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I have a venus nickel finish soprano. Clarinet was my first wind instrument, so I thought I'd try soprano sax. I think its a great instrument - took me a while to keep it in tune but I got it eventually (lol). A couple of pads were a little sticky at first but i think it's worn in now. I actually found this site searching for the venus alto, coz I'm gonna try that next. I buy cheap these instruments sometimes because I like to try out as many instruments as I can, so these venus models are great for people who want to experiment, without spending all their savings on one instrument.

I actually have a venus single french horn too, which again, is a great instrument. The nickel finish on that is gorgeous! (and it actually smells nice too). Both instruments feel very solid, I was very suprised.
:D
 

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Gandalfe said:
What concerns me about the feedback is many of the people extolling the virtues of their cheap horn have very few posts on this forum. Hmm...
Maybe they're spending their time practicing and playing instead of feeding their GAS on this forum. :D



(Sorry Gandalfe - don't really believe it but, well, you gave it to me. :twisted:)
 

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Sinophobes Nihao!

The shift in attitudes toward non-western saxophone manufacturers during the past few years is amusing. Three years ago on this board, the Taiwan bashing was incredible. When it became inarguably obvious to some folks that many of the familiar brands which we associate with western manufacturers were actually Taiwanese in origin, the bashing stopped.

Now it's China.

I own several Chinese made saxophones. I've visited a factory that just assembled saxophones; I've been to two factories which manufactured and assembled MOST of the instrument.

Like many of the Taiwanese saxophones (operant word: many), many of the Chinese horns are excellent players and represent excellent value to the serious player. The collector won't have much use for one right now. Until one Chinese manufacturer markets his saxophone internationally with a Chinese BRAND, the Chinese-made saxophone will hold little appeal for those whose sole pride in his saxophone is in the possession rather than the playing.

Saxophone design and manufacture isn't rocket surgery. It has been around awhile, and the technology isn't exactly on par with Oppenheimer's baby. China has long prided itself on its ability to copy virtually anything, and China has been doing exactly that: copy.

There were (and are) tragic results of the copying. A few years back, a Chinese pharmaceutical company copied a common wide-spectrum antibiotic used in the west. The generic name is metronidazole. The chemists got the formula right except for one molecule. The result: a few thousand deaths. For this reason (and others real and imagined), the U.S. FDA prohibits the import-for-sale of Chinese pharmaceuticals, even though there are some excellent and SAFE generic drugs available from China.

Back to saxophones: the same advances in- and availability of- technology which allows China to copy sophisticated drugs have allowed Chinese manufacturers to produce some magnificently designed and manufactured goods.

To my knowledge, there are no Chinese designed saxophones. There are, however, a LOT of Chinese manufactured ones. And they are (at the present) incredibly inexpensive. The exchange rate of RMB (Chinese yuan) to USD is about 8 to 1, so that makes for some interesting purchasing power. Outside of the major metro areas (Beijing, Wuxi, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hong Kong/ Macau among others) the typical monthly salary for workers with an engineering degree (the most common degree in China) and about five-to-ten years work experience is about 700-800 RMB. That's not a real good salary. The purchasing power of the RMB in-country is spotty.

So what you've got invested in a Chinese saxophone is western design, largely western manufacturing technology, and fairly well-educated people putting the saxophones together.

Government manufacturing regulations have been implemented and tightened during the past ten years largely because China wants to compete not only on price point but on quality as well. Granted, there have been major failures in this area, but they could happen anywhere. The recent lead-paint scare was the direct result of the western company's failure to implement western quality control. When the western music manufacturers STOP importing the shoddy saxes, the reputation of the Chinese-made brass instrument will grow.

Things have changed during the past few years. I recently checked out a particularly terrible brand of saxophone and I noticed tremendous improvements. The sax doesn't resemble any of its previous incarnations. Interestingly, it is no longer made on the island former province, but on the mainland. Unfortunately, the brand is inextricably linked to and embedded in [email protected]

So back to Venus. Before you judge an instrument, and before you accept the judgment of others, you need to be aware of your criteria for "good" and the priorities of the criteria.

