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By popular demand...the Barone Classic vs. Barone Vintage tenor review.

I played on a Classic Tenor in vintage gold lacquer, and a Vintage Tenor in antiqued lacquer. I won't be naming "winners" here, as they are the same maker, and to be honest I think they're both fantastic saxophones.

NOTE: BOTH HORNS WERE ADJUSTED TO PERFECTION!!

Initial Impressions

Barone Classic: The finish was absolutely gorgeous. Probably my favorite finish on horns, very rich look. Pearl keys, case was spotless and in excellent shape. All the keys were corked down professionally; always good to see it done correctly. Neck was spotless, cork was done correctly and not that cheap, fake stuff you sometimes find on eastern horns. Real, high quality cork. Initial play tests were very promising. This horn surprised the hell out of me.

Barone Vintage: Also a great looking horn, but in a different way. Some guys dig the look, others don't. I've seen quite a few of these "antiqued" lacquer horns from different makers, and these ones look the best in my opinion. It's not over-done, the shade nuances are gradual and sleek, the horn lends itself to a very soft overall appearance. Almost like a soft glow. Has the abalone key-touches, which I was a bit hesitant about at first. Luckily, they didn't let me down. I'll get to that in the ergonomics section.

Ergonomics

Barone Classic: These horns felt incredibly comfortable from the get go...they fit great in the hands, the palm keys are positioned in a great spot. The only one I might consider a riser on is the palm D, but I haven't put one on yet and it hasn't hindered me once. This one had white mother of pearl key touches, which felt good and were properly placed throughout. The G# pinky cluster seems to be a nice, middle of the road fit. I didn't find myself reaching too far for the Bb like I did on the alto. The spring tension from the factory was pretty spot on; I only adjusted the G spring, G# spring, and palm key springs. Other than that, it felt fantastic, which really surprised me. Most newer horns I encounter feel like they have a death grip on them, the spring tension is so tight, especially in the lower stack. It was refreshing to see that it wasn't the case on this horn.

Barone Vintage: A similar set up, key work wise, although this model has the abalone key touch pieces. I've felt these abalone touch pieces on the Mauriats, and my experience was not good. They were sloppy, rough to the touch, and inconsistent. I was very happy (and surprised, I'll admit) to find that these felt great on the Barone. Evenly applied, smooth to the touch, no strange textured feeling on the fingers. The spring tension on this horn was a bit lighter than the Classic. I do like my spring tension on the lighter side, and only had to adjust the side Bb and side C keys to get it dialed in where I like it. The key heights seemed just a touch lower on this horn, which gave the horn an overall slicker feel to it. Double arms on the low keys added a bit of stability and positive feel to the lower notes.

Build-quality:

Barone Classic: I searched this horn for blemishes. For flaws. Everywhere I looked...all the pillars, bracings, fittings, etc. were flawless. I checked the application of the lacquer job, and it was perfectly uniform. No drips, gobs, gaps, or other flaws. The tone holes were all perfectly level, and the pads were in great shape. The neck was also in great shape, with a natural, high quality cork used. My only complaint is that the neck tenon was lacquered, which means eventually that lacquer will wear and fall off, and you might have to get the neck tenon cleaned up at some point. For all the playing I did on it, this was never an issue for me. The only leak was the low Bb regulation and G pad; otherwise spot on and the pads were of good quality, with proper adhesive backing as the pads were easily floatable and thus the seating of the pad was a snap. The thumb rest and thumb hook are metal, large, and generous which fits the hands comfortably. The body to bell pillar is pretty hefty, which is great in case the horn would ever take a knock.

Barone Vintage: Probably the best "antiqued" lacquer job I've seen on a saxophone. Most of the time it seems they're very inconsistent, with strange color markings in weird places, almost like it wasn't supposed to gel together. As I mentioned above, this one seemed very slick and gave the horn an overall warm glow to it's appearance. The braces and pillars followed it's brother's lead, and are done well. There are double arms on the lower keys, which is always great to see as a tech. This horn had a different type of pad on it, a little firmer, which felt great to work with. The set up job itself was excellent; one minor tweak on the lower Bb-B regulation and she was tight top to bottom. Tone holes checked out great, neck was spot on (again a lacquered tenon) and it FEELS like a quality tenor.

