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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, here's what my situation is: I have a Selmer USA Mod. 164 tenor sax (821xxx) that I bought recently. I have heard that replacing the neck with a Mk VI or a Reference neck can really change the sound (for the better supposedly.) My neck is fine as is but I'm wondering if this is something that would improve my sax's playing ability. I guess my real question is why change out the neck in the first place and is the improvement worth $300?

If the answer is yes to it being worth it, then what necks would you recommend and why? I have a Selmer C* mouthpice that I am using with a Rico Royal 3 reed.

Also, I have a Model 162 Alto that I also recently purchased that has a different neck (brighter gold laquer compared to the rose/gold laquer of the 162) that I believe to be from a later AS100. It's also possible that it could be from much later (probably a student model...) The "S" on the octave mechanics is engraved with one of those gothic "S" and no coloring. It's not the stylized "S" of Selmer (Paris) and it's not the solid "S" of the new Selmer USA's. It has an enlongated diamond surrounding the "S" (as opposed to the rounded border on a Mk VI) and the edges fold down to the pivots. The keywork is the same gold laquer as the neck. I'd be interested in identifying this neck if possible. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Well, after a discussion with a couple of very knowlegeable people in the business who discouraged me from changing the neck (one told me to sell the horn as is and "bite the bullet" and purchase a good Selmer Paris model. The other one told me to wait and see what the sax would sound like after he had gone over it and set it up properly for me) I have decided to wait and let the second gentleman set it up for me. Upon reflection, this actually seems like the most logical (and reasoned) approach. I like the sax's sound but there seems to be some "resistance" that makes it seem as if I have to fight to get the sound out! Most probably, it's a leaking pad (or two!) When he looked at it, he immediately said that the action "was all screwed up" and that "he would get it working right" and then we could make a proper evaluation of how the sax performs! I agreed. He's checking out my alto model 162 right now and I will give him my Model 164 tenor when I pick it up on the 20th of August (just in time for the start of the Fall season.) In retrospect, I should have realized this before I started looking to "improve" the sax!
 

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Always learning... Thanks for posting the update, and please let us know how it plays after the adjustments are made. Good luck!
 

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alto: 82Zii/Medusa/Supreme, tenor: Medusa, bari: b-901, sop, sc-990
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my real question is why change out the neck in the first place and is the improvement worth $300?
I wouldn't replace it until you do all the things to set up the horn correctly. Most of the time, replacement necks do not improve saxophones. However, i do use replacement necks on some of my saxes. there is usually a trade off, however. For example, the replacement neck may be louder, but the intonation is worse.

Also, I have a Model 162 Alto that I also recently purchased that has a different neck… I'd be interested in identifying this neck if possible.
Photos would help.
 

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The alto neck has the correct logo. It probably is a replacement from a few years later than the sax after Selmer USA had changed to the 'clear' lacquer (as you figured). As for the tenor, you will never know what it can really do until you put a MK VI-style neck on it. The best source is the Selmer Paris Series III neck. I'm sure you would have no trouble selling it if it didn't work out, but I honestly cannot imagine how it wouldn't. I have one now that I'm using on my USA and MK VI.
On my USA alto neck, I colored-in the 'diamond' area around the 'S' with blue crazing glass paint many years ago. Kind of stupid, but I do these things. Here are the 164 and 162 together - literally. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks! I have my 162 back from being set up properly and it really sings! The tenor is there now getting the same treatment. When I get it back I'll make the "informed" decision about what I want to do! (It actually has a pretty nice sound right now!) Thanks for the excellent advice!
 