If brand name and social status are at the top of the list, then forget about buying a Venus. Everybody who has never played one KNOWS what a Venus is. In Chinese, "venus" means "boat anchor". Right?

If economy is at the top of the list, Venus is your baby.

If construction is at or near the top, Venus might fill the bill. (Provided, of course, that you allow yourself to trust the soldering on the mostly-ribbed construction).

If playability and intonation is at or near the top, Venus may be what you're looking for.

If genuine mother-of-pearl is what you seek, forget it.

Fancy hand-engraving? Nope.

Go buy a hundred-fifty dollar horn from eBay. Try it. Play it for six months as part of your practice regimen. (You DO practice daily, don't you? If not, then that Paris original has the wrong owner).

Live with it for a reasonable amount of time and form an opinion based upon practical experience. The pittance that you pay for the Chinese made saxophone will allow you to speak with authority.

Really.

PS: Motorcycle fanatics-- have you ever ridden a Donghai? They're no longer made, but whoever manages to import several to the U.S. will have the motorcycle equivalent of a late '50's Selmer Mk VI.
 

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The real issue here is the deceptive marketing that the sellers use. I don't care where a horn is made as long as it has good action, is durable and will last as long as my vintage horns, and will play in tune. I tried the Cannonballs (CB) when they first came out and they were hyped. The CBs were also somewhat cheaper for a new "professional" model. Neither the CB Royal Crown soprano that I bought for $1700 or the Wizard Alto that I bought used for $1300 played in tune when I gigged with them in the Nashville night clubs. Also they were constantly out of adjustment and the finish started deteriorating after a month of "regular daily use." I need to also add that the corks fell off and I carried a cigarette lighter around with me to replace pads. I have never had those kind of problems with my Mark VI tenor that I have owned for over 35yrs now. I sold both of those horns at substantial losses because they didn't retain any form of residual value, not to mention that they sucked, and I had pitty for their future owners.

I have been burned by the Asian horn market. In order to win me over, the manufacturers and their retailers need to prove quality, commitment to their product and honesty. The Japanese horn makers Yamaha and Yangisawa have proven this. The rest of the Asian manufacturers will have to prove this as well. I've never heard of the "Venus " brand until I started seeing them on E-bay. Well guess what; they look alot like those crappy CBs that I once owned. I might be wrong, but I'm not willing to waste my time or money finding out.

I have given metronidazole (flagyl) to my patients so many times I can't even remember in the course of my career, wading through ****, vomit, and **** for my wages... I pitty those workers in the foreign countries. But as a hard working American, I give 33% of my income to the US government and I know alot of those Asian countries have benefitted from my contribition due to foreign aid...I forgot to include sales tax.

In closing, please be honest and forthright,...don't mess with my health or money, lest I get very pisssssed off, and don't rip me off with a crappy product!

Venus instruments will have to win me over with their quality and value for the money...Jupiter has done a fine job....My Kohlert piccolo was made in 1905, and it is lethal!..The "new" Kohlerts need to follow suit...I'm tired of kissing pigs.
 

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Don't worry, Doc. Chinese Flagyl won't come to the U.S.. It can't. There are trade barriers to the importation of pharmaceuticals into the U.S. from ANYWHERE. As a doctor you know that. Right?

Re: cork on Asian instruments.

You'll be hard-pressed to find real cork on Chinese saxophones simply because there IS NO CORK in China. That's a European product. Rubber, plastic, and wool, yes. Cork no. Perhaps you'll find a few pieces of what looks like cork, but for the most part, synthetics have taken the place of cork on Asian saxophones.

Re: finish wear. This could be hastened by the use of certain kinds of glues ised to seat the pads. If you had a pad replaced here in the states, the culprit could be fumes from the cement that started the breakdown of the finish.
 