Response - To me, response is how quickly the horn responds to your airstream for articulation, tone changes, and volume.

Barone Classic:
The horn was a little different than most taiwanese horns I've played. Most of the time when I've played a horn from Taiwan or China they have this really really free-blowing thing happening, without much to push against and it makes the sound a bit bigger, more open, but it loses some richness and complexity in the process. On other horns, the core loses itself. This horn was much different. You needed to actually play the saxophone, which was refreshing. It's not a difficult blow, the response is actually quite good, but it FEELS good while you're playing...it's that perfect balance between excellent response and a meaty pocket of resistance that allows you to push the horn and shape the sound. I know it's very cliche, but it actually feels like a Selmer when you first have a go at it...and I wasn't the first (nor last) to say it while playing the horn. The altissimo register had a very clear, instant response...for those of you struggling with altissimo on tenor, this horn won't hold you back in the least.

Barone Vintage: This horn had a different feel than the Classic model. It seemed to have a deeper level of resistance to it, but all of it was accessible and readily available for extra power when needed. It wasn't a stuffy horn at all, quite the contrary, but when you lay back and go for the "Voo-voo" sound (I love Garzone's description of that) it will give that breathy attack with some resistance to keep it balanced. I absolutely love that quality in horns: if you can have resistance available when YOU need it, while still controlling it for your own tonal needs, then you've got a great horn there. This is one of those horns. Altissimo register followed suit; a touch more resistance, a bit thicker as well. The low register on this horn purrs; try double-tonguing low Bb staccato at piannissimo...how do they say it up north in Boston? "Like buttah."

Intonation:

Barone Classic: Watch it with this horn...you'll be compensating for past horns and playing it out of tune. Keep your embouchure straight, and the intonation will be spot on. I especially liked the overtone series on this horn, even up into the stratosphere it kept the intonation pretty solid without a whole lot of effort. Lower register wasn't sharp at all, which was surprising and I tried it on multiple days just to make sure. The thing I like about these horns, and I found the same attribute on the alto, was that these horns don't seem to fall into the two categories of intonation I tend to find on horns. Most modern horns have "slotted" intonation...the pitch is locked in, and it's in tune according to your tuner. On some vintage horns, it's "flexible" intonation...which means YOU lock in the pitch according to your embouchure, air speed, throat changes, etc. These horns fall in the middle...they'll "slot" right in for you, but you can alter the pitch quite a bit easier than most modern horns I've played. It's interesting, to me, to find this attribute on both the alto and tenor.

Barone Vintage: Right there. No complaints, everything was really spot on from the get go. Read above, pretty much the same tendencies. I felt the horn was a bit more flexible overall, but not wildly different. No problem notes.

Dynamics/Projection: Not the same thing, I know, but included in the same part of the review. Projection, in my mind, is the ability to fill up a room with your sound; the ability to make your sound carry to the far corners of the room, no matter what volume. To me, volume is simply how loud you can play...a higher amount of decibels.

Barone Classic: I was impressed by the overall versatility in dynamics on this horn. The focus never gives out on you. When you try to blow down your house, the horn will get plenty loud, huge resonance, but the focus always stays with it. This helps keep some structure and really keeps the horn sounding great in the altissimo register. Conversely, playing very softly doesn't diminish the overall focused projection. It keeps the structure even when you're trying to whisper on the horn. That, to me, is the test. You can blow your brains out on any horn and make it roar...but when you need to bring it down to a whisper, that's when I think the horns dynamic tendencies are most exposed.

Barone Vintage: The projection is definitely more spread on this horn than the Classic model. What I REALLY liked about this horn though, is that it doesn't get that "blatty" boomy sound that a bunch of modern "vintage" style horns get. It's an overall spread projection, plenty of guts and power on this horn, too. It lends the horn the feeling of a really big sound when you're pushing, but it doesn't lose that dark core to it. The lower register doesn't have the structure of the Classic model, but if you're going for that velvet sub-tone just dripping in smoky sexyness....this might be your horn. In all seriousness, the lower register actually held together at very low decible levels which was an outstanding improvement over other modern horns that go for this 'vintage' type sound, and it ends up having no core and no center to the sound at all in the lower register. I do prefer the upper register tone on more spread horns, I feel it gives a thickness and solidity to the sound and personally makes me more confident when I'm up in the stratosphere.



