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· Distinguished SOTW Member
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From time to time I encounter a really old horn whose tone is almost frighteningly better and different from currently popular horns. It makes me wonder how can this be so.
 

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Buffet Clarinet, Conn Soprano Sax, Buescher Alto Sax, 2 Bundy One Tenor Saxes, Conn C Melody Sax,
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I'm eagerly awaiting the masters' response.
 

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They just don't make them like they used to........
 

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I think we are trained to expect older horns to sound inferior. So when one impresses us, the effect is exaggerated. In the end, I've got pro horns from the 1920s thru the 2000's, and with good, matched mouthpieces, they are near indistinguishable.
 

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They are designed differently.

It is my impression, not backed up by data, that older instruments in the US tradition (Conn, King, Buescher, etc.) have subtly different bore dimensions than modern (Selmer Mark 6 and later, plus copies of same which is almost all current production instruments). The older instruments tend toward easier manipulation of tone and pitch (less "slotted in") and there are tonal differences as well. Whether you characterize that tone as "better", "different", or "worse" will depend on your personal taste, as well as the rest of the sound generating apparatus.
 

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I have a mid 50s King that beats most others to me but I’ve also played other horns of a similar vintage that didn’t sound particularly special and not as good as many modern horns. Maybe modern horns are more structurally uniform so you have more chance of finding an old sax that has something special, as well as a lot of dud old horns, Mark VIs certainly seem to vary a lot. There’s too much personal opinion and voodoo around this to get a sensible answer.

Incidentally, I have some bottles of concentrated tonal patina available for a huge amount of money if anybody’s interested.
 

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Tenor, alto, Bb Clarinet, Flute
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Over time, all that musical energy builds up in the horn's bore, coats its insides. A new horn can never replicate that accumulated tonal patina.
+ 1000. Tonal Patina. It's a thing.
That only works in brass bodied instruments of course. Everyone knows wooden clarinets' tonal patina gets "blown out" and the horn needs to be replaced every 5 years or so.
 

· Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2016
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they are designed differently.
...bang. That's the answer.

That's cool. 99.99% of people sitting in the audience can't tell the difference and the other 0.01% is lying. Play what makes you happy.
This is close to true. I mean, same with a 1969 Strat vs. a $175 Chinese Strat....to audience, no difference.

To a musician in audience, there might be. To the player, massive difference. Thus as you say, player needs to be happy.

But an audience member, if they have some sorta ear, would be able to discern the difference between a bright, reedy, narrowly focused sax tone and a wide, dark, spread one. Whether they cared which one it was, another matter.

But I have certainly seen many a band where I just disliked the tone emanating from a particular player's axe.

But indeed, didn't ruin my evening....
 
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