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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Would someone please explain why so many modern saxophones [do not sound as good as] sound so different from vintage saxophones? My question is directed specifically at the sound. Is the metal composition so different today? And if the metal composition is different is it no longer possible to use the same metal composition that was used in the 1920s-1940s?

Why am I asking? I owned a old Conn soprano. The instrument blew freely and produced a lovely big, mellow sound. I sold the instrument about 10 years ago. Fast-forward to 2015. I bought a new soprano manufactured in Taiwan. This is not a cheapie. I had a highly regarded saxophone tech go over the instrument before it came to me. The tech told me this is a very good soprano. I received this horn last week. It plays well enough, but the tone is nothing like the tone of the old Conn.

Between 2002-2005 I went through a similar experience finding a tenor.

Maybe it's me. Is there anyone who actually prefers a soprano with a sound that includes a healthy oboe-like component?
 

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Would someone please explain why so many modern saxophones do not sound as good as vintage saxophones? My question is directed specifically at the sound. Is the metal composition so different today? And if the metal composition is different is it no longer possible to use the same metal composition that was used in the 1920s-1940s?

Why am I asking? I owned a old Conn soprano. The instrument blew freely and produced a lovely big, mellow sound. I sold the instrument about 10 years ago. Fast-forward to 2015. I bought a new soprano manufactured in Taiwan. This is not a cheapie. I had a highly regarded saxophone tech go over the instrument before it came to me. The tech told me this is a very good soprano. I received this horn last week. It plays well enough, but the tone is nothing like the tone of the old Conn.

Between 2002-2005 I went through a similar experience finding a tenor.

Maybe it's me. Is there anyone who actually prefers a soprano with a sound that includes a healthy oboe-like component?
I think it is totally subjective. Nobody would be able to explain why "modern saxophones don't sound as good" unless they had the same taste in sound as you do.

Plenty of people prefer modern saxophones, or else they wouldn't be playing them.

And it is nothing to do with the metal.
 

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Would someone please explain why so many modern saxophones do not sound as good as vintage saxophones? ... It plays well enough, but the tone is nothing like the tone of the old Conn.
"Nothing like," i.e., different, does not necessarily imply "not as good as."

Have you tried all modern sopranos and found them not to your taste? Or is the question here reducible to, "Why doesn't a Mauriat (or Cannonball) sound like an old Conn?" What I mean is that a substantial difference between two particular saxophones may not imply a difference of the same magnitude between all horns of one era and those of another. But assuming that you, like some here, do find a consistent and disagreeable variance between the sounds of "vintage" horns and those of more recent instruments, I'd say that bore design is the primary reason. (I assume you're using the same mouthpiece as you move from vintage to modern.) The exact type of alloy is probably irrelevant, despite the occasional claims of sax manufacturers to have rediscovered a secret brass recipe from the good old days. I think you can find many threads here in which the vintage vs. modern tone issue is discussed at length.
 

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I would have thought that alteration in the composition of the brass alloy, together with usage of thinner sheets of metal and changes in the configuration of the cone might all have an effect on tone. My 1932 Conn Tranny tenor has a much darker tone than my 1949 10M, for example. But this is far from the full story.

Differences in the make-up of the pads (e.g., old 1920s pads without resonators versus modern pads with plastic or metal resonators) have a noticeable effect, too.

What makes a real difference, too, is the mouthpiece used. Modern mouthpieces generally speaking provide many times the volume of that from a vintage piece, and often with a much more strident tone.

I've a 1929 Conn "Stretchy" soprano. Played with its original S2 mouthpiece it has a beautiful soft tone but not that much volume. Played with a modern metal Link piece, however, it develops that loud, brash modern soprano sound that many listeners seem to dislike.

In other words, these differences do exist, but are due to more factors than just the composition of the metal.
 

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Would someone please explain why so many modern saxophones do not sound as good as vintage saxophones? My question is directed specifically at the sound.
It's simple, the modern players don't sound as good as the vintage players. :bluewink2:
 

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i recently got a horn adjusted by a young tech who's shop, being the only one in the area, handles all the local school bands. she's been swamped with them in her short career. her take is that vintage horns sound better, but modern horns have better intonation. yeah, i know, way too general, but at least the opinion is a fresh look based on a large sample. as to why vintage horns might sound "better", i assume that, at the time, Elkhart Indiana radiated tone.
 

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I think that the answer can be a one-word sentence: "tastes".

