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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
there's a few in stock round my parts, but i would have to mail order. The price is about comparable with Yamaha 475 which is also straight neck only (and very unexciting, IMO), and cheaper than the Theo Wanne, which of course also claims lots of innovations so no particular reason why it shouldn't take off other than maybe small market and lack of awareness.

I note that there are very few Antiguas in stock anywhere in the UK. Even sax.co.uk only has one individual tenor left, and they carry lots of stock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hi

I've just had a test of one of these instruments. I was interested because it's a Ponzol design, has a lot of cool features, rolled toneholes etc. It took a bit of work to get it together, so a brief rundown below.

1. how i got hold of an instrument to try

First up, I contacted a store in the UK (where I am) that had one online. They answered that it wasn't in stock but there was one left at the distributor (in the back of the rep's car) and they could get in for me and offered a discount price. I replied to check whether if I didn't like it could I still send it back and then the line went a little cold. Obviously, under the law if I buy something online I can send it back; the problem would be with the retailer because they would then be stuck with the instrument as apparently the distributor doesn't take returns.

I then phoned the distributor, Barnes & Mullins, who also deal with Yanagisawa among many other brands. I suggested that if I got the sax into a London shop such as sax.co.uk perhaps I could try it there and perhaps if they're doing a lot of business they may be able to return it. I then rang sax.co.uk to see if they'd be happy to do it. obviously the potential to make a decent amount of money for them, so the guy at the head office was very happy and sorted it right away. I would still have preferred to mail order it and try it at home for a couple of days.

2. At the test

So today I went in to have a go on it. I brought my regular piece, a 1972 Buffet Super Dynaction, and also asked the shop assistant if I could play a straight Rampone alongside it and later a YSS-875. I made a mistake in not bringing a recorder, so i had to rely on my ears. I did borrow a tuner from the store.

It was a filthy day: a cloudy humid 32°C/90°F. Air con in the main store but not in the practise room, so my fingers were sweating, my nose was sweating, my lips were sweating. Moreover, I've been amazingly busy with work and childcare and have barely touched the sax for a fortnight. I'd rushed out of work to get to the shop as they were getting antsy that it had been in stock for a week and I hadn't been in.

3. About the horn

APPEARANCE AND FEEL:

The instrument looks well; it has a decent heft and doesn't seem light or flimsy. The screws were all well seated. The colour is dark and in places quite orangey - at certain points on the sax it's almost copper coloured, especially at the end of the bell and on the rolled toneholes (low C through Bb)

The keywork follows the increasingly standardised pattern. There's a Yani-style linkage between B and C# which is useful for faster transitions in, for example, B Major. Apparently the keys are real mother-of-pearl. It's keyed up to high F# with a front F.

SOUND AND PLAYABILITY:

I actually felt the sax had a good sound of its own. It wasn't as mellow as the YSS-875, but quite assertive and capable of sounding quite "saxy". As I say this is only to my ears which doesn't tell you as much as a recording. It certainly wasn't thin in any way. Playability was also very good as far as I could tell (see below). The keys were light to touch, and, for example, the LH pinky table was much lighter and more responsive than the Rampone. On first blow I struggled to get the low notes in tune, although this improved in time; similarly while I was able to get up high fairly easily, the top F# was very difficult and very flat. It seems to require a significantly tighter embouchure than F natural below it.

HOWEVER, the sax was well out of adjustment. The spring on the A had popped off entirely resulting in sticking and no Bis (which is my main Bb), and the low notes were very difficult, I expect due to leaks. This is understandable - the horn has sat in the back of the distro rep's car for a year or so - but frustrating. How can you tell what the intonation is like if the horn is out of whack?

This is when the trial took a turn for the worse. After about 60 minutes I pointed out the horn was fairly out of whack to the sales assistant, plus the general difficulties of the day, and said I'd like to come back tomorrow. He got pretty shirty, saying things like "everyone is waiting for you, man". He suggested we go to the technician right there and I wait while he reset the spring etc., but I needed to get back to work unfortunately. I asked what else they were planning to do with the horn (e.g. they could keep in stock for other people to try - I'm sure some readers here might be potential customers), but he said they would send it back immediately and I had to buy it today. He was quite angry. I did mention that it had been sitting in the rep's car for a year and another day wasn't going to make a huge difference.

It's a difficult one. The shop had been helpful in getting the horn in, but we are talking about an item costing £1,480 (US$1,875, €1,680) so that's a decision that needs time put into it. I didn't want to be rude but the rehearsal room was a sweatbox on that day and the horn had issues. I would guess the shop is working on 100% markup or more, so that is £740 worth of business. I do actually run a retail business myself and for a lot less than that money I would accommodate the customer. 24-48 hours wait for a sale vs pissing a potential customer off?

Anyway, the technician is going to look at the horn. I'm not sure if I will try it again or just tell the salesman I'm not interested. I have to go back to collect my horn that is having a tiny adjustment tomorrow or Saturday so I guess I may as well, but I'm also not relishing the scrutiny and the surly pressure.

Sorry for the verbosity! Let me know if anyone has any questions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
incidentally, I am a previous customer of the shop, but only for mpcs, reeds etc. I've never bought a horn off them. I have been in previously to try a Rampone, about 8 or 9 months ago. So not obviously timewaster but no great customer record of lining their pockets. The technician recognised me and was friendly (I was quite relieved), at which point the surly salesman fled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Okay, so I faced my demons and went back. The chatty (!) tech, Lewis, had done some work on it and it played loads better. Second round conclusions would be:

SOUND
To me it genuinely does sound vintage American - broad and sonorous and quite dark, not a hint of an oboe - and I speak as someone who owns 192? Martin. It has its own voice which is nicely malleable and I felt preferable to Yamaha Custom Z I played next to it.

BUILD
I could not fault the build. I think the keywork is really excellent - not quite as light touch as pro-level Yamaha but easily the match of horns £1000 more in price. I particularly like the LH cluster.

I maintain that this is an excellent piece for the money, which, incidentally, seems to be rather lower in the UK than in the US, although I don't know why that should be. That said, I'm not sure if I need it. This seems to be the last one left this side of the Atlantic so if anyone else is interested let me know.

I did make a small recording just on iPhone with built in speaker for my own benefit, but I'm happy to share it if anyone's interested. i can email it - it's about 8MB in total.
 
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