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Buffet SDA with transitional S-1 keywork Tenor, A review.

I was on the search for a great Tenor at a price that a local pro player could afford As many of you already know, finding a 5 digit mark VI isn't the problem, paying for one is. I did the research and got very lucky. I found my S-1 on ebay from a local seller, and was able to play the horn before I bought. $2050.00 later, It was mine. This saxophone, though marked super-dynaction, is definately a true S-1 in every fashion. I have read a couple of different revies, and I don't think they give this horn the respect it deserves.

The first thing I want to talk about here is the bottom end of the horn. It has a much bigger core sound to the bottom end that any mark vi I have played. The bell keys are so easy to subtone, and with the right mouthpiece, its butter. The intonation of the horn is the second thing I will touch on. It plays absolutely in tune, period. Buffet has made high end classical instruments for over a century, they get it. Keywork is the third important thing on this horn. The rollerless Eb to C has been praised and panned. I will admit that it was strange at first. Once you get used to it, its really much faster. The left hand pinky cluster is the real killer though. It just flies. I still think the mark vi has the best overall feel of any horn on the planet, but the pinky table on the S-1 is unbeatable. It is set at the perfect angle to meet your pinky and is set away from the body just right for my hands. The keyboard feels bigger than the VI, but the tone is very comparable. The high end of the Buffet is very close to the VI, with a slight edge going to the mark VI. They both have the French sound to be sure.

The only place where the Buffet lags behind a bit is overall build quality. The build quiality isn't bad at all. The mark VI, and most modern tenors have ribbed construction, while the buffet is post to body. Its no big deal, but certainly not as durable. The bell brace, while it might resonate very well, is not nearly as sturdy as most other horns. I can also see trouble for an S-1 that takes a hard hit to the Eb to C keys or the pinky table. They are unique, and would require custom fabrication to make compatable parts, because I'm almost certain that replacement parts would be nearly impossible to find.

These build issues aside, I wouldn't trade this horn for anything I have played before. I guess I can't walk into anything or treat the horn like a mexiconn. I don't throw my horn around anyway. Most pro players treat their horns better than they treat their ladys.

What it boils down to is every horn out there has its strengths and weaknesses. The buffet S-1 is a classic example of the French sound. The intonation is what you would expect from a French tenor too. It has that centered core tone. Its not spread like a super 20 or a tophat and cane. The buffet is not a raunchy rock horn or a surf saxophone. It is a soloists horn to be played in a trio or quartet. Its accurate, sweet and easy to play, but does have plenty of attitude when pushed and with a RPC mouthpiece, has enough juice to keep pace with the best horns made, because the S-1 is in my opinion is in that catagory itself.

I played the S-1, along with 3 other tenors side by side. It was my Buffet, a Buescher TH&C, a The Martin, and a 200,000 range mark VI. The THC was far and away, the best rock horn I have ever played. It had that raunch. the sound was spread, rather than centered. It was the first THC I have played, VERY NICE. The Martin was very good, but closer to the French horns, more centered. The VI was terrific and was fresh from a complete mechanical resto. These horns aint numero uno for nothing. I love the THC , but prefer the S-1 for its sweetness. The martin was sweet, but the S-1 ergos are so much better, and the mark VI, well is still the best of the bunch, but not by much, so close!!

The issue here is the value of the buffet. I paid 2K for the S-1, and it has 95 percent of its original lacquer. I would have to invest 4K on top of that to get a slightly better mark VI. I think the S-1 is the best value on the market right now. I have noticed that they have gone up in the last 6 months or so. They still can be bought all day for under 3K. You can buy a beaten down, over buffed and re-lacquered mark VI that needs an overhaul for 3K. Its a no brainer if you are like me and simply cannot afford the mark VI's. I think overall, the mark Vi is very slightly better, but not 4-6K better. The Buffet kills the mark VII, which is also a great value right now. If I had were wealthy and money was not an issue, I would buy a mark VI, but I would never sell the Buffet no matter how much money I had. In short (too late) I would take a serious look at the Buffet S-1.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I still can't call a horn that's specifically stamped "SuperDynaction" an S1. I need someone to actually make some bore measurements and show me that the necks are the same as other standard S1s. I also have to look at the horn's overall tuning standard and see if it's A=442hz. If all those check out, I'd call it an S1. Until then, it's a transitional SDA.

From reading the reviews of Buffet horns, particularly at places like http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews.htm, it appears that the newer the Buffet, the less pleased you'll be with it. It seems possible that, if you consider the Mark VI the pinnacle of Selmer design, the SDA was the pinnacle of Buffet design.


Staff member

Thanks for that great post. Even though I play a Mark VI I do believe that there are much better values out there.
Hey Pete,
You have some great questions. The neck on my tranny s-1 is absolutely the same as the true s-1. The upper and lower stack keys on the standard sda are inline, while the key work on the tranny and the s-1's are offset like the selmer mark vi. The original sda's play much darker than do the s-1's and trannys. I'm not saying they are better than anything else out there, I just think that they are another option for a great pro saxophone for less that 4-6k. The horn I have is perfect for me because I am comfortable on it and have worked with it. I still maintain that the mark vi keyboard is the best except for the pinky cluster and the Eb-C, which the s-1 kills all competition. There happens to be an S-1 tenor on ebay right now for a great starting bid. I think the horn can be had for under 2k considering its tax time. A saxophone that will kill any series II or III selmer for under 2k. Cheers.
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