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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 12 yr old son has been playing my old King 615 (circa 1975) for the past two years. The horn was gone over and re padded about 25 yrs ago. I got the Music Medic kit last year and fixed a couple leaks and tuned it up a bit. Unfortunately, I think it really needs another overhaul. It seems like every few weeks, something needs repair. Most of the time, my son doesn't realize something is wrong, he just finds if more difficult to play. It's not until I have a chance to sit down and practice with him that we can identify the problem. Needless to say, I'm feeling "guilty" that he does not have the equipment he needs to excel at playing.

Having said that, I do not believe my son will choose a career in music (but, who knows?). I don't even know if he will want to commit to it throughout the rest of his school years. Therefore, I don't want to spend anymore than I have to so that he can have a totally functional instrument, that would not hinder him in any way. To me, the logical choices seem to be 1) total refurbishment of the King, or 2) replacement with a new Chinese horn. I don't know what the "total refurbishment" would run. I assume between $300-600. Similarly, I have seen Chinese horns for as little as $300 on Ebay for a "no-name" horn, up to $600 for a Conn-Selmer Prelude.

My inclination is to lean toward a new student horn, e.g., the Prelude. The advantages being that, a) its new, so your starting with a fresh baseline, b) most retailers do have a return policy, so if we got it and it was an absolute piece of junk, we could return it, and c) a 12 yr old will probably not appreciate playing a refurbished horn, no matter how much better it may be than a new horn. On the other hand, the only saxes I have ever played are the King and my Mk VI. I have no perspective on the quality or performance of any modern horns, including all the Chinese models. Maybe all of these horns are junk, and I would be doing my son an incredible disservice my not keeping the King in his hands.

I know there are an awful lot of people on this forum with a lot more knowledge than me. I welcome your comments/suggestions.

Thanks.
Roger
 

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oh dear. Well tbh you'll probably get the complete range of opinions from the knowlegable describing one of those options as the only way, and the other a complete mistake...unfortunately the opinon will probably be about 50/50 as to which option is which :)

My view, you've identified the two viable options. A refurbished older sax, or a new asian one. People have successfully been learning by both of those methods for at least the past 10 years. Pay your money and take your choice...or why not ask your son what his preference would be?
 

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Depending on where you live it may be less expensive to have the existing/known tenor repadded and put into GPC than it would to purchase a new/unknown instrument.
Being the parent of 'musicians' I would suggest that you take the King to your favorite tech for an estimate. While you're waiting have your son try a few of the 'student' model horns they have in stock. Be sure he's using his own mouthpiece for the try outs.
Compare the sound/feel of the new vs current, and the prices.
I know we only want the best for our children, but sometimes the 'best' comes looking like an old King Cleveland with a new set of pads.
That's only my opinion. As the parent of this child, the decision is all yours. :)
 

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I'm kinda with bandmommy on this one. A King Cleveland 615 is a perfectly good horn for a student, but repair/overhaul prices vary a lot by location - here in the SF Bay Area, you can easily hit $900. At that price, it is a wash between the King and the new Asian horns that seem to get favorable mentions here (Bauhaus Walstein, Kessler, Barone, etc.) On the other hand, if it really only needs $300-$500 or so of work, the King is probably a better deal.

Like Tiberius says, you will likely get the full range of responses from the true believers in 1) vintage American saxes 2) new Asian saxes, and 3) a used Yamaha YTS-23. The first step is to find out how much it will actually cost you to get the King in good playing shape.
 

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...on the OTHER hand, a lot of highly regarded sax/tech gurus feel there's nothing wrong with an inexpensive Chinese tenor. Seller musicalwheel on eBay has Venus tenors for about $350 (and a 7-day return policy) -- those are pretty good as far as cheap tenors go. What's cool is that they're available in some unique finishes that a young musician might find pretty cool. Here's a review of a Venus Alto:
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Alto/venus_alto.htm

I've owned a Chinese alto for about a year now, and I love it. It's a Yani A-991 copy. Intonation is better than any of the newer student horns I've used in the past (10 year old Conn, Bundy II, etc...), and it's got a great sound. From 3 feet away, it looks exactly like a $3,000 horn.

What's funny is that I just bought a late 50s King Cleveland Tenor this weekend off Craigslist. Got an incredible deal on it, and I'm excited I found it. I'm having my tech look at it today, so I'll found out how lucky (or unlucky) I am. Prior to finding this horn, I had decided that I'd be ordering another Chinese horn (I got stuck with a French tenor this winter that needed a lot of work - that sucks).

So my advice is the Chinese tenor - that way you know you're not buying someone else's problems. Once you get it, have a tech replace the synthetic chinese corks with the real deal - your son will be set!
 

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Roger..... you already answered your own question.

You have sussed out the positives and negatives of both possibilities. Either is valid, really....

$500 to fix up a good, solid ol' player....or $500 to buy an asian budget horn. It's the classic conundrum.

IMHO, put the $ into the better quality instrument; the one that can take your kid further and the one which, upon resale, will maintain some sorta market value down the road. That's gonna be the 615....
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I was leaning towards the Chinese option until a couple hours ago. I spoke with a local sax repairman (Garry Hane @ Chicago Sax Repair). I described the King to him and he felt it may be as little as $100-150, given that it is generally playable right now. I realize this is always contingent on actually seeing the instrument, but that is still encouraging. Just as important, he said it would only take 2-3 days...and he's only 20 min from my house.

I think we may try to get it to him this week to see what he thinks. If anyone out there has any experience with Chicago Sax Repair, feel free to share.

Thanks.
Roger
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Roger..... you already answered your own question.

