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Discussion Starter #1
What do you folks think about all those NEW inexpensive Ebay saxophones? Mendini: $349.95; Opus: $551.24; Lade: $203.36; Hawk: $429.95; Prestini: 689.06. Are they ALL crap? HOW are they "crap"? Are we being taken when we pay $4700, or more, for a Yamaha? Selmer? Yani? Mauriat? Cannonball? What, precisely, makes them SO MUCH more expensive? Jay Metcalf bought a $260 tenor from Amazon, I think, and it played very nicely RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX, with no regulation and the mouthpiece that came with it (on his Better Sax YouTube comparison video). And, he said so! His Yani certainly didn't sound 20X better! Or, more in-tune. It makes me wonder whether the same sax could be sold for $300, $1800, or maybe I'd feel better about it if I paid $2700 ... and how would anyone be the wiser? How can a tenor sax be built and sold for $203.36? I can't afford it (although at those prices, I almost COULD), but I would love to buy several of those crazy-cheap horns and see just what the deal is. Is the metal soft? Are the solders ****? Are the tone holes in the wrong place? Does the lacquer dissolve after 3 weeks? Is the money spent on the "value" of the big names just a serious (not funny) hoax? I'm in the market for another (back-up) tenor, and I've been considering a pre-owned Grassi, a Cannonball, a Yamaha 62, or even a YTS 23, but I don't know that I don't have reason to consider one of these (dubious) horns. It's tempting, I tell ya'. Does anyone have any personal experience with these "nameless" Ebay horns?
 

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I assume the difference is the European 30 hour work week, 6 weeks of vacation and "free" healthcare and retirement benefits vs. Chinese workers getting 10 cents on the dollar of what the French (or Japanese) do is the difference. The manufacturing equipment and technology is mostly the same. The skills and quality control of those doing the hand work in Asia is getting better all the time. What will the world do when there are no more poor people to exploit. Aldous Huxley had some ideas.
 

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I think the mechanical build is good, as most work ok, and might need some very small adjustments - but - there's something about the tonality that doesn't work well to me. Go on youtube, and watch a bunch of videos. Monster players, reverb, lush backing tracks all help to flatter, but I can still hear something that is off, or pitchy about them. I've played one, and it plays and blows easily, and what I've noticed, is it doesn't give you the right feedback to correct the pitch and compensate, or something related. I can play it a feel good about pitch, but then I listen to a recording, and yuck. My others' don't give me that false feedback. That's a long way of saying, they don't sound that great. And a sax that is good mechanically, but bad sonically, isn't of much use.
 

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I'll toss in my $.02 with a recent experience.
I bought a "Venus" tenor and sold it 2 years later, for all the usual reasons people don't like these horns (often the very same reasons some people like them.) Earlier this year a bunch of cheap 50's-70's student horns popped up and I snagged a great King Cleveland for less than I paid for the Venus. I am far happier with it as a backup for the S20 than I ever would be with the Venus. It comes down to personal preference, I suppose.
 

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Anything that ends with ...dini or ...tini , a.k.a. Chintalian names is stuff I stay away from. A friend who is a professional drummer demoed one of the Mendini drum kits and then did a comparison on a DDrum and Yamaha, and it was an ear opener, same thing goes with most of their other lines of instruments that I have looked at.

There may be some good ones in the mix, and it is no necessarily that the quality is bad but you never know what you are going to get.
 

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Are we being taken when we pay $4700, or more, for a Yamaha? Selmer? Yani? Mauriat? Cannonball?
Well, if you buy new... yeah, you're being taken. Shop smart and you can find any number of pro level horns for only a few hundred bucks. Or if vintage American ain't your cup of tea, get a used horn from a reliable name brand company and have a horn for life. Or you can pay the thieves on Ebay a couple hundred bucks for crap. You can believe otherwise, but hey... it's your money. And wasting a lesser amount of money is still a waste of money.
 

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I have a some experience with Eastern Music and Taishan. I would get a Taishan between those two for about $750. However I think the used Taiwan horn is the way to go. Much better than the Chinese.

