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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I got into collecting vintage saxophones a few years ago, and I've had some fun, found some keepers, and gained some technical and musical insight (though still a lot less than many people around SOTW!).

I've tried lots of models - tenor and alto - and had several overhauled by good repairers. (Conn, Martin, Buescher, SML, Couesnon, Beaugnier, Pierret, Huller, Keilwerth, Dolnet.) Some have been wonderful, some not my thing, but all have had something that made me see why someone would like them - all except the Dolnets.

This isn't meant to rain on anyone's parade. (Uwe Steinmetz sold me my Couesnon alto on Ebay and included some of his excellent CDs in the sale - I particularly recommend his work with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet.) But I just don't get it. I have since sold my Bel Air tenor and traded my Bel Air alto - and in neither transaction did I make any claims for the tone, voice or whatever of the instrument, because I couldn't think what to say.

Intonation wasn't bad for a vintage instrument and the tenor undoubtedly had a "big" sound, but my regular repairer - who has done great things with a range of saxes for me - just had to admit defeat - nothing he could do would make it sing. (And the left-hand pinky table was a nightmare for someone with shortish fingers!) The alto was more comfortable to play and had a better sound, but it was nothing like as good as my SML, Beaugnier or Pierret (or Uwe's Couesnon, in my view). Both tenor and alto had exceptionally large bores and bells, but this didn't seem to give them a distinctive character like the Keilwerths, it just demanded a lot of air.

Another UK repairer and dealer, who did excellent work on a very early Keilwerth tenor for me, had a Dolnet tenor in his shop, with a very cheap price tag. When I expressed an interest, he seemed surprized and said "I don't rate them, myself".

So this is a thread for other people who have had genuine experience of Dolnets and don't rate them either. Personally, I relied too heavily on the positive comments on the Saxpics site, and there is a tendency for SOTW to make every vintage horn sound wonderful, as we all try to persuade ourselves we that we made great purchases and that values can only go up. But I think a bit of balance is needed for the sake of those looking to buy: some vintage horns really aren't that great and I think the Dolnet is one of these.
 

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I agree, even though I would have bought Uwe's Gold Dolnet just for the collector value.
I tried 2 Dolnet tenors at Junkdude's last year and was very unimpressed. I like the offbeat look of the horns and the original red pads are killer, so based on reading here and saxpics I wanted to like them. I know they have some avid fans, but based on that experience and abadcliche's comedy of errors on the HP horn, Dolnet has fallen strongly into "buy only after a try and tuner" for me.
 

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I was the first guy that purchased Abadcliche's HP Dolnet tenor and I was very disappointed. Not only did it play out of tune but the response was not very smooth, free, or even and overall the horn paled in comparison to my Buffet SDA and B&S Allora tenors. I had written Dolnets off, in spite of my admiration for vintage French saxophones.

But I later got to play a Dolnet bari and was so impressed that I traded a Keilwerth Royalist tenor for it. I haven't tried the alto so I can't comment on that, but I recently played a Big B and a Weltklang bari as well as a Yamaha-B52 and I was pretty impressed with how the Dolnet bari stacked up. It is a fun horn to play, and you can hear a recent recording of it here:

http://www.myspace.com/miraclegrowportland

Choose track 4, Mr. Charlie.

For the last bit I switched to my Buffet SDA alto with a DV 8 mpc and Hemke 3 reed

On the Dolnet I am playing a modern Tone Edge and a Fibracell 2.5.

(I provide all this information because I think it's valuable to hear how a player matches his equipment to his tone, and I've learned a lot about that on this Forum.)

Feel free to say so if you think the sound sucks, but from this player's perspective the Dolnet bari has quite a free-blowing response, a big centered sound, and a phat low end.

And keep in mind that I just started playing bari a couple months ago.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for taking the touble to post the link to your recordings: after just a couple of months on bari, that sounds pretty good to me! Perhaps Dolnet just had particularly inconsistent manufacturing quality (in which case saintsday's advice about a try and a tuner is especially important). Clearly some people have found good ones (for them) but I wonder if they are the exceptions to the general trend.
 