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Actually I'm an intensive care nurse, I'm the one who administers the drugs.

I buy Asian products all the time; I just want the cheaper horns brands to be a real bargain for the money and durable and do what I need them to do, and hold up to use... I'm tired of the disposable market. I bought a Home Depot pressure washer for $350 a couple of years ago, promptly broke it, got a real pressure pump put on it for $300 more dollars only to find out the originals are just designed to be disposables...very disheartening. I have a great modified $650 pressure washer. I would have been better off buying a better one to start with...I don't want to see a disposable horn market.

Guess you just get what you pay for.
 

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gary said:
I hope there's a lesson learned here. Anyone notice that the guys who owned and played them gave them passing marks and many who never even held one in their hands trashed them?
Anyone notice how many of those guys had less than 10 posts? Sheesh! If you're going to make a shill review, at least take the time to post a few times in the "what albums are you really diggin'" thread first.

:D


Edit:

Gandalfe said:
What concerns me about the feedback is many of the people extolling the virtues of their cheap horn have very few posts on this forum. Hmm...
Whoops! Guess I should've read page two before I opted to be a smart
 

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Gee, folks, I'd have posted more since I joined, but I've been in CHINA playing CHINESE saxophones.
 

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michaelbaird said:
Guess you just get what you pay for.
Provided, of course, that one actually gets it and then pays for it.
 

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Bloo Dog, the Chinese products bashing has several and recurrent topics on SOTW, from many angles but it all comes down to " Us good, Them bad ".
No matter how much you (and I ;) :)) will scream and shout that a lot of it is based onto very little and mostly the (relatively far) past, those who see China under a bad light are well represented.
(I am not condoling the bad things of China here such as human rights and so on, but even western countries should be looking at themselves more critically, I think)

The argumet has been fueled by the recent products recalls and no matter how reasonably one says: ".... look there are examples of recalls oand tragic products failures in western countries too, yet you don't seem to think that tires exploding and bridges collapsing mean much.....".

I have said time and time again. When I was a kid in the '60 Japanese meant cheap and rubbish products.......I rest my case (it is heavy, and I am not so young as I was then ;) )

P.s. (I don't know anything about Venus saxophone, I do not necessarily endorse them. I have owned 2 chinese sopranos and 1 taiwanese alto. I am not a very good player and I have more that 2000 posts at present......does that qualify me to have an opinion? )
 

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michaelbaird said:
I have been burned by the Asian horn market.

You've been burned in the American market by American importers.
 

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Sure, there's a LOT of bad press about China. There's also a lot missing in the fact telling, or some folks hear only part of the message. The lead paint fiasco was, actually, the fault of the BRITISH manufacturer that failed in its quality control and in its specifications writing.

One really needs to spend a fair amount of time there and to travel in order to understand how and why things are done in China. The good news (in many respects), the country is catching up with the west in many ways. I did marketing work for a chemical company which was required to pass several DAILY stringent tests over the course of a year before its product could bear any industry seal of approval. Then, the company product underwent UL testing before it could find wide international use. This is frequently the case for an increasing number of industries.

As Milandro pointed out, China is now where Japan was in terms of manufacturing, quality assurance and control, (as well as global marketability) back in the early '60's. The RMB is still tied to the USD and greatly undervalued. This makes China a great place to manufacture things which would be too expensive to manufacture domestically. If anyone got a [email protected] Chinese saxophone, it is because it was made to crappy specifications or the specs were circumvented to save time and money. Blame the importer, not the manufacturer.

Many components for our wide screen televisions are Chinese made. You'd never know it unless you open up the TV. Even then, there may be no indication of the place of origin. If anyone owns a Lenovo computer, he'll know that it is actually a great computer (as long as one runs American-made Windows XP rather than American-made Vista). It's made in China!