I'll expand...
Musical tastes evolve with time and technology. A great example is the electric guitar: in the 50s they invent a new instrument that sounded pretty awful, especially when played through a cranked up amp that distorts the sound. A new musical genre emerges that takes advantage of the current limitations (rock-n-roll) and bam: the sound of electric guitar is suddenly fine. Nowadays we still produce amps with the limitations of the 50s because we like how the sound is shaped by a less than perfect circuit.

The music that was played in the 40s and 50s (when the old-timey saxophones played so great) is very different from the music from the following decades.
In the 60s, 70s and 80s sax players faced a world where they had to cope with the above mentioned amps. A bright sound and high volume was more appreciated than a dark tone. Hence the producers changed their instruments to provide the players with a better way to do it. No wonder that a SA II soprano is quite bright!

And don't we forget that classical players are a big market for brands as Yamaha and Selmer: those companies have to make a product that's palatable to classical musicians(*), whose taste is quite different now than in Rascher's era. And guess which brands are copied most?

So, if you like old time jazz, you will probably be let down by everything modern but from a little number of producers like Rampone & Cazzani, that have a small market and are targeted to who wants a vintage sound.

(*) I've been told by a shop owner that classical players are a much bigger income source for Selmer than jazz cats: conservatory students almost always buy a new instrument and tend to have a more than one horn (alto-tenor-bari-soprano), while most jazz players are driven nuts by a five-digit Mark VI that's almost 60 years old and that represent a 0$ income for Selmer Paris.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I edited the original post to change "better" to "different". Actually, I'm particularly asking about sopranos.

LostConn - you bring up bore design. Good. That relates very well because my old Conn soprano was more free-blowing due to a bigger bore. With computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing I expect new horns to be an improvement over vintage horns.

rzzzzz says the intonation is improved with the new horns. I expected that. And that is one of the reasons I sold my old Conn. However, I believe the Conn's intonation compares favorably with the new horns.

Mike T - mouthpiece making has definitely improved and broadened. I expect the horn to be a constant with mouthpiece, reed, and embouchure supplying the variables to alter the sound.

Here's what bugs me: A soprano with a big, mellow, vintage sound can be made to sound duck-like with a different mouthpiece and reed, but a soprano that inherently sounds duck-like cannot be made to sound big and mellow. Therefore, wouldn't the manufacturer benefit by producing a more neutral sounding instrument?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Neff, that is funny.

Hadamard - I love the sound of the R&C sop in every demo I have heard, but their track record indicated I would be paying for the horn (> $3k) and an immediate full overhaul (~450-650 sans lacquer).
 

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Sopranos . . . I've owned them all, vintage to modern, straight and curved, real Saxello, tipped-bell modern, R&C's included, fixed-necks, dual necks, bronze, brass, silver and gold plated, Conns, Bueschers, Martin, King, Selmers, Yamaha, Yanagisawas, Antigua, inexpensive Chinese, etc.

I am not willing to concede that vintage sopranos are any different or sound different than modern sopranos. I especially don't agree with the bore-issues. I've put them side-by-side, measured them, played them . . . and you know what's coming next - they all sounded like me.

Out of all the sopranos I've owned, only two had unmanageable intonation (a Conn curved and a Taiwanese MKVI-clone). The rest played in tune and had as big of a voice as I could push through them. None were snake-charmers - that is the player and the mouthpiece.

Ya'll can cite one or two instances of comparisons, but that proves nothing. To convince me, you'll need to play HUNDREDS of them and do blind-comparisons.

What am I playing now? A five-digit MKVI, a later model VI, a '26 Martin, and a curved Yanagisawa bronze. I have others, too, but those four are the ones I'm likely to take with me. I don't consider a Mark VI soprano to be "vintage", but I do consider my '26 Martin Handcraft to be "vintage". They all sound about the same. Sure, there are nuances that I hear, but I seriously doubt if anyone else hears it and for sure, I don't think it is the age.

Ones I've recently owned - Serie III silver, S992, S901, Buescher TT straight, R&C tipped-bell, Antigua 590LQ. It isn't about the age or the key-placements, it is about the overall horn itself, the mouthpiece one settles upon, and the player. DAVE
 

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No worries! Just put this on your new soprano for a month........ http://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com/most-unique-sax-tone-development-device/
Oh my Lord....

