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IMHO, they are like pared down Stratodynes, really, just with LH bellkeys. Fantastic horns, am just finishing up one. Basically an Alto version of a 241 Tenor.

Very big tone, nice overtone spread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've heard Holtons being compared to Conns. How does a Holton 232 (or Stratodyne) really compare with a cream of the crop Conn 6M? Particularly in terms of keywork, action, and feel?
 

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You know, honestly...when people ask this sorta question it is hard to answer. Because if one suggests they are comparable, then there's always the chance the person comes back and says something like "what are you talking about ? The keywork isn't the same, the tone isn't the same !".

So....in some respects....there are NO similarities whatsoever between a Conn, a Holton, a King, a Martin, and a Buescher. Remember, they were all competing against each other, so always trying to set their models apart in some way.

But, in the sense that all were from the golden era of American saxophones, they share obvious similarities. Generally, a wide and spread sound with a lot of dark and midrange overtones, sturdiness of build and quality of materials/alloy, longevity, and good precision of construction. So they all possess that "vintage tone". And owners of all would argue that the two knocks against vintage are way overstated:

~ keywork/ergonomics thing is no worse on one make than the other. A little different, but (when properly set up) nothing which would truly effect the player's ability or ease of playing. You just gotta familiarize yourself with the horn.

~ intonation. Same thing....when properly set up and adjusted, the intonation of 80% of vintage horns is not an issue whatsoever. Matter of fact, their response and flexibility to blowing and bending are far better than their modern counterparts.

So...with all that said....a Holton shares similarities with a Conn is sound in that they are both wide and dark. Holtons probably sound like Conns more than they sound like any of the other American makes, IMHO. Regarding keywork...it's the same but different. So if you are used to a 6M, then a 23X horn will probably feel familiar. The only thing I can think is that some of the 23X horns had convex pearl keytocuhes, as opposed to the scooped concave ones...which some players may find different (but of course, one can always switch them out).

Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
saxpics.com gives a pretty dismal review of Holton.

"Holton History
The Frank Holton Company of Elkhorn, Wisconsin is one of the earliest saxophone makers, with the Rudy Wiedoeft model being the most famous model that they produced (the Elkhorn being one of the more infamous). Unfortunately, these horns have questionable intonation at best, odd keywork and tinny sound. They were bought out by the G. Leblanc corporation in the 60's -- the company that makes Vito saxophones (hmm ...). They now make brasswinds exclusively.
I'm of the opinion that Holton more_or_less submitted to the fact that, after 1925 or so, they could never really compete with the other big saxophone makers like Conn and Buescher. They do produce a quite respectable line of brasswinds, but I think they produced saxophones for the sake of saying, "We offer an entire line of band instruments."
Their soprano saxophones are of slightly better quality than their altos and tenors (strangely enough), I've been told. I've only heard of two baris -- and one was a recent (well, 1960_ish) horn. The example I have below is the only other one I've ever seen. I wonder how it sounds.
There aren't a lot of Holton models worth mentioning, so no jump station. Go here for a serial number chart."

Also, no mention of Holton in most "vintage sax guides" and this brand is not sold often by sax dealers, even when they might carry lots of other American horns.

I know it's just because its a less famous brand... the Stratodyne, for example, looks like an awesome horn.
 

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saxpics.com gives a pretty dismal review of Holton.

"Holton History
The Frank Holton Company of Elkhorn, Wisconsin is one of the earliest saxophone makers, with the Rudy Wiedoeft model being the most famous model that they produced (the Elkhorn being one of the more infamous). Unfortunately, these horns have questionable intonation at best, odd keywork and tinny sound. They were bought out by the G. Leblanc corporation in the 60's -- the company that makes Vito saxophones (hmm ...). They now make brasswinds exclusively.
I'm of the opinion that Holton more_or_less submitted to the fact that, after 1925 or so, they could never really compete with the other big saxophone makers like Conn and Buescher. They do produce a quite respectable line of brasswinds, but I think they produced saxophones for the sake of saying, "We offer an entire line of band instruments."
Their soprano saxophones are of slightly better quality than their altos and tenors (strangely enough), I've been told. I've only heard of two baris -- and one was a recent (well, 1960_ish) horn. The example I have below is the only other one I've ever seen. I wonder how it sounds.
There aren't a lot of Holton models worth mentioning, so no jump station. Go here for a serial number chart."

Also, no mention of Holton in most "vintage sax guides" and this brand is not sold often by sax dealers, even when they might carry lots of other American horns.

I know it's just because its a less famous brand... the Stratodyne, for example, looks like an awesome horn.
That description in saxpics was written a long time ago, and I disagree with about 90% of it.

Here's MY take: I don't know why, but Holton apparently put their efforts into marketing their pro brasswind instruments. Their woodwinds suffered in reputation because they weren't actively being marketed to pros IMHO. The odd keywork being described in the write up is the Rudy Wiedoeft model. Yep--it's different and some folks have difficulties setting those up. It's a late 1920s era horn though, and whether we like that particular model or not, an early horn shouldn't establish the company's reputation forever. Buescher had early true tones with tuning issues, the non-ergonomic button G#, and no high F until late 20s, and their TT Tenors never caught on at all really. Yet, no begrudges Buescher that when looking at the Big Bs or TH&Cs, or even later TTs though. Check out a Holton 241 tenor set up well and tell me how it plays, and what you think of the build quality.

You're right though: no dealers really carry Holtons. As they never caught on with pros, and they have negative info floating around about them, they simply just don't sell well, and when they do, it's not for much money.
 

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The 232 is a great horn. Below is a picture of my 241 and 232 which shows the right side of the horns to complement the left side view in geauxsax's picture above. There are a lot of differences between the two horns - RH vs. LH bell keys, octave mechanism, rolled versus soldered tone holes, etc. - but the overall characteristics of both are broad, honest, versatile, and reliable. I tried several mouthpieces on each horn before settling in, and recommend that anyone with one do the same until they find the desired sound. The horns will not limit tone production - they have a very deep capability and deserve the love and time it takes to match their setup to the sound you are striving for. For reference only, my 241 tenor is set with a Berg Larsen 110 2M metal, and the 232 alto has a Jody Jazz HR 7M. Both use 2 1/2 reeds, mostly Plasticover these days.

Musical instrument Saxophone Reed instrument Sleeve Brass instrument
 
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