Last year by chance I came across to a 1923 Buescher C tenor http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...prano/cmel.jpg which I started to play at the band I am playing with, at the beginning was some kind of test for me and the other members of the band to see how the C tenor could work at rehearsals, but at the end because of everybody liked the C tenor (I was playing originally a Bb soprano), I finally ended playing the C tenor most of the time.
Because my favourite horn is soprano (I play violin also with this band), suddenly I found myself looking for a C soprano to double the Buescher C tenor , after a lot of research,and having a limited budget (maybe if my budget was bigger probably I would ended with an E&R C soprano), and being a lover of vintage horns, I finally decided to look for a King C soprano.
My decision was based among other things on this particular thread http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthr...ight=c+soprano where the only two players which didn´t claim about entonation (Saxtek & SuperTourist - thank you both) they were referring to the King C soprano, also SuperTourist mentioned the main factor which inclined my decision to pick up the King: the position of the octave pip designed far away from the cork allowing the possibility to try any kind of Bb pieces without being top to the octave pip, avoiding the consequence of chopping the pieces as usually every C soprano player does http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/012.jpg.
At that moment of my research, I contacted Surfird (SOTW member) which had for sale a very early King C soprano from 1914 http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/001.jpg which belonged to her father (Mr. Richard V. Polk who led and played in Big Bands and Dance Bands in the Chicago area around 1950, he mainly played clarinet and sax but he also played all the woodwind family), sadly I hadn´t the pleasure to meet him but I was told he was a very dedicated and talented musician, but even without knowing him in person, I can affirm with no doubt he had an special and accurate ear to pick up woodwind instrument (I bought from her an Aristocrat Big B tenor which also belonged to Mr.Polk and has the most perfect intonation of any other saxophone I had the chance to play in my whole life).
The C soprano was in very good condition (it´s a 100 year old instrument) http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/013.jpg , with traces of use but with a lot of care, the tube is in perfect shape http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/022.jpg with total lack of dents, only a couple of tiny little dings, almost invisible at first sight, the instrument was playable with some minor adjustments to be done as Surfbird told me about it, the case is original but was not in the same good condition of the horn, nothing serious, but I had to fix some support inside the case to avoid the movement of the instrument.
I went to my tech and asked him what kind of work he would perform on this instrument if it was HIS instrument, he answered me "If it was my horn probably I could probably do a complete overhaul including replating, doing some kind of long term project, but my advice to you if you are going to play it as a main instrument, is to put all the pieces apart, clean it, reppad it, corked it, replaces all the felts, and if it´s necesary some springs, then I will adjust it every little mechanism to put it on the perfect playing condition".
I followed his advice and he reppaded completeley with brown plastic resos http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/007.jpg ,replaced all the felts, oiled and adjusted the whole mechanism, no spring change was needed.
The result of his wonderful work is a beautiful and fine instrument to play (he told me "this one was on the major leagues of my history as repairmen, because everything was OK and there was no missing pieces, but everything is so un-spaced, then there is no place to mistakes on this old mechanism", but anyway he liked this work).
When I played the horn after my tech´s work, I found it ten times better than my first impression.
The voice of this soprano is very sweet and clear, very very different to my current Bb soprano at that moment (a 70´s Dolnet).
On the C King there is no resistance at all (I believe is a characteristic shared with Bb King sopranos) , at some point of the register is close to an oboe, but when you speed up the air and reach more volume, appear some resemblance of the typical sound of the old sopranos ala Sidney Bechet.
The intonation I can say it´s very good, I was expecting some kind of wild horn, impossible or very difficult to play it in tune (after all the bad comments I usually have heard about C sopranos ), but I got very surprised because I didn´t find any problem at first try, and after playing it everyday , 7 days a week, for a couple of months, I can assert now that the only note to be aware of is the middle C#, it seems to me there is only one lip position/pressure to play it correctly with no room to mistakes, if you are not in the mood at the moment of playing this middle C#, something swampy could happen very easily, but I have to say also if you play vintage sopranos (specially C sop), probably this thing about middle C# it isn´t "one of those fresh news".
In the overall view I can say the intonation is something very reliable on this little horn, the palms keys sings effortless, it only goes to high Eb as many C sopranos of that age http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/004.jpg .
The pinky cluster is slightly different from the typical design of any other Kings sopranos or saxellos (the Bb spatula is shorter than the classic King style),and the G# is also different not oval/rounded like the standard King cluster,it´s very similar to the early Conn, as you can see here http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/021.jpg I believe this design it´s present in some early King sopranos (I remember a photo of a young Roland Kirk playing a saxello where I saw the same short cluster for Bb, and at that moment I believed it was a modification made by him , but now I am not so sure).
This cluster can be very comfortable for a MKVI, early Buescher or Conn user, but not for a modern horn player because of the small size and the lack of modern articulated mechanism.
My tech reversed the old mechanism to play the D# trill http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/016.jpg , because he explained me that probably the pad could dry at an open position after many months of playing with the consequence of having a bad seal , then causing a leak, I agreed with him to do that as I already did the same with my Buescher C tenor.
The action is very comfortable, light under the fingers, the weight is a blessed relief because is very light compared to any other Bb soprano, there is no ring hook present but really there is no need for it (I play Bb soprano without using any strap), the octave key is very comfortable to me because I got used to the Buescher C tenor I have which is very similar to the King, but it´s the old style type http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/015.jpg .
The finish on the tube is matte silver plated, which is 99 % present http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/008.jpg the keys (I don´t know if were nickel plated or shiny silverplated) but were worn to bare brass in most places http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/006.jpg .
As with many early sopranos is possible to see the traces of the soldering line along the body tube underneath the silverplate http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/019.jpg.
The nacar buttons are another sign of the extremely beautiful and detailed instruments of that golden age as you can see on this close up http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/023.jpg , and the engraving is the typical badge design of H.N.White, beautiful and simple http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/018.jpg .
At the moment of this writing I am using Gonzalez reeds #2 with a C** Metal Selmer mouthpiece/original ligature which I opened the throat http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/025.jpg and augmented the original chamber size http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/027.jpg because in the original state was too much resistant for me, but after this modification became a wonderful piece without losing the original vibe.
I have also tried a Bilger and a Selmer S80 E pieces with good results (the S80 E is the most friendly, easier and powerful to play of all , and the Bilger produce a nice woody sound, but I liked the sound of the metal Selmer over the others).
Thank you for your time reading this words, and I hope this information can be useful for someone on the search of a C soprano.
Electricfigue / Andres.