Sinophobes should consider stocking up on their favorite western-made saxophones soon before western saxophone manufacture becomes financially unfeasible and the western brand names begin manufacturing offshore to cut labor costs. That Paris Original may soon become a Baoding Original. (Perish the thought!).

AND NOW FOR AN OPPOSING VIEWPOINT:

China has Mr. Goodwrench. Really. But that is little incentive for one to go out and buy the Chinese-made Chery or the Jili when they hit the American shores. The Chery is a reverse-engineered Chevy which is just a little larger than a roller skate. It is a truly rotten little car which is plagued by (among other things) engine failure and persistent lawsuits initiated by General Motors and the Rollerskate Manufacturers' Association.

The Jili was dreamed up by a guy who has, well, dreams. The concept behind the car is that it will be an affordable luxury car on par with the Lexus. (Don't try to understand the concept. It's really beyond western comprehension and anyone who hasn't experienced an LSD trip anytime during the last thirty years. Similarly, the average Chinese is a bit baffled by the concept of luxury mixed with transportation).

In order to avoid the tech talk so prevalent in discussion of automobiles, I'll cut to the most important part of this proposed bundle of joy.

Does anyone remember Malcolm Bricklin? He produced that neato car with doors that swung up rather than out.

He was also behind the importation of the first anagram on wheels, the Fiat (Fix It Again, Tony).

He was also the mastermind behind the 75% green automobile. Remember the Yugo? It was the world's first mass-produced, entirely disposable, predominantly biodegradable automobile. That car had more cardboard in it than a fifth-grade science fair. A little-known fact about the Yugo was that Malcolm had help bringing this Eastern Bloc nightmare to the U.S.: Henry Kissinger.

Ol' Malcolm's back at it with the Jili, but now his partner is a famous lawyer. The automobile manufacturer's motto is : "Four Wheels Beats Three Anytime".
Just for the American market, one model is being produced in different colors. The left side will be painted white and the right side will be painted black so that there will be conflicting police reports. This was the idea of the Chinese designer with dreams.

Anyway, I thought that I'd present a balanced view of China's position in the Global Marketplace.
 

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It is not as much of where it is made but more of the deceptiveness of the distributors. I just want to know that if I spend the money, it will be something that works, that is durable. I just bought a Chinese made zoom H4 recorder for portable recording from Sam Ash. I like it and am using it.I bought a cheap Chinese no name back messager from a vender where I work. I used it extensively when I pulled a Rt trapezius muscle and could hardly move my arm. I just want the Asian horn manufacturers to deliver a good product and the American distributors stand by it and not try to unload a bunch of crap, on me, and separate me from my hard earned blood money.
 

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What concerns me about the feedback is many of the people extolling the virtues of their cheap horn have very few posts on this forum. Hmm...
I suspect the number of experienced saxophonists and qualified techs who have not posted—even once--to this list would fill at least a couple of phone books. And I, at least, would be somewhat loathe to discount the validity of a saxophonist’s observations merely because he has better things to do than to post miscellaneous remarks on an e-bulletin.

Moreover, being what I believe is called a "post *****" certainly does not make any man more qualified than I to evaluate the qualities of a horn I have played and he has not.

That said, on to more relevant matters. Since my last (it was also my first) post on the value of the “Venus” brand Chinese-made soprano saxophone, I have also purchased another PRC-made saxophone. I add the evaluation below to this thread for those who are interested in Chinese wind instrument manufacturing, and who can recognize a useable opinion.

As a saxophonist of 45 years playing experience--both jazz and “legit”--I (probably like many here) have an insatiable desire to try new instruments, mouthpieces, reeds, and related equipment. I have thoroughly play tested (for potential purchase) at least a dozen new professional-level instruments in the last 20 years--including most, if not all the new Selmer-Paris and Yamaha horns introduced in that time. I have also had occasion to try several vintage horns. Moreover, I play with a lot of different people, and I am shameless about asking them if I can try their horns.

