Vibrato-Polycarbonate-Alto-SaxophoneRemember the Grafton, that plastic bodied oddity from the 1950s that both Bird and Ornette had a fling with? Well, the Thais have come up with their own take on the ‘plastic’ saxophone, and like the Grafton, it’s cheap and it works. The Vibrato is the first standard Bb to F sharp saxophone to be built in its entirety – minus springs, rods and pads – from polycarbonate. The pads are made from non-toxic self-levelling silicone to ensure a soft, clean seal to the tone holes, while the rods are made from aircraft grade aluminium. Needless to say, this produces a very strong, but also an extraordinarily lightweight instrument. The spongy action takes a while to get used to, but when you’ve got the measure of it, the polycarbonate keywork works very well – although we felt that the octave key was a little high and the bottom end rather rattley. After a short trial with a 3 reed in the supplied white mouthpiece, we quickly realised that this instrument needs to be played with a softer reed, and opted for a Vandoren V16 21/2.

Intonation was fine and all the harmonics rang out clearly. The Vibrato has a very warm tone and we achieved a wonderfully effortless pianissimo over the lower register, but there is a distinct lack of power overall. No doubt this instrument will have trouble competing in a section, but as a solo voice it can offer a particularly unique and romantic sonic quality. Coming with its own strap and mouthpiece, it was never meant to replace or stand in for your Selmer, Conn, Mauriat et al. However, it has a sonic palette that could appeal to the more adventurous player and comes with a price tag that will leave you speechless!

For more go to www.sax.co.uk 

Yamaha-Custom-82Z-Soprano-SaxophoneThe 82Z embodies everything that we have come to expect from Yamaha, expert build, flawless finish – tangible tone. The gold lacquer (black lacquer and silver plated also available) finish on a one piece neck and body with a straight fixed crook (there is also a curved crook model), harks back to the much loved 62, which continues to be one of Yamaha’s most sought after sopranos. As you might expect, keywork is solid and dependable and the 82Z comes with some useful and subtle adjustments to key placement. The Eb key on the lower table is set slightly further away from the D key, which adds greatly to the playability in that area, while the palm keys are also larger and set at a more acute angle which aids the flow and functionality in the top register.

Fitting the supplied custom mouthpiece with its standard ligature and a Rico Jazz Select 3 reed, the 82Z proved to be a smooth and easy blower and beautifully even across the full range. Intonation was perfect and there was the usual Yamaha brightness to the overall sound. However, the 82Z has a depth and warmth to its sound that is really quite unique, particularly for an instrument with a straight crook – we wonder what levels of sweetness and warmth the curved crook model might produce. Having said that, it is still possible to coax dry, wiry “snake charmer” sounds from the straight crooked 82Z, which were particularly effective in the lower register. Shipped in a rectangular, hard shell, plush lined fitted case with a fine denier cover, double clasp locks and latch, two grab handles and substantial nylon feet to both the end and base of the case, this is a five star package that performs in every sense.

For more go to www.uk.yamaha.com

Odyssey-Premiere-Reeds-Woodwind-ReedsOdyssey has just released the Premiere Reed series to complement their recently launched Premiere series of woodwind instruments. Crafted from the finest French cane by one of the world’s leading reed manufacturer’s (on which we’re still laying bets!), these reeds have a balance, timbre and response that is really impressive and a texture that would seem to indicate longevity. No doubt cheaper than the branded product, they cover clarinet, alto sax and tenor sax and range in strength from 1.5 to 2.5.

For more go to www.jhs.co.uk 

Antigua-AS4230AQ-SaxophoneAntigua as a brand has been around for some time, but it’s only now that players are beginning to appreciate the qualities of this mid-range saxophone. The 4230 is typical of the marque – a beautifully finished, solid, easy blower. Our particular sample came with the Antique lacquer finish and certainly looked the part with the touch pieces inlaid with contoured abalone. The action was good, with the premium leather pads seated in the domed metal resonators, although we would have perhaps ideally lowered the D, E and F right hand keys. We particularly liked the layout of the top table which was solid and secure, while the positioning of the palm keys was perfect – at least it was for me! Using the house 4C mouthpiece with a Rico Jazz Select 3 1/2 reed, the immediate response was one of clarity and power – that large flare on the bell (they call it a PowerBell) really works. The 4230AQ has a lovely warm, rich tone and played over the full range with ease – particularly in the altissimo. There was plenty of scope

Antigua AS4230AQ saxophone in the dynamic range too. Balance and handling was also good with the adjustable contoured thumb rest being particularly useful. This horn is a real treat to play! Coming in the now ubiquitous, shaped, semi-rigid, plush lined, denier covered case, with a 3/4 zip, grab handles and strap, this particular model has seen some upgrades with two deep zippered front pockets and a harness cover made out of ribbed ballistic nylon.

For more go to www.bandm.co.uk

ANTIGUA-PRO-ALTO-PRO-1-SAXOPHONESAntigua Winds (as they used to be known) have been making quality ‘intermediate’ level saxes for many years and this move up to the pro market has been eagerly anticipated by both players and pundits alike, but there’s some heavyweight competition from the likes of Mauriat and Conn at this price point. Solidly built, the Pro 1 has the Antigua stamp of quality craftsmanship written all over it, from the Pisoni pads and the Peter Ponzol designed neck to the ‘hybrid’ rolled tone holes, which provide better contact on the lowest five bell keys. There are also a couple of interesting design details. The G sharp mechanism has a substantial ‘anti-flutter’ spring/ bar configuration similar to that of the Keilwerth SX90 and the side keys are set in a higher position that reflects the design of the Selmer Super 80 (not to every player’s taste!).

Setting up with a Rousseau JDX7 mouthpiece the Pro 1 had excellent intonation and a good dynamic range with an action that all but allowed the instrument to play itself. Much is made of the Vintage Reserve Alloy body material which is said to replicate the metallurgy and grain structure of the post war French saxophones – i.e. Selmer. The Pro 1 certainly has a warm, full, centered and well focussed sound and when required can deliver quite a bright tone with a defined edge. But it’s not exactly that rich, distinctive sound with the projection of a late-1940s/ early-50s Super Balanced Action.

Packed into a stylish semi-rigid, padded, shaped case covered in the highest quality 600 denier ballistic nylon with one small and one large outside pocket, hideaway back pack straps and a padded back cushion, it will be interesting to see if the Antigua Pro range proves to be as popular as it’s immediate competitors – or for that matter – its cheaper ‘intermediate’ stablemates. For more go to www.bandm.co.uk

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