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Hey guys, I'm getting ready to head off for college and I'm planning on majoring in music. So I need a professional level alto. My future sax professor wants me to start building a better classical foundation for saxophone. He recommended that I look at Selmer SA80 (Series II and III) and Yamaha YAS-85EX as possibilities. My band director highly recommended the Reference 54's if I could get my hands on one. I was wondering if you had any opinions on if the References make good classical horns or if I should be looking in the other horns' direction.

Thanks for any help. :)
 

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"My future sax professor... recommended that I look at Selmer SA80 (Series II and III) and Yamaha YAS-85EX as possibilities. My band director highly recommended ..."
Who you gonna be studying with at the university, your sax prof or your band director? This might sound a little condescending, but I would consider this a no-brainer.

Quick evaluation:
- Selmer Serie III, superb ergos and technically very accommodating to modern saxophone literature/technique.
- Selmer Serie II, all around excellent, with a darker core to its sound than either the III or the Yamaha. (This is my first choice BTW).
- Yamaha Custom EX, excellent ergos and response, somewhat brighter core than the Selmers, cost is generally more friendly.

You can't go wrong with any of these. It is not particularly a friendly seller's market at the moment, so you should be able to pick up a used one of any of these in excellent condition for a great price.
 

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The Reference horns can be good for classical playing, however, it would be wise to strongly consider your future professor's advice or at least ask him/her what they think about the ref 54.
 

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Thanks for the quick responses. The only reason I bring this up is I was wondering if he didn't mention the Reference 54 because they are so much more pricey than the others. Earlier this week, I gave all 4 a test run and the Reference stood out as my favorite. But I was just curious to some opinions as regarding their classical playability.

Oh, and I shot my professor an e-mail asking if he had an opinion on them.

Thanks for the input Gary and Atonal.
 

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I've played the Ref Alto as my main alto for everything, particularly classical music for the last 5 or so years. It is a good horn, but I keep a wine cork in the bell to assist the bell notes and it's intonation is not a smooth curve. My horn has a wide interval between top C and C# for instance and these things have to be accommodated. The Ref Alto is more resistant and tends to have a more focused sound IMO. These factors, especially the trickiness of the extreme low register, plus the fact that it is a retrogressive approach the sound of the instrument, may have prevented your prof from recommending it.

The horns you list are all modern, forward looking horns: the S2 is a now considered to produce a 'traditional' classical sound but with more spread and better low register and general scale than older instruments and was designed to produce an inherently rather grainy sound (IMO). The S3 is purer and lighter in sound with greater freedom of response for a similar amount of resistance. Both are a serious commitment to learning their intonation but well worth the effort, both are full of personality in their sound and your choice really depends upon which sound you lean towards. The Yamaha is probably the easiest to become accustomed to, but also has it's peccadilloes; I found, for instance that with the G1 neck it tended to sharpness in the upper register (as does the S2) and that the bottom D was very flat, however the scale and security of the tone and pitch are very good. Some say that the sound of the Yamaha is blander than the Selmers', but IMO it's just different.

You should check out the websites of two SOTWers, SteveP who plays Yamahas, and drakesaxprof who plays Selmer S3s for fine demonstrations of how these horns sound in the hands of real pros. A sound clip is worth a thousand words!
 

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" A sound clip is worth a thousand words!" . . . when recorded under very precise and controlled conditions. :bluewink:

"Some say that the sound of the Yamaha is blander than the Selmers'."
I don't know how you're going to wind up new/used cost-wise saxman, but a great combination to have all of the Yamaha's features, and yet deepen and fill out the tone would be the addition of a Ponzol neck made specifically for Yamahas. I would still go for the Serie II (just a personal preference), but a YAS Custom EX and Ponzol neck would be a knockout.
 

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Would your professor be up to sending a student of his with you to hear you try horns? Have a private teacher?

Not saying I doubt your ears, but it's good to have a second opinion ;)

But seriously, just try the lot! First alto in my region played on a Yamaha EX, second played a Reference 54. All his suggestions are VERY capable horns.
 

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I went up to my local music store and tried a few different altos. These included a Jupiter JAS-2069 Pro (with a copper neck), a Selmer(USA) La Voix II, P. Mauriat Le Bravo, P. Mauriat PMXA-67R, Yanagisawa A901(?), Antigua ProOne, and....Reference 54. There was a big difference in price and sound between these.

I expected the Reference to blow the others away in both a jazz and classical setting. It was loud and fun with jazz, but the classical sound just wasn't my classical tone. I am a Tone-Nazi when it comes to my sound. The Jupiter, PMXA, and Yani were the three that really had my sound in them. The La Voix, Le Bravo, and Antigua were too thin. The Reference was too spread.

If you played in a jazz setting, my limited experience tells me that the Reference is the way too go, but it doesn't give me the sound I want. But this is just my opinion on the Reference Alto as a classical saxophone.
 
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