My main squeeze is a 1958 Selmer MK 6 alto--purchased only about 8 years ago, after a life-long search for the perfect MK 6. The only horn I have ever played since that might have wooed me away (had it been for sale) was a to-die-for Selmer Super Balanced Action owned by some hot-shot kid I know. (Alright, he does have better technical chops than me, so maybe he deserves it--but I'll bet he doesn’t really appreciate it.)

I still have, and occasionally play, my 1928 Buescher True tone and my 1978 MK 7. There are still more in the closet, but I don’t play them at all anymore.

The MK 7 is justifiably credited with a big sound, and justifiably criticized for its clunky keywork. My high-school son has been playing it in his school jazz band; and, despite the attentions of our local sax guru, the damn thing is always giving trouble.

After my good experience with the Venus, I decided to consider replacing the MK 7 with a user-recommended PRC alto. The horn I chose to sample was a "Barrington 301," sold by WWBW. It cost $389, shipping included. Since its delivery I have played it for many hours of practice and have also taken it to several ensemble rehearsals (though no actual gigs) before turning it over to my son. So, frequent poster or not, I feel quite qualified to review it here.

Build Quality and Ergos: First off, this alto is robustly constructed. It actually weighs ½ pound more than my MK7--itself a very heavy horn. The keywork on the new alto is rigid, with no side play evident. The fit and finish of all parts is excellent, and the body, bow, and bell are solid and do not “give” under pressure. The action is smooth, with no binding anywhere; but it is quite stiff and too high. However, most out-of-the box horns I’ve tried are set up like this—including the MK 7 and the Ref 54—so, no fault no foul. I didn’t like the relation of the octave key and the left-hand thumb rest, so I messed around with the adjustment to get it more to my taste. Other than that, the ergos are acceptable and unremakable.

Air Tightness: The neck tenon is a snug fit in the receiver. In fact, I took a bit of Brasso to both parts to get the neck to slide in a tad more easily. Given the feel of the fit, I doubt it would leak there. I checked the body and bell keys with a leak light and found no evidence of ill-seated pads.

Playability: This thing blows very freely throughout its entire range, sub-toning effortlessly on the bell notes and piping out the high ones with complete ease. Eveness of voicing is good, though not spectacular—again comparing favorably with my other saxes.

I tried a number of mouthpieces and liked the sound and performance best with a Selmer S-80 C*. (Interestingly, every mouthpiece I tried was an extremely tight fit on the neck cork. I measured the factory mouthpiece and found its neck bore to be considerably bigger than the aftermarket pieces. An odd, but hardly damning design flaw.)

Intonation: It’s nowhere near as good as a Reference 54, (the Refs I have tried have tested perfectly against a tuner); but it is no worse than any of my other horns. D2 is a tad sharp (same as my MK 6), and the entire lower register is predictably a bit flatter than the upper (also like the 6). That’s about it. Nothing good ears and a proper mastery of embouchure couldn’t handle.

Tonal Character: As for the sound, well that's always a matter of taste, isn’t it? It certainly projects beautifully, and I envy the way its narrowly-focused timbre cuts through a concert band. However I wouldn’t want to play a sensitive ballad on it, as it has nowhere near the tonal complexity of my MK 6. Early Yamahas I tried (circa 1984) had the same kind of flute-like lack of overtones; but the “Barrington’s” texture may be even more brittle yet. Interestingly, the Ref 54 too, has great projection while also lacking the sonorous quality of the MK 6. However, the Ref admittedly still has oodles more character than the “Barrington.”*

This lack of tonal complexity is very easy to hear. Even my wife could tell the difference, and thought the instrument sounded nice enough but was sacrificing sweetness for clarity.

I don’t teach; but if I did, I would not hesitate to recommend purchasing a horn like this for any young musician. If they develop ears that require a more nuanced sound, they are certainly going to want a vintage or pro horn. But until then, a horn like this should do the job nicely. My son loves it. He doesn’t miss the more rounded sound of the MK 7 at all, and I’m delighted he has a tight, sturdy, reliable instrument to play on—especially one that cost me so little. I’m selling the MK 7.

