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SOTW TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH! P. Mauriat 67R vs. Mark VI vs. Barone Vintage

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all the MAIN EVENT OF THE EVENING!

Standing in the blue corner, weighing in at 210,xxx serial with original lacquer and fresh pads, the reigning and defending champion, the Mark VI alto saxophone!!

Standing in the red corner, a fighter with a reputation that's been building for years, weighing in at abalone shell key touches, antiqued lacquer, and rolled tone holes, the P. Mauriat 67R alto saxophone!

And standing in...the......other....*ahem*corner, is the newcomer, receiver of much praise, but has he truly been tested? Weighing in at a bare brass finish and value for dollar, the Barone Vintage alto saxophone!

Tonight, these three duke it out in a triple threat match, for your entertainment!


Initial Impression

Mark VI: How can you describe initial impressions on a VI? I'll say I've known this horn for years, as it is my fiance's Mark VI. She took it from high school, all the way through her degree. It's a fine example of a VI, equally suited in a jazz or classical setting. Lacquer is original and pads are fresh.

P. Mauriat 67R: I had been itching to try one of these since they came out. When I finally got my hands on one, it was just a tiny bit disappointing. Some of the things that I expected to be flawless were not quite up to my expectations. The antiqued lacquer and abalone shell keys looks cool in pictures, but to be honest it looks kind of goofy in person. I still reserved final judgment until I really got a chance to play it.

Barone Vintage: I had heard a ton of praise for these horns, but it didn't seem there were too many people that had actually gone with a vintage alto. I chose the bare brass option simply because it was the cheapest, and I like the look of bare brass. The package that came together was impressive; case looked sharp, professional mouthpiece (which played great, btw), and a nice looking horn. I love the bare brass look, very beautiful.

Winner: Mark VI


Mark VI: The overall feel of the horn is fantastic. Snappy key action, medium open height, very tight and fluid. I don't like the fee of the side keys on Selmers at all, far too low for me, and she doesn't like to use risers. The palm keys could use a little work to make them perfect, but she adapted well to the horn without modifications. I'm a little more picky because of my past wrist issues. Still, the horn was comfortable for the most part.

P. Mauriat 67R: Here's where I had some reservations upon initially holding the horn. The pearls felt...for lack of a better They had inconsistent texture on them, weren't consistently flat, and it made the horn feel very strange to hold. The overall positioning was good, palm keys felt nice without need for risers at all. Side keys were a tiny bit low, but not too bad. I still couldn't get over the cheap feel of the pearls though. Spring action was adjusted and it felt ok, not quite as snappy as the other too, but quick enough and easy enough to get around on the horn.

Barone Vintage: The horn felt nice to hold, pearls were of solid quality and all were flat. A lot of things have been said about how close the Barones are to Mauriats and vice versa from the early days, but these horns don't feel anything alike. I enjoyed the Barone ergos much more than the Mauriat. Side keys were still too low without risers, and the low Bb had a little bit more of a reach than other horns. I had an Oleg Bb extension that I tried out and it feels FANTASTIC on this horn, exactly what it needed to feel perfect. Spring tension is close to the Selmer, but a little lighter, which I actually prefer. No issues with clunky keys, excellent feel right out of the box.

Tie: Mark VI and Barone


Mark VI: Solid build quality. The horn has been played a ton over the past 10 years alone, and it has held up wonderfully. Very rarely any issues, keywork hasn't needed any work, lacquer has normal wear. Not much more to say than that. There's a few things that could have been done, but it did set the standard for later improvements in design. Some standard acid bleed.

P. Mauriat 67R: I have to say the horn was built like a tank. Heavy and solid braces everywhere, the rolled tone holes were perfectly executed and perfectly flat. The pearls felt like crap, and they were not glued in properly as well, shifting off to the side. There were a few instances were keys were not soldered on perfectly straight, and this was pretty disheartening. It feels like a heavy, quality horn, but there are some small things that can be seen that show inadequate craftsmanship around the horn.

Barone Vintage: This one was the horn I had the most doubt about, but it proved me wrong. Braces and pillars are solid, solder work is good, pearls were smooth and even. The pad job, straight from the factory, was almost perfectly tight. Just a teeny leak at the top E pad, and that was it. Everything else was tight as a drum, and regulated properly. Surprised the hell out of me. The engraving looks best on the bare brass horns, I think. It's understated and makes it look a little more elegant. Nice double arms on low keys help the tech out.

Winner: Slight edge to Barone

Response - To me, response is how quickly the horn responds to your airstream for articulation, tone changes, and volume.

