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Selmer Paris - SBA alto (‘50); Reference 36; Mark VI tenor (‘74)
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Friends,

I had the good fortune to play an Axos tenor. I don't see a ton of content regarding this horn on the forum based on a first-hand playing experience, so I figured I would share some thoughts for anyone considering the horn. This is completely non-technical and based on my first impression of one horn.

Biases - a couple of friends of mine own/operate a band and orchestra store and are considering getting into the entry level pro horn market and wanted me to try it out. I previously played an Axos alto which I liked, but didn't love and would not have purchased. I will also admit that I had a little bit of "Selmer-snobbery" to overcome, but not really. I suppose you could call it reasonable skepticism about the horn's bona fides.

Initial Look/Feel - I opened the case and was instantly impressed with the presentation. This particular horn was straight out of the box with no adjustments from my tech friend who knows saxophones well. The horn sports a very light gold lacquer (which I grew to like but didn't initially), and the engraving was surprisingly detailed and thorough. The key action felt great and my first thought was "I am holding a true Selmer Paris horn." I think the sax is on the lighter side of the tenor spectrum. The only thing I didn't like was the embossed S on the octave key. It looks sort of incomplete, but whatever, it ultimately doesn't matter. The case is also worth noting, as it felt very substantial.

Play Test w/ JodyJazz 6* Giant - I started with my usual JodyJazz 6* Giant with my usual Vandoren Blue Box reeds. From the first note, the horn was very responsive and easy to get up and down. It took a few minutes to feel everything out, but once I had an idea of how to get around on it, that familiar Selmer core sound was out in full force. The key work felt very similar to other Selmers I have played.

For lack of a better comparison from a timbre standpoint, if my Reference 36 is a very dark roast coffee, and my '74 Mark VI is a medium roast, this Axos was definitely a blonde roast. It was light, bright, and punchy. It was very focused, and it feels like there is a straight line of sound coming out of the bell. The middle and upper range were pretty effortless, but it did take a minute to find the left hand pinky notes. Once I found them, they popped out.

Generally, the scale felt very even and was within a reasonable tuning range, especially without knowing the voicings. I was positively surprised with the sound that came out of the horn with the JJ, though it might be a tad bit on the bright side for me. This horn could easily serve someone well in jazz and contemporary music.

Play Test w/ included C* - I don't mean to open the "classical vs jazz saxophone" debate as I largely believe a saxophone is a saxophone; nor am I suggesting this horn falls directly in either camp. What I will say is, it is clear when a piece of equipment simply works with another piece of equipment, and that is definitely the case with the S80 C* and the Axos. To the extent I have absolutely no clue what the Selmer design team considered in developing the Axos, my first thought was that they said, "this horn shall be played with a C*."

Playing on the C* was effortless up and down the horn, and it produced a really, really nice classical tone. A true classical player could make it sing. Intonation was locked in up and down the horn, and the entire range felt very even. It was pretty amazing to hear the horn turn from a bright and punchy jazz horn to a neutral sounding horn which could produce a wide range of dynamics. I can usually always hear my core "me-ness" with every set up I try, even a C*, but this was the most dramatic tone shift I have experienced in a while.

Again, I am not suggesting this is a classical horn, but I can easily see this horn shine in a high school/college wind ensemble setting. I say that mostly because it was so easy to control and blow into that young, emerging players should be able to pick this thing up and roll with it from the jump. The ease of blowing is what I think Selmer was going for with this one.

Overall Impressions - I will say that there is a trade off when balancing ease of blowing and potential sound colors that can be produced. I think the potential for producing a wider range of colors and tonal expression is greater on my 36 and my Mark VI (which is not entirely shocking), but those horns are little more difficult to control. I think the Axos is meant to be played easily, at the potential expense of some expressive qualities.

I would be crazy not to mention the overall "bang-for-your-buck" angle to the Axos. At $3800-ish bucks, I cannot see how you can do better in the new tenor market. You're looking at over 2x that price for a Series II, III, or Reference, and I cannot be completely sure that those other horns are 2x+ better than the Axos. This is coming from a true-believer in the Reference 36. Are the horns different? Yes. Is the Axos as luxurious? Probably not. But is the Axos better or worse? I suppose that is up to the player. Also, that previously mentioned "Selmer-snobbishness" I admitted to earlier was a complete afterthought after the first note was played. Not once did I ever say or think "this feels like a cheap horn assembled overseas" or "not a true Selmer." There is no doubt this is a Selmer Paris horn, thought it may not have all of the frills of some of the other offerings.

Honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Axos tenor. If I was in the market for a new tenor, this would be at the top of the list.
 

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Selmer Paris Mark VI Alto 119XXX
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Thank you for the review I haven't had the chance to play one yet but this is the price range I'm comfortable with on a secondary instrument as I primarily play Alto.
 

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Thanks for the review, interesting, I am/was considering a new horn, though not in any hurry and I certainly don't really need one, my alto is a SA 80 serie ll so when I saw the axos tenor lets just say I was intrigued, my local music store is a Selmer dealer but does not have the horn to try and I am not really interested in the trial by mail thing,

so what would push me over the edge ? I would say the horn would need to be very free blowing, which I don't think Selmer horns have a reputation for, I know my SA 80 has a bit of resistance, but in a good way, I know mouthpiece and reed selection play a major part in this and I have a few pieces that I use and like,

so my question is would you consider this a free blowing horn ?
 

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Man, I've been a vintage horn guy for a long time. I just love their tone and color. However, it finally occurred to me, after reading this review, that I've never actually gone to a shop and play-tested a row of brand new horns. I always pick up the old horns to fiddle around. I don't plan expect I'll buy it, but maybe I'll give the Axos a try the next time I see one.
 

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Thanks for the thorough review. The only thing I can quibble with is your last sentence:
If I was in the market for a new tenor, this would be at the top of the list.
I get that you're impressed with the Axos, but the only other comparisons mentioned were your Ref 36 and Mark VI. There are other tenors in that price range worth consideration, Yani and Yamaha come to mind. Have you compared the Axos to them?

In my case, I sold my Ref 36 after buying a Yani 01. No regrets so far.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
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I tried an Axos lately together with a Forestone and the own brand from the Dutch shop Adams.

The Forestone was just a tiny fraction better than the New York Symphonic Manhattan , the axos was worse than the both. Personally I wasn't impressed.
 
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We've got a tenor and alto here in the shop. I can confirm from my customers and reading your review that their points are very similar to yours. Especially this line, " I think the Axos is meant to be played easily, at the potential expense of some expressive qualities." Great horn, excellent intonation, easily played, but lacks a bit of 'soul'.

Thank you for your thorough review!
 
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Thank you for this review. Currently I’m looking to compare an Axos tenor with a Yamaha Z, EX, and 62III. But with the coffee analogy, I would love to try a Reference 36 - the way you describe it is the sound I want. I have no idea where I could find one to try, though.
 

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We've got a tenor and alto here in the shop. I can confirm from my customers and reading your review that their points are very similar to yours. Especially this line, " I think the Axos is meant to be played easily, at the potential expense of some expressive qualities." Great horn, excellent intonation, easily played, but lacks a bit of 'soul'.
Interestingly, to the extent that some players don't care for Japanese horns, this tends to be their main criticism, so in that respect the Axos is aligned with its price-point peers. It's well-established by now (as Selmer knows) that the people who don't necessarily buy into the criticism, or can overlook it, constitute a big market. For thousands of dollars less, the Axos doesn't really have to compete with the Series III or Ref. 36, as long as it can compete with the TWO1 and the YAS-62.
 
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