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As some may know I'm looking to trade my Reference 36 (less than a year old) for a Mark VI alto. It plays great and the action is like butter- I've just decided to play alto as my main horn. My body can't take 4-8 hours a day on tenor, and I I hear Bird licks in my head that don't translate as easily on tenor. I just seem to be able to resolve stuff on alto better. So...

I may not find the right VI so....Are their any Selmer experts here that can give me a quick sentence or two on each of the new/modern alto options. What their general characteristics are etc. I'm looking for a regular lacquer horn. Primary concern that it be zippy and be easy to play in the palm keys with a fat sound and good intonation up there...

Series II :
Series II Jubilee:

Series III:
Series III Jubilee:

Reference 54:


Thanks!
 

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I have a Ref 54 alto that I got back in 2006 and love it. Complex/fat sound through the palm keys with a little resistance (just right), I find the tone on the darker side. BUT, my set-up (10mfan Showboat 6) works well in a horn section, I can make it brighter. I also have an unlacquered Yamaha 82Z alto which is a great horn, too, but its timbre is brighter.

The only caveat on my Ref 54, and maybe it's been resolved on later models, it tends to want to warble on low-B/C and I have to be mindful to control it.

My Ref 54 alto is my go-to between the Selmer and the Yamaha.
 

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Hello DryMartini!
I have been playing for some ten years with a ref54 alto before switching to a VI.
All of the horns you list are worth being tried, in my opinion, if you have access to each one of them.
Thinking in a very generic way about it (they still retain personality of their own, so it's not impossible to find a serieII with a "better" tone than a 54) I would start by taking out the serie III. I've tried some and I found that they were lacking something in both projection and resonance. The 54 is an excellent piece, in my opinion they generally sound colder than the VI they supposed to emulate, but they're incredibly reliable. Serie II is a cheaper and yet very valuable alternative, and they can come very close to the 54 feeling. it's worth a shot!
 

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There are guys who like VI better than a 54 alto and the other way around.

Is there some reason you feel compelled to change?

Both are excellent horns.

I wont say that about the 54 tenor because I had one and never liked it...its gone and Im glad....but the alto is a different story.
 

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DK in Las Vegas might recommend a current/Jubilee SII with an SIII neck.

I owned a current SII and sold it for my Ref 54 which I can't imagine not keeping.

I guess you have excluded all the Yanys despite their variety of timbres: Pro vs. Elite, brass vs. bronze vs. silver-plate vs. solid silver. I don't blame you--I do not at all favor my A-WO33 compared to Ref 54.
 

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I got a Ref 54 on an insane bargain and just didn't like the tone at all. For me it was just kind of thick sounding...like molasses. I certainly see why other players would like it though. I ended up selling it for a hefty profit and went back to my old horn until I could replace it with something I liked better.

I tried a bunch Series IIs and IIIs over the years and I guess I would say in general the Series II have more edge and the Series III sounds more refined, with better tuning. That said though, they're handmade horns, so there are always ones that go against character. I for the most part prefer the II but have tried some killer IIIs. Really, with Selmer generally, there really is no substitute for trying before you buy.

Later on I ended up getting a Selmer Seles Axos, which for my money has the best intonation of any of the Selmer Paris horns. It's pretty close to a Series II but definitely doesn't sound quite as full of tone as a Series II, III or Ref, so there's a trade off, but it's still quite full and still very much a Selmer. Plus, it's also considerably cheaper than the top line horns so there's a bonus there.
 

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DK in Las Vegas might recommend a current/Jubilee SII with an SIII neck.

I owned a current SII and sold it for my Ref 54 which I can't imagine not keeping.

I guess you have excluded all the Yanys despite their variety of timbres: Pro vs. Elite, brass vs. bronze vs. silver-plate vs. solid silver. I don't blame you--I do not at all favor my A-WO33 compared to Ref 54.
He would but only on tenor. Typically there's not much percentage in changing necks on alto unless something is wrong with it.
 

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Assuming the Ref. 36 you want to trade is a tenor? Not everyone keeps up with the plethora of Selmer models. BTW, I have a local friend who is an excellent alto player and gets that nice woody sound on a MK 7. You might be able to find a bargain on one of those.
 

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I may not find the right VI so....Are their any Selmer experts here that can give me a quick sentence or two on each of the new/modern alto options. What their general characteristics are etc. I'm looking for a regular lacquer horn. Primary concern that it be zippy and be easy to play in the palm keys with a fat sound and good intonation up there...
I think I did the most systematic comparison between the Series II and Series III altos that you'll find here, although it was primarily from a classical rather than a jazz perspective, so take that into account. https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...es-II-vs-Series-III-Long-term-alto-comparison

However, there's no question in my mind, regardless of musical application, that the Series III alto beats the Series II in the palm keys. I think the Ref. 54 is pretty strong up there too, but I'm judging more from what I've heard (my section mate plays a 54) than what I've played, since I've tried a Ref. 54 only once.
 

