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Discussion Starter #1
I know this has been going on for a long, long time, however, with the upping of quality out of China and Taiwan, more and more shops are offering their own in house branded horns.
Top shops like Roberto's and JL Woodwinds in NYC, among many many others are all producing horns that are of better and better quality.
I know John Ledbetter is working hard on designing better quality stuff, I am sure others are too.

So, how in the heck do we keep track of a good vs. a bad horn, not tone wise, but build, quality, longevity, wise, etc?
For horns being sold in the $3Ks and up, these are no small investment.

Wondering all of your opinions...
 

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I think the best way to protect yourself is to not overspend on these horns. I consider them in the same way I think of stencils.

Also, a brand new horn is almost never an investment from a financial standpoint. The real question is how much are you willing to lose.
 

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We have the Other A-J and Other K-Z subforums in the (Saxophone) Makes & Models forum. We could build up a knowledge-base of the various house brands there. Good experiences, bad experiences, etc.
 

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All these 'house-brand' saxes are over-priced except Kessler's. The Taiwan, China and Viet-Nam sax makers will make anything you spec out and will put your name on it. Various entities 'design' saxes with certain features but they're not really designing the sax - just the special features that might set theirs apart from the others, like finishes, finger touches, etc. These makers are not that great in designing saxes either - for the most part they attempt to clone saxes from the premium makers. Some attempts are better than others. By and large, if you need a professional instrument, its best to get a name brand even if you have to go with a used one. There are also 'stencils' by some major makers that are good saxes, like the 'Vito' by Yanagisawa.
 

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A big part of the challenge is that a lot of these brands will come and go. If problems should occur with certain brands some may be immediate but the majority will show up over the long run. My horn is my age and I know that, baring incident, it will outlive me. Probably with fewer overhauls and surgical procedures :)

..On the other hand it cant hurt to try to document so long as people put their experience with other horns as well. Glowing reports by kids getting their first horn dont hold much water.
 

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Another challenge is that a given house-brand in year X may be the product of a different factory than the same house-branded sax in year Y. The identity of the manufacturer usually is unknown. So even in discussing a single house brand tenor, for instance, one might be comparing apples and oranges.
 

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All these 'house-brand' saxes are over-priced except Kessler's. The Taiwan, China and Viet-Nam sax makers will make anything you spec out and will put your name on it. Various entities 'design' saxes with certain features but they're not really designing the sax - just the special features that might set theirs apart from the others, like finishes, finger touches, etc. These makers are not that great in designing saxes either - for the most part they attempt to clone saxes from the premium makers. Some attempts are better than others. By and large, if you need a professional instrument, its best to get a name brand even if you have to go with a used one. There are also 'stencils' by some major makers that are good saxes, like the 'Vito' by Yanagisawa.
I used to think that, but I have to disagree. I've been over there, and have tried tons of stuff, and they are not all created equal. There are some of the Taiwanese horns that are pretty expensive, even at the dealer's cost. Although I'm guessing most store-brands aren't pi king those, so maybe I don't disagree as much as I thought. :)

My thought is I wouldn't buy one without trying it. I feel that way about ALL horns if possible though, including Selmer/Yamaha/Yanagisawa. I'd never spend that kind of money without playing it if I could.
 

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Well first of all I do not necessarily accept the OP's premise....namely, that 'house brand' horns are increasing due to the fact that asian-produced horns are becoming better and better in quality.

Maybe house brand horn offerings ARE increasing (I dunno, actually) but if they are, it isn't necessarily because the quality coming out of asia is, across-the-board...better.

You use Roberto's Woodwinds as an example. I had one of these on my bench around a year and a half ago.....it was actually alarmingly bad from the standpoint of fabrication precision. It was brand-new and on a trial period, and the purchaser (a seasoned pro of 40 years) was really enjoying it. But from a repairer's point of view...mmmmmmpfght....

So...current overseas horn production should not be assumed to be automatically 'better than they used to be' simply because regionally known shops happen to have decided to offer their own brand horns.

Just saying....

and no, this is not Jaye doing asian-horn-bashing again, I agree with the comment directly above....quality is variable; I have experienced some new horns (both Taiwanese and Chinese) which are quite respectable...a few models which actually shocked me in regards to how good they are.
Many others, notsomuch.....
 

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Another challenge is that a given house-brand in year X may be the product of a different factory than the same house-branded sax in year Y. The identity of the manufacturer usually is unknown. So even in discussing a single house brand tenor, for instance, one might be comparing apples and oranges.
VERY good point. Even some somewhat popular boutique brand horns do and did this...
 

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Regardless of how well they are made and how well they play my "pet peeve" has always been the availability of parts---or lack thereof. It is uncommon for dealers who sell "house brands" to disclose which company/factory made them. It is even more uncommon for these retailers to keep a stock of replacement parts on hand to support the instruments they sell. Paul Mauriat, Jupiter, and Cannonball are three brands I am aware of that make replacement parts available for the Taiwan manufactured saxophones they distribute. Of the Japanese brands Yamaha is perhaps the best in this area IMO. Most saxophone players never need a replacement part for their instrument---until they do. ;)
 

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I'm always amused that some people think that shops selling house brands are "designing" the horn. I would say they are asking for certain features to be included in their model. They aren't designing anything.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm always amused that some people think that shops selling house brands are "designing" the horn. I would say they are asking for certain features to be included in their model. They aren't designing anything.

