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Discussion Starter #1
Having sorted new to me tenor and alto, I now turn my attention to upgrading my straight soprano.

Let’s get a few things out of the way...
1. I know my ear and my ergos in my hands will ultimately make the call.
2. I have not played a single sop other than the saxophone.com one i have (which is actually an ok horn, but time to go big here).
3. Open to new or vintage.
4. I have a Selmer Super Session J mpc that I LOVE on both my cheap sops.
5. My sound concept for sop is that i like the honky, oboe-ish, non-smooth sounds of Coltrane on My Favorite Things, Blues for Bechet and others, and despise the smooth jazz sounds of Mr. G.

I very much do value others opinions and experiences on horns, for me, it helps as I search.
I do not, however, take it for what is written here as what will be right for me.
For tenor, I took a huge left turn and ended up with a MK VII that I LOVE, but I very much enjoyed all the thoughts along the way.

Knowing even less about higher end straight sops, would be nice to have folks comment in one place about any/all the higher end brands.
Most interested in intonation issues, best intonation horns / ergo differences / tonal color.
Conn / Selmer MK VIs / Yanis / Yammys / others please....
Also in these, what to look for in a good horn, if that is a thing (different models or years of mfg, features that make a difference, etc.

Thanks in advance to the collective...
 

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'I do not, however, take it for what is written here as what will be right for me.'

No problem.
 

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Don't forget the Buescher True Tone. Perfect intonation and a good rich sound that can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. Also Holton. Some Holton sopranos even have a front F key.

To my hands, the playing position and size of soprano are so different that the design of the keywork doesn't need to feel the same as alto/tenor/baritone. Although I have to admit that my Holton C soprano is very weird indeed. But you're not asking about C soprano.
 

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3. Open to new or vintage.
. . .
5. My sound concept for sop is that i like the honky, oboe-ish, non-smooth sounds of Coltrane on My Favorite Things, Blues for Bechet and others, and despise the smooth jazz sounds of Mr. G.
Your challenge probably will be dealing with a multiplicity of good options, rather than finding the one perfect horn. Generally, it's the people who don't want a nasal, oboe-ish soprano tone who have the tougher time satisfying themselves. I think there are a lot of sops out there with good ergonomics and decent intonation that will give you just what you want.

My only concrete observation is that you should consider whether you're interested in a curved neck or not. People who play straight sopranos with curved necks generally do so for one or two reasons: a more comfortable playing position, and/or a more "saxophone-like" (i.e., less like an oboe) tone. Since the second reason doesn't apply to you, if you are OK with the hand, arm, and back ergonomics of playing a straight sop with a straight neck, then you'll both widen your field of horn options and reduce the cost of many of your options as well.
 

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Like other saxes, there is a significant difference in the tonal paradigm of a vintage vs. modern soprano.

I know of no contemporary sopranos which sound like an old Buescher, Conn, Holton, King, Martin.

As a rule, the pre-war horns also have more intonational flex than newer ones. Also as noted, many vintage sops have no front F (although some are arranged where one can be added by a tech).

So determine where tonality comes into play. Determine how comfortable you are with horns which have 'flex' when it comes to intonation.

Also a price point would help.

IMHO the closest contemporary soprano tone to the old-school tone remains to be Keilwerth's. Yani also has a very nice, rich tone although I would not quite call it old-school.

In the "not-contemporary-but-not-vintage-but-with-a-lusher-tone-than-most modern-varieties" category, Grassi and B&S both made fine sopranos. I think my alltime favorite straight is the Grassi 2000.

In the vintage post-1950 zone...a Keilwerth (Couf, or other JK stencils) is a nice horn as are some efforts by Borgani and Weltklang between the 60's -'80's.

My wild-card suggestion (for no reason other than I have been impressed with the Tenor and Alto versions of the same model): Jupiter 1100. Probably not very difficult to actually find one to try in person (?) if you live near a sizable city....

There. Wasn't THAT helpful ? :confused:
 

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I like my Yanagisawa S-800 a lot. Intonation is great, ergos good (I like the non rocking pinkie table more than the actual ones) IF you can live/modify those narrow palm keyes and/or the absence of a front f. I'm the other soprano player who likes to sound like an oboe ;) (more classical oboe, not so much Coltrane sound), and this is what I get on my S-800. They are not too expensive, too.
 