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sax-ony said:
Another UK repairer and dealer, who did excellent work on a very early Keilwerth tenor for me, had a Dolnet tenor in his shop, with a very cheap price tag.
I just have to ask - how much and where? :D
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Under £300.00, I think. Lincoln. It was a couple of years ago, so unless he tells everyone he doesn't rate it, I suppose it must be sold by now!
 

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sax-ony said:
Under £300.00, I think. Lincoln. It was a couple of years ago, so unless he tells everyone he doesn't rate it, I suppose it must be sold by now!
Just as well, really ;)
 

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Well, I keep reading posts from folks in Europe who have more exposure to Dolnets than we do in the States, and they often say the baris and basses are somewhat revered.

At the same time, in spite of some of the glowing reviews of Dolnet altos and tenors, their market value remains fairly modest on Ebay and elsewhere. I always think of them as a step down from Buffets and the better vintage Keilwerths, which tend to run in the $1000-2000 range.

I haven't played a Couesnon, but they seem to hold a similar market value to Dolnets. That's why it is interesting to hear the opinion that the Couesnon tenor is much better than the Dolnet. But how much of this is just common sense--i.e., play a horn with a tuner before you buy it?

Although I haven't heard of any Couesnon or Noblet high pitch horns, it seems likely that some of the examples of these lesser vintage French brands are stuffy out-of-tune dogs that can't hold a candle. I've even spoken with some people who owned Buffet DAs and SDAs that had major un-fixable problems, but my SDA is the bees knees.

Predictions that Dolnets will be worth over $2000 in the near future seem unrealistic, but that isn't to say there are good Dolnets out there well worth their modest asking price, especially some of those nice looking gold-plated or Royal Jazz examples.
 

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bfoster64 said:
Although I haven't heard of any Couesnon or Noblet high pitch horns, it seems likely that some of the examples of these lesser vintage French brands are stuffy out-of-tune dogs that can't hold a candle.
I can't speak about the Noblets, I've only had a couple altos, but I've owned about 20 Couesnons, sop, alto and tenor, and every one plays/played nicely in tune with a clear voice. There is nothing lesser about them except the price.
 

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i think USA horn has a dolnet tenor on their site for about 2500. generally they seem a bit overpriced on the vintage horns judging by the 4500.00 beat up super tenor.
 

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The only Dolnet I tried was amaong the best tenors I've ever blown. A beautiful resonant sound that had eveyrthing you might want from low B to altissimo. Unfortunately it belonged to someone else.

Sorry, I think the thread was only for people who don't like the Dolnet, but I couldn't resist. (The Dolnet in question was at Stephen Howard's workshop and he too rated it very highly)
 

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Pete Thomas said:
The only Dolnet I tried was amaong the best tenors I've ever blown. A beautiful resonant sound that had eveyrthing you might want from low B to altissimo. Unfortunately it belonged to someone else.

Sorry, I think the thread was only for people who don't like the Dolnet, but I couldn't resist. (The Dolnet in question was at Stephen Howard's workshop and he too rated it very highly)
Thanks for chiming in. I'm a big fan of as many points of view and direct experience reports as possible.
Sax-ony makes a good point when he says, "there is a tendency for SOTW to make every vintage horn sound wonderful." I agree. If there is variation among professionally set up new top line instruments, the range on vintage horns just has to be even greater. I find a little dose of reality about the old horns that so many of us love to be entirely appropriate.
 

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Dolnets certainly worked well for one of the greatist Tenor Giants of all time, Don Byas. ;) I like mine quite a bit, but it isn't my main axe on tenor.
 

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My first Dolnet was a Bel Air Baritone, and I have never played a baritone that was so good and powerfull in the upper register. I later bought a Buescher Big-B and a Martin baritone, but the Dolnet is far the best I have ever tried.

Meyer
 

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sax-ony said:
Perhaps Dolnet just had particularly inconsistent manufacturing quality (in which case saintsday's advice about a try and a tuner is especially important). Clearly some people have found good ones (for them) but I wonder if they are the exceptions to the general trend.
I have a limited experience with Dolnets but the four horns that I have had in my possession have had some inconsistencies in the QC department. Things soldered on crooked, stuff like that. Looked like it was that way from the factory and not botched repairs. Most things that mattered could be easily corrected.

