... in several parts, as I get to it, edit stuff and add pictures.
Several months ago, poster CE Winds (from CE winds) said that he'd ship me an alto to test out. After an initial shipping problem -- probably their dispatch folks saw a new horn invoice for $0 and then halted the shipment process -- I picked up a brand spankin' new Alpha Series alto saxophone from the USPS this morning. Took all of three days to get here, so not bad.
I do want to mention that, while I have had some things sent to me for review, they've never been new instruments. Couple old ones from a business thing I was attempting to work out and some CDs, but not new saxophones. New shiny = happy Pete. I'm mildly disappointed it wasn't a bari, though. (I know, I know: easy horn to damage.)
* Make/Model: CE Winds Alpha BL.
* Made in China. I'll confirm this when I unwrap the horn.
* Price: $749, on the price tag. Currently $699 on the CE Winds website.
* Eb alto, lacquer finish.
* Target audience: student to intermediate; back-up horn.
* Form fitting, semi-rigid case that has several different straps/handles for however you want to carry it, including backpack straps.
* Two included mouthpieces: a no-name one that feels plastic, with a Rovner-like ligature (rubber strap with metal interior) -- the CE Winds website says it's supposed to be hard rubber -- and a CE Winds "Gold Genesis" metal one with metal ligature ($129). Comes with three mouthpiece caps (one metal, two plastic) and an extra metal ligature (one of the metal ligs was ... not exactly round, so it's good there's an extra).
* Reed (Fred Hemke, 2.5), plastic tweezers (I don't know why. If it's for springs, a plastic crochet hook would be better), polishing cloth and decent-looking neck strap included. Oddly, no cork grease.
There's also a nice care guide with instructions on how to remove the packing corks, an inspection checklist and the warranty paperwork, that looks like it's signed in real ink. A nice touch, IMO.
I have not gotten that far with the horn, yet. I just unpacked it and took pictures (which I'll eventually post); I haven't even unwrapped the horn. Based on quick visual inspection, it looks like a Selmer S80 clone. This isn't bad because I'll be testing it against my wife's 1981 Selmer Omega, which was Selmer USA's pro horn and plays like a happy medium between the Mark VII and S80. I'll also pit it against my memories of the several Yamaha 23s and 52s I've owned or borrowed. I'll also try the mouthpieces, just for G Whiz, but I'm probably going to most of my testing with my Rascher, as that's the one I normally use. My wife will test with her old C*. I've also got a fancy Korg electronic tuner that says I play mostly dead-on in tune on my wife's horn, so I'll use that for play testing.
If you take a look at that other CE Winds thread, they want to compare the Alpha alto to the Yamaha 475. That means that I have fairly high expectations. However, I'll still be happy if it plays up to a Yamaha 23, as you can buy a CE Winds alto and tenor AND have some extra cash left over for the price of a YAS-23.
If there's any feature anyone wants me to specifically check/look at, please post.