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Yamaha YSS 61 or 62. 62 has better ergos. Intonation is spot on.

Others say yamahas have no 'soul'. However, I've always been of the opinion that soul was something the player provides.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Like other saxes, there is a significant difference in the tonal paradigm of a vintage vs. modern soprano.

I know of no contemporary sopranos which sound like an old Buescher, Conn, Holton, King, Martin.

As a rule, the pre-war horns also have more intonational flex than newer ones. Also as noted, many vintage sops have no front F (although some are arranged where one can be added by a tech).

So determine where tonality comes into play. Determine how comfortable you are with horns which have 'flex' when it comes to intonation.

Also a price point would help.

IMHO the closest contemporary soprano tone to the old-school tone remains to be Keilwerth's. Yani also has a very nice, rich tone although I would not quite call it old-school.

In the "not-contemporary-but-not-vintage-but-with-a-lusher-tone-than-most modern-varieties" category, Grassi and B&S both made fine sopranos. I think my alltime favorite straight is the Grassi 2000.

In the vintage post-1950 zone...a Keilwerth (Couf, or other JK stencils) is a nice horn as are some efforts by Borgani and Weltklang between the 60's -'80's.

My wild-card suggestion (for no reason other than I have been impressed with the Tenor and Alto versions of the same model): Jupiter 1100. Probably not very difficult to actually find one to try in person (?) if you live near a sizable city....

There. Wasn't THAT helpful ? :confused:
Very helpful!
Many things here I would not have considered or known about.
I’d say $5000 or less is my range.
I can’t see me buying a brand new horn btw, just never seems to go that way.
 

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Yamaha YSS 61 or 62. 62 has better ergos. Intonation is spot on.

Others say yamahas have no 'soul'. However, I've always been of the opinion that soul was something the player provides.
This gets back to our baritone discussion. Of course the counter-argument here is that ...as different brands are built to different specifications... this will effect their 'intrinsic' tonality and response, just to name a couple of aspects. So sure the player can be either a soulful cat or a stick in the mud...but the piece of hardware in their hands is still gonna be the piece of hardware in their hands....and perform per its physical specifications/capacities.
 

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From my limited experience trying soprano, the Yanagisawa horns have been superior to the Selmer and Yamahas I have tried. A curved solid silver Yani in particular was enormously impressive, although this was well over a decade ago so I don't remember specifics. But I do remember being wowed by the horn without any real negatives attached.

Best of luck finding your dream horn!

- Saxaholic
 

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Discussion Starter #17
This is going to be a much longer journey than alto and tenor.
Mind and wallet open.
Looking forward to it!
 

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The sopranos I've liked the best are curved Yani SC-991 and SC-901 before that. Intonation is very good, tone and ergos are very good.
 

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I grew up playing vintage sopranos. Seems that was generally what was available back then as opposed to these days, now that they're popular again (hat tip, Kenny G). So it's no wonder that when I pick up a modern soprano, with some notable exceptions, that they feel and play like hollow shells to me as opposed to my old Conn and Buescher sopranos. And yeah, those notable exceptions being Selmer II's and Yanagisawa solid silver models, that I still don't favor when played side by side with a vintage soprano.

As far as "ergonomics" goes, I have extraordinarily large hands. I don't like the way modern horns seem to squeeze my fingers in places they don't fit. So again, vintage keywork is a win for me as well.

Cost is another issue. You can purchase a fantastic vintage soprano for under a grand that was built to last a lifetime, and then some. Sure, you can go really cheap and get junk, but even if you go brand new with a mid-priced stencil option, you won't get half your money back if you later realize the horn ain't for you. So for me, vintage wins there as well. You buy a vintage horn, and if it doesn't suit you, you sell it for value paid.

But you're not me and I'm not you. So what you need to do is go somewhere where you can play some horns. Why don't you drive down to Jersey and visit USA Horns? You'll be able to try all sorts of new options as well as vintage ones. Find your preference.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks Grumps,

Vintage may in fact be for me. As I said above I never seem to gravitate towards newer horns in general.
What brands have you liked over the years and I should be on the lookout for that might not be obvious, special years/models/etc.

I will be doing some trekking/playing.
USA horn is now appointment only which can be a pain, the last time I tried to go there I couldn’t get in there for over a week and he really didn’t seem to interested in showing up for me, so never went, but will give it another shot.
 
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