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Discussion Starter #1
I am interested in purchasing an alto sax for my daughter's graduation present which is coming up real fast. She plans to play through college and currently has an old Bundy II. I am looking to upgrade it for her since it is quite used, but am limited to about $750. I have been looking on ebay and craigslist and then trying to find reviews on the horns that I've found on there.

I am currently looking at an olds super star from the 1970s which is silver tone and the seller is asking 750.00 for it. Is this a good horn and is that a good price?

If there are any other brands out there other than selmer, yamaha, yaningasawa, conn that are good to look for at a reasonable price, which are they?

I have also recently looked at a horn from the brand Stephanhouser which looks like it might be Taiwanese made with some interesting creation techniques for a company in the US. Does anyone have any information on this company?

Thanks for any help.

Mike
 

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Mmmmm...for $750 you can get much better. That was a late 70's model, and Olds always subbed out their saxes (well, almost always). It looks to be an offshore-produced horn of no particular repute, really.

May I ask why you excluded Conn from your search ? Were you referring to contemporary Conns ?

If you were looking at a 1970's horn, then the window is open to a lot of good vintage-but-not-too-vintage sorta horns which would be appropriate for a player looking to step-up from a Bundy.

There are some older Conns (14M, 50M, 7M) which are great intermediate-if-not-better horns which can be had very reasonably, in good condition. I sell tons of 14M and 50M's to school-aged players, they are very solid and can take you a long way. If you'd like to look at my website, I have both a 7M and a Keilwerth Hohner President which are very nice Altos and certainly appropriate for a youthful player.

People might suggest just grabbing a Yamaha Yas 23 or the Vito version of that same horn...but honestly...for your budget you can do better than one of those.

The Vito/Beaugnier, France Altos are always a great deal....a lot of horn for the money and of very high quality.

If you can find an Olds Parisian Ambassador by Pierret, France...these are significantly better than the horns Olds-labeled in the later 70's.

Kohlert Regents or Bixleys from the 60's are also very nice horns, good ergos, nice tone. (Do not mistake these for the 'new' Kohlerts, which are nothing but the bought-out name :().

A nice Buescher Aristocrat in fine, fine condition can be had for less than $700 as well.

Possibilities are endless, I am trying to focus on not-quite-Classic models and ones which are '60's or later as opposed to pre-60's....

If you want more contemporary, you can perhaps get a used Barone for around that money.

Do be careful on eBay...make the assumption that ANY horn you buy there will need $150 of tech work, at least.....You can get a good deal, but just always factor in that add'l investment....
 

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It is difficult to find a good saxophone in that price range. There is just one that comes to mind. Since this is a gift, I would recommend getting her a new Kessler Custom rather than a used instrument. These saxes have been highly recommended by respected members on SOTW and Kessler Music has earned a solid reputation for good customer service.
 

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Kessler Customs are good horns. A used (but in playing condition) Yamaha-23 is good as well. You could get one of those for $400 maybe. And as JayeSF mentioned, if you buy of ebay, you may have to pay for repairs. Unison saxes are also pretty solid horns, although I'm not quite sure how much a beginner model costs from Unison. Hollywoodwinds also makes some pretty solid saxes. But I'm not sure about the price range for Unison and Hollywoodwinds.

Some Taiwanese horns are GREAT as well. My first horn was a Taiwanese horn, and to this day, I still think its a great horn. Although the one I had, was a line of horns from Taiwan made for my local music store. So I'm not sure where else to get them. But I do know that this company makes their horns for multiple different shops and then sells it under the shop name. E.g. "Anaheim Band Instruments" sell ABI saxes that are actually from this Taiwanese company. Then the exact same model from that company is sold to "Long Beach Woodwinds" for their own line of saxes.

Take your pick, and hope your daughter enjoys it!
 

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I wouldn't go so far as to say if you are buying NEW there's only ONE choice.

Pete Thomas and Stephen Howard both have websites which try to separate the contenders from the pretenders regarding brand-spanking-new budget horns. A few have been mentioned already.

IF you are going to go the brand-new route...perhaps take a visit over to their sites and see if anything seems interesting. I would argue you get far more horn for the $ if you buy used....however, you gotta be careful.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
thanks to all of you that have posted. i wasn't really limiting myself to the 70s horns...i have actually looked all the way back at some 1920's beuschers, but as i am only just learning about the various saxes out there, it has been overwhelming. since she is going to be playing in college, i was basically just trying to find a good horn that would be an upgrade from the bundy 2.

i was looking to find something with a good solid sound for concert and/or jazz style band, in the budget range with a name that has some reputation. i will definitely be checking out some of the sites listed and horns listed...

many thanks
 

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I would generally stay with a 1950's or later model. Oldies are awesome (meaning pre-'40's)...but for a College-aged player.....maybe not the optimal choice. Best of luck.
 

