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Discussion Starter #1
I'm thinking of buying a 1938 Selmer BA in nice condition for $4000 as a backup to my MKVI. It has been recently overhauled. I may need to have the F palm key bent a bit to fit my hand better. I've had it for four days play-testing it. Are there recurring problems, chronic issues to look out for with BA's? Thanks!
 

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My only observation is that the intonation on the BA alto I repadded for a former student was not as good as the SBA that I play. I found myself making playing adjustments to play in tune.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hmmm... Thanks for your comments jbtsax. The BA that I'm thinking of getting has better intonation than my MKVI. Are they fairly rugged? I know it weighs less.
 

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I owned a BA alto in college - seemed pitchy to me as well. There is a local pro that LOVES BA altos and sounds amazing.
 

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I believe that from a construction standpoint the BA, SBA, and VI are made equally well. There are some minor differences in the design of certain mechanisms, but those are just differences and not problems.
 

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Amazing sounding horns but they're intonation is a bit more variable than all of the horns that follow. Great tone though.
 

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I have been playing a BA alto as my only alto for a long time (25 plus years) and when I first got it, I had to get used to the intonation problems. Once I understood the horn, I realized that it was that intonation "problem" that made the horn special. It becomes a very flexible sound and once you "get it", there is nothing that comes close to it. I have tried to find something "better" because I am just a curious guy but nothing out there allows me the control to shape the tone as well as my BA. I guess the answer to the question is that my BA alto has been called "too sweet" and "not brash enough" by others that have played it. As far as I'm concerned, that means nothing is wrong with the BA altos.
 

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I have been playing a BA alto as my only alto for a long time (25 plus years) and when I first got it, I had to get used to the intonation problems. Once I understood the horn, I realized that it was that intonation "problem" that made the horn special. It becomes a very flexible sound and once you "get it", there is nothing that comes close to it. I have tried to find something "better" because I am just a curious guy but nothing out there allows me the control to shape the tone as well as my BA. I guess the answer to the question is that my BA alto has been called "too sweet" and "not brash enough" by others that have played it. As far as I'm concerned, that means nothing is wrong with the BA altos.
I agree fully about that wonderful sweet tone my '36 BA alto has. Mine sounds like I'm singing through it. A totally classy sound. I've apparently gotten used to any of the pitch issues people talk about because I don't notice any when I play mine. I seem to adjust to all my saxes as non have perfect intonation. The BA is the favorite of all my altos.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks everyone for your input. I have decided to buy it. When I put my MKVI neck on it I achieved a state of Nirvana.
 

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FWIW...I'm playing a Mark VI - Varitone neck on a 1940 Balanced Action Tenor...no 'nirvana' for me but it seems to play 'easier' than the original BA neck...
 

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I've had 2 BA altos and 1 BA tenor. The #28k tenor is my main horn these days. I had a #27k which I wish I kept. I now have a #20k, one of the first BAs. If the key heights are set up correctly, I haven't noticed any pitch problems that I couldn't compensate for. Perhaps not quite as accurate as a mk6 but no problem for me. An inexperienced, part-time player might have some minor problems with pitch. So, from a professional standpoint, there's nothing wrong with a Selmer BA alto.
 

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Beautiful sweet sounding horns, can be a bit 'rattly' --a Selmer trait?--and the pad cups dont leave much room for manouver if not centred to tone hole. But really the BA's are Selmer at their best--IMO that is!
 

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I have no intonation problems on my 22 XXX BA alto except for low B/Bb which are slightly sharp, but even Série III alto's are like that.
 

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I keep thinking of selling my '36 BA but am having a very difficult time bringing myself to do it, though I could really use the $. Never had an intonation problem with it and I have played it in big band settings as well as combos. Rich dark and feels great under the fingers. Really sings when pushed.
 

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My experience has been that SBA altos are much better horns than BA. Note this applies only to the altos. Better build quality, noticeably better tuning, and I prefer the tone more on the SBA. Plus, while a BA alto with high F# is -extremely- rare, the SBA altos are available w/F#. The Selmer catalogs mention some tuning improvements in the very late BA altos, so I guess even Selmer thought there was some improvement needed on the altos.

All of that said, for a vintage alto tone/approach, my preference is an SBA neck on a modern Series II alto. Best of both worlds; modern tuning/ergos, vintage sound.

Both the BA and SBA altos are quite sharp above C on top of the staff. This is better in the modern horns(still not what it should be, tho), so at least Selmer's making a bit of progress. And no, the sharpness is not my mouthpiece or manner of playing. I've been around long enough and can play well enough, and have tried other horns(with better tuning) to know what I'm talking about here.
 
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