Mark VI: The horn responds cleanly throughout the range, with a nice pocket of resistance to push up against when needed. While there is nothing wrong with the response on this horn, I wouldn't say it had great response, either. The altissimo register especially was not the easiest to achieve from about G3-B3. Above didn't seem to be an issue with standard fingerings. I found this quite strange, but despite trips to the tech, hasn't changed. While I can still make the notes speak, the resistance is quite different and heavier on those notes.

P. Mauriat 67R: I was surprised at how quick this horn responded. I had heard it was a darker horn, so I expected some blowing resistance, but didn't really find away. You can blow straight through the horn, and it'll keep taking more air. Some people like a super free blowing horn, most players I know enjoy a bit of resistance because they feel it helps them shape the sound. I'm in that camp, as well. The lower register was nice and easy, the altissimo register was easy enough to achieve but did not live up to the incredible hype I've seen written at different places. I felt the mid-range horn response to be very prominent, and despite the horn being properly regulated, it didn't stop. While most players wouldn't realize this, I felt it kept the horns sound uneven from top to bottom.

Barone Vintage: This one seemed to be in the middle of the two horns above. It has a small bit of resistance, which I feel gives it an extra fatness, but is still fairly free-blowing. I will say the lower register sounds great on this horn, more color and meat than the Mauriat and Mark VI for sure. Upper register is clean and articulate, altissimo rang out with clarity, but gave just a bit more resistance. I tend to enjoy this in the altissimo; it makes the notes feel consistent and gives me confidence that I'll always be right on when I head up into that register.

Winner: Barone Vintage


Mark VI: This was the strong point of this horn. I haven't played a more in-tune Mark VI than this one. Every note was pretty spot on and required very little embouchure adjustment. The only note that was out of tune was the Fork F# altissimo fingering, which was very sharp. Natural range was excellent, overtones lined up very nicely, too. Hard to top this one.

P. Mauriat 67R: I read somewhere about people bashing on Mauriats for being out of tune. If that's the case, I must have gotten a rare one. Very in tune horn; all three C#'s lined up right on the money. Altissimo was in tune. Lower register was a little bit sharp, like most horns, but nothing terrible. I was a bit disappointed as this felt very much like "slotted" intonation as I call it. It just slips right into place and there's not a ton of room for adjustment. I prefer what I call "flexible" intonation, which allows you to shape a note and it's intonation much more easily. Perhaps that's why I love playing vintage horns, as they tend to have this characteristic more so than modern horns.

Barone Vintage: I've heard others say it, didn't believe it, then I experienced it....this is absolutely the most in tune saxophone I've ever played right out of the box. The tuner does not move from green the entire time. Yet for some reason, I feel like I can change it if need be, it moves for me when necessary. I found this a bit strange as I couldn't classify it into the two camps I mentioned above. This was only the 2nd horn I've played that has done that to me, and while it was a bit uncomfortable at first, I eventually came to love it.

Tie: Barone and Mark VI

Dynamics/Projection: Not the same thing, I know, but included in the same part of the review. Projection, in my mind, is the ability to fill up a room with your sound; the ability to make your sound carry to the far corners of the room, no matter what volume. To me, volume is simply how loud you can play...a higher amount of decibels.

Mark VI: Overall dynamics were middle of the road on the horn. It did have the power to project nicely, but it was not a power horn. Conversely, ultra soft dynamics weren't it's strong point either, although it did retain a nice focus and structure. It performed nicely, but didn't appear to have any overall strengths. The projection is definitely very focused, with a nice edge that carries well. The horn couldn't be pushed very well at higher decibel levels in the palm keys.

P. Mauriat 67R: Definitely a power horn. Big, boomy, loud. You could actually still play quietly on it, although the spread of the sound kind of loses the structure at very low decibels. The horn can get pretty loud, and the projection is spread, so it's a very noisy, boomy type projection. I guess some people like that? I certainly don't. If you're looking for strict volume, it'll do the job, but other than that, I'd leave it behind. There was a lot of edge to the sound that I didn't expect, which would have been fine if there had been some richness to back it up with. Once you really start pushing this horn, it becomes downright raucous.

Barone Vintage: This reminded me of the Selmer, but it gave a little more in the volume department. It stayed a little more consistent as you pushed it further. Lower volume levels were nice, felt very floaty, so it would work if you doing a piece in the nature of Shakuhachi flute, but perhaps not as structured for other classical works. For jazz, it gives a loose, rich tonal palette to lay on a bit. I liked the power I could get on this; not because it was simply powerful, but because it had that rich backing to it that I was missing in the Mauriat. It still held a nice, fat core to the presence of the sound. I enjoyed the very slight edge on the sound as well, which seemed to be affected greatly by mouthpiece choice.

Winner: Barone Vintage

Tone: To me, tone is the general description of the sound produced by the instrument. Adjectives like bright, dark, warm, thin, edgy etc. can be used to describe tone. I also refer to the "eveness" of the tone...this is if the tone of the horn stays consistent throughout the ranges.

