Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: Chateau TYA-753ANE3 and TYA-760E3 Alto Saxophones

Recently I visited the home of my old friend who has been repairing and servicing my horns for nearly 31 years now. He had a great shop in New York City, but unfortunately, landlord greed and escalating commercial rents in New York forced him to close up shop, and now he works only out of his home and by appointment only.  He also trades, buys and sells many vintage saxophones and flutes. Occasionally, he will get slightly used new horns and sell them. He recently got hold of these two alto saxophones and said I had to try them, because he said I would be in for a pleasant surprise! He already had buyers for the horn, and so he wanted me to try them out before they left his home. Naturally, he tweaked them up, and when he fixes a horn, it will always play better, even if it's a cheap Chinese made horn with no name,  

The saxophones he had me look at are a brand named Chateau, made by the Tenon corporation in Taiwan. I believe that they also make the saxophones for the Steve Goodson models. For those of you who don't know Steve Goodson, he is a preeminent repair person based in New Orleans and sells his own line of top notch saxophones that he has designed, as well a complete line of accessories and all things related to saxophone.  I was aware of this brand for a while, but never had any opportunities to try out any of their horns because my shop didn't carry them, and I didn't know any other shop that had them, so I was looking forward to trying them. I always like to be on the lookout for professional grade horns that sell at intermediate prices. There are some great ones out there, but there are also those horns that have the look of a pro horn with all the embellishments, but still sound like student grade horns and are not very well made. It's always a joy to find a well-built professional grade saxophone that is moderately priced and plays and sounds as good or better as any saxophone double the price and with a prestigious name.

The two models he had were the Chateau TYA-753ANE3 with a vintage copper finish, and the TYA-760E3 which is solid nickel, both pictured above. I will review each one separately, but I will say right off the bat that just by the looks of them, they were stunning to see. Beautiful engraving all over, giving them a very classy look. Both saxophones were solidly built, sturdy and slick keywork, which of course was tweaked by my friend, but he said that he didn't have to do much tweaking, just a few adjustments here and there. I could not find a single little defect in the way the keys and posts were soldered to the body, and the finishes were clean and even throughout the vintage copper horn, the other being solid nickel, but even there, it was a satin finish and was perfect. Both saxophones have rolled tone holes like my old Conn and on various horns from P. Mauriat and some other new manufacturers. Rolled tone holes, as far as I'm concerned, seal the pads better and also allow the pads to have a longer life, because with rounded edges, they do not cut into the leather the way straight tone holes do. Also, these are tone holes rolled from the existing metal, not soldered on tone hole rings, which if not put on correctly can be warped or uneven and cause leaks in the horn. The only way to fix that is to remove the ring and put it back on, and that can be costly. They both had double arms for the Bb, B and low C keys, to keep these keys in better adjustment. They also have a G# stabilizer to keep the left pinky cluster in better adjustment. It did not look like any shortcuts were made to produce this horn. I was impressed with the looks and feel, now to get down to the meat and potatoes, which is the sound and playability!

 This saxophone is made with 93% copper content. Every horn I have ever played with a high copper content has always sounded richer, fuller and warmer than saxophones made from other materials. This horn was no exception. This was a joy to play. I prefer a darker, lusher tone on my altos, especially because I am especially fond of playing slow blues and ballads, and whenever I try out a horn, the first thing I always do is play these kinds of tunes because it gives me an immediate impression of its tonal and tone shaping capabilities. I used my usual setup, which is a Meyer 6M mouthpiece with Rovner dark ligature and LaVoz medium reed and also a Legere Signature 2 1/2 synthetic reed. I was completely blown away by the sound. Rich and lush, the kind of horn I can sink my musical teeth into. Even with my Legere synthetic reed, it maintained a full, rich tone. The key action was slick and sure. Of course my friend's adjustments helped, but like I pointed out earlier, he said he didn't have to do much with either of these horns. The action was fast and precise, and even when playing fast passages, the scale remain balanced and even throughout. Altissimo was a snap, without sounding ear splittingly shrill!  I can say without hesitation that this horn was as good as the best horns I've ever played. Projection was great, dynamic and tonal range impressive. This is a saxophone that can play many genres, although I think it's best suited for classical and jazz, but with a different setup, will probably be capable of playing pop and rock also. I can tell you that it is a great ballad horn. With precise key action and that full lush sound, I could make this horn sing, and sing it does. It is a horn that plays every bit as good as it looks, and it really does have a great look. This is a horn I could easily make my primary horn if I owned it. It has everything I look for in a saxophone. 

