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Discussion Starter #1
So, I've heard lots of negative comments regarding the MKVI soprano...that it wasn't on par with Selmer's other horns of the period. The awkward palm keys, sketchy intonation, no strap hook, no front F...etc were deal breakers for a lot of people. Despite these comments, I had to see for myself whether the MKVI was for me or not, so I took the plunge and got one (a really late model). My first impressions were:

- yep, those palm keys are weird
- intonation could be better, but workable
- sound is nice
- no front F? Not a problem...I rarely venture that far into the stratosphere for fear of a public flogging.
- no strap hook? Got used to that with my Buescher TT a long time ago
- reeks of smoke. Not endemic of MKVIs, but something I was going to have to deal with.

Then I took the horn to my tech, who replaced a pad or two, adjusted the key heights, and replaced a few corks. Then I sprayed some fabrese on a new pad saver and shoved it up the sax and left it for a few days. Took the case outside and dowsed it with fabrese as well and left it out there for a couple of days. The result:

- palm keys...getting used to those...in fact, when playing the horn held out, like it was meant to be, they don't seem to be a problem...in fact, they almost make sense. I'm confident I will get used to them. What's more, I have absolutely no trouble at all getting those palm notes to speak. I can't say that about some of the other sopranos I've played (including a Yani curved, several Yamaha 62s, and vintage Conns/Bueschers).

- intonation...spot on now that it has been properly adjusted. I was amazed at how easy this horn is to play in tune...even the upper register has no problems. Now that the horn seals properly, the sound is simply gorgeous.

- no front F...still not an issue...still have no desire to venture above high F

- no strap hook...again, not an issue.

- smoke? Gone. The horn itself has completely aired out. The case still smells like fabrese, but I figure a couple more days in the sun will help that.

I'm just amazed at how easily this horn plays...I was bracing myself for a battle with this MKVI and, the truth be told, I was preparing myself to not like it. It turned out to be such a pleasant surprise.

I have a Serie III waiting for me on my doorstep as I write this...my plan is to A/B test them and keep whichever I like the most and sell the other one. I've heard good things and bad things about the Serie III, so we'll just have to see.

I'm looking forward to this weekend. :)

fm
 

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Interesting post!
I played a (late) MkVI sop for some time as I was leading a small (7) sax ensemble.
-Palm keys: not an issue. Nowadays you can put rubber risers if you need.
-Intonation: on the spot! But I have played at least another one which had an inborn intonation pb (the low B & Bb were so out of tune! impossible to compensate)
-no front F, not a big pb. no hi F#, so use alternate fingering (T-1-3/1). Could play a nice hi A as well (T-2-3). My only discomfort was with the hi E (side key), a bit far to reach for my small hands.
-no strap hook.... but there is a lyre holder. I used a thin metal hook strap, tightened the lyre holder screw and... voilà!
-big sound, great tone....

Please let us know about your comparison with the Series III (huge difference in ergonomics you will see...)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Don't worry folks, I'll be sure to post my thoughts regarding the Serie III when I've played it. Like a I said, it should be a very good weekend.

fm
 

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FM - Any comparisons you could make between the VI and the Yani copies (S6 and S800?) would also be interesting.
 

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I've always played V1 sops although I've tried the Y's along the way. Nothing has ever satisfied like a good V1, they just keep delivering tone. Except for a TT nothing comes close. I've also got a Series 3 that I like ( far superior for me once set up than any other modern soprano if beauty and weight of tone is a priority). I get very bored with the Y's quickly but the V1 is just endless.
I've got a front F Oleg key, sling ring and riser on side F on my V1. Regarding the difficult side E, I was amazed when I tried an early V1 sop with a slim fixed thumb rest as compared to the plastic version on later models. Reaching side E was so much easier and felt natural. I actually like the palm keys.
The V1 has flaws (what horn hasn't ?) but it more than makes up for them.
Lacy and Trane sounded pretty good to me.
Here in the UK it's the horn of choice for the classical crowd too along with the Buffet S1 alto (?)
 

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I've said it many times on this board: The ergonomics of the VI are not as troublesome as they're made out to be; they're easily overcome with a little practice. And I don't even use risers or other modifications--the horn plays fine as is. As Michael says, what was good enough for Trane and Lacy is good enough for me. I love the sound and feel of the Mark VI soprano.
 