I have a used Taishan 7000 for sale. PM me if interested.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, if you buy new... yeah, you're being taken. Shop smart and you can find any number of pro level horns for only a few hundred bucks. Or if vintage American ain't your cup of tea, get a used horn from a reliable name brand company and have a horn for life. Or you can pay the thieves on Ebay a couple hundred bucks for crap. You can believe otherwise, but hey... it's your money. And wasting a lesser amount of money is still a waste of money.
I don't "believe otherwise", I just don't KNOW. I don't KNOW that they're crap, never having played one. That's why I asked the forum for their collective wisdom/experience. I DO know, from experience, that while you usually have to PAY for what you get, you don't always GET what you pay for. My first employer wasn't selling very much cashew brittle, at a very reasonable price, so he DOUBLED the price and sold it all! People PERCEIVED it to be higher quality because of the higher price. So, the customer was HAPPIER by paying more for the same stuff. I remember in high school, all the jocks wore Adidas. Then, when EVERYBODY was wearing Adidas, the jocks began wearing Pumas, which were more expensive. Then, when everybody was wearing Pumas, the jocks began wearing Nikes, which were more expensive. Price doesn't always reflect quality, and popular "truth" can be trendy and fickle. I 'm just skeptical that a saxophone's purchase price, or for that matter its BRAND NAME, always reflects its true quality and value. I know of very well-respected techs AND musicians who when asked about the hype of the Selmer MK VI, just shrug their shoulders and shake their heads. Some are great, some are good, but many are just ... saxophones. In no way does their sound or mechanics justify the crazy prices. They're not even RARE ... when you do a search on Ebay, there's a whole lot of them ... FOR SALE.
 

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I think the mechanical build is good, as most work ok, and might need some very small adjustments - but - there's something about the tonality that doesn't work well to me. Go on youtube, and watch a bunch of videos. Monster players, reverb, lush backing tracks all help to flatter, but I can still hear something that is off, or pitchy about them. I've played one, and it plays and blows easily, and what I've noticed, is it doesn't give you the right feedback to correct the pitch and compensate, or something related. I can play it a feel good about pitch, but then I listen to a recording, and yuck. My others' don't give me that false feedback. That's a long way of saying, they don't sound that great. And a sax that is good mechanically, but bad sonically, isn't of much use.
I second the feedback thing, I've played six of these cheap altos that we bought for our school kids (10 years old beginners). They all played quite easily and I guess the feedback thing won't be to much of a problem for the absolute beginners.
Then the built quality is quite terrible. I took some of the horns to a tech and he stated that they might play okay during the first year but problems would start after that period probably. We'll see, I'm staying optimistic first.
 

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What about anything else that exists in cheap and expensive version?

I have a few mechanical watches ( and a couple of ecodrives). One of those I bought several years ago when I was in China on business, it’s a cheap (costed no more than $15) mechanical watch. I wanted a rectangular watch that I didn’t have but honestly didn’t need one and a guy came by the trade fair booth wearing (like in the films) watches on his arms and inside the jacket.

You have to realize that a 1$ is worth in China (or it was at the time) $10 in goods and services so what you buy at $15 is worth the same $150 that you may pay in the western world to the person that sells it.

You can buy a Japanese branded (where is the machine coming from?) Seiko Recraft for about $150 which has probably costed Seiko ( when its life started) not much more than the Chinese watch ended up costing to me .

The watch?

It still keeps time well. I have watches costing , let’s say without bragging, many , many folds more, they keep time too and very well but not necessarily better.


In China they can make an alto saxophone for less than $200 (even a lot less if Walmart can sell them for near peanuts prices), many buy those and sell it at a profit around the world. Some are even decently made (my Chinese watch is over 15 years old ). They can equally make much better saxophones, to the point that a few people sell saxophones (with their brand on them) which come assembled or disassembled to their shop and (as they say) to their specs. I know of one sold for Selmer money but assembled from Chinese made parts.

Almost all technicians here started with: “ We don’t fix Chinese saxophones!” ( And if anyone brings them to be fixed they readily discover that it is not worth having them fixed because labour is so expensive that rapidly overshoots the buying price of a new saxophone), some who did venture into fixing them discovered that their build quality got a lot better in the last few years.

People here on SOTW have bought Taishan (or similar) to their great satisfaction.

Is it worth buying one? I don’t know. I have had a couple of other Chinese made saxophones ( although I worked for a Taiwanese maker at some point) in my hands (not the cheapest of all) which were definitely made well, 3 were made by the same people which sell Buffet Chinese made horns and, though unsophisticated here and there , they are still playing in the hands of the people (one is a collector and major player in the NL) whom bought them from me.

