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Discussion Starter #1
I've decided I want to take the jump and upgrade my tenor. Currently playing a 1962-63 Zephyr (late era with nickel key-work, no double socket neck.) I'm just returning to playing after 25 years off, just in a couple of community groups - jazz & concert bands. Jazz is/has always been my favorite. The Zephyr is giving me intonation problems (I know there is a good, say 90%, chance the problems are mine, not the horn) but I have some money to spend and it's a beat up "student" horn. I'm just looking for something a bit better, with about $1000-$1500 to spend for something playable "out of the box".

A little more of my history - I was pretty damn good in high school, playing on a school-owned Yamaha (it was probably a 21 or 23, but can't be sure.) I Bought the Zephyr after graduation because the school wanted their horn back and I couldn't imagine not having a sax of my own. It sat in the closet for 4-5 years while I was in college. I then played in a summer pit orchestra for a few years and hung it up again, pulling it out once or twice a year so I wouldn't completely forget everything I'd learned. Now, at 52, I'm participating in a community band program through the local college (Baldwin Wallace.) There are a few big bands in the area, and I hope to maybe work may way up to playing with one of them.

So, I'm looking at 3 different options right now:
1. Dolnet Imperial for sale by a member here
2. B&S "Blue Label", also one for sale here, but I've seen several of these in my price range
3. Yamaha YTS-52 for sale locally for $1000, or a similar Yamaha

I know, 3 very different horns. They are listed roughly in my order of preference at the moment. I'm attracted to the Dolnet because it is somewhat rare/unique, and a french "Mark VI" like instrument. Never played a Mark VI, but I hear they are pretty good. The B&S I understand is a good workhorse instrument, and I kind of like the silver-plate look. The Yamaha, well, it's a Yamaha. Good horn, great value. But everyone has a Yamaha.

Among these 3 choices (or maybe something else completely) does anyone have a strong recommendation or strong "don't go there" ?
 

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Start with the one that is local that you can play test.

And no, not everyone has a Yamaha... But if it works for you, what does that matter?
 

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At that budget, you aren't going to get something much better (if at all) than the Zephyr. You need to play the horns to see if you really like them better than your Zephyr. Depending on how expensive and good the techs are in your area, you may want to put a couple hundred bucks into the Zephyr to take care of any leaks/adjustment issues, and take your time trying other horns. I have a Dolnet and I like it, but it is kind of a weird horn - you really need to play one to see if it works for you.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Yes, Don’t pass up a chance to play a horn in your budget, always better to try before if you can.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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At that budget, you aren't going to get something much better (if at all) than the Zephyr. You need to play the horns to see if you really like them better than your Zephyr. Depending on how expensive and good the techs are in your area, you may want to put a couple hundred bucks into the Zephyr to take care of any leaks/adjustment issues, and take your time trying other horns. I have a Dolnet and I like it, but it is kind of a weird horn - you really need to play one to see if it works for you.
Good call, also, your tech might have a line on a horn or two that one of their clients might be looking to unload.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm pretty confident there are no leaks in the Zephyr. Full repad was done a few years ago and I can sound all the notes over the entire range clearly and easily. I don't know if key height could be adjusted enough for the intonation problems I'm having.

It's my understanding that this vintage of Zephyr is worth somewhat less than $1000.
 

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You should buy Rich Maraday’s new RM56 and splurge on the Ken Beason set up (100% worth it!), then sell your King to recoup the $650 over budget...well, That’s what I’d do.
 

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I agree with artstove. A good tech might be able to make some real improvements for $100 - $200 and then you could have a perfectly playable horn. Meanwhile, you could save for something that would really be a step up, such as a used modern horn by one of the big four or, alternatively, a high-end vintage horn made by one of the great American manufacturers.

That way, you'd end up with something that is truly next-level while also having a good back-up horn.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
That is tempting, but I already have the sale of the Zephyr figured into my budget!

You should buy Rich Maraday’s new RM56 and splurge on the Ken Beason set up (100% worth it!), then sell your King to recoup the $650 over budget...well, That’s what I’d do.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
How does one find a "good tech?" I'm not inclined to take it back to the shop that did the repad. He did a well enough job mechanically, I suppose, but also did some lacquer (spray on?) work I didn't ask for, it's splotchy and there's a run right down the front of the bell.

It's not about saving up for longer. I have the resources to buy a Super 20 or Mark VI if I wanted to, but this is just one of several hobbies for me, and this is the budget I have set for myself.

Am I wrong in my understanding that my King is not a very desirable horn? In general, the King lineup went Super 20 > Zephyr > Cleveland, and by the late 60s the Zephyr had much more in common with the Cleveland than the S20, right? I see people TRYING to sell these on eBay for the same $1000 - $1500 earlier Zs are getting, but they never sell, just get relisted weekly.

