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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

Does anyone else have a SBA Soprano? There are only a very few around. Mine is gold plated, 40xxx, which is even rarer.

I love its sound, like a vintage Selmer should have. But like the soprano MKVI's, it has those palm keys that are not really comfortable, and intonation issues - which I fixed anyway with the embouchure.

I am considering buying a modern soprano, with a warm sound too. I am looking into R&C saxellos, Yanagisawas and Borganis, What would you say that comes closer to the SBA sound?

Also, is there a market for the SBA soprano? How to find out what is its value? I am not sure, but depending on its value I would possibly consider a trade for a modern soprano plus cash, if there was the chance. Unfortunately I can not afford to be a collector... I prefer playing music than collecting instruments!

Thanks a lot for any input!

Cheers to all

Andrea
 

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A friend had one of those I tried. After playing a VI for so long I had trouble playing it in tune from high C# up.
I figured it was because it didn’t have the key to correct that that came later.
I didn’t think it sounded any different that my Mark VI besides that.
 

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Does anyone else have a SBA Soprano? There are only a very few around. Mine is gold plated, 40xxx, which is even rarer.

I am considering buying a modern soprano, with a warm sound too. I am looking into R&C saxellos, Yanagisawas and Borganis, What would you say that comes closer to the SBA sound?
Given that, as you state, there are few such horns in the world, and few R&C saxellos, and even fewer Borganis, I have to wonder whether there exists anyone that could make such a comparison.

I have owned Selmer Mk VI, SA-80, and Serie III sops, as well as SC-992 and Borgani Jubilee sops - my bent neck Borgani has the warmest sound of them all, but I have no idea where that sits relative to the SBA. Ergo-wise, the Yanagisawa wins. I prefer to play the Borgani.
 

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VI Soprano, Searchlight Alto, TH&C Tenor
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Thanks for sharing this. I’ve read a comment or two about them on this board, but never saw a photo before. Of course Matt posted a video of a beautifully engraved “Balanced Action” sop that he surmises was actually manufactured in the late 20’s. And jokes about the decided lack of innovation between it and the VI. But when these horns are made and set-up right, they have performed magnificently in capable hands.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you all for your comments!

Well, I knew that sopranos SBA are rare but the fact that only a few of you have seen or even tried one, surprises me. How many of them are out there? A few hundreds were made, how many survived to our days?

Whaler, so in your experience it plays and sounds like a MKVI, right? Is it possible that there could be a difference in sound between the SBA, early MKVI and later MKVI, like with tenors for example? Or soprano are just one thing, maybe because the tube is smaller and the smaller amount of brass used in the various years can't make much difference, always compared to the tenors?

Dr. G, you are the Borgani guy... Have you seen the Borgani Jubilee soprano that Taras has put up for sale some weeks ago? I was actually thinking about that one, but without knowing soundwise and ergonomically how it behaves, I am not willing to spend so much money just to try it out. Do you still play with one, or you have another with bent neck now?

Kreacher, the extra left pinky key is not an extra key. It's just that the whole table is set up differently compared to modern horns. MKVI's sopranos have the same. As you see the picture, the long low key to your left is the Bb, the long to your right with the two black rollers is the C#, the smaller key in the centre-left is the B and the oval on top is the G#. So they are the same key, just with different shapes. Whaler wrote it faster them me, while I was typing...
 

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B flat next to B instead of just below it. They probably should’ve left that.
On the contrary, an inline pinky table is ergonomically superior to the modern style, assuming it's designed and set up correctly. Our fingers' bone and muscle structure is built to bend in and out at each kuckle, as they move while gripping and pressing, and they're exceedingly good at those movements. Spreading one finger alone further down, as one does to reach low Bb on a modern horn or use any RH pinky table, is not how your musculature is set up to be used. We're accustomed to doing that movement as sax players - those of us who use modern horns at least - but practice for a while with a horn that has an inline table and you'll be faster and more accurate on it than a modern one.
The advantage the modern style has is that it allows the low C# key cup to be controlled by an actuator arm rather than directly attached to the C# touch. That's a massive mechanical improvement, as anyone who has an American bari or a 10M can attest: those things are like gym machines for your left pinky. Getting an actuated C# with an inline pinky table would be difficult, so makers did what they did and we learned to adapt.
 

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I'm betting that few, if any of us could identify the differences among the sopranos being discussed here, if blindfolded and unable to see the horn being played. Most tone-opinions are based on only a few (probably more like one or two) examples of a model, where if we acknowledged the variances among different examples of the same model, we'd realize that horns vary from example to example.

Plus, a horn's tone depends much on the individual player and the mouthpiece and reed being used to do a test. Change any of those (the player, the mouthpiece, or the reed) and all bets are off. I'd caution everyone to be careful equating one BA, SBA, or MKVI soprano to all other examples of the same model being played.

I have a five-digit MKVI(1959 build) that I think is the best soprano I've ever played. I have a later model MKVI (1972 build) that is great but not at the same level as my five-digit. But I won't claim that all five-digits or 1972-MKVI's are similar.

As far as ergonomics go, one size does not fit all. I get along just fine with my sopranos pinky tables and palm keys, regardless of how each horn's keywork is designed. I know others may disagree, and so be it. Don't generalize about those things - they are subjective and that's okay. DAVE
 

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Hello everyone,

Does anyone else have a SBA Soprano? There are only a very few around. Mine is gold plated, 40xxx, which is even rarer.

