7. Student vs. Intermediate vs. Professional Instruments

Discussion in 'General Information' started by pete, Dec 25, 2010.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I've mentioned in other threads that you should buy a decent horn. However, some companies have an extremely large spread of instruments. Let's take Yamaha's alto saxophones, for instance:

    2x = Student model (23 or 25, depending on the market).
    AD01 (Advantage): Slightly reworked model 23s for the education market.
    275 = Student model. Improved version of the 2x models.
    475 = Intermediate model (called "32" in some markets).
    34 = Advanced intermediate model (w/improved neck).
    575 Allegro = Advanced intermediate model (w/improved neck and bell).
    62II = Machine-made professional model.
    82Z = Custom-made professional.
    875 = Custom-made professional.

    Just typing all that made me weary. It makes me want to go to MY instructor and say, "Can you pick one out for me, please?"

    In the Yamaha camp, the difference between the student model (23) and base professional model (62II) is extremely large. However, the difference between their intermediate horn (475) and base professional model isn't: yes, the 62II is demonstrably better than the 475, but is it worth the additional 30%? Let's put it this way: I bought Yamaha's intermediate baritone saxophone over their professional model because I didn't think that it was worth the difference in price. (The price differential between the Yamaha 52 and Yamaha 62 baritone saxophone is now over 50%, by the way.)

    So, let's talk student vs. intermediate. The difference in price between Yamaha's 23 alto and the 475 alto is a little less than 10%. Pay 10% more for a horn that gives the (base) pro model a run for it's money? Sign me up!

    In other words, there is no compelling reason to buy ANY new Yamaha student model instrument over a Yamaha intermediate model instrument. Seriously; I checked prices for a variety of instruments. The most ridiculous is that a Yamaha 23 student tenor sax is MORE than a Yamaha 475 intermediate tenor sax.

    YMMV for other makes. All I'm trying to say is that you really should check into the price differentials -- which is why I've mentioned percentages instead of $ amounts, above. It's very possible that company X's intermediate model isn't that much more than their student model.

    Finally, remember another part of what I mentioned in other threads: if you can get a discontinued model horn or a used horn that's overhauled and warrantied for a lower cost than new, there's no reason not to. Yes, it might not be as shiny, but you can't play the shine. You might even be able to get a professional model for less than the cost of a student horn. Do your research!

    =============

    Pricing info from wwbw.com, accessed Dec. 25, 2010. Merry holidays. Happy Christmas.
     
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  2. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Your breakdown of the Yamaha hierarchy of saxophones is excellent. I have played and worked on Yamaha's for years and learned a great deal from your piece.

    I am afraid you have opened a can of worms or Pandora's box (maybe Pandora's bait box) with this subject. The reason is that the lines of distinction between student, intermediate and professional saxophones that were so clear several years ago no longer exist.

    I remember back to when a student sax was a Bundy. An intermediate sax was a Signet, and a professional sax was a Mark VI. The Mark VI back then had features not found on the student saxes:

    -a detachable bell,
    -an rocker octave key assembly,
    -rib mounted posts,
    -bumper adjusting screws on key guards,
    -an adjustable thumb rest,
    -a large octave key thumb pad,
    -a ribbed detachable 3 point bell brace,
    -an adjustable G# lever,
    -a high F# (on some)
    -a fully tilting LH spatula with rollers
    -G#/Bis adjusting lever on a separate arm,
    -removable F# fork guard,
    -blue steel springs,
    -adjustable front F
    -removable Individual Key guards
    -low B to C# closing arm
    -beautiful engraving

    Today there are lots of "student models" from Asia with all of the above. Which raises the question of how does one define a "Professional Sax" in the current market? Is it by price? Is it whether or not professional players play and/or endorse the make and model? Is it by the quality of construction, materials, tone and intonation? Is it by their website and glitzy ads in trade magazines? Or is it by what people write on Sax On The Web when they buy a saxophone and write a "review" to impress their friends?