FYI - I used the word design because that is the word several shops have used.
I ‘designed’ my own curved soprano, for $399 with a 10-day build and a 4 day delivery from China!, so i know what you mean
 

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The saxophones made in Taiwan are excellent with some companies having been in business longer and outlasted most top American manufactures. These well established companies are now trending towards selling their product direct. No choice really since they are loosing OEM’s to China. This is very good news, personally I want the manufactures’s name and where the sax is made engraved on my horns, regardless where it’s made, this adds value! Buying a sax direct from any of the many superb manufactures in Taiwan you’ll save thousands and know all about the fine craftsman who built your horn and it will say Made In Taiwan with pride! Warranty of course is a consideration, not that they don’t have one, it just it’s a long way to go. This may be a issue to some but my experience is the money saved far out ways the prices here and uncertainly, besides the saxophones are keyed 803 same as Selmer, so parts, repair and adjustments are routine. Let’s face it most sax players have been playing on these instruments in one form or another for decades. I learned to play on a Taiwanese student alto sax my parents bought me when I was twelve in 1970 and I played it right through high school. Importation of Wind instruments including saxophones are tariff free in Canada and I believe the USA also, the tariff classification for Canada is 9205.90.10.40. If your close to an airport it’s easy to clear customs yourself otherwise you’ll need to use the services of a broker.
Unfortunately for consumers musical instruments fall under a textile labeling classification under NAFTA and under this classification there is a list of articles exempt from the labeling requirements and musical instruments are one of these items. Therefore the manufacturer and country of origin is not required on the product providing it is not misleading. House brands are known to use this to their advantage when importing from wherever and sell their products for a generous mark up. Of course our main distributor here has jacked up the prices so high on the big guys so their import brands look like a great deal.
Retail to retail being able to purchase a brand new Yanagisawa 35% less in Japan than here pretty much sums it up.
 

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A U.S. shop or company name on a Taiwanese or Chinese horn doesn’t make it any better than the other horns produced by that manufacturer.
It only gives you a little more insurance that they may come to the party should there be a problem with it.
And even then I’m pretty sure it would be a limited warranty.
I see no need for ultra cheap horns of unknown quality when there are so many others of proven quality at affordable prices sans a U.S. branding.
Eg: Most Jupiter horns, Keilwerth ST 90’s, and others.
Paying $2-3k for a horn of unproven quality when not a lot more buys one of known quality makes no sense to me.
 

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A U.S. shop or company name on a Taiwanese or Chinese horn doesn’t make it any better than the other horns produced by that manufacturer...
The difference is in whether the company - U.S. or other - cares enough to provide oversight of manufacture with regard to quality control.
 

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Yes.
I’d be concerned that a company that is willing to stamp any old name on there horns, is less concerned about quality control than those who believe enough in their product to brand it.
 

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My thought is I wouldn't buy one without trying it. I feel that way about ALL horns if possible though...
I might buy unplayed from someone whom I've grown to trust. Trusting that (1) like Dr. G said in post #15, that they were exercising QC oversight, and (2) that they valued my business enough to send along a well-playing, problem-free example to me.

I might develop such trust, by the way, from observing what a seller had to say here on the forum. I've done that here for boutique brands and used horns.
 

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I know this has been going on for a long, long time, however, with the upping of quality out of China and Taiwan, more and more shops are offering their own in house branded horns.
Top shops like Roberto's and JL Woodwinds in NYC, among many many others are all producing horns that are of better and better quality.
I know John Ledbetter is working hard on designing better quality stuff, I am sure others are too.

So, how in the heck do we keep track of a good vs. a bad horn, not tone wise, but build, quality, longevity, wise, etc?
For horns being sold in the $3Ks and up, these are no small investment.

Wondering all of your opinions...
As we always did. You can’t.

Actually there are now probably less “ brands” that there ever were.

In decades past almost any good shop had their own “ brand” this is why we deal with countless stencils. Bohemian and Italian brands specialized in stenciling and many brands even completed their line with other brands models if the didn’t produce them.

Take the Dutch Schenkelaars for example. They made their hors and bought stencils everywhere. Dorfler & Jorka, Keilwerth, Orsi, Yanagisawa, Arta Guban, you name it they’ve bought it and had it stenciled.

The only thing is that if you go to Mercury ( a Chinese brand) and order your own horn it would look like the one made from hundred different makers and therefore difficult to identify.

I am extremely suspicious of people “ designing” OEM horns. I’ve worked for a Taiwanese company selling OEM horns. Nobody ever designed anything for themselves, aside from asking small aesthetic changes to make it a bit more “ unique” they bought the models we had on offer. Unless a brand commits to a minimum order of at least 100 pieces (and a premium price) they are not going to have any significant change. If they want a dedicated assembly line the minimum order may rise substantially and price too.
 

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That’s my issue with them, the price point. You could buy a Chinese horn on eBay for $800 that looks the same.
I guess the guys with their in shop brands just pick the lacquer color, neck and hope the guys spell their name right when it’s etched on the bell.
At 3 grand you’re at the point where you might as well get a real sax.
 
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