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Discussion Starter #1
Vintage or Modern Soprano?

I've been playing saxophone on & off for 17 years now, both tenor and soprano. Not gigging, just for myself. I'm really digging the soprano but I'm not feeling particularly inspired by my (modern) black nickel tipped-bell soprano. Pretty ugly. So I'm in the market for a new or used soprano and have a budget of up to $1,500 (which I could stretch). Hard to decide what I should get ... a new horn with modern key layout or a pretty vintage horn?

So I've been thinking maybe a Antigua or Kessler for around $1k. Good sound, modern keys, but not exactly horns I would look at and say "wow!"
Then there's the "intermediate" horns by Yani/Vito, Jupiter, a Selmer SS600, etc.
... or should I go for a vintage soprano, Conn, Buffet, Evette & Schafer?

How playable are these vintage horns (provided that they have no leaks and fresh pads) sound-wise and in terms of action?

Thanks for providing some "data points" in my decision process! :mrgreen:
 

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I don't think you can go wrong with a yani. They have the more modern ergos and sound good. I wouldn't call the stencils an 'intermediate' either. I picked up a vito sop for $700 that is great. Also, they were stenciled as Martins as well. All essentially the same horn.

If you were to go with the vintage, I would suggest a buescher or conn (most likely you would want to make sure they are keyed in Bb). For a unique sound an SML if you can find one.
 

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If you decide on the $1000 route, you should also consider the Crescent by Just Saxes. Palo is great to work with and you can get a gold plated model for about the same price. I bought the two you mentioned and the Crescent, but still own only the Crescent. I also played it against a friend's Yanagisawa 991(which is what all three of these copy) and was surprised at the relatively small differences I noticed. Keep in mind that I'm very much an amateur.
 

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I'd put my 1927 Conn NW II up against any modern soprano - and I've owned and played a bunch of both vintage and modern sopranos. The differences in keywork mean nothing to me. However, keywork may be important to others. I've always quickly adapted to ergos and the lack of a front-F or articulated G#/C# on vintage sopranos was no problem, ether.

To my eyes, there isn't much better than a well-preserved, plated vintage soprano (Conn, Martin, Buescher, mainly) for looks. They seem to have much more character than the new ones, but that's just me. DAVE
 

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I am a player and collector and I prefer vintage horns. In my mind nothing compares to their beauty and it is cool to own a piece of history. I have learned to adjust to the ergos. Whether vintage or modern, learning the ins and outs of a horn are what makes the journey worthwhile so pick the horn that will inspire you to keep playing.

For me, my sop is a 1927 Martin Handcraft.
 

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Looking at a few of them, the first Conn from Sam Ash looks like it is a Keilwerth from the 70s or 80s. Might be a great horn.

The Buffet looks pretty but it's like turn of the century old.

Another Conn is the better choice than the silver (I think nickel) plated horn.

No comment on the B&S.

good luck
 

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Great input, thank you all! I think I'll go with a vintage horn. Here are a few that I like:

Conn Naked Lady

Another Conn

Yet another Conn

Buffet Paris

B&H Stencil
You can do better if you want a vintage soprano.

The first "Conn" is a non-Conn sax that was stenciled. I believe these are Keilwerths, good saxes, but not vintage. This is not a vintage "Lady Face" Conn from the 30s or 40s as they didn't make any of those in soprano. This is a modern soprano of reasonable quality. Being an Ebay listing from Sam Ash, I would assume it needs significant pad and cork work. If the price is really $1300, that sounds reasonable to me.

The second Conn looks like it's been partially scratch-brushed and relacquered, maybe in an attempt to mimic the appearance of a gold plated horn. No telling what the quality of the pad and cork work is. For 1900 I would definitely pass.

The third Conn looks reasonable, but I don't think 2 grand is a very good price for a nickel plated Conn. Usually the silver and gold plate Conn sopranos go for $2000 or less, and their market value is considerably higher than the nickel plate horns.
Both of the real Conns have the dreaded thumb ring which some people like and some hate. Personally, I hate it.

The Buffet has been buffed to death and is only keyed to high Eb.

The East German soprano, who knows what it is?

When you can get silver or gold plate Conn Holton Martin or Buescher sopranos from known ethical vendors for between $1000 and $1500, requiring somewhere between no work at all and several pads replaced with a regulation, those Ebay horns don't look attractive at all.
 

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Great input, thank you all! I think I'll go with a vintage horn. Here are a few that I like:

Conn Naked Lady

Another Conn

Yet another Conn

Buffet Paris

B&H Stencil
I just looked them over briefly, and give this Caveat: IF seller does not state they are in good playing condition, they will need some work. So...ask.

The Meister is a Weltklang/B&S (not B&H, which = Boosey & Hawkes ;)).

These are good horns. Of all the voices Weltklang made, their Sopranos were the best, IMHO. Beautiful tone, and despte the vintage-style keywork the ergos are quite good. This is a sleeper. But again, it doesn't state it plays...so ask. And if not, expect to put $200 of repair into it. If it doesn't, it should be priced about $100 less than it is.
If folks are looking to stay at $1000 or under for a GOOD vintage Sop, I always suggest Weltklangs or Italian stencils. Because they just beat out new or used asian models priced in the $1000-1500 range in build and tone, hands-down.
This horn might not be priced badly, and it's a quality Soprano.

Indeed the Naked Lady is a Keilwerth stencil- fantastic horns. Sam Ash being Sam Ash...of course they do not outright state the horn plays up and down. So...again, ask. If it does...GOOD price. I would argue the best of the lot you have listed here.

The Buffet ? Cool ol' horn...but LOOK OUT ! :mrgreen: Time to develop a KEEN EYE if shoppin' for old LittleHorns. As noted by Turf, she is only keyed up to high Eb (2 side keys, 2 palm keys). Interesting horn for a collector, but pretty useless for a player.

