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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
...is NOW!

This is the logical conclusion of a series of thoughts that have been running through my head since I sold my Super 20 and bought a Kessler Custom Deluxe alto.

Ponder this statement: we have more high-quality saxophones and sax-related products available to us right now than at any other point in history.

I've been thinking about my recent change of horns, trying to decide if I did the right thing in buying the Kessler alto, or if I should have considered using the money for something else (I mean a different horn or horns - not new tires or anything sensible like that).

Consider my options. With the $1750 I got for my Super 20 I could have:

1. Bought both a Kessler Custom alto and tenor, with the mpc upgrades.
2. Bought a nice vintage alto from www.usahorn.com, www.vintagesax.com, www.junkdude.com, or any number of other online vintage horn dealers, eBay, www.craigslist.com, or from someone on SOTW.
3. Bought a new alto and/or tenor from another online sax retailer, like www.saxophone.com, or www.wwbw.com, etc.
4. Bought a new Cannonball alto from my local retailer (although $1750 would not have covered the full price).
5. Held onto the money, and waited for one of the new, modern C melodys from www.aquilasax.com.

I'm sure there are a few other options I could have listed, but you get the point.

We have a ton of purchasing options available to us right now, mostly due to the marketing and distribution opportunities created by the growth of the internet over the past 10-15 years. And that has had a ripple effect in the manufacturing sector: because of the increased demand, the factories in Taiwan have had the opportunity to get better and more efficient at producing quality instruments at more affordable prices. And the combined effect of increased marketing opptortunites with more proficient manufacturing make it feasible for someone like that guy in New Zealand to resurrect the C melody with modern keywork. And then there are the innovators and old-school craftsmen like Benedikt Eppelsheim and Thomas Inderbinen.

Of course, along the way we had to suffer through the Steve Goodsons and Gary Sugals of the world. But that's just life.

So we have better and better Taiwan horns at affordable prices, offering more and more features previously available only on top-end pro horns, and innovations like the soprillo and Tubax. And through the wonders of competitive market forces, the so-called "Big Four" are put in a position where they have to get off their duffs, streamline their operations, tighten up quality control, and offer more features - or else risk getting their collective butts kicked. And everybody is hearing the footsteps of mainland China...

Not to mention all the vintage horns that still available through any number of shops around the world that have a website. And all the custom mouthpiece makers (and refacers), and neck manufacturers, and synthetic reeds, and fancy-schmancy ligatures...and so on.

So I say that the Golden Age of the Saxophone is NOW!
 

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Hey Cat,

I'm not sure because I wasn't there in the 50s and 60s, but I think I'd trade all those options for the chance to walk into a well-stocked music shop and buy a new The Martin, Dynaction, or Mark VI, for a decent price.

What I really want to know is: are the Kessler Customs really that good? I've never played a Super20 but I've certainly dreamed of playing one while sawing away on my old Cleveland!:) .

Man...this is your business, but it seems to me that you missed the option of keeping the King and figuring out a better way to raise the cash for the alto?

Rory
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Rory - I'm sure you're not the only one who would question my sanity for selling a Super 20 tenor and buying a Taiwan-made alto. I have no problem with that. But I don't want this thread to digress into a discussion of my reasons for that transaction. I'll be happy to discuss it with you via PM.

As to your other point: you can walk into a well-stocked retailer to try out a variety of vintage horns. It may not be in your hometown, but they're out still out there, and you can find them via the internet (that's part of my point). 20 years ago, unless you lived in a large city like New York or Chicago, you would have never known these old horns were still around and available.
 

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Amen to the above point. The only reason that I felt comfortable enough with a early 1900's Conn horn was that I had played one and learned for myself just what they were capable of. Had I not had a friend whose father purchased the old Conn horn for him (and who had played them back in the day, and thus knew what they were and were capable of), I never would have taken the plunge.

It's quite a leap from the safe world of "French" style saxes to the Conn/Martin/Buescher universe, and it's becoming harder every year to have a chance to experience it. The one redeeming factor in all of this is that old Conn ("American style" saxes is what I call them) and other horns are now available for a quite reasonable price on eBay.

But, just getting someone to try one is no easy feat...it's much like the Buffet clarinet line of circular reasoning...
 

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SOTSDO said:
Amen to the above point. The only reason that I felt comfortable enough with a early 1900's Conn horn was that I had played one and learned for myself just what they were capable of. Had I not had a friend whose father purchased the old Conn horn for him (and who had played them back in the day, and thus knew what they were and were capable of), I never would have taken the plunge.

It's quite a leap from the safe world of "French" style saxes to the Conn/Martin/Buescher universe, and it's becoming harder every year to have a chance to experience it. The one redeeming factor in all of this is that old Conn ("American style" saxes is what I call them) and other horns are now available for a quite reasonable price on eBay.