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Assuming the Ref. 36 you want to trade is a tenor? Not everyone keeps up with the plethora of Selmer models. BTW, I have a local friend who is an excellent alto player and gets that nice woody sound on a MK 7. You might be able to find a bargain on one of those.
There's nothing wrong with the Mark 7 alto at all! The tenor is what everyone complains about.
 

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My opinions:

Series II: Focused, tight core. Really got to make sure these are perfectly set up as they get kind of stuffy when leaking(more so than other horns in my experience)...rich, medium to medium dark, good intonation but can get a little weird up around open C# into the palm keys. Not as much power as I like on alto, more resistant than I typically enjoy. They feel fantastic on the fingers.

Series II Jubilee: I recently played through one of these at a local pro shop and it was by far the best alto they had. Lovely. Much more open and resonant and a lighter feel to the blow. Still that same dense, rich core but noticeably more power. Beat out the Reference 54 they had and a slew of other top pro horns.

Series III (Haven't played on in years, going off memory): Brighter than the Series II, more flexible, faster response, more brilliance in the palm keys. Definitely more in-tune IMO. These are overall more versatile, but they have the tendency to get bright with certain mouthpieces. But, they can pretty much do everything.

Series III Jubilee: Brief play test, felt about the same to me as prior Series III. Perhaps the tone was slightly lighter and less resistant, but very slight.

Reference 54: Completely different beast. Extremely powerful and resonant; I would say tone is medium and is very flexible depending on mouthpiece choice. Lots of power and edge available. Keywork feels good, intonation is very good, but not as good as a Yanagisawa for example. Be cautious on the early ones as they had some gurgle issues when not perfectly set up (even the most minute of leaks, mostly undetectable, would give a gurgle on low notes). They came out with variances in tone hole, bore, and neck design to fix this and they have. The most recent examples I have played have zero gurgle issues and play wonderful. Very unique tone amongst modern horns. Some love it, some hate it.

None of them really feel like a good VI...the Reference 54 alto reminds me mostly of the 180,xxx series VI altos...powerful, good intonation, rich sound. But a really good VI in top shape will have a different feel. If you're looking for fatness in the palm keys, you might do well to consider an after-market neck. I used a Phil Barone copper neck and it fattened up the palm keys quite a bit.

I'd recommend taking a flight out to Iowa and going by Tenor Madness and trying out all their Selmers. It'll be much easier for you to find "the one" when you can play them for a while. For an investment like this, something that's going to be your main horn, you owe it to yourself to have your pick of the litter.

Best of luck and I hope you find one that brings you joy!

- Saxaholic
 

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I agree with your assessment Saxaholic but I have not tried the Jubilees. To me it felt like the Ref 54 is derived from the Series II, but with some extra juice.
 

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Just a quick note. Try an 82Z. Ive found my alto tone on that horn more complex and ineteresting than many selmers I've owned. Mk 7 especially K I even tried a series II neck and I liked the Keilwerth neck better. So just go selmer. If you hear bird consider a conn? K
 

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Of all the Selmers you asked about, I prefer the ref 54. I played one earlier this week. It's a wonderful alto! It does sound and feel a lot like a Mark VI but with much better intonation… and it's gorgeous. The II is kinda boring and stuffy and the III is an improved, brighter horn. All of these have good ergonomic feel but not as good as Yamaha's 82Z, in my opinion.
 

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I had a late model Selmer SBA alto for a time and for me, the Series II alto came the closest to that flavor. I've tried a bunch over the years, from USA Horn in Jersey and at the annual Sax Symposiums in Virginia. Thing is... I started to dislike the more recent II's as I tried them. Then I started paying attention to the serial numbers. The ones I preferred were all made before the III's came out (518,XXX).
 

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If you can find a VI at a good price (don't pay more than market value or less) and your ok with it's quirks than go for it but I'd try a Yamaha 82zII, Yanagisawa AW010 and Selmer Paris Reference 54. Price should be a factor when considering what to buy so when I did this I did it as a blind test and the 82ZII and the Reference 54 were almost dead even for me and I chose the 82ZII because the manager could give me a better discount on the Yamaha.
 

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Personally, I've never played a MK IV alto that I liked enough to own one. The Selmer hype is strong and everyone buys into that myth like it's the holy grail. Yes, there are some great one's out there, but they are few and far between. If you really are into that Bird thing check out some Super 20's. There's still some out there and they're more affordable than the MK IV. Good luck.
 

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I’ve had Mark vi’s, vii’s and a Super Action series 2, I currently have just Mark vi altos, but I could happily play the series 2 or the vii, even though it was a bit bright for my taste. I’ve played Series 3’s and Ref 54’s and never played one I’ve liked.
 
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