Those horns are pretty far apart in era. They should also be far apart in price. If they are not, get the Searchlight, it's the better instrument.
Sorry, offhand I cannot offer much feedback on comparative sound...other than saying the older horn has a wider tone to it, more low overtones. All Martins are punchy...so I hesitate to call it 'dark'. But it is a fuller, lusher tone.
Given a choice, go for the Searchlight. These Handcraft Committee 1 horns have the best low end of any alto, period. Warm and fat, easy to subtone with a softer reed and an open mouthpiece, but then roars like a lion when pushed. Also, the Searchlight has solid nickel keys, making the action fleet. Finally, the Searchlight has the best left hand thumbrest EVER (modern manufacturers: Are you listening?)
I agree. I have most of the Martin alto models (except the Indiana types) and my Searchlights are great. So far I haven't found a dud for Martin altos so I would buy by condition and finish. I have a searchlight for $650 ready to play and there are a lot on ebay for the same or less. I would pass on the Indiana and wait until you find a Searchlight, Lion & Crown or a HC Imperial (one of the hidden secrets from Martin). Many are relacquers since Martin is known for bad lacquer. I recently found a silver plated Searchlight and it has sound AND looks.
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