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Is she majoring or minoring in music, or just playing in the band? If she's majoring, you're screwed! Sorry. Most music departments are anal retentive on what brands they allow in (some schools are Selmers, some are Yanigisawa, some are Yamaha, and some still believe in the Mark VI myth!). If she's only in the band, or minoring, then she has some leeway (but I would still stay "modern vintage", 1950s and newer, as obviously a Balanced Action or Super Balanced Action far exceeds your budget!).

That said, I agree with JaySF. I actually sold my Selmer Mark VII to buy a Model 38 French Vito. Price was lower (I sold the Mark VII for $2000, bought the Vito for $950), but tone and ergos were far better!

Here are some semi-modern brands that should fit the budget:

H. Couf Superba II (Superba I is one step "up", and usually commands more because of the rolled tone holes)
Beaugnier Model 38 (Vito, France)
Dolnet
Olds Parisian
mid-90s Selmer USA "pro models"
Selmer Signet
King Zephyr (Eastlake)
Cousnon

My favorite vintage sax though is the 1935 Buescher Aristocrat. Archaic keywork, modern sound! Selmer altissimo fingerings work like a charm on it too. Comfortable keyboard, despite the LH key cluster (which actually isn't bad for a LH bell key sax).
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Here is a list that I'm looking at currently. With them all in the same basic price range ($600-$800), which do y'all think would be best for college band.

Yamaha YAS-52
Buescher True Tone Low Pitch serial number 168XXX
Vintage 1940-41 Conn Alto Saxophone VIII 6M Naked Lady
Buescher Aristocrat Alto Sax
1915 Conn Alto Saxophone
Selmer Aristocrat AS500 Alto Saxophone
 

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To me the following two stick out above the rest, everything else equal:

YAS-52 & Conn 6M.

They are very different horns, but are very good instruments. I would personally recommend the Yamaha because it's a Yamaha. Your daughter will likely find it has the better keywork with less nuance. It will also find better approval amongst music faculty.

That 6M is almost too good to pass up, though. That is considered a very good date for those instruments, IiRC and those are very much in demand from the vintage crowd. Many would consider it the better horn. Just read below!

The older Bueschers and Conns tended to have more issues and less desireable keywork. Dodgey intonation, stuffy notes, gurgeling bell tones, etc. Very good instruments themselves, but not something I would recommend for a casual player.

The Buescher Aristocrat really depends. Is it a late model or an earlier one? later ones simply aren't worth $600

The selmer aristocrat would be a modern student horn. not that familiar with it.
 

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Here is a list that I'm looking at currently. With them all in the same basic price range ($600-$800), which do y'all think would be best for college band.

Yamaha YAS-52
Buescher True Tone Low Pitch serial number 168XXX
Vintage 1940-41 Conn Alto Saxophone VIII 6M Naked Lady
Buescher Aristocrat Alto Sax
1915 Conn Alto Saxophone
Selmer Aristocrat AS500 Alto Saxophone
The Aristocrat (what vintage?) if it's pre-Selmer, and the Yamaha 52 are the best in that line up in my opinion. Why? They're both mouthpiece friendly, both flexible instruments (can play modern or "old school", though the Buescher is even better at it ;) ), and she will never technically outgrow either sax (though her taste and style may change later).
 

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To me the following two stick out above the rest, everything else equal:

YAS-52 & Conn 6M.

They are very different horns, but are very good instruments. I would personally recommend the Yamaha because it's a Yamaha. Your daughter will likely find it has the better keywork with less nuance. It will also find better approval amongst music faculty.

That 6M is almost too good to pass up, though. That is considered a very good date for those instruments, IiRC and those are very much in demand from the vintage crowd. Many would consider it the better horn. Just read below!

The older Bueschers and Conns tended to have more issues and less desireable keywork. Dodgey intonation, stuffy notes, gurgeling bell tones, etc. Very good instruments themselves, but not something I would recommend for a casual player.

The Buescher Aristocrat really depends. Is it a late model or an earlier one? later ones simply aren't worth $600

The selmer aristocrat would be a modern student horn. not that familiar with it.
The Selmer "Aristocrat", is virtually a re-badged series one Bundy. Though sound great for they're price range and intended buyers (they are a student model), it is NOT an upgrade from what she's already playing.

The Series II Aristocrats on through the later ones up to the 1950s or so (give or take) are very competent saxes, easy to tune, full in tone, and as I mentioned earlier, modern overtone series works like a charm on them! I would take the Buescher over the Yamaha in tone, but the Yamaha over the Buescher for the modern keywork and university acceptance (but, if she isn't a major, Buescher all the way!).
 

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That's not a bad list. I agree w/ Nissan...the last one is basically a Bundy, redux...

I would also agree with JW...the 52 and the 6M popped out at me. The other Bueschers...hey, those wouldn't be a bad choice, either. The 6M, though, is arguably a Holy Grail model, given that particular year and if the finish is original.