Mark VI: This horn had a definitive focused character to it, a warmth and definite buzz that gave some sheen at the edge of the sound. As I mentioned before, this horn was equally suited in a jazz and classical environment. Indeed, my fiance used it for both jazz and classical studies through her degree program, and it always sounded great. It's focus and warmth provided an excellent foundation for the classical sound, while that brighter sheen led to a very Fred Hemke approach. It's power and ability to project a bit when needed made it a versatile jazz horn as well, although I honestly feel it was meant to be a legit horn (I know, I know, there's no such thing as a legit sax).

P. Mauriat 67R: This is the one that surprised me the most, and NOT in a good way. I had heard of these being dark, rich, and powerful. What I found was a contemporary sounding horn, much more spread than most modern horns, without the richness and substance to back it up. It was a big sound, a spread fat sound...but I definitely was expecting more character and color to back it up. Otherwise it just comes out too boomy. This really, really disappointed me because I held high expectations for the horn. It didn't sound BAD, mind you, but I think I might have built this one up a little bit too much in my head because of all the hype surrounding them. I remember I did a recording session on this horn the first week I had it. The guy who hired me was satisfied, but it didn't sound like I expected it. Definitely brighter than everyone was talking about, and no, there are no inferences to draw to vintage Conns about how these sound. At all. I've played a ton of vintage Conns and these horns aren't even close.

Barone Vintage: This one really surprised me too, but in a very pleasant way. I expected a pretty spread sound, based on what few others had mentioned, but I found it a little different than that. The horn is not as focused as a Selmer, but it's definitely not as spread as a Conn. Others have reported that it is "focused, but spread at the same time" and I think this is a fairly accurate way of describing the tone quality. I call it "meaty" and it does have a bit more fatness to it than a Selmer type focused sound. There was a rich core, which was very refreshing to my ears, and I was VERY satisfied with the sound I was getting out of the horn. I felt it was definitely a jazz type of horn, but I surprised myself when I broke out my Soloist and ran through some Ferling etudes with a clear, resonant classical tone. The slight spread of the sound gives a little more meat to staccato passages, and especially heightens the abilities of the upper register (I hate the super whiny, thin upper register tone of classical alto). Overall, I was floored at how good this horn sounded right out of the box. This would be a great horn for someone wanting a mix between a Selmer focus and the Conn spread, while still maintaining tonal clarity and projection.

Winner: In a blind test, my fiance picked out the Barone as her favorite sounding horn 4/4 times. My old mentor chose the Barone 3/4 times. Personally, for me, I was surprised that they liked the same horn I did. While the Mark VI is a nice playing horn, I enjoy that bit of spread and fatness to the tone, and the Barone delivers that while still retaining some of the focus. Players who enjoy a much more focused sound would favor the VI, although I hear his Classic model has more focus and might be up that alley.


Mark VI: It's a Mark VI. They're expensive and you never can tell if they're any good until you play them. Fortunately, this one's a nice player, but you can't be sure of that with all of them. Ton of hype, all the myths, and the only proof is in the playing. Unfortunately, not EVERYONE lives within driving distance of 20 Mark VI altos to test out, so online buying can be risky.

P. Mauriat 67R: These guys have picked up a ton of steam over the years, but I wasn't totally blown away by this alto. It played decently, definitely had a different sound than most modern horns, but wasn't in my camp for overall complexity and color of sound. The unique marketing campaign has done well, and most people gain an interest in these at some point during their search for an alto.

Barone Vintage: We're definitely talking value for dollar here. I really didn't believe that Taiwan could make a horn this good. And at the price was pretty ridiculous. I'm not sure how Phil did it, but he managed to offer an outstanding pro quality horn, a professional hand-faced mouthpiece that played great, and a professional contoured case for a crazy low price. It's really opened my eyes to possibilities from Taiwan.

Winner: Has to go to Barone for value.

Overall Winner: Barone Vintage

Strange that something fairly new to the scene can be this good, but I can't deny what I'm hearing coming out of the horn. I like the VI, I do, it's a nice axe and plays well. I just lend towards a different sound concept, and the Barone fills that niche quite well. I've had the Barone since May, but didn't want to put up any kind of opinions on it until I had some time to really play the horn for a while, take it on some gigs in different situations, etc.

It's been a while since my last review, so it's good to get one up and hopefully more will be forthcoming.

Hopefully not too many Selmer loyalists come out of the woodwork to attack!
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Comments and feedback are welcome; flaming posts, rude remarks, and attacks/insults can be directed to my PM box.

As always, your mileage may vary. These are only my individual experiences. You should form your own opinions on horns by playing them.

Hope you enjoyed!

- Saxaholic
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