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SilverSonic tenor at Vintage Sax

2181 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Swingtone
Gayle has a nice SilverSonic tenor for sale. I have always wanted another S20 since I sold mine years ago. Is this a good vintage? thanks
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Robert_Allan said:
No, they may have some things in common, but Silver Sonics and
Zephyrs are certainly not the same; the action and the sound is
substantially different. I've blown on a few Zephyr's and although
they may have been good horns, I've never picked one up that's lit it
up it up like a good Silver Sonic. A good Silver Sonic is a really
loud, bright, and free-blowing instrument, and Zephyrs wouldn't be
the poor second cousin of the Silver Sonic if they sounded anything
like them. I think it's fair to say they are at least as far apart as
Yamaha and Selmer tenors -- at least as far apart.

For one, most Zephyrs don't have a silver neck, and I think the
dimensions and/or the material (being silver) of those necks does
make a difference. I've experimented with swapping some earlier
vintage King necks (composed of silver) on a Silver Sonic, and one of
the necks in particular (from a 1948 Super 20) changes the sound on
the Silver Sonic quite noticeably, causing the sound to be more
diffuse and less bright.
This doesn't make any sense to me. The silver may cause the horn to sound brighter but it doesn't make it louder. If it seems to, it's just that--a perception that is not based in reality.

Starting in the late 40's and continuing up through the mid 70's the Zephyr is the same horn as the Super 20 in all important construction (i.e. neck, body tube, etc.). The only differences are in the keywork (the Zephyr has Zephyr Special style keywork from 1947 on) and some of the materials--the Zephyr does not have a silver neck or bell. But the rest is the same--the bore, the bell size, the composition of the body tube (brass in all), the gage of the metals used, basically everything that determines how loud a horn can be.

But in the end, it's the player who determines the volume, is it not? I guarantee if I handed my 1956 Zephyr tenor with DS neck to Clarence Clemons between songs while he was on tour with his Boss, that he could make the hair stand up on Mr. Allan's head--and cause him to have to refill his fish bowl while he was at it. In contrast, I sincerely doubt that Mr. Allan would impress the Big Man with whatever volume he could coax out of his SS.

Again, if you're on a budget (i.e., can't raise the 4 G's for a SS) I second the suggestion for a good Zephyr, preferably one made before 1958, the year they eliminated the double socket neck. My '56 Zeph is a real screamer, an absolute monster whenever I want it to be. Basically, it's the horn I put away when I'm afraid of offending the neighbors.

Another way to look at it--I've never heard of SS's being appreciably louder than regular silver-neck Super 20's. And going from there I've never heard anyone claim that a Silver neck Super 20 is any louder than a Zephyr made the same year (for I admit the designs did change over the years).

Is it possible that the few Zephyr's Mr. Allan blew on were lemons? I've owned 6 Zephyr tenors in the last 4 years of different vintages ('38, '46, '52, '54, '56 (times 2)) and all of them were a little different with two being outright stuffy and the 56 examples being the most monstrous.

With all handmade horns, sometimes you have to keep searching as I did until you find a great one (same with the VI's). Perhaps the Zephyrs he blew just weren't that great.

And isn't it possible that King may have only used the best sax bodies that came off the line to bear the name of Silver Sonic, which if true, would mean there would be fewer SS lemons? I have heard they reserved the best of the best for Cannonball and other product endorsers so this theory would make sense to me too.

The moral of this story is not to judge any vintage horn model after just blowing on one or two examples.

And saying a SS is physically louder than a Zephyr of the same year is just pure Barbra Streisand. Brighter?--perhaps, but again that's probably a more subtle issue of perception that is more evident to the player than the audience.

It's the player that determines how loud a horn is. Just go ask the Big Man. :)
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