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. 

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