But, just getting someone to try one is no easy feat...it's much like the Buffet clarinet line of circular reasoning...
Terry,
Is it true that circular reasoning can cause heart attacks?:D
 

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> Ponder this statement: we have more high-quality saxophones and sax-related products available to us right now than at any other point in history.

Allow me to approach that from a different angle.

Are the saxophones we have today superior to saxophones available in, say, 1955?

First, here are some horns available then:

* Selmer Mark VI
* SML Rev. D
* Buescher 400 "Top Hat" and the last Aristocrat "Big B's"
* King Super 20 AND Silver-Sonic
* Martin Committee ("The Martin")
* Kohlert 55 (well, the 57 was better, but you can't have everything)
* Keilwerth Toneking ("III") -- that's the one with the Lucite keyguards
* Buffet Dynaction
* Conn Artist (i.e. "Naked Lady") -- although without rolled tone holes or microtuners
(IIRC, Max Keiwerth's Hohner President was still around in 1955, too)

Are the horns available today better than the above? I doubt anyone would say that, although older Conns definitely had more features, the Kohlert 57 was possibly the best ever Kohlert and the Buffet SDA and/or S1 are arguably better horns than the Dynaction.

However, these horns were a tad CHEAPER than their modern equivalents. A Mark VI lacquer alto was $455 US in 1957 (sorry; I thought I had a '55 catalog). That's $3355 today. An S80 III lacquer alto is $4535.

I think that there are probably more high-quality CHEAP horns today and there's a larger number of manufacturers to choose from than 1955 (make it 1925, and there were probably MORE manufacturers then). I'm definitely not going to knock a P. Mauriat or Cannonball or whatever: a lot of people here really, really like them, but I don't know how favorably you could compare them to the pro models I've mentioned -- or to modern Yanis, Selmers, Yamahas, or Keilwerths.
 

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saxpics said:
Are the saxophones we have today superior to saxophones available in, say, 1955?

First, here are some horns available then:

* Selmer Mark VI
* SML Rev. D
* Buescher 400 "Top Hat" and the last Aristocrat "Big B's"
* King Super 20 AND Silver-Sonic
* Martin Committee ("The Martin")
* Kohlert 55 (well, the 57 was better, but you can't have everything)
* Keilwerth Toneking ("III") -- that's the one with the Lucite keyguards
* Buffet Dynaction
* Conn Artist (i.e. "Naked Lady") -- although without rolled tone holes or microtuners
(IIRC, Max Keiwerth's Hohner President was still around in 1955, too)
The only horn on that list that I would have liked to have new is the King Super 20 Silver Sonic. I'm sorry, but I'm one of those that doesn't buy into the "vintage" nostalgia BS (and I especially don't care for the MVI). I love my SX-90Rs and wouldn't trade them for ANYthing. I'd like to have a pair of nice Kings Super 20, but only as back up horns.
 

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saxpics said:
Are the saxophones we have today superior to saxophones available in, say, 1955?
I believe so:

The JK SX90R are significantly better than earlier Keilwerth models (and Kohlerts and others in your list above).

I would say that today, we have excellent modern horns (Selmer Ref, JK SX90R, ...) -- just as good as the best horns in 1955 -- plus many of the old ones that are still around, and we have horns everyone can afford, too (Taiwanese/Chinese horns).

How much better can it get?!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
saxpics said:
Are the saxophones we have today superior to saxophones available in, say, 1955?
You miss my point. I didn't say today's current-production horns were better. I said "we have more high-quality saxophones and sax-related products available to us right now than at any other point in history." All the great vintage horns you mentioned were included in my statement. That's a big part of my primary point. Many of these great horns are still available to us, as well as technicians who know how to maintain them properly.

Combine that with the rising quality and lowering costs of today's intermediate-level horns, the broad range of services and aftermarket products available, and the ability to find what you're looking for thanks to Al Gore's internet, and what we have is a unique period in saxophone history.

However, it's not going to last. As the great old horns (and the techs who work on them) wear out and retire, all we'll be left with are a bunch of Selmer clones.

That's my point: enjoy the next 5-10 years, because it may be all downhill after that.

Giganova said:
I believe so:

The JK SX90R are significantly better than earlier Keilwerth models (and Kohlerts and others in your list above).

I would say that today, we have excellent modern horns (Selmer Ref, JK SX90R, ...) -- just as good as the best horns in 1955 -- plus many of the old ones that are still around, and we have horns everyone can afford, too (Taiwanese/Chinese horns).

How much better can it get?!
Exactly!
 

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Giganova said:
I believe so:

The JK SX90R are significantly better than earlier Keilwerth models (and Kohlerts and others in your list above).

