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Discussion Starter #1
Started playing tenor sax many, many years ago. I lucked out and had a great deal on a King Super 20 which I loved to play. Was mostly a beginner about to reach intermediate level, then long story short tragedy struck and I had to sell my horn and I never got back into playing since. Now I want to play again and I realize that I'm pretty much starting ground zero. My budget is roughly about $1000-$1200 USD at the moment. The horn I buy will be a keeper for at least 2 years. Also a consideration is that the horn I buy will have to be sent away for any repair or adjustment as I live rather remotely at the moment, so would like to avoid frequent tune-ups.

Part of me is thinking a used Yamaha student or intermediate tenor is the best way to go, another part of me wonders if I can do just as well with a vintage horn and get something I'll likely keep forever. On the vintage side I was looking at Martin, Buescher, maybe a Conn though the prices seem to be a bit out of my range. At any rate, looking for advice. Should I just get a lower end Yamaha and wait a few years before considering a better horn or should I shoot for a vintage that will serve me well for time to come?
 

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YTS-23. You'll be able to find a used one in ready-to-play condition for well under your budget. They're also fairly indestructible and won't require a ton of repair work or upkeep. Consider a vintage horn once you're a competent enough tenor player to know in which direction you want to move your tone and have the ability to tackle the quirks that come with vintage horns.
 

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I don’t necessarily believe a YTS 23 would be more likely to not need as much work.
Most of those I’ve seen have been owned by high school students who haven’t looked after them well.
Although the ones at the upper end price wise (also usually in better condition) would be a good choice.
Skill level doesn’t determine whether you should play a modern or vintage horn.
But a Yamaha 23 or 32 etc would be easier to offload in the future should you wish to.
Having said that, if I could find a nice The Martin in that price range that doesn’t need work, I’d jump on it in a heartbeat.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks. My thought process was the YTS-23, then I thought that perhaps an intermediate Yamaha for overall better quality and likelihood I would gig with it, then I thought for the same money why not a Buescher Aristocrat or a Martin Committee III. I guess I could always sell the YTS-23 and upgrade later.
 

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Skill level doesn’t determine whether you should play a modern or vintage horn.
I disagree. I think most beginner tenor players will have a much easier time playing a YTS-23 in tune than, say, a Conn 10M. Doesn't mean it can't be done or that the 10M is a bad horn, but it requires more of the player.

Thanks. My thought process was the YTS-23, then I thought that perhaps an intermediate Yamaha for overall better quality and likelihood I would gig with it, then I thought for the same money why not a Buescher Aristocrat or a Martin Committee III. I guess I could always sell the YTS-23 and upgrade later.
I suggest avoiding intermediate Yamahas. They don't offer that much more than the YTS-23 in terms of quality or tone. Plus, if you find a nice YTS-23 at a good price and keep it nice while you own it, you'll be able to sell it for what you paid and then upgrade. And there's nothing stopping you from gigging on a YTS-23. When I was in undergrad, a YTS-23 was my trusty back-up tenor and I used it on gigs many times. The only person who knew was me.

You might also really love the Yamaha tone and keywork and decide you want to upgrade to a YTS-62 or a member of Yamaha's Custom series. Or, you may find the Yamaha too bright and/or one-dimensional and decide you crave the warm complexity of a vintage American sax.
 

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I don’t necessarily believe a YTS 23 would be more likely to not need as much work.
Most of those I’ve seen have been owned by high school students who haven’t looked after them well.
Although the ones at the upper end price wise (also usually in better condition) would be a good choice.
Skill level doesn’t determine whether you should play a modern or vintage horn.
But a Yamaha 23 or 32 etc would be easier to offload in the future should you wish to.
Having said that, if I could find a nice The Martin in that price range that doesn’t need work, I’d jump on it in a heartbeat.
Well-said.

By virtue of the fact a horn is of a certain model...this does not imbue it with magical qualities of good condition and playability.

I do wish people would stop making that quite specious assumption.

I refurb Martins. I refurb Conns. I refurb Grassis and Beaugniers and old JK's. I refurb Yamahas. I would in NO way say that the Yamas which come thru here necessarily needed LESS work than any other make.