Note I'm not saying my current abilities exceed the Zephyr's capabilities, far from it (unless there are tuning problems that are not all mine,) I just have a little money I want to spend right now to upgrade my sax.

I agree with artstove. A good tech might be able to make some real improvements for $100 - $200 and then you could have a perfectly playable horn. Meanwhile, you could save for something that would really be a step up, such as a used modern horn by one of the big four or, alternatively, a high-end vintage horn made by one of the great American manufacturers.

That way, you'd end up with something that is truly next-level while also having a good back-up horn.
 

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It looks like you’re in Cleveland? Give Junkdude a call and see what he’s got, then maybe take a day trip and try out some horns. What is it, 2.5-3 hour drive?
 

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It looks like you’re in Cleveland? Give Junkdude a call and see what he’s got, then maybe take a day trip and try out some horns. What is it, 2.5-3 hour drive?
I stopped into Junkdude’s on trek across the country one time. Completely unexpectedly, as I just looked across the street and saw the sign. He pulled out a bunch of nice mouthpieces for me to try and he had great reed prices so I grabbed a few boxes. I don’t know if he’s the tech, but someone works on horns there. Give him a call, he was really friendly and I’d shop there again for sure. Online too, though that wouldn’t apply to you.
 

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Give Dave Kessler (Kessler and Sons Music in Las Vegas) Dave is a great guy, very easy to talk to and will be generous with his knowledge and willingness to work with you on getting you a really nice horn for the amount of money you are willing to put forth. I haven't heard of anyone who hasn't felt like Dave Kessler treated them very fairly and honestly. I love vintage horns as much as the next guy, but you may really like getting a modern horn that you know has been set up properly. Nothing worse than wondering if it is you or the horn when getting back into playing.

I've also heard very good things about Rich Maraday- he has given his number out on the forum recently (do a quick search) and nobody has ever had anything bad to say about his integrity. I wouldn't hesitate to get a new horn form him.
 

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How does one find a "good tech?" I'm not inclined to take it back to the shop that did the repad. He did a well enough job mechanically, I suppose, but also did some lacquer (spray on?) work I didn't ask for, it's splotchy and there's a run right down the front of the bell.
I'm sure there are people on this forum who could give you a recommendation. It's too bad you had a bad experience with the last tech you saw. If a tech had done that to one of my horns without consulting me, I think I'd be pretty unhappy about it, too.

It's not about saving up for longer. I have the resources to buy a Super 20 or Mark VI if I wanted to, but this is just one of several hobbies for me, and this is the budget I have set for myself.
That's your call, of course.

Am I wrong in my understanding that my King is not a very desirable horn? In general, the King lineup went Super 20 > Zephyr > Cleveland, and by the late 60s the Zephyr had much more in common with the Cleveland than the S20, right? I see people TRYING to sell these on eBay for the same $1000 - $1500 earlier Zs are getting, but they never sell, just get relisted weekly.
60's Zephyrs are not collectable in the way that those from the 40's and 50's are and the general consensus seems to be that, as with the other American manufacturers, King's quality declined in the 60's and 70's. Having said that, a 60's Zephyr in good regulation should be a perfectly playable horn. You will be able to find other horns in your budget. Whether they will be significantly better than your Zephyr is debatable, but you may find something you like better. Good luck in your search.
 

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How does one find a "good tech?" […]

Am I wrong in my understanding that my King is not a very desirable horn? […]
The best way to find a good tech is to ask people who use a tech, and have some idea of what makes a good tech. Your best bets are to ask on here (or search for an existing thread that discusses techs in your area), and/or ask a number of serious local sax players who they use. (Don't just ask one.)

There are "cool" or more collectable horns that command a premium price, and there are ones that are less cool but that are still very good players. The latter tend to be much better values on the quality/cost ratio. I had a '60s (post-cool) Buescher 400 and a Conn 10M, both of which were great players, but orders of magnitude cheaper than an older vintage of the same horn. I haven't closely followed the Zephyrs, but I expect it is similar, and I haven't heard of actually bad Zephyrs.

I wouldn't discount your Zephyr just because of its reputation or (lack of) resale value. But hey, if you don't like how it plays (and it is in good playing condition), then yes, you should check out other horns. But the only way to find horns you like better is to try them. See if other players in your community band or your teacher (if you have one) will let you try their horns, try horns in local stores, maybe make a pilgrimage to a place with a bunch of horns (like junkdude or someplace similar).

