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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #1
EENYC, Kyungsoo and myself met in Manhattan today for the ultimate Buescher Big B Tenor Sax Measuring Party. Ellery's 1941 model 127, Kyung Soo's 1947 155, and my 1949 156 Big B's were the subject matter, and I brought various implements of measurement destruction (2 sets of digital calipers and a tape measure) to finally put to rest any and all doubt about who's bell is bigger. :)

So, with two sets of digital calipers and one tape measure at the ready, I had all participants unzip, pull out what they had, and let me take a good long look at the size of their <*ahem*> equipment.

The results? Well, for that, you need to look at the pics (yes, we took pictures). You may want to shield young eyes as this is as graphic as it gets.... :)

Ellery was positively tasty on all 3, so I'll let him describe tonal differences between them.

The participants...
View attachment 59328 View attachment 59330

127 neck on the top, 155 neck on the bottom.
View attachment 59331

155 neck on the top, 156 on the bottom.
View attachment 59332

The results:
View attachment 59333

Couple clarifications... The "Neck Tip" measurement is the I.D. The "Tenon O.D. At The Top" is the O.D. at the top of the tenon receiver, not the top of the tenon. Also, while my calipers were capable of measuring "thousands of inches", things got a little variable due to my technique and once you get past the hundredth's, it really starts to get insignificant. Hundredth's matter for intonation, so I feel like I reliably measured to that standard.


The major "take-away" I got from this is that each horn is shaped slightly differently, and none are perfect cones in the neck, body tube, bow or bell.



Perhaps this is where the notion of the "parabolic bore" came from? None are parabolas either, just that they aren't four perfect cones.
 

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Nice!! Must have been fun.

Seeing all three models lined up like that, you can really see the difference in bell profiles, too. Interesting that other than the bell outside diameter, the 127 & 155 look about the same, and it's the 156 that really changes the overall profile with the "kink" below the bell's mouth.
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #3
Appearances can be deceiving, particularly regarding the bell. Kink or no kink, note that it's 3-1/100's inches larger at the B1 tone hole, though the same size at the Bb1 tone hole. It's not the same bell shape as the 127 or the 156.
 

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Appearances can be deceiving, particularly regarding the bell. Kink or no kink, note that it's 3-1/100's inches larger at the B1 tone hole, though the same size at the Bb1 tone hole. It's not the same bell shape as the 127 or the 156.
Ooh. Interesting. I missed that when I scanned the spec sheet. And obviously my eyecrometers couldn't see it!! But I have to say that sitting next to the 155 / 156, it's no wonder people talk about "big bell" Aristocrats. The flare at the mouth of the 127's bell looks puny in comparison.

The difference in the 155 neck is interesting too - I look forward to Ellery's comments about how they all compared.
 

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Hi...from your chart (and I LOVE this sorta stuff, BTW !!!!) seems to me that the 155 and 156 bodies are identical in spec really, when one allows for construction/factory +/- variations due to the technology of the time....

...might even go further to say that the 3 models really had the same body with exception of the bellpiece....

I mean, when you get into differences smaller than around .05" (that is equal to 1.25mm), I think that can reasonably be explained by typical assembly line variances...

...would that be fair to say ????
 

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I have to say that sitting next to the 155 / 156, it's no wonder people talk about "big bell" Aristocrats. The flare at the mouth of the 127's bell looks puny in comparison.

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Don't mean nuthin ... the 127 cuts like a laser, with huge tone.
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #7
Hi...from your chart (and I LOVE this sorta stuff, BTW !!!!) seems to me that the 155 and 156 bodies are identical in spec really, when one allows for construction/factory +/- variations due to the technology of the time....

...might even go further to say that the 3 models really had the same body with exception of the bellpiece....

I mean, when you get into differences smaller than around .05" (that is equal to 1.25mm), I think that can reasonably be explained by typical assembly line variances...

...would that be fair to say ????
Ya know, I don't think so. I actually measured to the thousandth's of an inch, but made the decision that that level was statistically irrelevant, either due to manufacturing tolerances, or due to my ham-handedness with the calipers. At one spot I noted that 1/100" was essentially the same, as I round up 5/1000" and rounded down 4/1000".

