Do Vintage Saxophones Sound Better? (Everything You Need To Know)

Do Vintage Saxophones Sound Better
Written by Corey Morgan

There’s always this argument among saxophonists whether vintage saxophones are better than modern ones or vice versa. Well, the answer to this question is neither “yes” nor “no” but way in between. This is because true as it may be, vintage saxes have this unique and enchanting tone.

That explains why they’re predominant among pro saxophone players. However, modern saxophones boast of good design and construction, increased ranges, quicker response and some other innovations.

Therefore, there’s no outright answer to this question. So, in this article, we’ll review all you need to know about the sound of vintage saxophones and whether they’re comparatively “better” than the sound produced by modern saxes.

Are Vintage Saxophones Better Than Modern Saxophones?

Having played a vintage Conn, when compared to the modern saxophones, it sounded remarkably brighter than any of the others, and to this day, it continues to perform exceptionally well in comparison to newer saxophones.

But the truth of the matter is that modern saxophones are incomparably superior to those of any other era. Better in terms of design, and in terms of sound. As long as you have a high-quality saxophone and you’re no beginner, and of course, with the right fit mouthpiece, your modern sax is sure to sound remarkably better and is more responsive.

From a rather personal experience, I’ve played modern saxophones from reputable brands and the sound production is better than my vintage Conn.

Should I Replace My Vintage Saxophone With a Modern One?

Absolutely not. If you are satisfied with the way your saxophone sounds and the way its keywork feels to you, then you should keep playing it.

One exciting thing to know about these instruments is that regardless of whether it’s made of metal or wood if frequently played, they can attain a level of resonance.

This ability gives it a more mellow and rich tone. However, this is not unique to vintage saxophones. The same thing will occur with a brand new saxophone after it has been played for a while. This should put an end to the widespread belief that older saxophones are fundamentally superior to more modern ones.

In fact, the quality of saxophones, including the most affordable brands, is higher than it has ever been. This quality improvement is a direct result of the relocation of saxophone production to Asia, which has made it possible for players to more easily afford a quality instrument that will sound and play wonderfully without digging too deep in their pockets.

Because of this, I am confident in recommending a saxophone purchased from one of these stores. The factories are modern, as is the machinery, and in many cases, they use the same metal and materials as the more well-known brands; therefore, it is only a matter of quality control to ensure that the products are of an acceptable standard.

If you purchase a saxophone that was built in China but is sold under the umbrella of a well-known brand that maintains stringent quality control, then the saxophone you purchase will be on par with any other option available.

For instance, Yamaha’s YAS 26 student model and YAS 480 intermediate model are both now manufactured in China, but because of Yamaha’s stringent quality control standards, there has been no degradation in the products’ overall quality as a result.

I have been playing a lot of modern saxophones made in Asia over the past few years, and I have been amazed at how good they all are. As a result of this, I have been forced to reconsider my perspective on modern horns as opposed to vintage ones.

It goes without saying that the great old saxophones are still fantastic, provided that they are properly maintained; nonetheless, they are not better than modern horns in any way, shape, or form, and they are not even close to being as easy to play. In any case, it would be counterintuitive for a producer with a good reputation to sell an inferior instrument at any price point.

If you are just beginning to play the saxophone, it is strongly recommended that you invest in a modern instrument of high quality. Not only will it be easier for you to play, but the intonation will also be more accurate, and the fact that it is brand new means that it has not been handled or mishandled by anyone else before you.

In the same way that purchasing a piece of new equipment with up-to-date designs and safety features is preferable to purchasing an old one with dubious handling and dependability as well as possibly a checkered past.

Are Vintage Saxophones Good?

While well-maintained vintage saxes retain their charm, they can not compare to modern saxophones in terms of sound quality or ease of use. At any rate, a reputable manufacturer would not release a subpar instrument at any price.

Because musicians did not have access to microphones and public address systems back in the day, vintage saxophones were made to produce a huge, loud sound when played. And as a consequence of this, they have a great deal of adaptability in terms of tone quality and intonation.

How To Know A Good Vintage Saxophone

First and foremost, you have to realise that not all vintage horns have a pleasant sound; in fact, some of them have a rather horrible sound. And the majority of them have a decent tone overall.

There have, however, been a select few models of vintage saxophones that are highly prized since players all over the world have hailed them as being particularly excellent due to the inherent tonal characteristics that they possess. Here are some things you should look out for:

  • Check to see if there is any damage to the body, and make sure that the body is straight and true; if the body is warped, it may cost more to straighten it out than the horn is worth.
  • Examine the tone holes to see if there are any areas of unevenness; this is important since the tone holes’ capacity to form a good seal is affected by any irregularities on the tone holes.
  • Be sure to inspect the pads and see if the tone hole rings are positioned in the middle of each pad. If this is not the case, there may be an issue, or it may have received some harm.
  • Check for broken springs, which should be relatively visible, but also check for rust on the current springs; a spring that is particularly rusty could break at any moment!