a By tenorviol
I bought a silver-plated Hanson ST8 just over 4 years ago(Oct 2012) from Hanson’s. It’s generally been fine. It’s had a light service every year. Two observations: it is ‘modelled’ on an older Selmer design e.g. No front F# key, and it is heavy. Ergonomically, I find the bottom Bb key a stretch (I can stretch a 10th on a piano just about) and pinkie table is a bit clunky.
Over time, I have found that the weight has been an issue so I moved to a Cebulla strap and more recently a Jazz Lab Sax holder, both of which help a lot. The other ergonomic issue is the palm keys which I find to be low and need too much wrist/hand movement.
Overall, the ST8 has been fine and a number of Cafe members have tried it and they got on pretty well with it – it does have a big sound.
I went to the RNCM sax day and Hanson’s were one of the trade stands. Chatted with Alistair and picked up the LX – it’s about half the weight of the ST8…
The LX is modelled on the Mk. VI (I have not knowingly heard a Mk. VI until I heard Andy Scott playing one last weekend. His is a battered 1950s specimen. He says it has a more focused sound than his modern Selmer). This means that amongst other things it has a thinner and therefore lighter bell, it has a front F# key as well, which the ST8 doesn’t have.
I went up to Hanson’s yesterday and spent about 3 hours there. They are very helpful. The main tech looked after me. I had booked ahead, so a pair of saxes were waiting for me to try. I was using Java green 3.0 reeds (Vandoren) on my Yamaha 5C mpc to start. The instrument is so much lighter. Much better ergonomics for me – palm keys much better position. The pinkie table is smaller and functions better. The whole action feels much tighter, slicker and responsive.
The Yamaha mpc did not sound good. I can’t remember the tech’s name, so TG (tech guy) popped head round door and asked if I had a more open mpc. I have a Meyer 5m and instant huge improvement – big sound (that’s the first time when I could seriously say I could hear a clear difference in the quality of sound between two mpcs). Played some pieces then switched to other sax and repeated.
To cut long story short, there was a very obvious difference between the two saxes: one blew more easily and had a better tone. TG took one away and double-checked it didn’t have a leak or similar, but nothing was evident. He could tell the difference from hearing me play as well. Huge caveat though is my playing is not sufficiently good that it can be regarded as sufficiently consistent or reliable to be neutral in the analysis process. But I think the differences here were obvious, even for one of my limited ability.
TG suggested I try some other mpcs (nothing like a bit of upselling… but to be fair I don’t think that was the motive I think it was a genuine attempt to try to hear the impact of different types). I tried several of Hanson’s own including a 6*, a 6* with a monster baffle, and a ‘vanilla’ 7*. The 6* with baffle was a monster. I couldn’t initially play that or the 7* with my normal reed. Tried a Fibracell briefly, but it was wrong strength and they didn’t have any others to hand. Tried a standard Blue Vandoren 2.0, which worked OK. The baffled 6* was loud and raucous and took some blowing. Then tried the 7*. I did struggle with the bottom end to start with. A bit of experimentation later and a Java 2.5 was a good match, enabling me to get the bottom notes out. With the 7* there was instantly a lot more colour to my sound.
Finally, having settled on one of the LXs, TG suggested trying other tenors in the shop for comparison. Tried a new ST8, an LX in bronze (bell), a Trevor James, and a Yamaha 275. The new ST8 has learnt from the LX and it is not as heavy as mine. The Y275 feels compact – fingers are all less spread out. I’ve only played one other Y and it was a 62, which was good. The 275 was OK but didn’t feel as open or responsive, also I think it’s relatively heavy. The TJ was OK, but not in the same class. They have some vintage horns for sale, but the interesting ones are all altos (various Mk. VIs, a Conn etc.) some reasonably priced and one or two more eye-watering.
At the end of that I re-tried the LX and I was still happy with it. So I bought it and the 7* mpc. This was a very good deal on both of those and the p/x deal on my ST8 was very good.
I was there for over 3 hours. I then drove more-or-less straight to MWO rehearsal, where it acquitted itself admirably – I’m already finding that it speaks much more readily in the lower end, despite my flawed technique (need to work on tongue position).
If anyone wants more info, please message me and we can have a chat.
I hope this has been useful for people.