However, 3/100's is actually quite a bit of volume when you consider this was only measuring the diameter, not the circumference. 0.03125" is equivalent to 1/32", which is enough to affect intonation just on a tone hole placement, not to mention the volume of the bore at that point. I'll point out that some measurements were "exact" to 5/1000's inches (e.g. the tenon receiver top) between all 3 horns when I measured them, though I only recorded them to 1.21". I'll also note that tone hole spacing was different between the 3, even between the 155 and 127 that are very close to each other on many, but not all, body tube measurements. The tone hole spacing variation was visually discernible, though I only recorded a couple of the numbers. Finally, the real outlier was the 156, though the 127 and the 155 had differences that couldn't remotely be explained by manufacturing tolerances. There was nearly 3/16" in body tube length between the 127 and the 155 and a full quarter inch between the smallest (155) to largest (156) body tube lengths. That's nearly 3/4" when you take the neck into account. That's a HUGE distance on a tenor saxophone!

Cut 3/4" off the neck of one of your tenors and tell me how you make out. :)

The 3 horns don't sound alike. Yes, they all sounded like Buescher saxophones, but there were very clear distinctions in their harmonic structures that had to come from somewhere besides just the necks, particularly given that the 127 and 156 necks were essentially identical in size and shape. I can't think of anyone that's played a TT and a 156 that think they sound the same -- either as a player or listener.

I'll also point out that these aren't actually "hand made" in the true sense of the phrase. Precision tooling was used in their construction. It wasn't automated as we understand that term today, but a mandrel or a form has a precise dimension. If you form something to that dimension, you're going to get pretty much the same result each time within a few thousandths of an inch (unless you're particularly bad at it), which leads me to conclude that the tooling changed.

Now, of course, you've given me yet something else to do -- measure two "supposedly identical" model horns to test the theory that any differences within a production run are less than 1/100". Anyone in NYC have a 1949 156 available for a measuring party? :)
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #8
I look forward to Ellery's comments about how they all compared.
Ellery's comment on Facebook:
I thought all three horns played great. The 127 seemed a bit muted compared to the others, the 155 sounding a bit clearer and the 156 sounding a bit clearer than the 155. I once played an Aristocrat in Amsterdam that was even darker sounding than my own and yet I seem to recall it being a late 40’s horn. So any theories we may have had about the horns getting progressively brighter as a result of design changes over the years is still an open question…
Don't mean nuthin ... the 127 cuts like a laser, with huge tone.
Yes, the bell flair is purely cosmetic. His 127's bell flair does look odd by today's standards though. :)
 

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Thank you for posting Ellery's comments,maddenma.

I own a seriesI tenor and two 156 tenors. My experience on a sound comparison is quite the opposite to Ellery's.

The seriesI can cut like a knife, more so than the 156s that I have, but both 156s are getting repads.
Both have a full sound. Brighter? To me, that is more of a modern horn conundrum than vintage.

I'll go out on a limb to say that the 156s can sound sweeter and the seriesI excels in the power dep't.
I am happy with both models.
 

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Ellery's comment on Facebook:



Yes, the bell flair is purely cosmetic. His 127's bell flair does look odd by today's standards though. :)
Yes, looks are deceiving.
 

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Ya know, I don't think so. I actually measured to the thousandth's of an inch, but made the decision that that level was statistically irrelevant, either due to manufacturing tolerances, or due to my ham-handedness with the calipers. At one spot I noted that 1/100" was essentially the same, as I round up 5/1000" and rounded down 4/1000".

However, 3/100's is actually quite a bit of volume when you consider this was only measuring the diameter, not the circumference. 0.03125" is equivalent to 1/32", which is enough to affect intonation just on a tone hole placement, not to mention the volume of the bore at that point. I'll point out that some measurements were "exact" to 5/1000's inches (e.g. the tenon receiver top) between all 3 horns when I measured them, though I only recorded them to 1.21". I'll also note that tone hole spacing was different between the 3, even between the 155 and 127 that are very close to each other on many, but not all, body tube measurements. The tone hole spacing variation was visually discernible, though I only recorded a couple of the numbers. Finally, the real outlier was the 156, though the 127 and the 155 had differences that couldn't remotely be explained by manufacturing tolerances. There was nearly 3/16" in body tube length between the 127 and the 155 and a full quarter inch between the smallest (155) to largest (156) body tube lengths. That's nearly 3/4" when you take the neck into account. That's a HUGE distance on a tenor saxophone!