Tone: To me, tone is the general description of the sound produced by the instrument. Adjectives like bright, dark, warm, thin, edgy etc. can be used to describe tone. I also refer to the "eveness" of the tone...this is if the tone of the horn stays consistent throughout the ranges.

Barone Classic: Well, I guess this is what it all comes down too...sometimes I wonder how many people skip right to this part first. The first thing that comes to mind when playing this horn (I know...it's cliche...I know) is "classic Selmer." Rich, focused, warm sound that is very versatile. It has a brilliance throughout the range that helps keep the sound clear, but enough warmth and richness to keep it interesting. I did NOT want to put this horn down once I started playing it. I don't even gravitate towards these types of horns, and I almost purchased it. They're that good. I was at my tech's place, blowing on the horn in the back after I had it adjusted, and another guy who's been playing 50+ years was in the front of the shop. After I came out from the back, he asks me "Is that a VI? Sounds like it, must be a VI." I didn't want his brain to explode just yet, so I just smiled and went in the back again. The tone is very even across the range, doesn't stray or vary, and even D2-F2 is quite clear and resonant. I loved the sound I was getting on this horn. The brilliance and natural edge to the sound generate a fantastic core to work with, very versatile with mouthpiece choices and really allows you to customize your sound on it.

Barone Vintage: So I mentioned the above story about "Is it a VI?"...ironically enough, this horn received a similar compliment. So I was playing it in the back for a while (he had another customer walk in, so I had some spare time). After I came out, the older gentleman says "That one's different. Conn, by the sound of it." He knew the look of this horn was different though, being the antiqued lacquer, so I spilled the beans on what horns they were and he seemed really intriqued by the entire situation. He really liked the cases, too. Anyways...this horn is definitely darker than the Classic model. It really does feel like a Conn when you're blowing it: gets that big, dark, spread tone quality with gorgeous overtones. A truly incredible sound; I had a hard time believing it at first. I usually gravitate towards these types of horns. I like starting with a darker horn with a huge sound, and brighten up the sound to my liking with mouthpiece and reed choice. For me, it generates a great mix and an overly rich, resonant, beautiful tenor sound. I've played some of the P. Mauriat 66R tenors (not enough to write a review on, just initial impressions, take that for what it's worth), but I immediately felt more at home on this horn and definitely felt this horn had a much more "authentic" vintage sound than any other model tenor I've tried. I've been mainly playing tenor for a few years now, and always kept thinking that I needed to get a Conn 10M...they were the only horns that did it for me, sound wise. Now, I've stopped looking for one. .

Intangibles:

Barone Classic: You still get the complete package with this horn. A GREAT flight-case that is very good quality, complete with shoulder strap. A solid hard rubber or metal mouthpiece in your choice of tip opening, a custom Phil Barone neck to go with the horn, and then there's the price. You could buy a Barone tenor AND alto for less than the price of most modern tenors. I've played the Reference 54 series and was not NEARLY as impressed with them as I was with this Barone Classic (and yes, the Selmer was properly setup).

Barone Vintage: Same as above, all the great accessories, and the best modern tenor I've played at truly delivering the "vintage" quality of sound. After playing a vintage Martin tenor for years, trying out a bunch of Conn 10M's and amongst a variety of Selmers and modern horns, I don't find myself thinking "I wonder if XYZ horn would sound better." I'm just satisfied. You can't forget Phil's customer service either. He will talk to you on the phone, chat by email, make recommendations, will bend over backwards to keep his customers satisfied.

Although I've sent the Classic horn back, I will admit I am jonesin' to play it some more. Just a fantastic tenor and really makes me think twice about my sound concept and approach on tenor. One of the best things about these horns is that they're affordable...so if a parent is looking to "go pro" for their advancing son/daughter, they don't have to crush their bank account for a $6500 Selmer. For the hobbyist, it's a similar situation, they can have a great looking, great playing modern horn without depleting the rainy day funds. Professionals will immediately recognize the great sound these horns are getting and it could potentially put some money in their pocket if they decide to sell any of their other horns.