The Conn being sold by George Borodi is a beauty, NW 2. FWIW, his biz refurbs old horns but they go whole-hog and refinish them as well. He sometimes does interesting things to the finishes.
So some people will argue "boo-hoo, it's a relacq !"...some people will say "but the factory would have NEVER done a finish like that !"
...but the fact is, honestly, these are 'relacqs' by a shop which is expert at refinishing instruments. Now what he has done is matte-finish most of the body but kept the bell region smooth. May not suit some people's tastes.
Also says it's in top playing shape.
And it's a Best Offer auction. And it's a Chu.
IMHO, this is NOT a bad option. Could be a great playing horn.

The Nickelplate Conn is also a Chu. It would be a fair price if it had had a repad. But seller is asking at least $400 too much given old pads, whether it speaks up and down or not.

You can do better if you want a vintage soprano...those Ebay horns don't look attractive at all.
I wouldn't necessarily agree. If OP asks sellers about playability to get some clarification where it isn't specified, the only auctions here which are a no-go = the Buffet, and the Nickel Conn (due to being overpriced b/c of the old pads). All other options may be quite viable and honestly, priced relatively fairly.

(IMHO thumb rings are not dreaded...I have never sold a thumb-ring sop to anyone then had 'em complain about it. But some folks dislike 'em, so IF it doesn't suit, replacing with a modern, conventional thumbhook is about the CHEAPEST, simplest tech mod there is....like $30 plus cost of the new hook).
 

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Turf3 is right. Barodi fooled me into thinking it is gold plated. I still think the silver Conn is nickel and overpriced. I have a burnished gold Chu for a few hundred more.

My tech friend Bill King in Ft. Pierce Fl has a never lacquered, overhauled NW2. He was asking $1200. PM if you'd like to try to contact him.
 
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I have had most of the available vintage model sopranos and I liked them all. But, I have purchased an H Couf Superba soprano with a nice overhaul for around 1450 and I think it is the best soprano I've ever played. I'd look for one of those if I were you.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
You guys rock, I am learning so much here!

Conn Naked Lady: You are right that this is not a vintage Naked Lady. According to saxpics.com: "DJH engraving on the bell was something that Daniel Henkin was fond of doing during his ownership of Conn (1980-1985). It was during this period that Conn was reestablished back in Elkhart, Indiana. These horns are ... in turn, Keilwerth Toneking/New King (series IV) stencils."

Meister/Weltklang/B&S Stencil: I submitted an offer, just for fun, and the seller made a $650.- counter offer. That's a great price for a decent horn. But its not even half my budget and I think I should go for something different and spoil myself a little more. :bluewink:

None of these two are true vintage sopranos, though.

The Conn sold by George Borodi is tempting. If I'd buy it, I know it would play well and hustle-free for a while.

A lot to consider before pulling the trigger.
 

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Meister/Weltklang/B&S Stencil: I submitted an offer, just for fun, and the seller made a $650.- counter offer. That's a great price for a decent horn. But its not even half my budget and I think I should go for something different and spoil myself a little more. :bluewink:
Ugh.....that's a pretty fair counter offer...I bet you could counteroffer $600 and take it. Then even if it needs $300-400 of tech work, which is a pretty significant amount of tech work....you would still have gotten a very NICE horn for your investment. The $ you saved could be put towards a couple of excellent mouthpieces.
Just sayin'.

None of these two are true vintage sopranos, though.
?????? 35-40 years old, either of them. Those are Vintage saxes.

You know, I LOVE oldie, oldie Littlehorns, but have to say...you'd probably have to woodshed with 'em to acquaint yourself with what would be an intonationally 'flexible' horn. It's no huge deal, but for a player who has not played a lotta soprano, or for a player who has... but is used to modern horns, there is an adjustment curve there.

The Germans are a bit more straight-up-the-middle as far as that goes.

For the flak Borodi sometimes takes (and some of it is deserved insofar as his communication skills) everyone who I have known who actually owned one of these 'bling' overhaul horns of his was happy with it as far as the performance and mechanical function. He may sometimes hurt himself by getting creative with the refinishing, but I have never heard that his refurbs fall short as musical instruments. And he does offer Best Offer along with a guarantee, so I'd imagine one could take this for around $150 less than BIN, at least.
 

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I have had most of the available vintage model sopranos and I liked them all. But, I have purchased an H Couf Superba soprano with a nice overhaul for around 1450 and I think it is the best soprano I've ever played. I'd look for one of those if I were you.
It would have been an interesting side-by-side to put the Conn DJH against the Couf. I would imagine they are darn close to each other, actually....DJH's were superlative horns, having refurbed a good half-dozen of 'em.

My tech friend Bill King in Ft. Pierce Fl has a never lacquered, overhauled NW2. He was asking $1200. PM if you'd like to try to contact him.
That sounds like a pretty nice deal, if a player doesn't mind a bare brass horn....
 

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Discussion Starter #17
this "may" be a CHU.
i cannot see the cross hatch G# and it has the earlier new wonderI engraving.
the serial# range is in that change area,so i would ask for photos of the G# key.
Good point! The serial number puts it into the Chu NW2 range, but its hard from the lousy photos to see if there's a hatch G# key and if it has dished pearls. Could be a transitional model, too, where they used parts from both.
 

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the problem with vintage as once you get one, you want one of every brand. I decided to sell my many straight ones but still need to sell my Buescher and Holton C. Almost there!!!
 

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the problem with vintage as once you get one, you want one of every brand. I decided to sell my many straight ones but still need to sell my Buescher and Holton C. Almost there!!!
Let me know when you want to sell the C sopranos. I might be interested.
 
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