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Vintage Soprano Saxophones
Q.  I currently play a Selmer Soprano Series 2.  Can you suggest a soprano that has a “warmer and or darker” overall tone?  If yes, can you tell me if the feel of that horn is like the Series 2 and, possible pricing.

A. The vintage sops have the tone characteristics you seek, however there will be a trade off in your mechanics. Martin, Buescher & Conn all produced wonderful sops in the early part of the 20th Century. Both curved and straight models are available. I prefer Conns myself, but have and play each of the others mentioned. King sops of the same era also have a great sound, but if you’re concerned with mechanics these are not up to the others — IMHO.

You may be a much better player than me, but I don’t find the mechanics of the vintage saxes, in general — sops in particular, objectionable. I don’t believe any good player would find these horns very restrictive in terms of technique. If you simply want to rip up and down your ax the target audience won’t care what you sound like. When you want to convey melodic feeling the vintage sops cannot be surpassed by the more modern instruments. Again, MHO … and that audience will know …

Condition is critical in pricing vintage instruments. Near mint horns command a premium, as do the ones with elaborate engraving and exotic plated finishes. These prime models can run $1,800 to well over $2,500. If you can live with brass or nickel finished horns, or perhaps a silver plated horn with some wear or repaired abuse, you can get a good playing example between say $1,200 and $1,800. There are also some stencil horns around that represent bargains in the vintage sop category. These instruments were built by the major manufacturers with other names, as per a re marketer’s request. They are essentially the same as the ‘real thing’, yet the prices run a bit less. All the prices quoted are retail. You may eventually find a restorable vintage sop in a junk store or pawn shop, but I suspect you might wear the tires on your auto out in the search — then you’re looking at $500 to $800 for a quality resto job. Find a dealer/restorer you trust, describe what you want to play and then let them recommend something from their stock. Save your tires for the big oval …

Additional Comments
The prices we mentioned above — both for instruments and their restoration — will obviously advance over time. We are seeing vintage sop prices on eBay go up significantly at this time (updated 1/30/05), and are experiencing strong demand for our restoration services, as well. Players are discovering the ample charms of vintage saxophones every day, so this is the time to acquire a great American vintage soprano saxophone for your own musical performance enjoyment. 

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