I'm annoyed - I typed this thread once before and lost it when spell checking....
A brief synopsis of my playing - I played flute as a kid and switched to sax at 12 y/o (cool factor, etc.) - I played alto and tenor until 22 y/o, and would call myself an "intermediate" - I've played in my "large northeastern university " big band, some pit bands for plays, and a few club bands. I put the sax down at 22 y/o, sold my alto MK VI and tenor Conn (?10/12M) - to this day I can't remember why, although as I recall the MK VI fetched twice as much as I paid for it new eight years before. I hadn't really done much until about 3 mos. ago I bought a Mendini nickel plated tenor for a wopping $309 delivered to my door with a case, neck strap, a padsaver for a plug, a tuner, a throw away mouthpiece and some wood they claim were reeds. With all the play-alongs now, I really enjoy playing sax again, much to the annoyance of wife and kids, although they bug me less and less as I get my chops back (haven't had much neighbor feedback, but the long tones drive me nuts sometimes...so I can imagine...). The horn is actually not bad - I assume since I bought from the importer someone at least briefly set up this instrument, as it plays pretty well out of the case, which I believe is felt covered styrofoam, but pretty sturdy. There were no leaks and its free blowing once a decent mouthpiece was put on (currently a Rico Graphonite B7). After two weeks, the toggle bar on the octave key fell apart due to a bad solder joint - it looked like no solder was used. I called the importer who replied after a day they would fix it, but I bought a microbutane torch, some solder and flux at Lowe's, and fixed it myself, mainly 'cause I didn't want to be without the horn for 1-2 weeks...been OK since... Anyway, my only real complaint is the intonation, particulary G1/G2, E1/E2, and Eb1/Eb2, all are which are 20-30 cents sharp - I can get them down with embourchure on longer notes, but it's tough on uptempo stuff. I fixed the Eb1/Eb2 by lower the key height, but haven't fixed the G/E because of the linkages, I'm afraid of knocking everything else out of key. My other problem is altisimmo is tough on this horn, though possible.
I recently saw Oldsax's Maxtone SX 55T for sale so I went to Sam Ash Music Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale and tested out other saxes first. I tested four saxes: Cannonball Big Bell, Cannonball Vintage Pro, P. Mauriat Series 76, and a Yamaha 82Z. The salewoman clearly knew the technical information about these horns, but told me that these horns were not setup (and currently didn't have anyone to set them up), and was very diligent about writing my comments about some adjustments needed.
1. Cannonball Big Bell Tenor in black nickel and black nickel keys (or maybe regular nickel keys): this sax was my second favorite - this was freeblowing from top to bottom, very easy low notes, probably the easiest low notes on a horn I've ever played. The intonation was excellent with little adjustment needed. The key layout was different than my horn, not necessarily bad, but its hard to judge after playing 10 minutes. The matching neck had an octave key issue, probably just an adjustment, but the silver neck played well. The left pinky spatula is closer than my horn, making for quicker action as well in the low notes. My only complaint is the tone - as I read in another thread - is annoyingly bright through the entire instrument range. A fairly full sound but a little biting for my tastes. Another mouthpiece may have led this to be my first choice, just don't know...(~$2600).
2. Cannonball Vintage Pro in some antique type (? unlaquered) finish: again, only one neck worked, again the silver neck. The tone was a little less bright, but still biting. The intonation was OK, but not as good as the Big Bell. Not as freeblowing as the Big Bell, and not as responsive in the low notes. Ergonomics about the same as the Big Bell, though I don't recall the left pinky spatula being as "right" as the Big Bell. I think this was about $2800.
3. P. Mauriat Series 76 in some sort of vintage tone: lightest physically, and a slightly better tone than the Cannonball saxes, but the intonation on this horn was all over the place (+/- 35 cents) and this immediately prejudiced me against the horn. I think the ergonomics were OK and maybe the same as the Cannonball saxes, though I did not play this horn very long. Since I was looking at saxes for intonation reasons, clearly this sax was not for me. One last comment, although the tone was not "annoyingly" bright, I did find the tone thin, especially high notes. Price (I think) about $3200.
4. Yamaha 82Z: clearly the best horn I tried. The tone was great, bright, but not too and fairly full. The intonation was good, except for a couple of keys notes +30 cents. Mendini/Cecilio clearly copied the Yamaha ergonomics, as the key position was identical to my cheapie. The action, of course, much tighter than the Mendini. The price was $3600, more than 10X what I paid for mine.
My final comment was that after trying these horns, I decided not to buy a new horn - I didn't feel that these horns were worth the $2K-$3K for intonation and a tighter action, at least right now. (Athough Oldsax's Maxtone SX 55T might be a steal for $900). The 82Z still had a couple of notes out of whack, although any/all may have had better intonation if set up first. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of instrument techs in S. Florida, nor a lot of places to try out new horns. One thing the evening taught me is you really need to try out a sax before buying it. I don't know if I tried different saxes than the ones in stock if I would have found a better horn - I really want to try the Keilworth EX/SX 90, but I can't find one around here....Anyway, I may have to plan a vacation to New York, Las Vegas, or maybe Amsterdam, and possibly some remote midwest locations (Prowinds, wwbw, Cascio interstate) to try out new horns before buying a new horn. Although some dealer will exchange the horn if dissatisfied, I found it a better comparison when you can switch back and forth and you can hear the difference.
I'll post this as new thread as well...I'd like to hear comments or suggestions...