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I was to buy a vintage tenor sax, what would be the best horn, in that it had the best quality, sound, attack, ext. :line0: :space3: :line2: :line4: :space4: :space4: :line5:
 

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You can find a great vintage sax ranging under $750 up to ~$10,000. Of course there tend to be more options if you have the upper bound as your constraint ;)

As for good values regarding vintage American tenors, I'd say tryout a Buescher 156 Aristocrat/Big B, a later 10M, or a Martin tenor. I would bet you could find a decent example for ~$1250, and I'd furthermore bet it'd go toe to toe with some of the $4000 modern tenors.
 

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AmSaxPlayer said:
As for good values regarding vintage American tenors, I'd say tryout a Buescher 156 Aristocrat/Big B, a later 10M, or a Martin tenor. I would bet you could find a decent example for ~$1250, and I'd furthermore bet it'd go toe to toe with some of the $4000 modern tenors.
if you find one of the above that lies well in your hand and has a good intonation, its worth more than any modern tenor and has a colourful vintage sound as well!
 

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This article used to be prominently displayed on the main SOTW page, but it's gotten a little more cluttered of late, and I had to hunt around for the link when I just went to look for it. But anyway, you should definitely start by reading this--

http://www.saxontheweb.net/Resources/BestVintageSax.html

For the money, I think a mid to late 50s thru early 60s King Zephyr or 1950s Buescher Ariscocrat would be the best way to go. Both have decent ergos and are flexible for many styles of music, though the Buescher may have the edge for being the better all-around horn. I tend to like the King's because they have that evenness through the registers and depth of sound that is reminiscent of a good Selmer Mark VI (the vintage horn that most would pick as truly the best--but way overpriced--have $5K sitting around?). The Buescher can be played loud, but is somewhat smaller in sound than a good King IMHO. I specified Zephyr's from the mid 50's through early 60's because these are the ones with the best intonation from my experience--and they are also still H.N. White-built (see saxpics.com for a history of the "King," aka H.N. White, Co. BTW the two horns I mentioned are probably the two most popular choices for back-ups for a Mark VI. In other words, while neither one sounds exactly like a VI, they both have qualities that are reminiscent of a VI. Sonny Rollins played both a King Super 20 (the fancier version of a Zephyr) and a Mark VI back in the late 50s, and it's very difficult to tell which horn he was playing on which recordings.

I personally would not recommend a vintage Conn, as the ergos are not very good, or a Martin, which have a gutsy sound and tend to be better suited for blues or rock. The Buescher's and King's tend to be a little smoother (esp. the latter) from my experience. Of course, if you're using it for rock and not jazz, the Martin would be a good choice. But then again, the King's have a rep for being the best American rock horns (e.g., Clarence Clemons is pictured with a King Super 20 on Springsteen's legendary Born to Run LP).
 

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Forget reputations, because the reputations are merely personal guesses by sax players who find "their" perfect horn, but one persons perfect horn is another players lemon, You gotta blow the horn you BUY. Or get screwed by a reputation of a certain make and model, I have been through so many & found my best tenors are "The Martin Tenor, ca 1951, and Old Selmer NLB, pre cigar cutter, these are the best of all the other horns I have owned, Balance, sba, mk V1, etc, But I played these two horns and had to buy them, all the rest turned out to be second place losers. I think the millions of nerves and muscles in your mouth,throat stomach are what determines your "great horn". Bruce..
 

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olhonker said:
Forget reputations, because the reputations are merely personal guesses by sax players who find "their" perfect horn, but one persons perfect horn is another players lemon, You gotta blow the horn you BUY... I think the millions of nerves and muscles in your mouth,throat stomach are what determines your "great horn". Bruce..
Amen, Bruce. But their are a lot of ways to skin that cat for people who don't have the luxury of living close to a source of vintage horns.
A road trip could make a lot of sense, but alternately if one learns the market and does not let emotion overcome reason, you can buy and try lots of vintage horns and break pretty close to even, IF you have access to a competent tech that doesn't want $50 just to adjust a couple of leaks. Lacking the resource of a very good tech who isn't trying to make his/her boat payment on you, patience and some travel or very deep pockets will be required. Because you are right: one man's lemon is another's lemonade.
 

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olhonker said:
Forget reputations, because the reputations are merely personal guesses by sax players who find "their" perfect horn, but one persons perfect horn is another players lemon...
I notice that most of the Martin owners out there are always telling you to forget about a horn's "rep." I wonder why? :D Anyway, looking at a horn's rep IS a very valuable thing to do when looking at vintage horns--and it can save you a TON of time and $, especially if you don't live in a huge market like NYC where all these vintage horns can be test played on a Saturday afternoon.

When people are shopping for golf clubs and other sporting equipment, it seems that pro endorsements are a HUGE influence on amateur buying decisions. I don't see why saxophones--or any other musical instrument--would be any different. In the end we're still talking about a tool that is used to perform something at the highest level--whether it be a classic jazz sax solo or a flawless performance at the Masters tournament. I think that those who pooh pooh endorsements (and looking at what the greats played) might just represent another application of that classic fable, "The Fox and the Grapes."
 

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AmSaxPlayer said:
You can find a great vintage sax ranging under $750 up to ~$10,000. Of course there tend to be more options if you have the upper bound as your constraint ;)
Conn-O-Saxes go for over $30,000 the last time I checked. :cool:
 
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