I love its sound, like a vintage Selmer should have. But like the soprano MKVI's, it has those palm keys that are not really comfortable, and intonation issues - which I fixed anyway with the embouchure.

I am considering buying a modern soprano, with a warm sound too. I am looking into R&C saxellos, Yanagisawas and Borganis, What would you say that comes closer to the SBA sound?

Also, is there a market for the SBA soprano? How to find out what is its value? I am not sure, but depending on its value I would possibly consider a trade for a modern soprano plus cash, if there was the chance. Unfortunately I can not afford to be a collector... I prefer playing music than collecting instruments!

Thanks a lot for any input!

Cheers to all

Andrea
I have an SBA soprano as well as a 90xxx Mark VI and a 101xx Mark VI. My SBA is in perfect condition, but I was disappointed in how it plays and sounds compared to my Mark VIs. I don't think this is an SBA issue, but just the inevitable differences of one soprano to another from this era, as there was a lot of artisan production (by hand) involved and the variables for all sopranos are considerable. I play on many sopranos, and I have zero problem with the left hand palm keys, even if they are more awkward than later, more ergonomically designed mechanisms.
My Mark VIs are the warmest, most lyrical of modern sopranos. I use it along with my Buescher curved sopranos, which offers an even greater expanse of this tone quality. (On all my Mark VIs and Buescher curves I have had an alternate high F key installed for essential practical use.) Over the last few years, I have replaced my Buescher curved with modern Rampone sopranos. I play both a Rampone curved and the saxello version. These offer a tone quality most like my older sopranos, but with obvious improvements. None of the other excellent modern sopranos offers this particular depth or warmth of sound, despite being first class instruments in all other respects. You can hear my Rampones on my latest solo CDs plus some videos on Facebook and Youtube.
Paul Cohen
 

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Thanks for sharing your considerable experience, @Paul Cohen . When you say “”None of the other excellent modern sopranos…”, does that include the bent-neck Borgani Jubilee? I ask because Borgani was included in Andrea’s opening post, and my experience includes the Selmer and Yanagisawa sops, but not the R&C models. I’m hoping to learn from anyone that has played all these unicorns.

Respect and regards,
George
 

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It looks like the biggest difference between this horn and my Mark VI is the absence of the half hole high C# mechanism, which I think was introduced to tame the high register, and has since been widely emulated by other manufacturers
 

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Thanks for sharing your considerable experience, @Paul Cohen . When you say “”None of the other excellent modern sopranos…”, does that include the bent-neck Borgani Jubilee? I ask because Borgani was included in Andrea’s opening post, and my experience includes the Selmer and Yanagisawa sops, but not the R&C models. I’m hoping to learn from anyone that has played all these unicorns.

Respect and regards,
George
Unfortunately I have no experience with Borgani sopranos. My experience with Borganis from earlier generations was not a positive one, so I have not sought them out. Of course, the new generation is completely different from the ones I played years ago, so it is a comparison no doubt worthwhile. However, when I discovered the Rampones, my search ended, as they work so well. I own four (plus two of their sopraninos), 2 curved and 2 semi curved, and one of my students purchased a straight version. All have the same warmth/darkness and are sufficiently consistent in their playability/mechanism/build to make them highly recommended.
Paul Cohen
 

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It looks like the biggest difference between this horn and my Mark VI is the absence of the half hole high C# mechanism, which I think was introduced to tame the high register, and has since been widely emulated by other manufacturers
Yes, I do wish for that half-whole mechanism, but I have learned to tune well without it, a combination of tenacious voicing and a catalogue of viable alternate fingerings.
Paul Cohen
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks all for your great comments that actually help me to decide what to do with my soprano quest!

Paul, your experience with the SBA, MKVI's and Rampone is really invaluable. You confirm my choice for the latter as the modern horn that I should be looking for. About the SBA, I believe your "negative" experience with yours is not what I am having with mine. But I don't have a great MKVI to compare it with, so maybe if you tried mine you would still not be happy with it, who knows. I too managed to tame its tuning high up with embouchure and voicing, but I can't completely get over the difficulty with the palm keys. The pinky table is ok though, I actually like it. In any case, I think that I would be more comfortable with a modern horn, so I will go for a Rampone, and I actually love the idea of a Saxello, so I will look for one (silver I believe)!

One last question to Paul. Have you got an idea of what could be the value of this SBA? If I decided to trade it for a Rampone, how much would I be looking for from it? As I said above, I am not a collector but a player (even if not a Pro) and I prefer to keep just the horn that I actually play instead of having more horns.

Thanks again all for you great comments!
 

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Dr. G, you are the Borgani guy... Have you seen the Borgani Jubilee soprano that Taras has put up for sale some weeks ago? I was actually thinking about that one, but without knowing soundwise and ergonomically how it behaves, I am not willing to spend so much money just to try it out. Do you still play with one, or you have another with bent neck now?
I have seen that sop: https://www.saxontheweb.net/threads...x-vintage-finish-2-bells.386943/#post-4351302

It is exactly the same as mine - only different. Here’s the thread from when I found mine (see posts #113-): Borgani serial number starting with "OB"???


I still have mine and continue to enjoy it. Mine has a bent neck, silverplated mechanism, and silver power bell - pretty much the same as Taras’ except with a bent neck and a lil’ older (mine is OBS26).
 
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