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Choosing a bass sax

Hello oh wise bass sax heads. I come to you with the age old question. I'm trying to decide between a vintage Series 2 buescher true tone bass in amazing condition or a zetland bass which a friend of mine says is a amazing horn. The zetland is another Chinese horn that has been modified to play well. On one hand I wouldn't be paying a huge amount for zetland around $6500 CAD it is high f# and comes with a pillinger mouthpiece. HOWEVER has to be shipped from the UK. The buescher is 2000 more but I can drive to it and try it out and take it home so I choose. I have heard the sound from a vintage bass is truly unmatched but I am worried about the difficulty of the vintage bass and the issues they have. I'd love to hear your guy's opinions and what pros and cons you may see. Hope to hear from you guys.
Thanks
Danial
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I don't trust Chinese-made saxophones. They don't have a track record for surviving long. Besides, $2000 CAN is like $1.50 US, right?

Being slightly more serious, $8500 CAN is around $6500 US. That's around average for a bass in good shape. If it really is in "amazing" shape, I think I'd go for that. I also like the opportunity to test before buying. $6500 is the price of a decent used car and you test drive those before buying.

I'm not going to get into the discussion of tone/timbre/whatever. That's more an opinion thing than a concrete thing. I just think that if you store and maintain that Buescher properly, it's probably going to last you another 100 years. @Helen has a lot more info on basses, so I'd say that her opinion would be more definitive.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I am going to sit this one out Pete. ;) Seriously, there is some bias here.

That said, yes, Chinese-made bass saxophones are not the best, but it all depends on what you do with them.

The one I tried and wrote the review on had potential. Since these all come from the same company--if they are vintage American-style bass saxophones, they are made by Jinyin--they are all going to be suffering from similar issues. For $1,000 or so a tech can fix it up for you an you would have a decent sax that is a hell of a lot easier to play than a vintage Buescher or Conn.

If bass is not your primary saxophone, then it would definitely be worth considering. Quite frankly, I would.

When I bought my bass 20 years ago the bass sax renaissance had not yet begun. These new Asian-made horns that are Selmer and vintage American style clones are a direct response to the demand for bass saxes created by people like Steve Weinart and Paul Coats (founders of the bass sax co-operative), sites like mine--that was originally created as a resource tool for vintage bass sax owners--and the gradual swell of people who caught the bass sax bug over the past 20 years.

Although this goes counter to everything my website specializes in--and everything I personally own--I have no problem telling people the truth. Vintage saxophones are not for everyone, and quite frankly, bass saxophones are no exception to that rule. As I said in my review of of the Jinyin-made bass:


Playing my bass is a major workout. Now that’s not a bad thing when I was doing it daily, and gigging with it regularly. However, now that I don’t play it in a band anymore, whenever I do go to use it, getting used to it again is always a matter of getting into a certain head space. I basically have to toss away most things I know about saxophone playing, and play the bass like it was its own instrument.

That’s what I appreciated about this cheap Chinese horn. I didn’t have to leave saxophone-land and enter bass-land. I could just play this Jinyin-made bass like I would any other saxophone. Sure, it needed a lot more air, but I could use my bis Bb fingering, and play up to high F without using altissimo fingerings.

For a casual bass sax player who plays 3 to 4 gigs a year, and is not putting the horn through heavy use, this Jinyin-made bass sax may well be a viable option.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Although I'm in a lot of bands and ensembles I am certainly not a professional, nor do I play one on TV. I started with a Buescher that was a lovely instrument and I tweaked it adding a spit valve, shortened neck, and special mouthpiece. But I was unable to get the sound and reliability where I needed it to be. (See threads about getting the D2 to speak, etc.) So I ended up spending some inheritance on an Eppelsheim bass keyed to low A. What a player, but as I age out it gets harder and harder to justify. And there are precious few gigs for it. BTW, that sax cost more than 90% of US people's cars. Just sayin ...
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Your Buescher bass was a very nice horn Gandalfe. I really liked it. The way Paul had it set it, it always played nicer than mine. (That's what you get when you have a tech who is a real bass sax player.) ;)

Since I can't remember exactly how it played--and I am working on 12 years ago memory--I can't swear to this on a stack of Bibles, but... It strikes me that a vintage bass that was set up by Paul would play better than the Jinyin one I tried. Now, to be fair, we would have to compare apples to apples and have Paul set up a Buescher and a Jinyin and then compare.

At the end of the day though, if I was playing a bass regularly for $$ again, I would just spring for an Eppelsheim--sans low A. What Benedikt has done with the mechanics and design is superior to anything done since A. Sax invented the instrument. Should I ever get a chance to go home again, I will contact Benedikt and see about taking a trip to Munich. All his designs are the most amazing and revolutionary that I have seen in modern saxophones--oh, and then there is of course the contrabass bassoon and clarinet.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Oh no!!! Well so much for getting my bass there some day... I must say though, I am happy for him. I wish him lots of happy bass playing days ahead!
 
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