Cut 3/4" off the neck of one of your tenors and tell me how you make out. :)


The 3 horns don't sound alike. Yes, they all sounded like Buescher saxophones, but there were very clear distinctions in their harmonic structures that had to come from somewhere besides just the necks, particularly given that the 127 and 156 necks were essentially identical in size and shape. I can't think of anyone that's played a TT and a 156 that think they sound the same -- either as a player or listener.

I'll also point out that these aren't actually "hand made" in the true sense of the phrase. Precision tooling was used in their construction. It wasn't automated as we understand that term today, but a mandrel or a form has a precise dimension. If you form something to that dimension, you're going to get pretty much the same result each time within a few thousandths of an inch (unless you're particularly bad at it), which leads me to conclude that the tooling changed.

Now, of course, you've given me yet something else to do -- measure two "supposedly identical" model horns to test the theory that any differences within a production run are less than 1/100". Anyone in NYC have a 1949 156 available for a measuring party? :)
Note that I specifically did NOT write 'neck' measurements....just 'body' measurements, so I agree with you that the neck dimension of that shorter one is interesting.

Also, just to play Devil's Advocate, your assumption that the differences in tone 'had to' come from somewhere other than the necks.....is sorta stating the speculation as a conclusion. We know what switching necks on a horn can do :bluewink: It can do a lot.

Mind you, I would tend to agree that given the short-necked horn, something in the spec had to change somewhere below the mouthpiece opening.

Regarding fabrication technique, there is a great vid out there somewhere of the Conn factory in the '50's, I think. If you watch that vid and the methods and tooling employed, IMHO it isn't too much to suggest that a 1mm difference in the final product of the exact same model of horn was probably an acceptable allowance for the aspects of the horns which you guys measured. So 1/32 equaling .76mm ? That is very little, and I guess we can agree to disagree. I have found such differences in other brands/models of horns very close in mfr. date (King, JK, Beaugnier off the top of my head).

In the instance of tube diameters and even to a degree tube and joint lengths, I am not certain it isn't negligible. I think those sorta differences might be negligible. I think your case becomes stronger in regards to tonehole diameters, however. But you guys didn't mention or measure any of those. That would have been an interesting bit of info to add. Perhaps if your droogies have calipers themselves, you can pick 5 toneholes and have them report their measurements to you and add 'em to the data ???

But yes, we could probably put the issue to rest if you (or I) were able to measure a couple other horns within about 1 year or so of your particular one. Not being a thorn here...as I said, I love this sorta sh#t, I really do...could spend all day just measuring horns....so I appreciate the time you guys took on this.....
 

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I look forward to Ellery's comments about how they all compared.
I see that Mark shared my comments...thanks...

If I came away with anything from the experience it’s a reminder of just how many variables are involved when trying to compare horns. There certainly seems to be some wiggle room with respect to certain design characteristics, measurements and how they interact. Makes it tough to attribute sonic characteristics to any particular feature. Beyond a certain point I would not pretend to know enough about acoustics of the saxophone to make any real judgements. But it’s fun to think about these things and try and learn something along the way. Even more fun to play these horns...
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #13
Don't worry. You're not offending me. It's a good discussion. Here's my counter argument.

I can't speak for Conns, but I will point out that Buescher was making aircraft altimeter's in WWII. This is a precision instrument. They had the skills and ability to manufacture something of very tight tolerances. Moving to tolerances on saxophone construction, I also know you can take a key from one 156 and fit it to another without the difference in length causing a 1.25mm (or 1/32") gap between the posts, or the need to cut the key down.

But, we're not talking about the key work....or altimeters...

Regarding the body tubes, yeah, they initially formed them free-hand around a mandrel and then solder the seam. It's very artsy and looks great as a video. It is, however, only one step in the process. It's the next part that's important to the dimensions, though it doesn't look all that cool as a video.

It's where they put the roughed out body tube it in a very heavy and precise form and then pull a lead slug through it with a multi-ton press to true it up and make it dimensionally precise to whatever form they were using. In a Buescher video they called this "smoothing" the bore, but this process distorts both the brass tube and the lead slug to match the exact dimensions of the unyielding steel tooling and does not allow for significant variation.