It's a really exciting time to be a saxophonist. Never before has a horn of this quality been available at this price.

Comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged, your appreciation of these reviews is what keeps them coming. Flaming posts, rude remarks, [email protected]$$ comments, and attacks/insults can be directed to my PM box.

As always, your mileage may vary. These are only my individual playing experiences. You should form your own opinions on horns by playing them.

Hope you enjoyed!

- Saxaholic
 

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First of all, great job!!
I guess the off the shelf horns from Taiwan are getting better. As a tech in training and someone who has worked on many tone holes on almost every model, I can tell you that unless the tone holes were carefully worked on by hand, they aren't level. You also must have the key work off the horn to properly check whether the tone holes are level. They appear level, and are close, but level, I doubt it. I am glad to hear that the Barone horns have come so far. Other than the tone hole thing, you gave a very good and comprehensive review of these horns. While I still think the east Asian horns still need refinement and experience, it is clear that the good ones like CB, Mauriat/Barone, TM Custom, have made huge gains on the big 3. I am a bit worried that with all this good press, they will just raise their prices to match the competition. Let me ask one question, is there any play between posts on any of the palm keys or stack keys? That has always been the rub with taiwanese horns along with cheap pad sets glued into the cups with hot glue. I know Barone saxophones are now fitted with high quality pad sets, which is a good thing.
 

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Excellent review, I like seeing comparisons between these two horns.

The Vintage (I own one) description was right on, to the tee. I use mine with a Rascher setup, I bet you can only imagine the dark smoothness of the tone. It's the most homogenous sounding setup I have ever played, including when on jazz mouthpieces as well.

I LOVE MY BARONE-A-PHONE :)
 

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First of all, great job!!
I guess the off the shelf horns from Taiwan are getting better. As a tech in training and someone who has worked on many tone holes on almost every model, I can tell you that unless the tone holes were carefully worked on by hand, they aren't level. You also must have the key work off the horn to properly check whether the tone holes are level. They appear level, and are close, but level, I doubt it. I am glad to hear that the Barone horns have come so far. Other than the tone hole thing, you gave a very good and comprehensive review of these horns. While I still think the east Asian horns still need refinement and experience, it is clear that the good ones like CB, Mauriat/Barone, TM Custom, have made huge gains on the big 3. I am a bit worried that with all this good press, they will just raise their prices to match the competition. Let me ask one question, is there any play between posts on any of the palm keys or stack keys? That has always been the rub with taiwanese horns along with cheap pad sets glued into the cups with hot glue. I know Barone saxophones are now fitted with high quality pad sets, which is a good thing.
Hi William Bua,

Thanks for the kind words.

I did take off all the keywork on the horn and checked the tone holes. While I doubt I picked up absolutely 100% of everything on there, I also didn't see any discrepancies or any problems with the tone holes throughout the horn, and they were flat and level enough.

I did check for play on all the keys throughout the horn, and am happy to report that there was next to no play on any keys. The only spot where there was a tiny, tiny fraction of play was the G key, a quick fix.

I really go over them with a 'tech eye' on purpose; I've been trained as well and am continuing my education, so it's one of the first things I do when looking over any new horns. I am not the be all end all in saxophone repair, but I know precisely what to look for. That being said, I still handed over the horns to my mentor, a master technician with over 30 years of experience, and he said the horn was built quite well, no loose play, tone holes level, and he enjoyed the pads installed on them. He was actually really surprised by how well they were built.

@skatkat: That is a heck of a deal! I hope you enjoy it!

@Atonal: Yani's are great horns, too. Played an A992 for a while and loved that horn. This was back when they went for under $3k new!

@Carl: I can't imagine a Rascher on this horn; I need to try it now because you have me curious. I don't do much "legit" work on tenor but it sure could be interesting.

Thanks for the kind words guys!

- Saxaholic
 

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"Barone Classic: Rich, focused, warm sound that is very versatile. It has a brilliance throughout the range that helps keep the sound clear, but enough warmth and richness to keep it interesting. The tone is very even across the range, doesn't stray or vary, and even D2-F2 is quite clear and resonant."

