So we have started sampling the Stephanhouser saxophones. They are a Taiwanese made sax that like Unison, owns their own factory... meaning you cant get them under a different name.
-Let me premise that I am a not a sax player myself (or at least not good enough to call myself a "player"). I am a Bass/Oboe/Vibe player. I have several extremely accomplished sax players & technicians on staff and plenty of sax teachers that of very good calibur. So my statements are a combination of their statements as well as what I thought when listening to them side by side with other horns-
That being said, here I go.
What we have sampled so far are 2 of the alto models. The owner of Stephanhouser, Scott Stephens, will be here in my store later next week and will hopefully be bringing more product to sample.
We have tried the SAS1500-LQ & SAS1000-VN models. Both were extremely good performing horns. I preferred the sound of the 1500 over that of the 1000 but I had people who went the other way.
Here is the skinny:
The Stephanhouser company features 3 US patents that are all on the SAS1500 horns. The patents are:
1. Neck design. This is mainly how they build the octave key brace for the neck. typically, Taiwanese makers fold a piece of sheet brass for this. Stepahnhousers use a solid block of machined bell brass for this adding weight onto the neck.
2. One-Piece Bell Bow. typically, the bow is 2 pieces of sheet brass soldered together. Stephanhouser has a method of casting a bow out of a solid piece of bell brass.
3. Screwless system. There are no pivot screws in this system. Instead the keys have a spring loaded pin in them that function very much like pins in a watch band. While we were not impressed with the original prototype design that we saw in 2000 where there were different sized pins all over the horn. They also were using a pointed pin for the pivot mechanism which left too much play. They now use a design which features a ball joint which fits extremely well as well as one size for all keys.
We found both models to have a very big full sound. I had one teacher who actually preferred the SAS1000-VN to his Mark VI... although when I told him I would trade him, he didnt take... bummer!
The 1500 model that we have features all 3 of these patents as well as ribbed construction. It is a Heavy (physical weight) horn in comparison. It seems to weigh almost a full pound heavier then most horns.
The 1000-VN model features the neck design and the screwless design but does not have the one piece bow or the ribbing. Also, the VN finish is just a bare brass horn. This was a very big & bright sounding horn. This is the horn that one of my teachers preferred over his VI (still wish he would have traded.)
We are initially very impressed with the horns. What I am not impressed with is the availability. I told him at the NAMM show that we wanted to get some samples... 4 months later we finally have 2. I am hoping that he will be bringing several horns when he comes here next week.
The horn that really stood out at the NAMM show for us was the Stephanhouser SAS2000SE alto. This is basically the 1500 model except it has both a brass neck & a sterling silver neck as well as a Sterling Silver bell. One of my sax techs who I took to the show said that that horn was the Best horn he had ever played.
I am also trying to get Stephanhouser to sell me just the Sterling Silver necks for alto. I would love to see how they perform on other horns.
For a brief synopsis on the horns and models, you can either visit www.stephanhouser.com (if it is up and running) or you can go to a page that I am helping him develope a little more user friendly website that can be found at http://www.kesslermusic.com/stephanhouser/newsite/
If you have any questions, you can post them here or call me Toll Free at 1-888-385-4559 Mon-Sat 9:30-6:00 Pacific Time (US Only) or e-mail me at email@example.com
When we have reviewed more horns, I will post them as well. I have already had several people call me regarding the Tenors.
plese let me know you findings on this horn thanks
I played one and thought it decidedly a cut above most Taiwanese saxes - rather similar to the Toptone and Trevor James Signature (the latter only sold here in the UK). They felt like an intermediate Yamaha but with all of these I found them competent but a bit dead sounding. I can't say it was a comprehensive play-test and I was also put off the price which was far too high - I suspect the dealer in this case didn't sell saxes in any volume, the price was about the same as a A991 Yanagisawa and I didn't think it was as good a player as one of those.
We have actually stopped dealing with Stephanhouser. The horns play very well overall. The problem is that their intonation requires too much control for the student player. Professionals and advanced players can play them in tune without much trouble, but at that point, the players are usually going to get a better saxophone then the Stephanhouser anyways.
Distinguished SOTW Member
Dave; As a customer of Kessler and a long-time member of this forum, I just wanted to thank you for your honest and forthright comments about your products. It is very refreshing to read totally unbiased write-ups on instruments sold by the writer. I remember a few years ago when I bought a Kessler baritone sax from you for the bari player in our band, you told me exactly what other players did not like about the horn. Well, this horn still looks and plays great, and the bari player is happy with it. In fact, this horn took a bad fall one New Year's when a very happy lady got a little wild on stage. I thought sure the horn was toast, with at least a bent body. On examination, the only thing that happened was a few bent keys, which was easy to fix. I think you're doing us all a service with the way you do business.
Glad to help. Thanks for the post.
Distinguished SOTW Member
I have played a SAS1500-BK recently and thought it was a surprisingly good horn, dark and vibrant. I thought the tone and tune of the palm notes was exceptional on my setup (Vandoren Optimum AL3/classique 3). The concave pearls feel a bit odd, but the overall ergonomics were odd to me.