...In a nutshell, the Timbre Trainer is a device that connects to any usb-ready audio-playing device (iPod, iPad, smartphone, etc), and from there attaches to the neck of your horn, where the sounds from the digital audio device are transmitted onto the horn itself. The concept here is that the sound from the recordings, such as classic jazz albums, will actually "soak" into your horn, and bring about the same ageing process as the horn would get from decades of being exposed to the sounds of live music. According to Hsiao, it's the years of exposure to live music that give instruments that highly sought-after, rich "vintage" sound. - See more at: http://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever...tone-development-device/#sthash.nWRNszqY.dpuf.....
:sign5:
 

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Here's what bugs me: A soprano with a big, mellow, vintage sound can be made to sound duck-like with a different mouthpiece and reed,
Without a mouthpiece and reed, all sopranos sound exactly the same.

i think the main issue here is learning how to control and shape your sound, so that the actual saxophone has little to do with the sound. The mouthpiece and reed are more important but mostly it's the player and his or her ability to compensate and get the sound they want.

Having said that, the easiest soprano (I ever owned) to get the sound i wanted and intonation was a cheap Chinese one. It was like a Buescher TT but in tune with the mouthpiece I liked. I wish i'd kept it.
 

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Balladeer, may I ask: did you play soprano since you got rid of your old Conn ten years ago ? If you have not I think the comparison has no real basis.
 

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Funny how, as we age, for at least some of us, the past looks always better than the present.

In the Netherlands there was a funny character who introduced his tirades always with “ Before everything was better! “, of course to this laughable proposition some folks answered by composing many funny remarks.

I like two of them the most.

Even these modern times will be one day "the good old times”

&

According to the Evolution theory “ before” wasn’t everything better .

While it is relatively easy to demonstrate that anything that is linked to measurable performances was NOT better before, e.g. it is obvious that a modern bicycle is better than an old one.

Almost everything that is linked to subjective, unmeasurable and intangible evaluation is open to the comments that “ before” everything was better.

So, for example, I have long thought that potatoes no longer tasted as they did when I was a child.

I am convinced of it or even better I KNOW it.

Of course in saying all this I am not considering that:

1) I might not remember so well the taste of the potatoes of my youth

2) Even if I did remember the taste potatoes had, my sense of taste might have been changing in the meantime and I can no longer taste the potatoes even if they tasted the same.


When it comes to saxophones it appears that we do the same thing.
 

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I've been doing some testing on the sopranos I endorse and some vintage pieces I came across.
Apart from the dangerous debate about materials (I think they make a difference, up to a point, but when we analized the composition of old MkVI tenors the % were all over the place)...

Old Kings (my favourite sound) had a conical "neck" (the last part before the mouthpiece) as had old Conns.
I've seen a modification to tune the (usually sharp) upper register making it cylindrical with an insert, ending with what is today's design of a Yanagisawa (and most Asian, in tune, horns). They start cylindric then become conical.
Selmer SIII is conical. I am not familiar with VI sopranos, but I guess conical all the way too.

That part of the horn is crucial, both for sound and tuning.
Also different players have different sound and tuning concepts, and prefer different sound and tuning tendencies.
Nowadays the Yanagisawa design seems to be the winner.
 

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The neutral horn with best possible intonation and playability has been Yamaha's goal since they are in the market. In the 80s their sopranos were a huge step forward in playability, almost like the MkVI altos and tenors in the 50s. They worked on bore, tone-hole size and location, which obviously led to a horn different from it's earlier counterparts.
Wayne Shorter, Tom Scott or Eric Marienthal are good examples of players sounding rather mellow and not duckish at all on these horns. They have the right setup, and they know how to shape their sound.
Yanagisawa picked-up from there, and might have gone even a step further. I prefer them mainly for their curvies.
 

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Old Kings (my favourite sound) had a conical "neck" (the last part before the mouthpiece) as had old Conns.
I've seen a modification to tune the (usually sharp) upper register making it cylindrical with an insert, ending with what is today's design of a Yanagisawa (and most Asian, in tune, horns). They start cylindric then become conical.
Selmer SIII is conical. I am not familiar with VI sopranos, but I guess conical all the way too.

That part of the horn is crucial, both for sound and tuning.
I agree although I wasn't willing to rip off the corks to make measurements of the cone shapes. I did measure the top opening on the 3 sops I have :
Conn Chu = .315
Buffet S1 = .33
Jupiter 847 = .35
Disregarding tone for a moment, there is definitely a difference in the feel.
 

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Many modern sopranos have some kind of polyconical bores. You can clearly see the break just below the upper octave pip on straight 1 piece horns, like the Yamaha 475 or the Yanagisawa 90x series.
 
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