Today, we might use hydro-forming to do something like this instead of lead as the functional equivalent, but it yields the same results. Looking at the Conn video, it's apparently the method they used back then as well -- at least on trombones. It's very precise and consistent. It might be a couple thousandths off due to shrinkage caused what little metal memory exists in brass, or more probably, temperature differences in the tool and plant while it was being formed, but it's not a few hundredth's. That's substantially greater than the thickness of the metal they're working with and that form, like I said before would have been unyielding. The outside of the body tube would match it precisely with any variations occurring on the inside of the tube as the brass was stretched to fill the form.

The engineer in me is assuming that it's the sum of small differences that causes the differences in the body tube length. Measured at any one point, those differences might seem improbably small to have any effect, as each of them by themselves does seem to account for much. However, when you sum them up, you end up with a difference between two horns of .70" in overall length, which is clearly significant.

The comment about the neck was just illustrative hyperbole and not meant to be precise. Choosing a different illustration, You could, if you were so inclined and handy with a torch, remove that 0.7" in much smaller increments spread down the horn. The effect would be similarly noticeable on the intonation, unless it was compensated for another way. The only way to do that is to change the location of the tone holes, or the dimensions of the cone.

I also believe it's the sum of small differences that causes a saxophone from one manufacturer to sound differently than one from another. I'm pretty certain, though I haven't tried, that you can't get a Yamaha tenor to sound like a Buescher just by swapping the necks between the two.

Anyway, the entire purpose of the exercise was to validate that there were enough differences between these horns that warranted a model number change, not once, but twice in 7 years when they hadn't changed that model number in the prior 30 years despite evolutionary improvements. This certainly isn't a definitive test of that, as the sample size was quite limited, the measurements aren't exhaustive, and despite my best efforts, there was enough error in my measuring technique to conclude that measuring to the thousandths wasn't going to yield any more accuracy. However, AFAIK it's the most detailed view I've seen to date. Everything else has been largely just hyperbole attempting to support anecdotal opinions with no substantive data.

Here's some actual data identifying dimensional differences, and using what we know about the construction techniques at the time, we can deduce that these differences were more than likely intentional, not just sloppy manufacturing tolerances.

So, you've had 24 hours. You got some data that's better yet? :)
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #14
I own a seriesI tenor and two 156 tenors. My experience on a sound comparison is quite the opposite to Ellery's.

.......

I'll go out on a limb to say that the 156s can sound sweeter and the seriesI excels in the power dep't.
I am happy with both models.
So, it's not just Ellery's impression, but mine as well. That said, that was a play test on 3 horns that have other than just the noted dimensional differences. Not intending to start another discussion on resonators and finish, but as an example, the 127 has its original snaps and what's left of its original lacquer (basically none). The 155 has most of its original lacquer, but has been de-snapped and is now sporting black Roos and some fairly large, slightly domed, metal resonators. The 156 has all but its original palm key snaps, but does not have the original finish and is now gold plated.

That said, my own experience between the 127 and the 156 is that the 127 is the darker horn and my 156, while it has its volume limits before distortion lower than more modern horns, and is not as loud as a 156 I played with large flat metal resonators, it has been the louder instrument than the couple of 127's I've had the opportunity to play. That said, I didn't play Ellery's but I was 3 feet from the bell, so I know what I heard. I hadn't played a 155 until Kyung Soo's, which has a significant change in the resonators, so that one is certainly suspect as to what the differences are besides the big resonators.

Anyway, as Ellery pointed out, I'm sure that this week that we did not reach a conclusion on what the dimensions do to the tone. There are exceptions that pop up that never fail to skew the results, so there are certainly many more variables at work here than I was able to measure.
 

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I had no business commenting until I get my two 156s back from repad.
All three will have the snaps retained... no metal backed Buescher pads on the 156s.
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #16
Well, when you do....

Got a set of calipers?
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #18
I do,lol.
I don't care about measurements... just sound.
The rest of us nerdy wierdo freaks are hoping you'll take some measurements.
 

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The rest of us nerdy wierdo freaks are hoping you'll take some measurements.
Nerdy, yes
Weird, no

I''ll see what I can do, but we already disagree on the sound characteristics of the models.
... which leads me to believe that differences may be more about mpcs, reeds, the way one blows or style, than the measurements of the tenors.

I will pm you Mark, when I get them 156s back, and you can tell me what to measure... for god's sake.
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks!
 
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