I disagree. I think most beginner tenor players will have a much easier time playing a YTS-23 in tune than, say, a Conn 10M. Doesn't mean it can't be done or that the 10M is a bad horn, but it requires more of the player..
Aaaaaah...but as the comparison, you chose the most FINICKY well-known vintage model one can think of :whistle:. So...not quite fair. (Especially since good-shape 10M's don't cost $1200 :|).

If someone suggested a YTS 23 will play more in tune, or be 'easier' to play.... than a Martin, or most Kings or Booshes, for example (????) :|

That is simply not so...unless the Yama is well-regulated and the Martin/King etc. is poorly regulated.

Put a well regulated Indiana or Cleve or 'Crat up against a well-regulated 23 or 62.....and the Japanese horns will not naturally 'play more in tune'. Nor blow more 'easily'. Nor be more responsive under the fingers to a player already familiar with an older horn.

A Martin made starting from the Comm I's and later as a rule do not have 'intrinsic' intonation problems, nor are they resistant blowers. Certainly won't be for a player who used to play an S20. (Yes there are outlier tales of horns which needed significant adjustments to bring into tune....but mind you there are also outlier tales of folks who have had intonation issues with their Yamahas). A Yamaha with neglected keyheight adjustments or a couple of significant leaks will not by any means blow straight-arrow, either.

So...to the OP: if you wanna just buy the Toyota Corolla...buy the Toyota Corolla, y'know ? It's a car, it's reliable, 'affordable' - it has a good track record, it provides transport. If you just want a reliable car and don't have time or desire to think about it too much....it'd be hard to argue the Corolla would be a bad choice. It'd be a solid default choice.

But....are there cars out there which offer more, for the same price ? Yup.

You get the drift. You are not a beginner-beginner. You played an S20 once, so you already are familiar with good vintage horns. With a $1.2g budget you can do BETTER than a Yama 23, if you so choose to. If you said your budget was $675, then perhaps the argument for the 23 becomes stronger...(in most people's opinions).

Martin Indiana, Marin Comm I, maybe a nicer Buescher 'Crat before they were dumbed down, a good JK stencil, a Beaugnier (Vito, Noblet), King Cleveland or a sweet-spot King Zephyr...hell even a B&S Blue on occasion...I could go on....most will be available in the $1200 zone, decent playing. They would be in the same neighborhood of 'characteristics' as your old 20.

Hard to argue that a 23 is 'superior' to any of those, quite honestly.

Of course, whether vintage or not, make sure seller guarantees they are in good playing shape. If seller will not do that, then lower your available budget by at least $450 to put into tech work. If you happen to come across one which is truly approaching 'project' horn, however - don't get involved with it.
 

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OP - here's a SOTW article from Pete Hales that may be of interest to you: https://www.saxontheweb.net/Resources/BestVintageSax.html.

(from the article)
Reason #1 not to buy a vintage sax: you're a beginner ("Vintage horns can have odd intonation tendencies . . . .")

Reason #2 not to buy a vintage sax: parts and repair (important to you per your first post)

Reason #3 not to buy a vintage sax: handmade construction ("This necessarily means that the intonation and "feel" will vary from horn to horn.")
---
If you're intent on spending your whole $1200 budget and want something finer than a beginner horn, you could also look at some older professional models from modern makers: a YTS-61 or Yanagsiawa El Dorado, for example. Good luck!
 

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If you can find a good buy on a YTS 52, sure. But I, too, question would question the 23. I've just never liked the way they feel.

Martin Handcrafts and second tier Bueschers would be a better choice IMHO. I have a '42 Handcraft Standard and my tech has an early 60s Aristocrat, both ready to go, well within your price range for example. My flipper buddy probably has several others,

Good luck!
 

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Just one thing. There is a vast difference in the quality of the sound you will get on a vintage Buescher Crat II or III or the Martin compared to YTS 52, 23. The Yamaha sounds like a plastic toy compared to them, not necessarily to the audience but to you as you experience the sound directly. Yes, it is a modern horn with modern keywork but comparing them head to head I could not get any joy from the YTS 52.
 

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Just one thing. There is a vast difference in the quality of the sound you will get on a vintage Buescher Crat II or III or the Martin compared to YTS 52, 23. The Yamaha sounds like a plastic toy compared to them, not necessarily to the audience but to you as you experience the sound directly. Yes, it is a modern horn with modern keywork but comparing them head to head I could not get any joy from the YTS 52.
+1

Jay, what this person needs is one of those horns you occasionally post for sale that is a screaming deal. A players horn like a Martin Indiana, Buescher Elkhart or Pan Am that you have put into optimal working order. Every time I've seen you post one of these I tell myself, .. now that is a great horn for a low price. If I was budget minded and wanted to play something that had soul and character, those are the horns I've be looking at.
 