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Fungus Mungus said:
- intonation...spot on now that it has been properly adjusted. I was amazed at how easy this horn is to play in tune...even the upper register has no problems. Now that the horn seals properly, the sound is simply gorgeous.
Yeah, all it takes is a missing cork and/or felt here or there on a VI soprano to really screw up its intonation. I wonder how many folks buy into this as a problem and just played maladjusted horns. I'd take my VI over anything made today. Just not over a True Tone...
 

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I have never owned a VI Soprano Sax but have played on other people's from time to time. I LOVED every one I ever played...
 

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Mark VI sops have the killer sound~~~ although I liked my S6 Yani, it was never on the same level as the VI sop.

can't wait to here your comment on IIIs
 

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Just got a MKVI sop

I think I may have stumbled into a good deal. I bought this MKVI from my sax teacher after playing it and took it straight to the shop to have it checked out. It wasn't stolen, but he's a bit of a stoner so I kind of wanted a second opinion. Great shape basically. Nothing leaking but they suggested that it could use a few (6-8) pads, no significant dents, a couple of tiny dings and the bell is slightly askew from what may have been a short drop. Shop said all told, about $200 to replace pads, straighten the bell and recork the neck. (That looked a little gamey.) It has about 75-80% of the original laquor but mechanically it seems to be in good shape. It sounded great when my instructor played it. It is a 1971 horn if the serial number charts are correct. I am very new to the forum (very,very new) and would like to know two things...1) what kind of a mouthpiece & ligature should I get for this beast, and 2) is there an appropriate place for me to discuss what this instrument is likely worth?

I have been playing my Yamaha Intermediate YSS475 with a Selmer S80 C* and Rovner ligature for about 18 months. I 'm not very good, but I can play tunes out of my fake books (I play piano) and I really like the soprano sax. Now I seem to have two of them.
 

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I've owned this model soprano since about 1974/5 and have never felt the need to change. Some things are awkward, yes (see other posts) but it's the sound I like. Also - personal taste - I don't care for modern curved models, although I must admit, they are easier to play.
 

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I've had a few V1 sopranos ( wish I'd still got my first) including my current one and I have a SP series 3 which I like. I honestly think all of the Selmer sopranos from V1 to date are excellent once set up. Many negative opinions are formed playing unplayable horns in shops which have come from the factory like that and have remained untouched or inadequately set up by the shop in question. Then they are compared sometimes unfavourably with much better prepared sopranos made by other manufacturers. However although the ultimate responsibility for this is Selmers they are still great horns.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I didn't get as much time as I'd hoped with weekend to play test my MKVI and Series III. From the playing I've done, I have certain leanings, but I will let you know after the end of the day, when I've had a little more time with these horns.

Michael's right...they're both fabulous once they've been set up properly. My tech replaced a few pads, adjusted key heights, and added a few corks on the MKVI. He just modified a few of the adjustment screws on the Series III, which apparently go out of adjustment easily.

Tune in later today for my impressions.

fm
 

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My III sop held its adjustments very well in the five years or so that I owned it.

Good luck on making a decision. I've had both a Mk VI sop and a III.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Well, I've had more time to play both horns some more. I played both horns on the same mouthpiece and reed (a metal Selmer D with a Vandoren 2-1/2). Here are my observations.

Series III

The Series III soprano was very nice. Matte finish with engraving, with almost no flaws. The only adjustments necessary on it were done with adjustment screws and to be honest, I didn't notice a difference from when I played it out of the box. I tried both necks and they both played the same for me.

This horn is heavy! I mean, it is built like a tank. It's a good thing it comes with a neckstrap hook because I couldn't see myself going more than a few tunes without one.

The horn sounded really nice and played in tune except maybe the low D was a little sharp. I was easily able to adjust for that. It spoke very easily up until the palm keys. I could get up to E with little effort, but F was hit or miss. Front F was almost impossible. F# and G were as illusive as the front F. I had my tech look at this specifically and he could see nothing that would prevent this note from speaking properly. The F key was opening as high as it should, both using the front F and the palm F. The C wasn't leaking, which usually explains front Fs that won't speak. He tried it and couldn't get it to speak well for him either. Maybe other Series III sopranos fare better here. Or maybe I need a month with it.

