Disclaimer: I do not get paid or receive free instruments in return for reviews on this page.
Very Inexpensive Saxophones
Note that I’m not using the description “Cheap” saxophones. Although the models I intend to review in this category are cheap, many of them are only cheap in the sense of not costing as much as you might expect as opposed to the other sense of “cheap” that people use to mean poor quality.
I would feel absolutely perfectly happy taking this one out on a professional gig or session. These saxophones are quickly getting a very good reputation. The model I have for review is the AS-P (£616). So what does it sound like? After trying the Jericho I was intrigued to find out whether you get much more for the extra cost. I had previously tried one of these but that was several years ago, so I in order to make an on-the-spot comparison I got hold of another one. Certainly the difference is there, the sound seems to have as much of the vibrancy the Jericho has, but I would call it a wider, fatter sound. Where the Jericho reminds me very much of a Yamaha, this is more like a vintage Conn 6M (Naked Lady). Whether one or the other is better would be very much a matter of personal preference, however what I did find with the Bauhaus is that it seems to allow you to mould your own sound; to me it’s as if I can get the saxophone to give me more subtlety, something I would normally only expect on a very expensive saxophone. Even most of the intermediate priced Taiwanese instruments such as Cannonball, System 54 and many others don’t give you this kind of dynamic range and nuance.
N.B. this is identical to the cheaper AS-Y (£517), apart from the body material which is phosphor bronze. The body material makes no difference to the sound in my opinion, though some people may disagree. There is also a more expensive version, the Action Improved, which is built with good old fashioned point screws, something that most modern instruments don’t have. What this actually means is that as the instrument gets older, it’s very easy for a technician to take up any slack in the rods caused by wear. This is something that a lot of student horns probably don’t need, as by the time they start to wear, the owner will be looking for an upgrade, whereas the Bauhaus in my opinion is easily a horn you might like to keep for a long time and use professionally.
Intermediate Price Saxophones
I have tried many of these before and found that they are really very good horns, the company’s claims that they are equal to or better than any Selmer seems to me to ring a large bell of truth. At last year’s show I was very impressed with the 66RUL tenor, I tried it again and although it had that great big fat sound I remembered, the response did not seem to be as good as the 76NS (or the Inderbinen). I mentioned this to Mr Hsieh, the owner of P.Mauriat, who suggested I try a Magnum neck on the 66RUL. What an amazing difference, suddenly the whole instrument came alive and all the response (including great altissimo) of the 76NS was now there on the 66RUL.
Rampone & Cazzani
Probably the most expensive saxophone on the market, I had always been a bit sceptical as to whether this could really be worth what it costs. I had assumed anyone mad enough to part with that amount of money for a horn they can’t actually play in advance is only thinking of it as a status symbol. I first had the chance to play one at the Frankfurt Musikmesse exhibition last year, but only after three days of playing so many other horns my brain was completely “saxophoned out”. I really liked it then and was determined to try them again this year when I was feeling a bit less tired.
The first thing you notice is the finish. It is a kind of irregular matt brown colour, which I initially thought was a special kind of distressed lacquer finish that you often see these days, but it is actually bare brass that acquires the patina from a heating process, sort of a baked saxophone. This looks quite striking against the keywork which is mostly standard shiny lacquered keywork from Yamaha. The body itself is completely hand made in Switzerland.
This year at the exhibition I had the chance to try them quite extensively. On most saxophones extra harmonics are added to the tone as you blow louder, some of which are not quite in tune. With the Inderbinen, this does’nt seem to be the case and this in itself seems to allow you to play with better tuning overall, even at extremes of the dynamic range. For some people this could be a disadvantage if you are relying on a few imperfections or distortions on loud notes to add “character”. But, and this is the important thing to me, provided you are able to add that character yourself, you have a horn which is much more versatile. So I would say this is not a horn for beginners because although it’s incredibly easy to play, it does not “play itself” if what you want is the ultimate in expression, but, unlike any other horn, that is exactly what it can give you, provided you have what it takes to drive it.
I would have bought it on the spot if there was not an 18 month waiting list.
How to find a good saxophone review?
If you do a Google search for “Saxophone Reviews”, many of the pages you find will not be very useful, some “reviews” are just advertisements or promotional material disguised as saxophone reviews. The key elements that a saxophone review should include are tone (not just the basic sound but also consistency of tone throughout the range), intonation, ease of blowing, ease of fingering, ease of maintenance, build quality and cosmetics.
Currently I am only including a few “mini reviews”, but over the next few weeks or months I am hoping to post some reviews and comparisons of many different saxophones, please watch the site carefully or join the forum for details.