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Someone said a 10M is tricky to play in tune. The 10Ms I've owned, which is about a dozen mostly 1950s-1960s models, have all been on-pitch throughout their range. I believe their general reputation supports my view. My guess is the tricky one was simply poorly set up.

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Well, if you insist on playing a tiny-chamber grass cutter duck call mouthpiece on a 10M, so that you have to pull the thing clear off the neck and solder a half inch extension on, just to have a chance of some of the notes being in tune, yeah, you'll have some wonky intonation. So don't do that.

Honest to God, in all my years of playing saxophone I think the only horn I've come across with an actual intonation problem, not a user errror problem or a problem of using a grossly wrong mouthpiece design, is my C soprano with a wicked sharp low Bb and every other note dead on.

I think part of the problem is that people turn on the electronic tuner, set the horn to a middle G, and then freak out when some far distant note is 5 or 10 cents sharp or flat. With all the compromises in the design of every.single.saxophone.ever.made! you can't have every note spot on by instrument design alone.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks again for all the responses. Seems to be good arguments both ways. Never thought of the Martin Indiana before, most people talk about the Committee models. I'm trying to remember how I liked the Super20. From what I remember it sounded really sweet, didn't have the ease of playing keywork compared to a new Yamaha, so as I was starting out there was more effort needed in that respect. I wouldn't say it was a beginner horn but again it had that nice warm tone and I think I got it for 1/2 of what they sell now. Whatever I buy it will have to be set up and good to go for some time.
 

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OP - here's a SOTW article from Pete Hales that may be of interest to you: https://www.saxontheweb.net/Resources/BestVintageSax.html.

(from the article)
Reason #1 not to buy a vintage sax: you're a beginner ("Vintage horns can have odd intonation tendencies . . . .")

Reason #2 not to buy a vintage sax: parts and repair (important to you per your first post)

Reason #3 not to buy a vintage sax: handmade construction ("This necessarily means that the intonation and "feel" will vary from horn to horn.")
---
If you're intent on spending your whole $1200 budget and want something finer than a beginner horn, you could also look at some older professional models from modern makers: a YTS-61 or Yanagsiawa El Dorado, for example. Good luck!
I think Saxydude outlines it pretty well here in presenting an argument for staying away from the vintage horns. I would also add ergonomics to that list. As I've gotten older I've developed arthritis in my hands and I can attest to the fact that the more modern horns are more comfortable for me to play.
 

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I personally don't think you can beat a Buffet Super Dynaction. All the great sound (which to me is vintage) with modern ergos. I've tried the Yamaha 52s and agree you might as well play a 23 or a Vito copy. They are good. But not inspiring like the Buffet, which can be had in your price range. I also think a pro-level horn takes and holds adjustments better than the student horns.
 

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I've had new horns and old horns....all make and models over the last 53 years....I go with the horns that give me the sound I want and love. With that said...my tenor is a 1922 Truetone...tok some getting used to, but now the moderns feel weird to me. My alto is a 1960 King Cleveland...to me...that's a modern horn ;) Just my personal preference. And that's what matters...I'm playing the horn...not someone else.
 

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Started playing tenor sax many, many years ago. I lucked out and had a great deal on a King Super 20 which I loved to play. Was mostly a beginner about to reach intermediate level, then long story short tragedy struck and I had to sell my horn and I never got back into playing since. Now I want to play again and I realize that I'm pretty much starting ground zero. My budget is roughly about $1000-$1200 USD at the moment. The horn I buy will be a keeper for at least 2 years. Also a consideration is that the horn I buy will have to be sent away for any repair or adjustment as I live rather remotely at the moment, so would like to avoid frequent tune-ups.