I would like to say: "1915 Conn"...are you sure about that ? Or did, perhaps, the seller err in assuming the patent date inscribed on the horn is actually the production date ? If I were a bettin' man, I would say that's what happened and that horn ain't from 1915.

My second guess would be it's either a PanAm or early 50M...both of which had different serial # sequences than the standard Conn sequence; so they sometimes get mistaken for very old horns when they're not quite THAT old.

Just wondering....
 

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@ Locke1990

Since your daughter has played sax all through high school, she should be somewhat familiar with the brands of instruments others in her section played over the years. Have you asked her what type of sax she might like?

I'm as much a fan of vintage saxes as anyone, and own and play several. However, buying a used sax is like buying a used car. There are parts that wear out and have to be repaired or replaced. When buying a used sax, one should plan on spending at least and additional $80 - $120 for a top quality "play condition" service up front, and can expect to pay $300 + for a repad in the not too distant future---depending on how old the pads are.

The advantage of a good quality new instrument is that you are starting with pads and mechanisms that are new, and if well cared for will last a long time before needing major servicing---not to mention the much nicer cosmetics. The old Conns and Bueschers have a distinct personality and sound all their own, but in my experience they have more intonation issues than the newer saxes coming out of Taiwan.

Regardless of what you decide to get, it would be a good idea to hang on to the Bundy II to use as a marching band and pep band "beater horn", so the nicer one does not get put "in harm's way".
 

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I am gonna very respectfully disagree with a fair amount of that.

I agree with setting aside some $ for repair/regulating once you get the instrument.

I disagree with the notion of worn-out parts, or parts needing replacement... as being something to weigh in buying used/vintage.

I also disagree with the intonation argument as a blanket argument.

Some vintage horns have quirky intonation.
Some new horns have quirky intonation, too.

My feeling is the vintage horns intonation reputation has come more from the horns being improperly set up over all of those years and coming to the new owner with improper keyheight adjustment than anything else. (It's hard to argue the older Bueschers, the 6M, or the 52 have inherent intonation problems...because once properly adjusted, I would say that these models do not).

Basically you want a horn in good shape to begin with, from a reputable seller with a return policy, and then hold back some $ for some tech work if needed. If you are good with that, get one of those vintage horns.

Reason is quite simple...they are built better and they sound better. Throw in that even after tech work, they are still less expensive, and this is why folks go the vintage route.

I cannot disagree with the fact that a shiny new horn is...well, shinier and newer-looking.

And just for add'l argument's sake...I wouldn't use the rest of your daughter's bandmates' horns as a particular measure as to what you should get for her. I understand the spirit of the suggestion...but...this seems like a pretty special Father-Daughter gift to me....I think you are going about your research in the proper way.

This isn't to say I suggest you nix the idea of new...I think if your budget was double what it is, one can make a better argument for getting a new horn. It's just that, given your pricerange, your options are limited to a relatively few respectable brands of budget horns if new is your route....while if used is your route, heck, a good range of choices becomes quite vast.
 

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You'll get tons of opinions and disagreements about "vintage" (which sometimes just means old) and new horns. But logic would seem to dictate that an older horn has older parts and there is no way to know what any used horn has been through or what parts or service it might end up needing in order to play well (unless you can take it to a good tech before you buy it and find out). It's purely a matter of opinion as to whether a vintage horn is "built better" than a modern one, depending on the manufacturer and the quality controls in place. There are still great horns being made today. A new horn from a reputable manufacturer will have a warranty, something you won't get with an older horn. In the end, it's a pretty subjective choice and maybe just a matter of bang for the buck. I wish you the very best of luck in finding a good horn for your daughter and congratulate you for being such a supportive parent.
 

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I am interested in purchasing an alto sax for my daughter's graduation present which is coming up real fast. She plans to play through college and currently has an old Bundy II. I am looking to upgrade it for her since it is quite used, but am limited to about $750.
A new horn for $750 won't be much of an upgrade, and not being experienced, it will be difficult for you to choose an adequate used horn. But I understand the limitations of a budget, so I'd suggest just giving your daughter the cash to find a horn for herself; or have her put it aside and save a bit more over the summer for a better horn.
 

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A new horn for $750 won't be much of an upgrade, and not being experienced, it will be difficult for you to choose an adequate used horn. But I understand the limitations of a budget, so I'd suggest just giving your daughter the cash to find a horn for herself; or have her put it aside and save a bit more over the summer for a better horn.
Now that's good advice!
 

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The advantage of a good quality new instrument is that you are starting with pads and mechanisms that are new, and if well cared for will last a long time before needing major servicing---not to mention the much nicer cosmetics. The old Conns and Bueschers have a distinct personality and sound all their own, but in my experience they have more intonation issues than the newer saxes coming out of Taiwan.
Aren't Kesslers made in Vietnam?
 
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