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I am a middle-aged saxophone hobbyist. I have a brand new Cannonball Raven Tenor and a mint Cannonball Big Bell Soprano. I love them both. I primarily play the tenor. I am looking to buy a good used student alto to fool around with. I am interested in a student alto because I only want to spend the least amount of money for it. Plus, during my very recent first Ebay transaction, I won and paid for a "super mint" Cannonball Gerald Albright Signature Series Alto, but never received it because the seller's account was fraudulent, which Ebay informed me of AFTER I paid the money. Ebay did give me a refund but only after I was forced to call them to inform them that they passed their promised deadline to make a decision on my claim. Accordingly, I am a little gunshy about spending more than a few dollars on Ebay transactions

With that being said, I have seen some really nice Yamaha Yas-23s and 03 Cannonball Excaliburs at very good price ranges on Ebay. I like them both but can't decide between the two. I like the YAS-23 for its at strong reputation for being an excellent and reliable student horn, used by pros, etc. But I don't like the fact that it does not have an upper F# key (I know...I'm just coo-coo like that). I like the fact that the Excalibur is a Cannonball like my other horns (and has a case matching my others) and has an upper F# key, but it does not have the reputation of the YAS-23 as far as I can tell. The other brand student horns don't interest me.

I'm not at all interested in resale value because after I get an alto, I will be done with shopping for horns for the rest of my days (famous last words, I know).

Any insight as to which I should get? Also, is there any difference between the YAS-23s made in Japan and the ones made in China? I know some of you saxophone gurus out there, could give me some direction.

Thanks!
 

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Well, if resale is not a concern of yours and you say you like the bigger brothers and sisters of the excalibur why don't you go for that one?
Yamaha are great student's horns (played also by pro's!) for their reliability and great mechanical qualities but would I say their sound is exciting or has any personality.......? No! So I think the excalibur will give you a little bit more excitement perhaps over reliability (but I have no reason to say that it will be less reliable, just speculating!). I would go for excitement. Safety can be very boring indeed. As for the the F# key you could get a 25 or a 275 and get that too.
The made in Japan over made in China , I think, only applies to later models than the 23 but Yamaha has excellent quality control.
 

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If you are going to go with the Cannonball, I would suggest the later AE-3 Excalibur model offered from 2005 on. They improved over time and the AE-3 version is the best of the lineage with harder brass in the keys and better quality construction. My favorite is their newest student model called the Alcazar. There aren't many used on the market as yet, but one sold on eBay in December for around $500---a great price. They play very well and have great intonation.

The YAS-23 is a great student sax as well with a good reputation. The essential difference between those and the Cannonballs is that the Yamaha has none of the features found on professional saxes that the Cannonballs (and most other Taiwanese and Vietnamese saxes) do.
 

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While I like Yamaha, I don't think that you could go wrong getting a Cannonball Alto.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
If you are going to go with the Cannonball, I would suggest the later AE-3 Excalibur model offered from 2005 on. They improved over time and the AE-3 version is the best of the lineage with harder brass in the keys and better quality construction. My favorite is their newest student model called the Alcazar. There aren't many used on the market as yet, but one sold on eBay in December for around $500---a great price. They play very well and have great intonation.

The YAS-23 is a great student sax as well with a good reputation. The essential difference between those and the Cannonballs is that the Yamaha has none of the features found on professional saxes that the Cannonballs (and most other Taiwanese and Vietnamese saxes) do.
+1 on the Alcazar. I have an Alcazar tenor which is very nice (which I have up for sale) but I have not seen any used Alcazars. Sorry I missed that Alcazar Alto on Ebay.
 
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