Part of me is thinking a used Yamaha student or intermediate tenor is the best way to go, another part of me wonders if I can do just as well with a vintage horn and get something I'll likely keep forever. On the vintage side I was looking at Martin, Buescher, maybe a Conn though the prices seem to be a bit out of my range. At any rate, looking for advice. Should I just get a lower end Yamaha and wait a few years before considering a better horn or should I shoot for a vintage that will serve me well for time to come?
I'm still a beginner; although, I've been through a few horns. First off; I bought my used YAS 23 and YTS 23 from a local music store and having bought it there, I can pay for a full warranty on any instrument I buy from them. Also; they go over the instruments before they sell them. I don't know if you have the same option. The Yamaha 23s are great horns and you can grab one fairly cheaply. That being said; I've upgraded my YTS 23 to a YTS 62III (with an Ottolink Tone Master Metal 5* MPC) and I'm loving it! I didn't have an alto anymore; but, I found something on Craigslist that I couldn't pass up. I now have a Buescher True Tone alto from 1929 and I believe it has great potential. The man wanted $350. I paid $250 (CAD). I hope people realize that products are much more expensive in Canada than in the US. I took the sax to a tech who frequently works on these and he is going to get it into "excellent playing state" for another $500! This horn has many leaks and mechanical problems; yet I can actually play it (however; it's quite difficult) and I can tell, even in it's current condition that the tone is awesome! I've cleaned up the sax quite a bit and I'm anxious to hear what I can do with it once it's fixed up!
BTW: The tech also told me that he could do a full restore for around $2000, but that it wouldn't be worth it; which makes sense; although, I do have a piece of history here. Later on; if I ever come into some money...who knows!
 

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Just one thing. There is a vast difference in the quality of the sound you will get on a vintage Buescher Crat II or III or the Martin compared to YTS 52, 23. The Yamaha sounds like a plastic toy compared to them, not necessarily to the audience but to you as you experience the sound directly. Yes, it is a modern horn with modern keywork but comparing them head to head I could not get any joy from the YTS 52.
+1!

PorkpieHat, you say you played a Super20 in the past and liked it's 'sweet tone.' I've play-tested a few Super20s and thought they came very close to my ' 49 Buescher Aristocrat 156 tenor, but still preferred the Buescher. Martins also have a great tone quality, but I don't have much experience with them. I can say my Buescher gives the MKVI (my main horn) a real run for it's money.

So, I'd recommend a Buescher Aristocrat (pre-Selmer buyout, '40s- early '50s) or a Martin, way over a YTS 52 or 23. And I think you could get one in the range of $1200, or slightly more, in good condition. They are way undervalued in terms of market value, imo, so are a real bargain, even at up to $2000. I wouldn't hesitate to pay that for an Aristocrat in top condition, if I didn't already have one.
 

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+1!

PorkpieHat, you say you played a Super20 in the past and liked it's 'sweet tone.' I've play-tested a few Super20s and thought they came very close to my ' 49 Buescher Aristocrat 156 tenor, but still preferred the Buescher. Martins also have a great tone quality, but I don't have much experience with them. I can say my Buescher gives the MKVI (my main horn) a real run for it's money.

So, I'd recommend a Buescher Aristocrat (pre-Selmer buyout, '40s- early '50s) or a Martin, way over a YTS 52 or 23. And I think you could get one in the range of $1200, or slightly more, in good condition. They are way undervalued in terms of market value, imo, so are a real bargain, even at up to $2000. I wouldn't hesitate to pay that for an Aristocrat in top condition, if I didn't already have one.
Coming from the position of the OP several years ago and while I agree with JL and Sakshama, I will say, easier said than done. Getting a Buescher or Martin for the budget of $1200 that doesn't need some work is going to be tough. I would definitely shoot for $2000 if I was to budget for a vintage horn so that I could have money for an overhaul.

I bought my Buescher Aristo from Sakshama and proceeded to put in an $800 overhaul (new pads) to get it playing to the level I wanted. I was really lucky to find a local tech that played an Aristocrat tenor willing to take care of it for me and he was a part-time "retired" tech. All the other techs wanted to grind out the key cup spuds. Be prepared to over-invest in a vintage horn because they often need maintenance to get the best sound out. Several other "playing" vintage (Conn, Martin) horns passed through my hands and I learned it is not easy to get a good one. You mostly get what you pay for and I would pay that all again for the Aristocrat I have now. I would have just skipped the other 5 vintage horn purchases that didn't pan out.

IMHO: If you just want to learn to play and have $1000-$1200 to spend, chances are better finding at a modern horn (Japan or Taiwan) that plays well at that price. Otherwise, happy hunting!
 
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