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I had a 164 for a while and, after my tech tweaked it, it was fantastic. I am pretty much a total "Conn-vert" now or I would still have it. It was better, to me, than a few Paris models I have played. For a while, I tried a Yamaha G2 neck on it and it was great. Not better than the original but different. A little fatter, more open and more spread. The neck profile was also closer in shape to a Mark VI while the USA neck is more like a Mark VII. I love my Conns, but the 164 was a really great horn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Update (1/27/12): Well, I went ahead and purchased a Series III neck over Christmas and have been playing it for about a month. My impression is that, while a fantastic neck, it isn't quite right for this sax! Whether this is an isolated incident or symptomatic of the entire model series, I can't say. When I first changed over, I noticed that my S80 C* didn't work well with the Series III neck on the 164 body so I had to scramble to find one that did. I never really succeeded so, today, I changed back to the original neck and wow! All of a sudden, the horn just came alive! The intonation problems disappeared and the warm, full-bodied tone came back without all of the embouchurial gymnastics that I hadn't even realized I was doing! I will be selling the neck to recoup some of my money but I have a feeling that this will be a somewhat expensive lesson. The good news is that I no longer have to go looking for a new mouthpiece as my Yamaha 5C seems to be doing the trick! Now that I have my alto and tenor straightened out the way I want them, on to the bari...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Another update (you just had to know that one was coming): While the Series III neck wasn't quite right, I did finally manage to acquire a MkVI neck (yes, there is a difference!) which I was able to test on my 164. It definitely improved the sound! The same thing was true of my 162 alto. I am sending the sax in for an "Überhaul" as I am done with anymore GAS for the tenor. I have found a sax that I am completely comfortable with and which plays marvelously. The only thing it's missing is good looks (that lacquer job was pitiful!!) This was a really good sax design that, combined with a MkVI neck , makes for a dynamite sax!!
 

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Glad you didn't take the advice of the guy who told you to bite the bullet and sell the sax for a Paris model! Obviously that was someone who is not familiar with this particular line of saxes :)
 

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What you have discovered is that necks and saxes (and players) are all individuals, and you can't just make a blanket statement (as I did) that one neck WILL WORK with a certain sax. As far as the USA neck, I don't use mine, but the great Boots Randolph played a USA for about the last 15 years of his career, with original neck, and could have played any sax in the world he wanted or that H. Selmer could have made for him. I sat 15' in front of him and watched him play it one night. He was playing this horn exclusively, not only for road shows. He was using it on his late recordings as well as TV appearances. He was playing a Dukoff D9 during that period. I liked his sound better on the Brilhart 'Velvet Tone' he played during the fantastic early years, including 'Hip Boots', but he just wore that piece out. Since only a few of them were made, he just started using Dukoffs, which he ordered by the dozen, picking out one or two at a time. As you know, Dukoffs made of 'Silverite' (lead-free pewter) can be great, but the metal is soft and the piece is not very durable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I talked to the tech at SaxProShop who did the Uberhaul on my 164 and he said that the original neck made the sax play better in tune than the MkVI neck (small wonder.) The MkVI neck opened it up but tended to play any notes above high A flat! Shaving off a half centimeter might help but what would it then do to the rest of the notes? They're sending it to me and I should have it by next Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to seeing what it can do now that all of the "little niggling details" have been ironed out! Who knows? Maybe I'll prefer the old neck now...
 

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As far as the length of the neck goes, "shaving off" a half centimeter should be the same as pushing in the mouthpiece - that's not going to change the tendency to go flat above high A. It is more likely that the octave pip needs to be moved. Call someone like Randy Jones regarding neck modifications on Selmer necks. It sounds like your tech may not be so experienced in that regard.

Try voicing the notes above high A WITHOUT using the octave key and listen to the intonation.
 

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In years of playing with a MK VI neck, I have not noticed any such tendency. In fact, the VI neck gives a much better altissimo. A3 is a little flat, but this sax has some key height issues in the upper stack I have yet to address.
On my 'Omega' alto, I did in fact cut the tip reinforcement off the neck (about 1/4" removed) and to this day still push the mouthpiece almost all the way down. I also played a Selmer Paris MK VI replacement neck on it for several years, but eventually returned to the short original neck. Yep, whipped out a small hacksaw and whacked the end of the neck off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I did the unthinkable I hacked a centimeter off the tip of my MkVI neck! (Oh, the horrors...) :yikes!:
Funny thing though... it helped the intonation out! (I guess I got lucky!) Did it affect everything else? Honestly, I was surprised at how little the lower notes were affected compared to the higher ones being pulled up to being closer in tune! I play it now and have no trouble playing the high notes in tune with just the tiniest effort (which I tend to do anyway.) The openness of the MkVI neck far outweighs any small effort necessary to bring those high notes in tune (plus, I'm not willing to tempt fate another time and hack any more off of that MkVI neck!)
 
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