Barone Vintage: Anyways...this horn is definitely darker than the Classic model. It really does feel like a Conn when you're blowing it: gets that big, dark, spread tone quality with gorgeous overtones. A truly incredible sound; I had a hard time believing it at first. I usually gravitate towards these types of horns."

Saxoholic - Thanks for these comments. I am very much interested in them because I am buying a classic. The more focussed sound is something that appeals to me and will serve a purpose. Phil has said the same as well, you also have confirmed the same. Whats your personal prefernce as far as sound if you had to choose between the two ?
 

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@Evan: It was a really tough call for me personally. Every time I thought I liked the Classic, I played the Vintage and loved the sound. As soon as I was convinced the Vintage was where it's at, the Classic would lure me in with that great focus and brilliance.

If it were up to me, I'd keep both. However, I ended up keeping the Vintage. I usually stick with a darker horn, then I'll experiment with different mouthpiece choices and reed types to brighten the sound to my liking. That way, if I enjoy a higher baffled piece, I won't have to worry about the sound getting thin or nasally on me. I can have the great response, volume, and still keep that fat, warm sound while adding the brilliance and edge from mouthpiece selection.

Both of them are fantastic horns, it just depends on what you're seeking in a horn. If you're interested in a more focused sound, the Classic would be the horn you'd probably enjoy the most. Even now, I'm doubting myself as far as keeping the Vintage, which really says a lot for the Classic model...I usually don't dig horns like that, but it sounded so good it was quite the temptation.

- Saxaholic
 

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@Evan: It was a really tough call for me personally. Every time I thought I liked the Classic, I played the Vintage and loved the sound. As soon as I was convinced the Vintage was where it's at, the Classic would lure me in with that great focus and brilliance.

If it were up to me, I'd keep both. However, I ended up keeping the Vintage. I usually stick with a darker horn, then I'll experiment with different mouthpiece choices and reed types to brighten the sound to my liking. That way, if I enjoy a higher baffled piece, I won't have to worry about the sound getting thin or nasally on me. I can have the great response, volume, and still keep that fat, warm sound while adding the brilliance and edge from mouthpiece selection.

Both of them are fantastic horns, it just depends on what you're seeking in a horn. If you're interested in a more focused sound, the Classic would be the horn you'd probably enjoy the most. Even now, I'm doubting myself as far as keeping the Vintage, which really says a lot for the Classic model...I usually don't dig horns like that, but it sounded so good it was quite the temptation.

- Saxaholic
Thats a great help. It really galavanizes my feelings about the two horns. Ill look forward to the Classic. Thank you.
 

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@Carl: I can't imagine a Rascher on this horn; I need to try it now because you have me curious. I don't do much "legit" work on tenor but it sure could be interesting.

Thanks for the kind words guys!

- Saxaholic
It'll be worth your time, no doubt about it. Be prepared for a syrupy smooth and thick upper register, sonorous middle, and big-fat-dark bottom. All classically oriented of course...

All that remains to mystery to me... is the Barone sopranos! I mean sure it'd be nice to see reviews for his baritone but that's asking for a heck of a lot.
 

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Nice review.

I played an earlier model Barone Classic and Barone Vintage side by side, and they too seemed like two different flavors of really nice. Very different tone color. Vintage more smooth but still punchy (others have described mine as Conn-like), Classic more bright. I agree with the comment about low-end sultriness of the Vintage. Even my tech commented on that.
 

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Re: Saxaholic's Official Review: Barone Classic vs. Barone Vintage - TENORS!

I wish I could see some videos of these horns in action...such a waste that there is NONE that I know of(there is one, but it doesn't really do the Barone justice...)

Come on Barone owners--Make some vids or sound clips at the least...I wanna hear these horns...
 

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Search the Barone subforum. I actually did record clips of my comparison and posted them on soundclick.com

As I recall, most preferred the classic over the vintage/mac8
 

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I would, but I don't think anyone here wants to here baroque/romantic pieces on this sax. I'm not a great jazzer by any stretch of the imagination (working on it).
 

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Thank you Saxoholic. Your reviews are some of the best here at SOTW. I remember an excellent alto shootout you did a few years ago on Japanese saxes. Besides the abalone key touches, is the key layout the same on both Barones? I guess the body tube must be different since the tone is different.
 
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