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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So I decided to give a try to this 250 GBP (300 GBP for EU customers) China-made tenor sax, intrigued by the positive comments of Pete Thomas in particular.
Since I own several pro tenors (see my signature) this purchase was not intended to replace any of those, rather to get a reliable, affordable sax to keep in my second home in Italy where I spend about 2 months each year (tired of travelling with a tenor and also unwilling to leave there a top notch one).
This by the way is the first sax that I buy brand new!


I believe those saxes are presently available only through woodwindandbrass.co.uk and that's where I got mine. Excellent service, I am totally satisfied. They did not ship it immediately because the new arrivals from the factory had to be still checked (I later learned by a well know repairman) and that sounded a very good reason to me, so I waited 4 business days without regrets.

The sax was delivered by DHL for just 8.5 GBP shipping from UK to Canada, which, I was later informed, was a mistake but the quote was honored (hat off to them).

It comes with an unstilish but functional case, complete of 3 straps (1 neck strap) and plastic mouthpiece, not so great but workable and not damn closes as a Yamaha 4C that comes with a new Yamaha. This one is maybe a 6.


The sax is made of what they call "Phosphor bronze" and looks rather pinkish. More so than a Yanagisawa if I remember correctly (I own a brass Yani only).
I guess some people may like that, I am rather indifferent and would not pay a buck more to have it of this color. Keys are lacquered.



Engravings look quite cheap (other than deep) and are not extensive: certainly not one of the strength of this model and something that might qualify for improvement in the future of this brand. At this price point I would not dare to complain though.



The sax looks built sturdily, not knowing the price I certainly would not have thought the model was so cheap. I would not put in the same league of the big four: surprisingly close, though. I certainly would put in the same league of a Jupiter, to name one (I had briefly a Jupiter Artist 889SG some time ago), or above that.
One change I'd make immediately is the strap hook position which should be more to the left to keep the sax in good balance. Anyways, easy fix if I want to (I'll add one).
My unit did not require any adjustment whatsoever: plays right out of the box and the intonation is really good (so far I seem to have problems only with the 2nd C#): I'd say along with the price it's the main strength of this model.

So how does it sound and play?
I had high expectations in light of the fact that Pete Thomas seems to prefer it to a Yanagisawa T901. I have to say that my opinion is the opposite, I have a T901 and I prefer it to the Walstein in just everything. I frankly think that he would come to the same conclusion by playing my 2 units but.... who knows. Wait for the comparative review that Pete is putting together among those, a Martin and a Conn, keeping in mind that he's a top notch pro and I am a hobbyst.

My humble opinion is that the sound for the price is excellent. Intonation is about as good as my T901 but the response of the Yani is way better: any variation of air flow or embouchure produces an immediate variation in sound. The Walstein lags quite behind, although I would not call it sluggish. Sort of average.
The tone is surprisingly on the dark side with not so exciting mid register, excellent bottom and very respectable high register. I can't report about altissimo since I am not that good there so far. Not really a dark saxophone, but quite so and surely more than my T901, SIII, Cannonball. Also very, very easy to blow.
It's rather centered and quite on the Selmer side: if the designers copied a Yani, they copied well also this. Compares favorably to a Jupiter and I will compare it in a few days with a Yamaha 23 of a friend: so far I think I like the Walstein better.
Quite generic tone, in my opinion. I heard others labelling this way Yanis but I am not one of those, I think my T901 has a wonderful tone and it's probably more MVI-like than my SIII.
An untrained audience I am not entirely sure would hear much difference between the Walstein and one of those.

I have never played a bronze tenor and I wonder if I would be equally underwhelmed also by a Yani bronze. I just missed some "ring" in the sound and that might well be just a personal preference: others may come to the opposite conclusion.

So, to sum up, I am very satisfied with the purchase in light of the price and the intended use (again: not to replace a top-tier sax and pocket the difference). I will certainly recommend to starters and not just those. If you need an affordable backup tenor which plays in tune and that you're not afraid to ruin outdoor, this one will do it.
Also those of you who play those beaten-looking vintage tenors which, in a sense, do not look good enough for those "Tuxedo-evenings" where look counts, this one might do the job well (unless you have a Ref.54 as a backup like Al Stevens..:shock: ).
Since these come with a 14-days money back return policy, the picture becomes an even more tempting one...

Again keep in perspective that this is a review written by a hobbyst, wait for the more relevant that Pete said he's putting together (seems also with sound clips!).
 

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Hi Andrea,

A very interesting, informative and welcomed review, thank you for sharing. Value for money is still the main selling point for this sax, as I suspected.

Still, when was there a time in history when someone on a severe budget could get a brand new, acceptable horn with the keywork bells and whistles of much more expensive horns, for so little?

I know a lot of people will welcome this option.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Mike.
This seem one of those cases in which "you get more than what you pay for", just like Pete said.
The value is certainly there.
I also like the fact that the seller is refraining from overhyping those saxes in a Sugal or Dominic way. They simply state "Good action and lovely Mellow tone, even tone holes blue steel needlesprings, leather pads. Great outfit and very good value given the nature of the materials used, the quality of the keywork and the timbre of sound."