You have sussed out the positives and negatives of both possibilities. Either is valid, really....

$500 to fix up a good, solid ol' player....or $500 to buy an asian budget horn. It's the classic conundrum.

IMHO, put the $ into the better quality instrument; the one that can take your kid further and the one which, upon resale, will maintain some sorta market value down the road. That's gonna be the 615....
I just checked the serial #, it is 525XXX. Based on some of the information on this site, I think that is a decent series, isn't it?
 

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"Good point about resale Jaye. Vingtage horns appreciate, new horns depreciate (esp. the Chinese ones)."

^ The last part of this is an old (WW-)wives tale -- people repeat it constantly and think it's true, because it's repeated so often, but it's actually false. If you go to eBay and crunch the numbers on the major ROC brands (you can't do this yet for PRC brands on eBay, because you just won't find many BW or similar level PRC brands being resold there, yet), you will find that the top (e.g. Cannonball, P. Mauriat, etc.) ROC brands actually depreciate LESS than Selmer, Yanagisawa and Yamaha pro models, and MUCH LESS than Yamaha and Selmer student models -- this applies to horns purchased new.

As far as brands like Bauhaus Walstein, you will really tend only to find documented sales on this board, in the Marketplace area, and if you actually watch the resale prices they hold more (by percentage!) of their original value than Selmer, on average.

I realize this is counterintuitive, to most people, because you hear the same refrain repeated so often you just believe it, blind. If you actually note resale prices, you'll see everything I say here is true. If you were to do a ranking of resale depreciation, you'd find the best values (when purchased new) followed an order something like this (from best to worst):

- Cannonball
- Bauhaus Walstein
- Keilwerth Student (ROC)
- Selmer
- Yamaha
- Keilwerth
- Yamaha Student
- Selmer Student

Don't take my word for it. Go crunch the numbers for yourself. (I did not include my line there, as I'm only aware of one resale, at about 50% of original cost, which is in the same class as Selmer/Yamaha/Yanagisawa).

As far as King 615s, Bauhaus Walstein and my Crescent line will both crush it -- absolutely smash it to bits in very area (tone, intonation, build -- every area).

A mentor of mine in NOLA had a 615, so I am very familiar with them, although I have never bought or resold them because they're just not in the class of saxophones I'd buy or sell. This will offend people would would sell them, I'm just telling it like it is.
 

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ptung - you are responding to the parenthetical and missing (or dodging) the main point. You may be correct that new ROC horns depreciate less than new European or Japanese horns. But the fundamental point of the post is that any new horn is going to depreciate more than a name brand vintage horn.

Consider the OP's position: the horn is for a 12 year old with an uncertain commitment to music, the OP appears to have a constrained budget, he already has the King, and (based on his last post) the King might only need $150 to be made playable.

So he could drop $150 on the King (and likely get more than that if he sold it), or he could drop $900 (Crescent) or $1200 (BW) on one of your horns (and likely take a loss if he sold it). Seems like a pretty easy call. Go with the King for now, and if the kid gets serious over the next few years, he can upgrade then.
 

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I have a circa 1970 King Cleveland alto....it cost me $300 to refurb it when I took it out of storage a few years ago. Still looks and sounds great. I think my $300 was well spent compared to a Chinese horn that has no long term track record
 

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One of my teachers played a Cleveland 615 his horn of choice, playing gigs in Atlantic City, that's all I know of them, but I would opt for getting the King re-done, replacing what it needs. Unless of course it needs to be shiny and new.
 

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King 615 tenors (and 613 alto) practically don't sell over here (if not for very low prices). I have had them both in fine playing conditions and general looks and both times I ended up trading or part trading the horn. The alto , rare silver plate finish, was offered from a Shop in consignment for a price of 600 euro for one year and nobody bought it.

I really could buy them often for very little but I know that I will keep them forever without selling them. They are generally not worth repadding because they will never get you the money back that you invest in the operation, unless you do it yourself.

This is the value situation in my part of the world.

When it comes to being a good sounding horn, they certainly are. In spite of the rather crude and unsophisticated mechanics they are good horns, big ballsy sound.


Would I choose any Chinese horn over a King 615? No, not any horn, but a good one? Maybe. I will certaily look for other less popular but well made second hand horns to replace this one. You cannot go wrong with a Vito Yamaha in playing condition or indeed a Yamaha itself (although I probably prefer the sound of the King).
Vito Leblanc horns are worth very little too but they are great horns.

But your son, probably, wants a bit of bling........in that case I would definitely consider some good bling and a Bauhaus Walstein might be what you could well play. Perhaps a new second hand reconditioned one? They are out there and don't cost much.
 

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I have a circa 1970 King Cleveland alto....it cost me $300 to refurb it when I took it out of storage a few years ago. Still looks and sounds great. I think my $300 was well spent compared to a Chinese horn that has no long term track record
I seriously doubt you can get any dependable new saxophone without problems (now or soon to come) for $300 or less. My cost is higher than that, and even if someone bought from a quality factory in larger numbers to get a lower wholesale there would be very little profit margin, there, if any.

artstove - that's only about new saxophones, and it's just to correct a misperception (because it's completely wrong), repeated ad nauseum on this forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I thought I'd revisit this thread with a little update. I think I may pull the trigger on a Venus tenor for Christmas. This will allow my son to leave the King at school and keep the Venus at home. Right now he's hauling the King back and forth to school every day (I know what pain that is). I offered to let him use my MkVI at home, but he said he'd rather have his "own" (well, he is only 12!). If all he want's is somthing new that he feels is "his", I think the Venus will probably be just fine. If he's still playing seriously 3-4 years from now, the MkVI may be more appealing at that time.
 
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