I would say that today, we have excellent modern horns (Selmer Ref, JK SX90R, ...) -- just as good as the best horns in 1955 -- plus many of the old ones that are still around, and we have horns everyone can afford, too (Taiwanese/Chinese horns).

How much better can it get?!
Superior or ... different?

There is significant argument over whether, say, the S80 III is better than a Mark VI. The corollary question is whether it's approximately $1200 better. Another corollary is whether it's 50 years better.

If you want an opinion NOT based on playing the horns, but based on design technique, the modern horns SHOULD be better: computer assisted design, closer tolerances, etc. should make a better horn with better intonation.

Then why do people like the VI more than the S80?

BTB, the 1955 date I used was a bit by design: that was the year when the most of the "best" pro horns from each manufacturer were around -- "best" as defined as "what other people call 'the best'". You want to say that the SBA is better, fine. Gold Medal? Why not? Pick a date, make a case :).
 

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I understand the point about being left with less and less of the popular horns as the years progress, but I think that during those years we will see the Chinese horns increase in quality and eventually maybe even be considered among the great horn of these/those times. Will they ever replace the popularity of the MK VI or Conns? That I can't answer to. I can say that the product development done in China is ever growing and and as the younger generation of saxophone players become older and more involved, the balance will more then likley shift. Just my 2 cents.

So Swingin, you maybe one of the first people to start this trend with your purchase of the Kessler horn for whatever reason you did.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Simon Weiner said:
So Swingin, you maybe one of the first people to start this trend with your purchase of the Kessler horn for whatever reason you did.
Well, I don't know about that. The Kesslers sold a pretty good number of their horns before I bought mine. I'm sure some others may have sold a vintage horn or two to finance the deal.

Here's a question for anyone who might think me nuts for selling my Super 20 tenor to buy a Kessler alto:

Would you still think I was nuts if I had bought a Super 20 alto?
 

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JCBigler said:
The only horn on that list that I would have liked to have new is the King Super 20 Silver Sonic. I'm sorry, but I'm one of those that doesn't buy into the "vintage" nostalgia BS (and I especially don't care for the MVI). I love my SX-90Rs and wouldn't trade them for ANYthing. I'd like to have a pair of nice Kings Super 20, but only as back up horns.
AKG or Neumann?

(I think we have lived somewhat parallel lives.)
 

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hakukani said:
AKG or Neumann?

(I think we have lived somewhat parallel lives.)
Depends on which ones we're talking about, and what we're using them for.

Probably Neumann. But, in terms of price/performance I'm really liking some of the modern Audio-Technicas and R0DE products (the AT 4050, and R0DE NT2A are two of my favorite LDC mics).
 

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Swingin' Cat said:
Would you still think I was nuts if I had bought a Super 20 alto?
Hey, I thought we weren't supposed to talk about whether you're nuts or not for selling your Super20:D

My initial feeling was much more strongly nostalgaic, but actually Saxpics' dollar figures have brought me around to the modernist position a bit. What I mean is, I had no idea the original prices on the pro horns were so high, relatively speaking. I sort of imagined (fantasized) that you could just walk into a shop and buy one cheap, so to speak.

If you turn it around, what could you buy in 1955 for the price of a Kessler custom--i.e. @150$? Probably not much, but that just proves the point that the low end market is better today, which everybody knows anyway.

Anyway, this is a very good topic, I think. This is perhaps off topic, but for me the bottom line about "golden age" thing is that, regardless of what saxes I can buy, the range of choices I have, and how easily I can get them, I have a hard time thinking of the present moment as a golden age for sax because I so rarely get a chance to actually hear anybody playing one--and in a style I really like--in a club. Eddie Vinson used to come to Toronto all the time, and for me a mountain of P.Mauriats won't change the fact that that must have been golden for all the sax players around then. It was the players and the scene that made the golden age, not the horns (and I guess that's the answer to Saxpics' question about why people are so hot for a beat up old MKVI when they can get a SX90 etc. for half the price).

Peace.
R.
 

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rleitch said:
If you turn it around, what could you buy in 1955 for the price of a Kessler custom--i.e. @150$? Probably not much, but that just proves the point that the low end market is better today, which everybody knows anyway.
As I recall, that's about what I paid (maybe a little less--$125 or so) for a new Martin Imperial tenor in 1956. It was nothing special, but not a bad sax. And I bought a Buescher Aristocrat alto in good condition for $35 in a pawn shop a couple of years later.
 

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retread said:
As I recall...I bought a Buescher Aristocrat alto in good condition for $35 in a pawn shop a couple of years later.
Nice:)

And if you and your gal went jiving to Earl Bostic later that night, you've proven my point (I think: $35=$255 today:? )

Rory
 

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I think it was about that time Jimmy Dorsey's "So Rare" was a hit. It was actually played on the Top 40 rock stations. Lots of sax and rock & roll in the 50s.
 
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