down.

IMHO, nonsequitir.

If in fact a 'good, cheap asian horn' was giving a top-shelf classic a run for the money, then the resale value of contemporary small-name asian brands would be pretty good. That, however, isn't the case. They suffer more from devaluation than any Conn, Selmer, King, Buescher, etc....

The vintage market is down because the bubble burst, and despite what folks say about a recovery, the economy is still in the sh#ts and people are making adjustments to get by....

Nobody has mentioned the Vito Beaugnier horns. That would be one to include on your list, based upon your parameters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
A curious assertion, that the influx of cheap asian horns which aren't half as bad as they used to be is causing the price of a Super 20 to come down.

IMHO, nonsequitir.

. . .

Nobody has mentioned the Vito Beaugnier horns. That would be one to include on your list, based upon your parameters.
More of a poorly worded suggestion. I was attempting to suggest that the fall in prices of the non Kings and non Selmers might be attributable to the fact that there are good options with Asian horns that weren't as good 5-10 years ago, but I muffed the delivery.

Of course, the economy is more than likely a huge part of the bubble burst as well.

I will put Vito Beaugnier onto the list as well.

Thanks!

Tom
 

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If in fact a 'good, cheap asian horn' was giving a top-shelf classic a run for the money, then the resale value of contemporary small-name asian brands would be pretty good. That, however, isn't the case. They suffer more from devaluation than any Conn, Selmer, King, Buescher, etc....

The vintage market is down because the bubble burst, and despite what folks say about a recovery, the economy is still in the sh#ts and people are making adjustments to get by....
you're right. of course, it's a supply and demand thing, too. new saxophones can be bought in unlimited quantities - of course will used prices be lower. vintage instruments are in limited supply and are already sold at "used" prices so to say. it's used when you buy it and it's used when you resell it.

i also think the economy is still bad / little signs of a real recovery. also the saxophone isn't becoming a more popular instrument, is it?
 

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I love Yanagisawa saxes. If you look around, you can get good deals. Build quality and intonation are fantastic. Intonation on Yanagisawa horns is the best there is. A used 8xx (800, 880) is great, but the 9xx (901,902, & 991,992) model saxs are even better with the 99xx being their top tier horns ( Out of your budget, though ). I also love vintage American horns, but with Yanagisawa there is key work and intonation that is removed from the "Things I need to work on" list.
Enjoy the process of finding your next great sax!
 

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Well I am biased towards The Martin Tenors, and particularly those from the mid to late 40s. Mine is from 45 and I don't think you can beat the tone with much of anything. Of course I'm biased but depending on the mpc and reed it can sound any way you are able to make it sound, and it is very very mpc friendly.

Truthfully I haven't played more than a couple of other tenors, most notably a Conn 10m, a Buescher and some kind of King, none of which I found to sound anywhere as good or be built as comfortably as The Martin. The Conn in particular felt awkward with a godawful thumb hook and the pivot point of the strap perfectly placed so the mpc can whack you right in the nose when you let go of it. True, the Martin LH pinky table is not the best, but it is much better than those Conn and Buescher 3-across layouts and not at all unplayable as is. However getting it modified makes it pretty much effortless to play and I am fortunate in that I invested a couple of hundred in one of Martin Mods improved pinky tables back before he went off the deep end. He is no longer personna grata around here, but is still in business making them, and they look even better and more advanced a modification that the one he made me 3 or so years ago. This is in no way an endorsement of him or an encouragement to do business with him, that would be an individual choice because it is a free country, but there are people who had disasterous experience with him not completing their jobs and ruining their saxes, although in fairness there are also others who had excellent work done and some of them are or were members of this forum. This is also not to say that the Martin Tenors need any modifications at all to be a great playing sax, because there are plenty of people on SOTW as well as some I know in this city who swear by them as the best horn they've played. In my case I actually have no desire whatsoever to ever even try another tenor, something that is not the case for mouthpieces.

YMMV of course, so my advice is the same as that given by others, try it before you buy it.
 

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To me, the best tenor value are Conn stencils from the 40s or early 50s. I like the sound, the pitch can be very good if set up correctly, and once the strap hook is moved the ergos are no problem.
 

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If you had between 1-2K (including overhaul costs if necessary) to get a used tenor today, which brands/models would you go after?
I'd go with Buescher Aristocrat or maybe a Martin. Those are top-quality horns with the tone that are real bargains these days. I have two different vintage Buescher Aristocrat tenors ('series 1' and a '156') and the intonation is as good as it gets on a sax on those horns. I don't find the keywork to be a problem at all, once you get used to it. Tone quality is top notch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
To me, the best tenor value are Conn stencils from the 40s or early 50s. I like the sound, the pitch can be very good if set up correctly, and once the strap hook is moved the ergos are no problem.
This is great advice. Thanks to everyone.

This is going to be a fun journey even if I just stay put with what I have!
 