Buying with confidence (as many Chiese ads say) is not easy, but if you are an informed buyer and capable to separate the wheat from the chaff, you can find extremely good buys ( but don’t think that you can buy for $200 a sax that is worth $2000 but you can buy for a bit more a sax sold by Buffet at a much higher price !).

But please, don’t think that ALL Chinese saxophones were made equal, just as much as as Bundy II was never made the same way as a top of the line King or Conn or Martin.
 

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I picked up a used venus curved sop in a trade.

It isnt anything special at all. It started shedding a couple of plastic pearls recently.

I would never use it for actually playing or gigging. My primary reason was to have a sop that was functional to play test mouthpieces.

My purposes for a tenor are MUCH different and also alto. I would never even give a thought to these uber cheap horns. Ive yet to see a good instrument that will last for bargain basement prices. Ya gotta pay to play or it will give out on you. Additionally, to keep it playing properly you will spend more at the tech so the costs will catch up to you over time.

To me they also feel a bit cheap...because they are.

If you want a cheap tenor find a YTS-23 used for about 7 or 8 bills. They are built well and while not tonally exciting they are a lot for the cash.

I dont know the Taishan horns.
 

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I like and enjoy my TaiShan TS670 tenor I have had it about 8 months and it plays very well and has no problems, it did need a trip to the tech to get it to play properly,
does it paly better then my Yani ? I would say no but it is more then adequate for its intended uses, is the tone better? I would just say its a bit different to my ears,
The tech who set it up for me said it appears to be built pretty well and after 8 months it hasn't fallen apart yet, it is mouthpiece friendly and plays easily from top to bottom,
I use it when we play outside concerts with community band, or if I play in a bar or open mic. etc, with our little jazz group, anyplace I would be skeptical about bringing my Yani
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I picked up a used venus curved sop in a trade.

It isnt anything special at all. It started shedding a couple of plastic pearls recently.

I would never use it for actually playing or gigging. My primary reason was to have a sop that was functional to play test mouthpieces.

My purposes for a tenor are MUCH different and also alto. I would never even give a thought to these uber cheap horns. Ive yet to see a good instrument that will last for bargain basement prices. Ya gotta pay to play or it will give out on you. Additionally, to keep it playing properly you will spend more at the tech so the costs will catch up to you over time.

To me they also feel a bit cheap...because they are.

If you want a cheap tenor find a YTS-23 used for about 7 or 8 bills. They are built well and while not tonally exciting they are a lot for the cash.

I dont know the Taishan horns.
I think your advice is solid. I'm playing a Kessler Custom tenor (missing two key pearls), which I have to believe is a Chinese-built (or Asian-built) horn, and I think the mechanics, sound, and intonation are very good. At the time I purchased the Kessler, alto was my main horn. But, for the past several years, I've largely switched to tenor, and I've been considering an "up-grade", (whatever that means, in context of this discussion), keeping the Kessler as a back-up (frequent rehearsals and regular performances with a big-band make having a horn at the ready more critical), or, instead, purchasing a solid back-up to the Kessler. I have heard good things about the YTS-23, and I have respect for the Yamaha horns in general. Still, I would like the back-up to be interesting, in SOME respect. The Kessler is heavy, and a bit "clunky", and I have some problems with the ergonomics of the palm keys in relation to the octave key/thumb rest. Anyway, the plethora of shiny, new, and CHEAP tenors on EBAY (recently viewed an ad for a "Yanagisawa T-902 Tenor Saxophone Top Music Instruments Super Action Series Brass: $529.00") got me to wondering just what it is that makes them "cheap", other than the price. I mean, you can PAY $150 for a $15 Chinese watch, if it makes you feel better, but I don't want to. If I'm paying $150 for a watch, I want to know HOW it is better than the $15 watch. Thanks for your response, and the confirmation of the value of a YTS-23.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
What about anything else that exists in cheap and expensive version?

I have a few mechanical watches ( and a couple of ecodrives). One of those I bought several years ago when I was in China on business, it’s a cheap (costed no more than $15) mechanical watch. I wanted a rectangular watch that I didn’t have but honestly didn’t need one and a guy came by the trade fair booth wearing (like in the films) watches on his arms and inside the jacket.