So there.

*I feel the need to always to put that moniker in quotes. When a colleague of mine asked me the brand name of my Chinese horn, and I told him, he quipped: “Would that the Bejing Barringtons...or the Nanchang Barringtons?”
 

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Stephen Howard said these saxes aren't bad. They are quite good quality for the price and where they are made (China). He listed them as suitable cheap saxophones out of the tonne fo chinese he tried.

If you want an instrument we've had experience with, I could suggest a Largo. They are really good quality. Recently they just came out with a new rose brass model which looks amazing! But I have both the Vanguard and Vanguard Series II and they are both very competent. My cat knocked off my Vanguard Series II and it got very little damage. They are quite robust and the sound is quite nice.

S.
 

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With all due respect to those players who are also not repair technicians the player's side of the new sax inspection is only part of the story. I have read time and time again on this forum and others how inexpensive offshore saxes look and feel and sound pretty good so they must be good instruments.

A good analogy would be driving a car, looking at its cosmetics and detailing, kicking the tires etc. and THEN taking it to your mechanic to find out the real quality of the mechanical construction. This is where instrument reviews by people like Stephen Howard really stand out.

I would suggest adding the following tests and inspections to robertllr's excellent review of his inexpensive saxophones.
-Bend several keys and then bend them back to see how soft the metal is.
-Remove at least 1/3 of the pads from the key cups to see the quality and amount of adhesive used to attach the pads.
-Pry on the resonator of several pads to see if you can pull the pad from the cup.
-Push against several key corks and felts with your finger to check the adhesive and see how easily they come off.
-Scratch the leather of a pad with your fingernail to see how tough the surface is.
-Remove the leather covering of a pad and inspect the weave of the felt underneath.
-Remove several pivot screws and check the ends for straightness and smoothness.
-Remove several pivot rods and check the straightness and the finish on the rod.
-Check the lubrication (key oil and grease) in these locations.
-Check all of the regulation adjusting screws to see if they turn freely---they should not.
-Check the neck fit with a neck leak tool to see if it is airtight. Many necks that feel tight are simply out of round and leak air.
-Check the bow to body attachment to see that it has been made airtight and not just a mechanical fit.
-Check the toneholes with a flat edge to see if they are perfectly level.
-Check the toneholes for burrs.
-Check inside the bore to see if the body is straight.
-Check the bell to bow alignment.
-Check the guard screws for tightness.
-Check the needle springs and flat springs for brittleness.
-Check the quality of the lacquer to see if it burns easily when heated.
-Check the tightness of the key pearls in the cups.
-Check for friction causing materials used where parts rub together.

There are many more tests that are possible. This is just off the top of my head. My point is that the quality of an instrument is quantifiable and a truly accurate assessment takes into consideration not only the playing and cosmetic characteristics of a saxophone, but its mechanical and structural attributes as well.

John
 

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I'm looking foward to the day when I can buy an inexpensive saxophone, and be amazed at what they are doing for the money. From what I've observed lately, that day is coming soon if not already here. Some of the advertising has been deceptive though, and it seems that almost anyone these days can get their personal brand of horn marketed, and frequently those distributors push those brands on the more ignorant public ie Nashville Used Music's "Bird" saxophones, they were the same horns as the Cannonballs when they first came out. Now Cannonball has set themselves apart from the rest with their newer saxes....They all looked identical a few years ago. If I were going to buy a new inexpensive Asian saxophone right now, I would buy either a Kessler or Phil Barone... I consider P. Mariats and Cannonballs expensive, because they compete on the same level as Yamahas with price....I plan on going to Sam Ash and play testing some more instruments soon. I definitely want to try the new Cannonball clarinets, they look cool.
 
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