I kept buying (and selling) a series of good value (under $1000) tenors until I found ones I really liked. I didn't lose much money, except on the horn I had a lot of tech work done on. It took me a while, and I went through a lot of horns (Yamaha YTS-21, Conn stencil, Conn 10M, Malerne(?) stencil, Dolnet Bel Air, Holton 241, King Cleveland, Bundy Special (Keilwerth stencil), Buescher 400, Keilwerth New King - I think that is all of them),but if I had based it on reputation instead of personal experience I would be less happy with what I am playing.
 

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How does one find a "good tech?" I'm not inclined to take it back to the shop that did the repad. He did a well enough job mechanically, I suppose, but also did some lacquer (spray on?) work I didn't ask for, it's splotchy and there's a run right down the front of the bell.
This is a hard one because you have so many wheels in motion. Let me help you think this through.

1). If you want to manage through your ‘sax’ hobby, with a $1,000, please consider finding a tech who is good. No need to buy a new horn if you don’t have access to a better tech, because in 12 months you are likely going to end up where you are today. “My Dolnet (name the sax) doesn’t play so well, but the tech says it is in great shape after replacing a bunch of pads.” I have had this problem before with my Conn Shooting Star, and I ended up walking away from this sax for some time. (Questionable tech telling my my horn is in great shape). It is very easy to do bad pad work and mediocre alignments. (Your lacquer work is a sign of poor workmanship). A pro player can adjust to bad mechanics in a sax due to their skill level, but it is not common for a beginning or intermediate player to be able to do so. Beginners and intermediate players need a horn that is set up skillfully For my techs, I now drive either 2 hours east or 3.5 hours west, depending on what I need done. (I have 5 techs within a 30 minute drive of my house that I don’t use).

2). It is unlikely that you will get a better horn than your Zephyr for $1,000, though you may get something with a different type of sound or ergonomics. If you don’t like the type of sound (tone quality) coming out of your Zephyr, or the ergonomics, please let the group know the specific issues so we can guide you to the type of horn that would better suit you. (Is it too bright? does it not handle altissimo well?, Is it too boomy? Is the tone thin? Do you keep hitting the palm keys unintentionally? Do your hands cramp up?)

3). Short of understanding the characteristic tonal qualities or ergonomics you don’t like in the Zephyr, I would simply recommend taking the drive to one of the recommended techs in this thread and having them re-do your horn. It will likely cost $200 - $800, but it will be cheaper than buying a new sax - and time well spent. It is hard to underscore how important a good tech is for a sax. A good tech will let you know if the horn is no longer worth the time.

4). If you just want a better horn than your Zephyr, I would recommend driving down to one of the recommended techs and asking what they have in inventory...Consider spending $1,800 - $2,500 on a vintage professional horn. For that price you can get a very nicely set up sax that plays exceedingly well. Remember, when you buy vintage, you are buying a tech....vintage from a shop with a bad tech is a vintage that needs to be overhauled by a good tech prior to playing.

Don’t be afraid to sit in the tech’s shop for 3 hours trying out different horns to find the one that works best for you.

........Disclaimer, I am very busy in my professional life, and I don’t have either the time or patience to figure out sax problems on my own, or to continue to return to poor techs in order to instruct them what needs to be done. Many think that working with the tech to ‘tinker’ with a horn is part of the fun of owning a sax. It’s legit, but it is not what I look for.
 

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does "beat up" mean the Zephyr is fragile/bent/fundamentally off-kilter, etc.? that would be too bad, 'cause a decent Zephyr is a swell horn. if it can't be made whole (or if you and the horn are just plain incompatible for whatever reason) there's no reason not to test drive a sufficiently vintage Yamaha or one of the better Chinese horns that more knowledgeable folks on the board could recommend. speaking for myself, with a $1500 limit, i'd look around for a well maintained/refurbished Beuscher (TT, Aristocrat or buyout era 400) or a Martin Committee/Committee II. Maybe find a Conn at a thrifty price.
 

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I agree with what others have said in that the Zeph is a good horn and the best option may be to get that checked over. If they issue with tuning is you rather than the horn then buying something else isn't going to fix it.

Of the three horns you mention I would avoid the Dolnet. I've not been impressed with the ones I've seen.
Reviews of the B&S is OK but probably not going to be any better than a Zeph. The ergonomics might be a little better.

If you're going to go for a Yamaha I'd look for a 62, or better. Whilst some favour the older purple logo models I prefer the newer ones. It's cost you a bit more but I think if you want better intonation the Yamaha is an obvious choice.
Plan B would be to look out for a Yanagisawa as some of the old models can be picked up cheaper now they have the new range.

If you're not liking the idea of a modern horn and want something with a bit more character then, yes, it's the Zeph.
 
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