As far as adjustment screws going out, I'm just relaying what my tech said about them. He may have been talking about adjustment screws in general, not just the Series III. One of them did seem to move a little too easily, so I could see this getting out of adjustment easily.

The sound is very nice, as I stated before. I could easily be satisfied with this sound, and given the ergos of the horn, I can see why people like them.

Mark VI

As I stated before, I was ready to hate this horn when I got it. I played it out of the box and it was OK, but nothing to write home about. But I certainly didn't hate it. Once this horn had a few pads and corks replaced, it really surprised me.

It plays in tune. I mean, I don't feel like I'm adjusting for anything. I found myself looking at the bell just to be sure I hadn't picked up a Yamaha 62 series by mistake...the intonation was that good. :)

The palm keys were awkward at first, but they weren't terrible. I can easily see getting used to them. As I stated before, the lack of a front F is not a problem, and as I couldn't get the front F on the Series III to play reliably anyway, it is even less of an issue. I understand there are aftermarket mods available if this becomes a necessity.

The MKVI was a LOT lighter than the Series III. This makes not having a neckstrap hook easy to overlook. I don't like playing straights with a neckstrap anyway. It is much easier than, say, a Buescher TT to hold as the thumbrest is comfortable. My TT was a real bear to play for any length of time due to that skinny little thumbrest it had. I did build that up with foam and it helped a bit, but I don't feel any need to do anything to the thumbrest on the MKVI.

The horn speaks easily throughout the register (even the palm keys). The sound...this is where the horn really wins out. I've always heard that people put up with the ergos of the MKVI sopranos for the sound alone. I couldn't believe it was that big of a difference. I now know where they're coming from. The only way I can describe the sound of this horn is using one word: LUSH. I felt like I could play this thing for hours. The Series III had a good, solid sound, but...it just didn't have that sound.

So, I've made a decision...I'm keeping the MKVI, palm keys be d**ned. The ease of altissimo, gorgeous lush sound, and general playability more than make up for awkward palm keys and no front F/strap hook. The beauty is it cost me less than the Series III, so this will make my wife happy. :D

Series III owners/advocates, please understand these are my experiences with the Series III. You may have completely different experiences, so please don't feel attacked in any way. The Series III is an excellent horn, but I just wanted to go on record to say that the MKVI can be a killer horn if it's in proper adjustment. I think the bad rap it gets comes mainly from horns that have fallen out of adjustment.

fm
 

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Fungus Mungus said:
I think the bad rap it gets comes mainly from horns that have fallen out of adjustment.

fm
I have to ask, how many MK VI soprano saxes have you played?
 

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I'd like to ask what is your playing level/experience?

I have a serie iii & it's no problem to play up to altissimo Bb on and the into is pretty fabulous. You have to really relax to get the high notes & use your throat.

As for MKVI sop getting bad raps...

They were the only game in town, if you wanted a real professional soprano, until the mid-80s, when Yamaha came out with the 62, this was the 1st major improvement EVER to the soprano design, then Yani followed suit and "upped the ante" with all their improvements (double neck, etc.)

It took Selmer a few to catch-up and change their horns to be competitive.

When the Yamaha 62 came out, I remember, was the beginning of the "dissing" of the MKVI soprano.

The fact is, they can be "hit-or-miss" much more than the other horns.

Ive played alot & used to own a 200,xxx series, IMHO those are the best vintage, they ironed out alot of the kinks, they arent stuff & some have really great intonation.

The ones from the 60s...and 5 digits Ive played have seemed to be more "primitive" feeling, key-wise, like a conn or buescher and can be stuffy & quirky, intonation-wise.

In 1993, I had to sell my MKVI cuz I needed dough (mistake), it took me months to sell it, and only for $1400.

Now, it seems, the novelty has worn out on the "high-tech" horns and everyone wants a VI--I saw a beat-up, nasty one at a store in Manhattan they wanted $2900 for it!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Carl H. said:
I have to ask, how many MK VI soprano saxes have you played?
Just this one. My point is that it is clear to me that not all MKVI sopranos are dogs, as some people would have you believe. And the difference between the way this particular horn played before and after it was properly adjusted was significant. So, before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, take it in to your tech and have it gone over completely.

This isn't to say there aren't dogs out there. I'm sure there are a few YSS-62s out there that are dogs, though I have never encountered one...and I've played several of those. I've also had good TTs and bad ones.

fm
 
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