I second those words.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
For those who may be interested, Pete Thomas comparative sound files are now found in THIS THREAD
 

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Stephen Howard said:
I've just completed a review of a Walstein tenor...
Have you taken these horns apart when you review them? Another tech here has made some observations concerning the inability of some Chinese imports to keep adjustment when reassembled due to the poor construction of the screws/rods and their extreme vulnerability to wear. Not sure if this is what you touched on yourself when you discussed the pseudo type of point screws for the Walstein, but I just wondered if you had encountered similar problems when taking these horns apart and putting them back together again.
 

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Grumps said:
Have you taken these horns apart when you review them?
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews.htm

Horns so reviewed are subject to ongoing review as and when they come in for servicing, or other examples turn up. Some reviews feature an addendum where ongoing problems or improvements are noted.

Another tech here has made some observations concerning the inability of some Chinese imports to keep adjustment when reassembled due to the poor construction of the screws/rods and their extreme vulnerability to wear. Not sure if this is what you touched on yourself when you discussed the pseudo type of point screws for the Walstein, but I just wondered if you had encountered similar problems when taking these horns apart and putting them back together again.
I don't see how taking a horn apart and putting it back together again can decrease the build quality of a horn - either the problem exists in the first place or it doesn't. It isn't difficult to spot.
One possible exception was the early Conn-Selmer Prelude which, bizarrely, had bits of pad leather packing out the point screw sockets. These would drop out on dismantling, and when the horn was reassembled the action would be hopelessly loose. This could be remedied by replacing the pseudo points with proper ones. The Prelude has improved substantially since then.

There is a potential issue regarding wear with pseudo points screws ( their inability to be adjusted ), but I would hardly call it an 'extreme vulnerability' - and it appears on many far more expensive horns. Wear, in any event, is unlikely to be an issue with an Ultra-Cheap horns - if and when the action wore substantially, the pads would be knackered too...and it's simply not economical to repair instruments at that level.

The Yani v. Walstein comparison shows the Walstein's action to be harder and stiffer in metallurgical terms than that found on the Yani...which is considered to be a benchmark brand in terms of build quality.
 

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Stephen Howard said:
I've just completed a review of a Walstein tenor...

http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Tenor/Walstein_tenor.htm

I've also done a comparison with a Yanagisawa 991...

http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Tenor/Walstein_versus_Yanagisawa.htm

Regards,
Very interesting reviews - good summing up: "The Walstein ..... if it doesn't quite equal the Yani it's close enough to be embarrassing."

Almost exactly my thoughts, and I agree that the bottom end by itself is absolutely amazing.
 

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Stephen Howard said:
Wear, in any event, is unlikely to be an issue with an Ultra-Cheap horns - if and when the action wore substantially, the pads would be knackered too...and it's simply not economical to repair instruments at that level.
And that's really the trump there. As long as they play from the get go, they're perfect for the student market; and being somewhat disposable works from a production/marketing aspect. Good for the consumer as well, I guess, as long as the price remains low and unreasonable expectations aren't made.

Stephen Howard said:
The Yani v. Walstein comparison shows the Walstein's action to be harder and stiffer in metallurgical terms than that found on the Yani...which is considered to be a benchmark brand in terms of build quality.
How would either of these two compare in metallurgical terms to some of the vintage horns you've had come through the shop? And forgive me if it's addressed in one of your other reviews.
 

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Grumps said:
How would either of these two compare in metallurgical terms to some of the vintage horns you've had come through the shop?
No way he's bending my naked lady.
 

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Grumps said:
And that's really the trump there. As long as they play from the get go, they're perfect for the student market; and being somewhat disposable works from a production/marketing aspect. Good for the consumer as well, I guess, as long as the price remains low and unreasonable expectations aren't made.
If you leave the horn until it really needs a big overhaul (repad etc) then right, the cost would equal the cost of a new horn probably so you'd be tempted to chuck it. However if you do what most pros (ought to) do, and get an annual service, which would normally involve some corks, spring retensioning, a bit of oiling and maybe a couple of pads, then that ought to cost maybe £40 - £70. Compared to a £300 price for a new one, I'd still do that so the disposable tag doesn't quite sit in that case.

It also not entirely unfeasible that a large enough distributor would think about a recycling scheme. In a couple of years if these horns are still as inexpensive and high quality (and they may well be higher quality), they will become very very popular I think. Schools will have lots, saxophone players will start doing a lot more doubling and have one or two as backup instruments. If and when there are enough in circulation, a distributor could ship them back to China in large enough numbers to make repairs or recycling in China a commercial (and ethical) proposition. Of course this would rely on the labour costs there still being low.
 

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"The Walstein ..... if it doesn't quite equal the Yani it's close enough to be embarrassing."
Why embarrassing? If I understand correcly, more than 90% of the cost of any saxophone made in Japan or Europe is in the labor. What embarrasing is there about Yanagisawa's workers having a standard of living that is comparable to ours? Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of adding contentious overtones to an interesting thread (there is the Chinese Product Safety thread for that purpose) but I just seems like an unfair statement about a good company. Most of us are eminently replacable by lesser expensive labor. We just happen to be protected by location, nationality, and immigration barriers.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Price update

I noticed the price has risen already, now it's 350 GBP for the tenor, minus 17.5% VAT, if you don't live in the EU, goes around 300 GBP.
Still excellent value for the money. Mine gets better every day.
 