    I for one, really don't know the answer. I know which brands and models have "traditionally" been dubbed the "professional" models, but now there are so many more that the lines are blurred and it is impossible to keep up.
     
  3. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Oh, I luv that quote.
     
  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I'm quotable! I dunno if that's good or bad :D.

    Going back to JBT's cooments, the Bundy, Signet and Mark VI saxophones, were made by two different companies: the Bundy and Signet were made by Selmer USA (formerly Buescher) and the Mark VI was made by Selmer Paris. Significant difference between the two companies! This is true for some other companies, too. As an example, Keilwerth had a student model, the ST90, made in the Republic of China (ROC), an intermediate model, the EX90, made by Amati (Czech) and a professional horn, the SX90, made in Germany (that's where the Keilwerth plant is). Of course, as Keilwerth was sold to Buffet a couple months ago, this could easily have changed.

    Along the same lines, Yamaha has moved some of their student model production to their Indonesia plant. The thing to note, though, is it's a Yamaha plant (as far as I can tell), not a different company.

    Back to the discussion of features, they aren't necessarily the end-all, be-all. It's still how the horn plays that's important. However, some features CAN make a difference. Going back to Yamaha, their 52 intermediate saxophones have a 2-piece bell and the 62 has a one piece. In practice, that means that the response on the bell notes (say, C#, C, B, A#, A) is marginally better on the 62 than on the 52. Additionally, the 62 has sculpted mother-of-pearl key inserts that are "lapped" into the key. The 52 has your standard plastic key inserts. In practice, that means the 62 has a somewhat nicer overall feel. The 62II now has a completely redesigned neck and that CAN make a significant difference. However, you're comparing the intermediate models to the base professional models. You've gotta remember that the pro models are 30 to over 50% more than the intermediate models. And that a beginning student might not even notice the differences.

    Using Yamaha saxophones, still, the 23 looks almost completely different than the 475. The 475 almost a completely different design from the 23 and the design of the 475 is closer to the professional model (62) than it is to the student model.

    So, I again encourage folks looking to buy new to look at any company's intermediate model. It might be an extremely good horn for not much more than the student model.

    ===============

    What defines "professional quality"? That's a topic we've discussed in a different thread.
     
  5. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    monkey wrench ..... I do believe the 82Z has a 2 piece hydroformed bell .... and I don't think it's in the beginner/intermediate arena.

    Of course this is for alto, tenor ... from here http://208.95.77.77/thesaxinfo/?p=190 they guy actually looked at the parts list for each horn and based his conclusion that the 82 had parts from the 62 (sans the tubes i assume). YMMV
     
  6. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Can someone define the difference between a one piece bell and a two piece bell? I am not familiar with those terms. Thanks.
     
  7. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    2 piece is two halfs put together - thus two seams

    one piece is completely molded into a tube from a flat sheet and has one seam
     
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    here's an example of trumpets .. but scroll down to the bell section and they show 1 piece and 2 piece as they are being made

    http://www.zacharymusic.com/Zachary_Music/Factory.htm

    oops .. not a good example because their two piece has the bell flare separate from the bell stem .... but neat pictures non-the-less
     
  9. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Hardy har har.

    :p

    The interesting thing is how MANY of the parts are shared. I had a person e-mail me about what "beginner" horn he should buy, yesterday. I had just gotten off a webpage where a Yamaha 575 Allegro was being sold by a respectable dealer for $1200 -- slightly less than what the person wanted to pay for a student horn.

    I told him that if he really wanted a horn that'd last through
    his entire playing career, he should get that 575. He thought that was a good idea, but wanted to know how difficult the parts were to get, as the 575 isn't terribly common. No worries. According to the Yamaha parts list, the only major part that's different between the 575 and 62II is the body. And I betcha that the only difference is the brass composition, as Yamaha has moved to their new "French brass" blend for their pro horns.

    OK, I'm starting a new unfounded rumor: the "French brass" blend Yamaha uses in their pro horns is made from melted down Mark VIs. Make sure you tell people this!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2010
  10. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    Oh you're a bad, bad man Mr. Pete Hales. :emoji_rage: :emoji_smile: No wonder I like you! :)
     
  11. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Thanks, Helen.