You have to realize that a 1$ is worth in China (or it was at the time) $10 in goods and services so what you buy at $15 is worth the same $150 that you may pay in the western world to the person that sells it.

You can buy a Japanese branded (where is the machine coming from?) Seiko Recraft for about $150 which has probably costed Seiko ( when its life started) not much more than the Chinese watch ended up costing to me .

The watch?

It still keeps time well. I have watches costing , let’s say without bragging, many , many folds more, they keep time too and very well but not necessarily better.


In China they can make an alto saxophone for less than $200 (even a lot less if Walmart can sell them for near peanuts prices), many buy those and sell it at a profit around the world. Some are even decently made (my Chinese watch is over 15 years old ). They can equally make much better saxophones, to the point that a few people sell saxophones (with their brand on them) which come assembled or disassembled to their shop and (as they say) to their specs. I know of one sold for Selmer money but assembled from Chinese made parts.

Almost all technicians here started with: “ We don’t fix Chinese saxophones!” ( And if anyone brings them to be fixed they readily discover that it is not worth having them fixed because labour is so expensive that rapidly overshoots the buying price of a new saxophone), some who did venture into fixing them discovered that their build quality got a lot better in the last few years.

People here on SOTW have bought Taishan (or similar) to their great satisfaction.

Is it worth buying one? I don’t know. I have had a couple of other Chinese made saxophones ( although I worked for a Taiwanese maker at some point) in my hands (not the cheapest of all) which were definitely made well, 3 were made by the same people which sell Buffet Chinese made horns and, though unsophisticated here and there , they are still playing in the hands of the people (one is a collector and major player in the NL) whom bought them from me.

Buying with confidence (as many Chiese ads say) is not easy, but if you are an informed buyer and capable to separate the wheat from the chaff, you can find extremely good buys ( but don’t think that you can buy for $200 a sax that is worth $2000 but you can buy for a bit more a sax sold by Buffet at a much higher price !).

But please, don’t think that ALL Chinese saxophones were made equal, just as much as as Bundy II was never made the same way as a top of the line King or Conn or Martin.
It would be great if some kind of reference were available that revealed those "hidden relationships" between brands. Like, "if you want a Buffet, buy a ... whatever ... same manufacturer, same horn for 60% of the Buffet price". Or, "the Grassi Prestige is essentially a MK VI without the engraving". I don't want to pay for marketing and promotion, and if it doesn't reflect true value, I don't care about brand names.
 

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I have commented about Taishan many times over the years. I have had several. I have numerous pro tenors of all makes. I still have a bari for many years. I can afford whatever horn I want. I Admittedly I don't play bari often.

The Taishan tenor typically comes with a high arch neck. The 670 is a Selmer series II copy. The 7000 is more like a Cannonball. The necks play well enough but I don't like the shape. On every Taishan tenor I have found that changing the neck dramatically improves the horn. I have found this to be true on other Chinese horns as well. On my 7000 I play a Phil Barone neck.
Also I have found Pisoni mypads installed in the Taishan horns I have had. They were also glued in and in with what appeared to be a contact cement type glue. I have found that I needed to refloat many pads. In some cases I removed the glue and added my own adhesive. I have generally found the tone hole leveling to be very good. I can also say that the brass is not soft. I have bent keys, and repaired dents.
I was giving sax lessons to a kid last year. I recommended a Taishan alto as dad did not want to spend much. It seems to be a very good horn. He went on to want a tenor. He bought an Eastern Music horn claiming to be a Selmer copy. I found the quality to be less than the Taishan. However he did not buy the best offering of the Eastern brand. Thus I don't know what there best is like. However there is another member on this site that recommends them.

If you get a chinese horn you can expect to spend some money on set up. However the same can be said of most Taiwan horns. It just won't be as significant. Sure they will play out of the box, but you will find some issues over time. A lot of people make a big deal about a finger button or cork coming off. Glue it back on, it takes moments. If you loose the pearls they are fake anyway. If that bothers you buy a set of real ones on Ebay for $20. The local techs always say they don't like to work on Chinese horns blah blah blah, with myths of soft metal and problems getting parts. However ALL of them are selling Chinese horns and don't like that pointed out to them. Its all about business and not based on any facts they can articulate.

I just had an experienced player at my house trying out numerous pro tenors for purchase. They all sounded like him.
 
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