This saxophone was identical to the TYA-753ANE3 in style and layout, but with a solid nickel body with gold lacquered keys and abalone pearls, which added to the beauty of this horn. It had all the attributes of the other sax, but with the solid nickel bell, body and neck, had a brighter tone, yet it was still full without the shrill edges. This is a horn that may be better suited for jazz, fusion, rock and pop, but can still handle whatever else you want to do with it. The satin finish was flawless, the key action was solid, a beautiful looking, feeling and sounding instrument. Another saxophone that has a classy stage presence.  

I believe these horns are going for around $2300 or so brand new, with used ones going for around $1600 or so. If these two saxophones are any indication, these are excellent saxophones at any price and will compete with anything out there. I was totally impressed with both saxophones. Chateau has other saxophones with other finishes as well, like a dark lacquer model similar to these horns. All of their horns, regardless of finish have a high copper content. These models are 93%, and their standard models 85% copper content. By the looks, feel and sound, they did not skimp on quality of materials and workmanship. I am now eager to get my hands on their other models and see what surprises I am in store for. I highly recommend these horns to any student or pro looking for a quality, high grade saxophone that is also priced at an intermediate level. I kid you not when I say that these saxophones were as good as anything I've ever played. 

For more information, click on the following links

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Been A Long Time, But I'm Back

Dear Friends and Followers,

I've been away for some time because a lot of things in my personal life just overwhelmed me for a while and I had to get things straightened out.  I'm sure a lot of you know how it is.  Sometimes life takes over and you have to do things other than what you love to do. I'm no longer working in music retail because the money just wasn't there, and it seemed that each year sales on band and orchestral instruments seemed to be go steadily down until I had to consider what is going to pay my rent and put food on the table. However, I still spent a lot of time this past year trying out many new horns as well as a few vintage horns.  Also, despite the fact that at least for now, I see a downturn on saxophone sales, I am still encouraged to see many new models of saxophones with a variety of finishes coming from the established and newer manufacturers, as well as a greater number of quality student level horns for players on a budget. It's also good to see that many manufacturers have professional level horns at intermediate prices, making it possible for the working and amateur musician to have a high quality instrument that won't break the bank. Okay, so they're not Mark VI's or other high level horns from Selmer, Keilwerth, Yamaha or Yanigasawa, but they're still good instruments and play just as well when properly set up and with the right mouthpiece reed combination that fits the player.

The technology today makes it possible to offer quality instruments at budget prices.  However, I still maintain that you should only buy instruments from reputable companies or dealers. EBay saxophones for $250 are not worth the money, even at that price.  If you buy from EBay, buyer beware, and also make sure it's a name you know, otherwise get what you pay for, which is an inferior instrument that can sometimes feel like it's coming apart in your hands.  Make sure that they have a return policy and also that they back up their instruments from any defects in materials or workmanship. Even the best saxophones occasionally have a lemon in the bunch, but most no-name brands are all lemons.  I don't care if the horn is made in China, as long as a known company backs it up and maintains quality control.  Yamaha makes their student and intermediate lines in China, but since they maintain strict quality control, the instrument is still just as good as always. Saxophones made in Taiwan have really come up in quality, and I will venture to say that many of them are as good as anything made anywhere else. I will later review a few of these, as I was impressed with what I tried from Taiwan lately from manufacturers that haven't quite established themselves here yet, but have already made saxophones for reputable makers. I recently tried two altos from a brand called Chateau, which is made by Tenon in Taiwan.  I believe they also make Steve Goodson's saxophones, The Super 400 and The Voodoo Rex, but unless I can make it down to New Orleans and get my hands on them to test them out, I can't review them. However, my next post will be a review of the two Chateau Altos, the TYA-753ANE3 with a vintage copper finish, and the TYA-760E3 made from solid nickel. Both horns impressed me a lot!

Sad to say that the Powell Silver Eagle had to be discontinued. The market just wasn't there, and product development became too costly, as was the horn itself. However, for the few that have been made and in the hands of players, it will no doubt become somewhat of a collector's item.  It's a shame really that the market wouldn't support a high quality instrument made in the US, but that is the reality. This is why we still have to rely on Asian manufacturers in order to get new quality instruments that we can still afford. Maybe one day again, we can build a great saxophone here and bring back the spirit of companies like Conn, Buescher, King and Martin, which at one time built some of the finest saxophones ever made. Oh well!

I want to thank all of my friends and followers for their support and kind comments. This is the main reason I keep up this blog. I love the saxophone, and I like to also help people make the right choices when they are in the market for a horn so they get the best for what they can afford.  Thanks again everyone, and now that I'm back in action, I hope you'll continue to enjoy my reviews and articles!