From the moment you pick it up, this gold plated Mauriat alto sax feels right. The way the weight is distributed evenly across the instrument, the position of the palm keys, the solid action and a superb factory setup give the player bags of confidence together with a real feel good factor. Like all Mauriat horns, the build quality is second to none with solid joints (particularly at the head) and strong, well balanced springs. The 67RG comes with rolled tone holes that make the notes pop out clearly and precisely – the intonation on our sample was spot on. This horn blows so easily it’s untrue. The tone is clean and centred, while the unlacquered gold plating produces a bright sound but with a tremendous warmth and depth. The flexibility in the sound dynamics is also really. I particularly liked the positioning of the table keys that gave easy access to the low Bs and Cs, while at the other end we found that the faultless action of the palm keys made the high notes really easy to pitch. The instrument is supplied with a quality Mauriat hard rubber mouthpiece and a couple of Rico Royal reeds and comes in a preformed Pro-Tec zippered semi-hard case, with a useful large zippered front pocket, optional shoulder strap and “grab” handle.

The Selmer ‘La Vie’ range hails from the American Conn connection and is a superb example of quality Taiwanese workmanship. OK, this isn’t a Parisien peach, but it does have a lot to shout about! The ‘La Vie’ range covers both Alto and Tenor instruments, the AS/TS 250 combines a red brass neck, body and bow with a yellow brass bell, while the AS/TS 240 features a bronze neck, body and bow with a similarly attached yellow brass bell.

Coming with high Gs, the overall setup of these instruments is very similar to the 80s Mk2 with Mk3 palm keys. Our Alto samples had a very solid feel and were well built with superb attention to detail. The key action on both instruments was very positive with firm springing and no “clanking”, although our bronze model was a little “foggy” through the bottom C to G. Both the AS250 and AS240 had good intonation and were easy to play. However, we found the AS240 Bronze a mite too bright for the sound that is normally associated with bronze bodied instruments, its overall colours more suited to a classical palette. By contrast, the red brass AS250 shone like a beacon, with a more flexible sound and great dynamics right through the range from pianissimo to fortissimo - there was generally a lot more guts to this instrument – a true jazzer!

This solid looking tenor sax from American ‘Antigua Winds’ is aimed squarely at the music student/semi-professional market. With a key work setup that is as close as you’ll get to the Selmer Series 2, it is a superbly built instrument with a very responsive and solid action. The well finished top post and the excellent octave mechanism contribute to the overall quality feel, while certain details, such as the strong springs and metal rather than plastic reflectors in the pods – a sure sign of a good resonator – give further weight to the Antigua’s classy credentials. This horn has also got great dynamics and the tuning isn’t bad either, with our sample effortlessly hitting middle and top Eb in tune. The tone is in the easy/ mellow vein, but has an edge that will please the hard bopper. Coming with an excellent padded strap, a 4C generic mouthpiece and a medium 3 reed, the whole kit is packed into a high quality preformed ABS case with key locks and top and side handles.

Rico have recently come up with a novel pocket sized way to store your reeds in a humidity controlled environment. Using toughened plastic click/lock air tight cases incorporating Rico’s reed/vitaliser Humidity Control Pack, there are two storage solutions. The reed case stores up to eight reeds and is the ideal gigging companion, while the reed vault with its storage capacity of up to 25 alto reeds or 15 tenor reeds provides the perfect touring package. The interchangeable Humidity Control Packs are effective for up to three months and come in three different moisture levels: low, medium and a ready to roll high. Horn heaven!

This black lacquer beauty has a build quality to take your breath away and comes in a solid, well padded, plush lined lightweight leatherette case with reinforced corners, together with top and side handles and an adjustable shoulder strap for added convenience. Coming with both curved and straight necks, it offers the player maximum flexibility in any given situation. The curved neck clearly gives a darker character to the tone, while the straight option produces a cleaner, more clinical tone. Finger positioning throughout is good, but we particularly liked the positioning of the palm keys, which facilitated a precision and ease of playing to this section of the instrument.

Our sample 875EX was in tune, with the notes popping out just fine, with excellent sub-tones in the lower register, although we did find the bottom table C – Bb a little hard to get, but this was probably down to the springing needing to be taken out a little. Intonation was excellent, as was the instrument’s harmonic capability. The 875EX is very smooth and easy to play and is clearly aimed at the professional and semi-professional market. With it’s slightly shrill tonal character and its apparent lack of ability to “move sound around”, it won’t be to every player’s taste. However, the 875EX would seem particularly well suited to ensemble situations, where tone matching through a range of instruments is paramount.

 

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