Just got back from the fair and tried the sterling III tenor.
First the obscenity: $11,000 and change with a discount!
Necks tried on it:
1. Stock sterling III neck
2. Ref 54 brass
3. My sterling Series III neck that I use on my Ref 54
4. A Yani underslung, sterling neck
The Sterling III tenor is obscenely priced and it is obscenely free blowing. I was amazed at how effortless it was to play and the intonation was spot-on. It seemed to be able to take a lot of air, but remain civilized. Maybe just a tad too civilized for my Texas tenor tastes.
The necks tried produced interesting results. I played all necks with a JVW modified #12 Quantum Spoiler Delrin and 2 1/2 Alexander superial (well broken in).
#1. Stock III sterling- effortless, smooth, yet had power enough. Very pure sound and a bit bright with a smoothness I didn't expect.
#2. Ref 54 brass- kind of dull in the upper register and lower register seemed to fatten up. Slight intonation problem.
#3. My sterling III- surprisingly fatter sound than the stock sterling....guess that shows there really is a difference from neck to neck, huh?
#4. Yani sterling underslung- Can you say "beast"? Drawbacks were the horn would chirp on me in the midrange and I found the intonation hard to control as I was trying to keep the horn from chirping. Very nice big, ballsy sound, though! Came close to the TH&C tenor I have, which is a sublime instrument.
Winner, the stock neck or my sterling III neck. I preferred mine, but YRMV.
Would I buy one if I were let's say someone with cash to burn? >>>>>> No.
Furthermore, I tried a gold plated III tenor that I preferred much more than the sterling. It had the sound I can go for. To be honest, I still don't know why I haven't ever invested in a III tenor after all these years. They are hot horns, with a sound I really like. I have never felt that a regular III limited me in any way.
Other horns that impressed me were the Yamaha 82Z UL tenor- amazingly good sounding horn with fantastic ergos, and spot on intonation. If you are looking for a pro tenor and have never played a variety of horns or can't, I dare say you can't go wrong with this horn. Just wonderful. Jazz horn, thru and thru.
If you are looking to play more rock or pop oriented music, you may want to look at the 82Z lacquered model. It was definitely a brighter sounding horn....although still suitable for jazz.
A big surprise to me was the IO tenor (IO is Jupiters "Pro" level brand here in Japan). I picked up a pink plated (copper?) with silver keys and inner bell. This horn is dynamite! What bang for the buck and it has a big throaty resonant sound that I immediately loved. Kind of PM meets JK, but with an edge. If you can try one of these tenors, by all means do. It was a bit pricey though....almost 3k, still a great horn and seems very solidly made.