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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009
3,292 Posts
Handcraft. Fundamentally different from a Comm III. I've owned a lot of Martins, and think that the Comm III's are by far superior to the earlier models. What I like is a combination of raw power and a certain roundness/sophistication.

The power is an attribute of the Handcraft / Imperial horns. The most powerful alto I ever played was a silver plate imperial -- the thing could take houses down. Seriously military grade power. But the sound had this odd hollowness -- kind of like the middle was taken out of the tone. Honestly, I almost think of the early handcrafts as marching horns, although they are certainly able to do much more, that's really where I feel they are best suited.

The Committee I and Committee II horns are very similar to each other, but quite a departure from the HC's. In my opinion, brute force is sacrificed for a more sophisticated tone. Slightly brighter (though still dark in sound), less volume (though more than enough for most any application), less projection, more sweetness. The Committee horns were also much more sonically versatile than the handcrafts, again IMO -- I can get Comm I/II horns to sound good in quite a variety of settings.

BUT, the Comm-IIIs somehow blend the two earlier models. Lots of oomph, but no sacrifice to roundness/tone. More tonal flexibility -- can be dark smokey jazz players, or big rock blasters. If anything, what they sacrifice is a bit of focus -- the sound is more "spread" than the Committee horns, and often not quite as sweet, naturally. But I love the combination of guts and beauty.

So, in terms of "matching" your Comm-III -- nah, very different. The Comm-III altos are a very nice match for the Comm-III tenors, and I suspect you'll find a Comm-I or Comm-II to be closer than a HC. However, the HC's are great, and offer something old school and distinct -- think of them as the anti-Selmer. If that's what you're after -- go!

Prices on HC altos are quite low. Good examples in very good working condition can be bought for $400 from time to time. Stencils needing significant work can go as low as $100 on ebay. Don't pay over $500 for it, even in prime shape, unless you can play it and fall in love.
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