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I agree with Tom's original argument. Great quality Taiwan tenors can be had for under 2k new and 1500 used. (Viking, Cannonball, Barone etc.)
A new Taishan is under $700. I think this is causing the price of vintage horns to come down.
 

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I agree with Tom's original argument. Great quality Taiwan tenors can be had for under 2k new and 1500 used. (Viking, Cannonball, Barone etc.)
A new Taishan is under $700. I think this is causing the price of vintage horns to come down.
So let me see if I have that right. In essence you're saying that prior to the invasion of highty touted good quality sax from Taiwan and China for less than 2 grand, people went with vintage models like Conns, Bueschers and Martins in that same price range only because there was nothing better to be had for the money. The French Goddess was out of their reach so they settled for sloppy seconds with lesser lights from Indiana, right? However, now even though Frenchie is still too pricey for their pocket, they can get the next best thing, some exotic horny Asians, for what they used to pay for the farmer's daughters from Elkhart. As a result no one wants the poor corn-fed Hoosiers anymore, and they're now all out there turning cheap tricks on Route 66. That's the gist of what you're claiming, isn't it?
 

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So let me see if I have that right. In essence you're saying that prior to the invasion of highty touted good quality sax from Taiwan and China for less than 2 grand, people went with vintage models like Conns, Bueschers and Martins in that same price range only because there was nothing better to be had for the money. The French Goddess was out of their reach so they settled for sloppy seconds with lesser lights from Indiana, right? However, now even though Frenchie is still too pricey for their pocket, they can get the next best thing, some exotic horny Asians, for what they used to pay for the farmer's daughters from Elkhart. As a result no one wants the poor corn-fed Hoosiers anymore, and they're now all out there turning cheap tricks on Route 66. That's the gist of what you're claiming, isn't it?
I enjoyed your post. Yes, that's probably what's going on on the market these days - in my opinion.

I have very little experience with asian horns, chinese or otherwise. But I remember being shocked about how well a friend's student loaner John Packer (UK brand) sounds. I hate the ergonomics - it's a MK VII copy - but otherwise, set aside the not-perfect manufacturing standards, it plays incredibly well considering the price.
 

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Well, there are lots of great playing and sounding saxes and everyone is free to buy and play what they prefer. Personally I love my The Martin Tenor and see no reason to switch it for something else just because there are now Chinese saxes that cost what I paid for it back when I bought it. I just tried a couple of new Keilwerths and really enjoyed playing them but even so didnt feel I am missing out on not having one. Sure, if I had 3 grand to spare to buy one of them, or something else, I could see doing it just to have a second sax to play depending on the situation, just like with my 3 mpcs, but I would then also consider and try a SML rev D, a Super 20 and a Top Hat and Cane too. And if I had 8 grand I might get the Rampone & Cazzini Duo Voci, but that would be an extravagance unless I was really rich and it was simply like pocket money. LOL....I can only dream of that ever being true.

Seriously, I don't know why the market value of vintage horns has gone down but I doubt it is due to the influx of Asian saxes. I think it is more that all those mom and pop ebay horn flippers have gone into another line of work due to the economic crisis which has cut down the cashflow of both the buyers and the sellers. There were never going to be any more actual players than there were already, because saxophonists are not being cloned AFAIK or born fullblown in a baby boom of preccocious toddler musicians and the real business was between afficinado collectors and non-playing flippers. The minute the crunch hit hard, all but the die hards with a cash cushion left the table and naturally less demand has driven the valuations down, just like in the housing market. Are so many homes now so cheap because there are Chinese built homes suddenly available? Of course not, so why should it be the case with saxes?

The simple fact is that as far as the largest part of the sax market goes, i.e. the student and school program market, vintage saxes were never something they usually bought or even considered. They always bought modern saxes like Yamahas and Yanis and now that there are inexpensive Chinese saxes competing with them on design, quality and pricing, they--their parents really--are buying those. At my tech's shop he gets a ton of young students come in with their parents to get an alto. He used to sell a lot of Buffetts to them because they were few who wanted any of the vintage horns he had in the shop, and now since he got his own line of Chinese saxes, he sells a lot of those too mostly for budgetary reasons of the buyers. Even the already accomplished conservatory students looking to move up to a pro level sax don't get a vintage sax because the professors in the major conservatory aren't familiar with anything but Selmers and few student's have 5 or 6 grand in euros to buy one.

Vintage horns thus have remained what they have always been, which is the preference of those who care about tonal richness over modern ergos and cost. For them the drop in price is actually a good thing unless of course they have a bunch of vintage horns already that they want to sell because they now can't recoup their initial investment in them. But none of that is because the Asian saxes are better than a good vintage sax and I doubt any of the ones mentioned by Saxcop are capable of matching my 45 The Martin in the tone and sound department. The ergos might be otherwise, but I like the way my horn plays, so it's not an issue for me.
 
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