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I recently purchased my second Chateau (Tenon Industrial) saxophone from Wichita Band Instruments in Wichita, Kansas. This one is the CSS-80GL straight soprano with two necks and gold lacquer finish. This model was previously designated as the VCH-S830YL2, so it is manufactured at the Crown Hope factory in Vietnam. Wichita Band’s price is $1,199.

I have had the soprano for about a month now, and I am as pleased with it as I have been with my Chateau Custom alto, which I have had for about 15 months. The quality of the manufacturing, the fit and finish, etc. are excellent. In that regard it is a major improvement over my previous soprano, an Antigua Winds purchased around 2005. That instrument played OK, but had numerous misaligned keys that indicated, to me, less attention to detail. The engraving is gorgeous, for what that’s worth.

I have been playing this sax with three mouthpieces (Vandoren Optima SL3, Selmer S80-D, and Otto Link metal 5*) and a variety of reeds. There are, of course, better combinations than others, but in general the sax plays easily throughout the range with any of these mouthpieces (once I learned how far to push the mouthpiece on, which is as far as possible!). The intonation is good, and I can get a good classical tone (not too oboe-ish) with the Vandoren piece and a variety of reeds. I really like the combination of the Link and Java Green reeds for more of a jazz sound.

Is this a good deal for this sax? How does one know what to pay for Asian instruments like Chateau that have pretty good reputations at places like SOTW, but are unlikely to be as widely available as better-known brands? Well, it pays to shop around.

Most of the Chateau dealers listed on the Chateau USA website either carry only student models, or have unbelievably rudimentary web sites. I was able, however, to find this sax at a couple of fairly well-known shops. The first was Sax Alley, in Denver Colorado, which had the exact same model (VCH-S830LY2) for $1,599, claiming a “list” price of $1,800. Saxquest, in St. Louis, Missouri had the same instrument in an antique finish (CSS-80AN) for $2,195. Ouch! Finally, Carl’s Pro Band in Bloomington Illinois had the student model CSS-20ANT for $1,750. (For comparison, Wichita Band can get the similar student model CSS-22GL for $645, although they don’t carry it in stock.)

Then there is the Kessler “Handmade” one-piece straight soprano for $1,479. The “Handmade” designation used by Kessler caught my attention, since the same name was used to designate this model of Chateau when Tenon was using the VCH-S830 numbering. The Kessler Handmade and the CSS-80 specs are identical, including the red brass composition, the pads, the springs, etc. Which proves nothing, but since Kessler has told some customers that their sax is made by Tenon, and since detail photos of the Kessler saxes show identical engraving patterns and identically shaped key arms to those on Chateaus, I am willing to conclude that these are very similar saxes. Some customers, including me (I have purchased three saxes from Kessler over the years) are willing to pay a bit extra for Kessler’s setup and service, but Wichita Band’s setup and service are, in my experience, equal to Kessler’s, with a difference of $280. (Plus, Wichita is much closer to me than Las Vegas!) However, if I am correct in my conclusion that the Kessler sax is at least a close kin to the Chateau, I can recommend the Kessler Handmade with little reservation, as it is going to be a quality instrument.
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