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brasscane said:
Why embarrassing? If I understand correcly, more than 90% of the cost of any saxophone made in Japan or Europe is in the labor.
Well, I think many people may not be as socially aware, and perhaps, just perhaps, they might think that some of the established manufacturers (and/or distributors and retailers) sustain higher prices by very large profit margins, not just more expensive labour. Whether or not this is true will do little to dispel the unease some people may have about the vast difference in price, given similar quality. Further, many people buying good cheap saxophones may not even think about country of origin at all and just think "saxophone A costs a lot more than saxophone B and it's hardly any better".

What I'm saying is the embarrassment may still be there, whether justified by the facts and economics or not. However it was Stephen Howard's statement that I quoted from, so he may have a different take on it.

What embarrasing is there about Yanagisawa's workers having a standard of living that is comparable to ours?
I'm not sure there is an exact correlation between wages and standard of living. Very difficult when such vastly different cultures are concerned.

Most of us are eminently replacable by lesser expensive labor. We just happen to be protected by location, nationality, and immigration barriers.
Unless we work in a call centre.
 

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pth said:
Do you know if these horns are available in the USA, perhaps under a different brand name?
I know they are now distributed in Germany, try contacting Woodwind & Brass Ltd, you'll get the answer.
 

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Grumps said:
And that's really the trump there. As long as they play from the get go, they're perfect for the student market; and being somewhat disposable works from a production/marketing aspect. Good for the consumer as well, I guess, as long as the price remains low and unreasonable expectations aren't made.
That so-called trump has always applied, to any instrument. Nothing new there. What's new is that a horn and a setup, if required, can be had for less than half the cost of an equivalent Taiwanese horn. Their cheapness doesn't make the out-of-the-box setup of the average Taiwanese horn any better, nor that of some professional horns.
A reasonable expectation is that such horns would be playable, comfortable to use, accurate of tune and tone, and last as long as takes before they become uneconomical to repair.
I'd say an unreasonable expectation would be for a player to use a horn built for the student market in a professional capacity...


How would either of these two compare in metallurgical terms to some of the vintage horns you've had come through the shop? And forgive me if it's addressed in one of your other reviews.
Depends on the make and model of horn. In terms of wear resistance the hardness factor is more important than the stiffness. Another consideration would have to be the thickness of the keys ( typically thicker on vintage instruments, though not necessarily to advantage ).
The Yani would still probably come out below most vintage horns in terms of stiffness ( just below a Selmer, for example ), but would be likely to wear less - and both the ST90 and the Walstein would be pretty much near the top of the pile in both wear resistance and strength. Some of the later Martins and Kings have particularly tough keywork, though wear resistance is average.
 

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brasscane said:
Why embarrassing? If I understand correcly, more than 90% of the cost of any saxophone made in Japan or Europe is in the labor. What embarrasing is there about Yanagisawa's workers having a standard of living that is comparable to ours? Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of adding contentious overtones to an interesting thread (there is the Chinese Product Safety thread for that purpose) but I just seems like an unfair statement about a good company. Most of us are eminently replacable by lesser expensive labor. We just happen to be protected by location, nationality, and immigration barriers.
The embarrassment potential comes from the closeness of the response from a horn that is, unashamedly, aimed at the student market. Yanagisawa have nothing at all to be ashamed of ( I believe you could call them 'philosophically flattered - and they're not unaware of the advantages of being copied in this manner ). What must be borne in mind is that such a comparison really wasn't possible as little as five or six years ago. There were plenty of Jupiters, Trevor James, Arbiters et al around back then, but you never saw them on a gig - but Chinese Ultra-Cheap horns keep popping up on the scene ( baritones seem to be on the up at the moment ).
It's not just about price, or labour costs - it's the fact that these horns can be a great deal better than they have any right to be, and that challenges expectations and beliefs.
I wonder if, one day, we might see the prices of pro level horns dropping...

Regards,
 

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Stephen Howard said:
I wonder if, one day, we might see the prices of pro level horns dropping...
Not by a lot, for sure. They will go out of business beforehand. Maybe their execs are making a lot of money, and the importers too but I still feel quite confident that the profit margin is not of a magnitude that allows comparison with Chinese horns. Workers at Selmer, Keilwerth (as long as it exists), Yamaha, and Yanagisawa still have exist in societies with relatively high costs of living. I think these Chinese horns may be a healthy awakening for the big four in that anything less than top notch quality will not survive to merit the additional cost. On the other hand it also a threat. Not many Stephen Howards around we if just buy cheap Chinese horns and ditch them when they have a leak. If you end up doing work only for the vintage suckers like yours truly, there will be market for very few of your kind. I hope it doesn't happen.

PS: Thanks for the great reviews on your site!
 
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