It seems to me that Dolnets are some of the quirkier of the vintage saxes, but they definitely have something going on in the mojo department. I think if you had a couple of good ones and commited yourself to them the results would be excellent. Like taming a wild beast.

Dolnets are not your typical french sounding saxophone. They compare more favorably to vintage American horns like Conns or Zephyrs. if you look on other threads, the complaints that you read about concerning Dolnets are similar to the ones you read about when someone moves from a Selmer to an old Conn or Zephyr. They take some getting useed to. the tone and pitch are not as centered or locked in as a Selmer or a Keilwerth. More uncontrollable. but perhaps ultimately more expressive.

I would be interested to know this. Those of you that did not like the Dolnets, what horn were you coming from or used to when you tried it.
 

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spiderjames said:
I would be interested to know this. Those of you that did not like the Dolnets, what horn were you coming from or used to when you tried it.
I tried tenors and was coming from a Buescher New Aristocrat. The guy I went to Junkdude's with had his VI tenor with him. He wasn't much impressed either. I ended up buying a Leblanc system tenor that impressed us both.
 

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I've played about 5 or 6 Dolnets now.

Quirky or spotty seems to be the right word. I am also a bit gun-shy of ebay Dolnets after the HP debacle, which was the lowest point in my saxophonic career thus far [knock on wood].

Uwe's gp alto is now mine, and I will soon know more- should arrive next week. Alto is my main axe, and this horn was bought with the idea that it would compete with my '38 Keilwerth "King Modell 3" (same body tube as a New King) for top billing.

Nonetheless, as you can see by my still laying down the bread to get Uwe's Dolnet, I still have faith in them. Spotty, quirky, sometimes in HP, but when one of them is a good one, they really are amazing horns.
 

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Based on my limited experience, like Conn, yes; Zephyr, no. A big bore sound from top to bottom. Very Conn-esque.

I also agree the intonation is very flexible. On my bari, for instance, I have it dialed in so that I need to completely relax in the low octave, then voice everything slightly up from D2 to C3--but it is really easy to do so! When I go low I just open my throat to match the big bore. When I want to go high and center the pitch I blow a narrower air stream starting in the throat. The sound responds as though the bore suddenly narrowed. It is incredibly flexible in that regard--more so than any bari or tenor I've played, though the Conns come close. And when I soften my throat, the tone takes a 180-degree turn and the edge disappears, replaced with a lush warm sound. It is very responsive.

However, it does not play well with any of the high or even medium-baffled bari pieces I have tried. The intonation goes haywire and it sounds like a chain-saw. But with the balls on this baby, I don't need a baffle. The thing roars with my Otto Link Tone Edge and STM.

spiderjames said:
I have a limited experience with Dolnets but the four horns that I have had in my possession have had some inconsistencies in the QC department. Things soldered on crooked, stuff like that. Looked like it was that way from the factory and not botched repairs. Most things that mattered could be easily corrected.

It seems to me that Dolnets are some of the quirkier of the vintage saxes, but they definitely have something going on in the mojo department. I think if you had a couple of good ones and commited yourself to them the results would be excellent. Like taming a wild beast.

Dolnets are not your typical french sounding saxophone. They compare more favorably to vintage American horns like Conns or Zephyrs. if you look on other threads, the complaints that you read about concerning Dolnets are similar to the ones you read about when someone moves from a Selmer to an old Conn or Zephyr. They take some getting useed to. the tone and pitch are not as centered or locked in as a Selmer or a Keilwerth. More uncontrollable. but perhaps ultimately more expressive.

I would be interested to know this. Those of you that did not like the Dolnets, what horn were you coming from or used to when you tried it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Pete Thomas said:
I think the thread was only for people who don't like the Dolnet
Not really - just for people who've tried them and need a place to comment which has a different emphasis from Uwe's "Dolnet appreciation thread".

Pete Thomas said:
The Dolnet in question was at Stephen Howard's workshop and he too rated it very highly
Dolnet owners must hope Stephen Howard reviews it when he happens to have a MKVI on his bench for a playing comparison - as he did with a Pierret Competition alto I sold a few months ago!
 
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