Distinguished SOTW Member
Review of Allora Tenor Sand Finish
I just received my Allora tenor in sand finish from WWBW yesterday. I had never played one, but liked the comments people made about it, so I thought I would try it out--little risk thanks to the return policy. For reference, I have been playing alto exclusively since 1996, but between 1990 and 1995 I played tenor exclusively. I currently have a 1947 Conn 6m and a 1963 SDA alto.
The Allora is a great horn, and at a very good price. The Chicago Jazz Series (CJS) earthtone was cheaper by a few hundy but I don't like all the engraving (no stars, please) so I ordered an Allora not factory sealed (NFS) which was the same price as the CJS. The horn had a few minor blemishes in the finish, as though someone had left a fingerprint without wiping it off, but nothing to scream about, and they were only visible under bright light. A factory sealed horn would have been nicer, but it was worth the $300 discount to get the NFS horn.
Comments on the mechanics: this sax does not have linkage between the low C# and B keys in the pinky stack. I think that was an innovation introduced with the new Medusa, which was absent from the B&S 2001. The Eb/C roller keys for the right hand pinky are angled slightly, and the C key extends downward a bit. I think this is the same keywork as on the Guardala. I think the Eb/C keys are a bit different on many of the other B&S horns, but I could be wrong--it is not always easy to tell from the pictures I have seen. The sax did not have the adjustable left hand palm keys, which were used on the 2001 B&S but not on later B&S tenors. Overall, the keywork is modern and comfortable, very smooth and solid under the fingers, and easy to play. This sax feels extremely solid and well made throughout.
Comments on the finish: the sand finish is an interesting yellowish color and at first I didn't like it but it looks awesome under soft light and seems to have a creamy matte glow to it. Based on the pictures of the CJS earthtone I've seen, I thought the color would be a little more golden or orange in hue. People have indicated on this forum that the sand finish and earthtone are the same, but I don't think so. Again, I haven't seen the earthtone CJS up close and personal, but all the pictures I've seen look a little different. I really like the sand finish and I'm glad the Allora is more yellow than gold. The inside of the bell is not engraved but is polished and laquered brass. This is like the 2001 B&S, whereas the new Medusa has a matte finish inside the bell. I like the polished bell because it jumps out of the horn visually and shines beautifully. There is extensive French-flower style engraving on the bell and on the bow. There is no engraving on the neck or body. The engraving is conservative and tasteful. It doesn't look like traditional hand engraving, more like the fine etching on the sandfinish Medusa (pics available on the Kessler & Son's website), but the pattern is similar to the flowering of the gold lacquer Allora tenor that someone posted pics of a while back on this forum. I'm tempted to send this sax to Jason Dumars, especially since he lives in my town, but I'm not sure how well his engraving will contrast with the stock pattern.
Comments on the sound: the stock mouthpiece didn't do anything for me, so I used my Meyer metal 6J piece. This sax has a very dark sound and plays very well at a broad range of dynamics. The lows sound great, and the highs pop out with nice clarity. There is nothing thin about the sound of this horn. You can feel the substantial weight of the metal working for you, imparting a richness to the tone that I find completely lacking from many modern horns I've played (ex: Yamaha YTS 62). As others have said, there is a bit of a spread to the tone, but also a solid core. There is a little bit of an edge if you want to use that terminology, especially when you push it. I think the sound really crackles, which is something very desirable to me and a sound I have obtained from a Selmer Ref 54 and a Cannonball with the Hot Spur finish (the only Cannonball I liked out of about 6 different finishes). Some vintage horns I've played have also had this crackle to the sound, particularly a Conn 10m and an early Super 20. There is a normal amount of resistance. Not too much, but not as little as on the 10m I recently played, which was incredibly free blowing from top to bottom. The Cannonball, in comparison, seemed to require much more air--I suspect it has a wider bore--and it did not produce as subtle or complex a tone, nor was its action nearly as smooth and precise.
On the whole, this is a great sax at a great price. I really like the sand finish and I have no plans to return the horn. I still have to find the ultimate mouthpiece and reed combination since I have been away from tenor for some time, but I am a happy customer. I liked the sax much better than the new Yamaha, Selmer, and Keilwerth tenors I have played, and every bit as much as the best vintage horns I have tried. I recommend people buy one of these before they are all gone and no longer available!
Distinguished SOTW Member/ Forum Contributor 2009
I did the same thing on an Allora sandblast alto. Can't wait to compare it to my Series 2001 IV. I'd have thought these horns would have the adjustable LH palm keys. Weird how these features seem to have come and gone with not much rhyme or reason.
Looked at WWBW today and noticed they're showing the 2006 Allora horns, though they're not in stock yet. Priced pretty low, as if they were made east of the sun. Looks like they have some kind of a muted finish and a copper bell!
great description, thank you (at one time B+S has made technically the same horns and sold them under several names - Medusa or Guardala - as you like)
Last edited by Ruediger Kramer; 02-17-2006 at 12:49 AM.
Distinguished SOTW Member
I took my Allora tenor (the one described above) to the local music store and A/B'd it with a Selmer Ref 54 tenor while shopping for some mouthpieces. First, I found a Claude Lakey jazz 7*3 mpc that sounds awesome with the Allora. The mpc is bright and punchy and the horn is naturally dark and round. Combined, they create a complex sound, and several people commented favorably on the richness of the tone. I found the sax to be incredibly free blowing with the Lakey mpc.
As for the Ref 54, on the whole I was not impressed. It certainly was a bit more "refined" in feel than the Allora. For instance, the pearls were more rounded, the key layout felt a little smaller, and the action was a little lighter. The Ref 54 also had a really nice tone in the middle register and lower stack from G down to D.
Both horns had the same dark crackle that I love. However, the Ref 54 was a little more focused and felt like a smaller horn with a narrower low-end bore than the Allora--which actually led to excessive resistence that I did not like. The Allora spread out and became more round below low G, requiring an open throat, but the intonation was great and the resistance was easy to overcome, particularly in the subtones once I found the right reed (V16 3.0).
The intonation on the Allora was actually much better overall than the Ref 54, especially in the low C/B/Bb and high D/E/F/F# (palm keys). The Allora was easy to intone in these extreme registers, while the Ref 54 just didn't want to smooth into the low B or let the high E pop out nearly as easily.
Furthermore, the Allora was much easier to handle in the altissimo register. The altissimo speaks really easily and controls nicely on the Allora.
I hope the Ref 54 needed nothing more than an adjustment, because there's no way I would choose it over my Allora based on this test, especially considering the price difference. I think the Ref 54 had a really nice tone in the middle register with some great color to it but, overall, the playability just wasn't nearly as free and easy.
How is the intonation on this horn?
Edit: Ouups, I just did not read your last post... the answer was there!
Last edited by Ike Webkins; 03-01-2006 at 10:08 PM.