    I'm thinking of ways of distributing this rumor. I'll know it was effective when I see an ad on eBay in the form of, "Yamaha YAS-62II for sale. Has the French brass -- made from melted down Selmer Mark VIs!"
     
  12. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    that's ok, the german manufacturers that use french brass obtain it from mk VIs

    in the Yamaha factory tour they say imported french brass has the normal copper, etc mixture but also has impurities in it.
     
  13. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    You're calling a Mark VI impure?

    :p
     
  14. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Now, I'm not buying into this, but a truly great repair tech (RIP) with whom I worked once said,

    "I think Yamaha is sending back the brass we shot at them."
     
  15. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    But of course it's impure. Remember, it was made of discarded shell casings that littered the French countryside after WWII.

    And don't forget I postulated--while heavily medicated--a couple of years ago that during WWII when metal was being collected for the war effort, that the then unused bass saxophones were turned in. Hence they were turned into shells...

    See where I'm going with this? Old American bass saxophones turned into shell casings that eventually littered the French countryside that were turned into Mark VIs. So in fact, Mark VIs aren't French at all, they're American. So they're not pure French, and not American. And exactly where did the brass come from? Nothing pure here at all. :emoji_astonished:

    And hey, this is printed on the Internet, so we know it's gotta' be true. Right? :???: :emoji_smile: :emoji_smile:
     
  16. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    There you guys go shooting your mouths off with illecit facts. Just remember one fact from this ... The better the engraving the better the horn plays.
     
  17. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Let's get back to the topic, shall we? Can someone explain the difference between beginning brass shell casings, intermediate brass shell casings, and professional brass shell casings? Is it worth it to spend a bit more for the intermediate rather than the student grade casings? What about the resale value to reloaders? Is a buffed and polished professional shell casing worth less to collectors and reloaders than a dull and scratched one?

    It is questions of this caliber that this discussion is lacking.
     
  18. retread

    retread

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    Beginning: 75 mm
    Intermediate: 105 mm
    Professional: 155 mm
    Custom: 8 inch
     
  19. saxplayer1004

    saxplayer1004

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    oh I love you guys...


    Yamaha's Hierarchy scares me...

    I wish it was back in the old days where companies made one caliber horn, beginner, intermediate or pro and that was that... Keilwerth does it now, and it's easy to see the differences, but with Yamaha like you guys have said, most people can't tell the difference sonically between a 475 and a 62 or a 62 and an 82z. The 82z feels awesome, and the 475 seems a little clunky in comparison, but sonically they are rather similar imho. I have a 62 bari, but if I was buying new, I couldn't justify the price difference between a 52 and a 62...

    Used horns FTW!!!
     
  20. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    They'd have to be really old days. Conn, for instance, started their second line (Pan American) around 1917 (patent date is 1915). Even before that, you could get a basic brass horn and then talk about upgraded/additional keywork, a host of finish upgrades and engraving upgrades -- which, as has been mentioned, make your horn sound MUCH better. The other fun thing is that some companies also produced "starter" saxophones based on the A. Sax design (with reduced keywork and keyed range) up until and during WWII.

    Keilwerth is a very good example of student/intermediate/pro because the three models were made by different companies, as I mention above. However, if you go back before the SX90 was on the scene, you had several models of New King and Toneking. Is a New King EX better than a standard Toneking? Is an H-Couf Superba I better than the Superba II? I proved that Superba Is and IIs randomly had rolled tone holes, after all.

    The sonic differences in any saxophone are either a) so minute as to be untestable, b) caused by the player, himself, c) are only apparent to other saxophone players or d) are non-extant. I'm not talking about sonic difference in choosing a Yamaha 475 over a Yamaha 23 (say), I'm saying that the 475 is just a better horn for the money: it has a considerably better feature-set and is a horn that will retain more value. Is my tone significantly different on a Yamaha 23 than it is on a 52? Not especially. The 52's just nicer to play.
     

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