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Thread: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

  1. #1

    Default Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    I have started an independent thread for this, as the last few have gotten diluted to say the least. Here's hoping this stays on the topic of a Phil Barone Tenor.

    This write up is being written after a week of having the saxophone, and playing it everyday for a few hours minimum.

    Firstly, my background. I've been playing for a living now since 95, so I've a few years under my belt. I've worked in various jazz set ups, acoustic solo, duos, trios, quartets etc. jazz/funk/soul bands, played and recorded in various parts of Europe in varied venues, concert halls, a few stadiums, a certain jazz festival in Switzerland a few times...and some of the smallest bars you'd have ever seen. I've seen a bit and played a bit.

    Why the write up? You may well ask, and my reason might seem odd to some of you. Like many players, at any stage, you want a good saxophone. The big four are the ones that we've all looked at, for they are the big four for a reason. With the big four goes a ‘big' price tag - I notice that the Selmer prices are on the up also.... Simply put, if you could buy a great horn, and I mean great in every way, for a fraction of the money, wouldn't you? Imagine for new players, or beginners or intermediates that would like to go up a step * but can't afford it… well, what if they could? What if we all could for a price that isn't out of reach in comparison to the big four? If we are honest, how many of us are prejudice in choosing an instrument, or a tool, or a car, or anything come to think of it, purely because of the name? I've been guilty of it, but I've also wised up, and realized that in the last few years, there exists a market that has opened up the possibility of great saxes for less money than we expect to pay. HOWEVER, what I will lead to at the end of this, is that in my opinion the Barone tenor is on par, and outplays the big four in some fields. Thus, to pay a big four price would be expected. So what happens when you don't need to pay a big four price………….?

    *(Yes, I know that any good player can make any horn sound good, however, great tools make the job easier for us all.)

    Unpacking and case

    Horn arrived in a sturdy, not particularly attractive, yet reliable case. The sax was in a large bag, with cork holding down the usual keys….. There is something unique about unboxing a sax that you know hasn't been used before (come to think of it, any new toys unboxed are always fun!).
    I did the usual grab the horn, run down the keys, see if you hear the typical pop of the pads closing down to Bb. They did. Always a good start.

    Action and spring tensions

    The key heights and springs were, unexpectedly, set up very well. I didn't expect this on a new horn straight from the factory, and it was a pleasant surprise. Whether or not this is standard, who knows, but I can't see why I'd have received a special one? There was an issue with the G# key that wasn't springing back as expected, but this involved just a little playing with the spring to get the tension correct. I expected that after the first few days, pads might start to seat better or worse, and that everything would start to settle in – be it good or bad, only time would tell. Well, I've had the sax a week, and it is perfect, doesn't need a thing doing to it. Again, I'll point out that for some players, this may not be the case, they may want a lower or higher action, and different spring tensions, but for me in my experience, it is great now as is.

    The finish

    I went for the bare brass, partly for cost, partly for aesthetics. It had a slight yellow tinge to it upon taking it out of the case, but has already started to darken after a few days. There was some spotting around the central tone holes, and in a few other areas, which is not common, and none of the other bare brass horns have had this (I've spoken to other members here, and none of them have had this on theirs). Phil has been excellent in helping me sort this out. I can but imagine it will darken well to a worn look naturally. Am tempted to pop a light coat of olive oil over it, to stop any spit marks setting in in the early days, but we'll see. Perhaps it's the Italian in me….


    And what of the sound?

    What can I say here that seems unbiased, objective, and fair….. Tell you what, I can but tell you my impression, and play devil's advocate with myself.

    I have never picked up a horn (be it used or new) and achieved/heard a sound as good as the one that came out. I remember reading a line a year or so ago, by a reviewer stating that you could be forgiven for thinking that you are a better player than you actually are, when playing a Mauriat. Well, am sure you all know that the Barone and Mauriat are similar, coming from the same factory, and I feel that reviewer's comment applies to the Barone also.

    What a sound, WHAT a sound….I couldn't say what it was at first, but then again, I didn't want to, I JUST WANTED TO PLAY IT. It is an encouraging and INSPIRING sound that came forth. Being completely objective here, the cliché ‘effortless from bottom Bb to top F#' could be used, but further to that, it is by far the best tenor I have played into the altissimo – right up to G4. Only the player's technical ability seemed to stop it. I never play above the G4, but could get these notes easier than on any other tenor.

    Along with the harmonic and altissimo notes, multiphonics also sang from the horn. The impressive thing was the volume that you could split notes, and let them really scream from the sax, without danger of over blowing. Again, by far the easiest, but most musically sounding (this could be subjective as some do not class them as notes at all) tenor in respect of multiphonics.

    The ease of articulation and general dynamic contrast was evident. Particularly from bottom F downwards – there's a richness down there I've never found on another sax, both in straight notes, or subtones, pp or ff.

    I've often read that it is the player that plays in tune, not the sax. I agree. However, a good sax will make this job easier, and I found myself not finding a problem in any area or on any note. Sometimes I've had to compensate on the upper register with my Selmer (depending which mouthpiece), but that wasn't the case here.

    It seems odd, but I couldn't find fault with it sound wise. Having read Andy Sheppard's comment (in respect to a Mauriat) –

    “…tuning is perfect and there is that woody / grainy thing in the sound that I've only previously found in my old Selmers ...”

    - then I'd have to agree, and say that this is a great analogy. Some may find using the adjectives of ‘woody' and ‘grainy' strange, but he really has hit the nail on the head, albeit talking about a Mauriat, I truly believe it applies to Phil's horn also.

    The whole resistance discussion also occurred to me, how some people like to have something to push against, others don't. It isn't like a Selmer, but not the opposite either. Instead, it responds so well to HOW you are playing, resistant when you perhaps want it to, not when you don't. Perhaps this last point seems far fetched, and is subjective, but that's how I feel in this respect.
    You know that sound when you stand in front of a player with a beautiful tone? You won't ever hear yourself the same way as you are behind the neck playing it yourself. But this sax almost spreads the sound up to the player, this I find inspiring. It isn't the most focused sound, but that will depend on your mouthpiece set up too, as when I switched to a metal piece from my Vandoren V16 ebonite, the sound concentrated more.

    General build

    The early concerns over the Taiwanese horns are in my opinion not substantiated in respect to the Barone and Mauriat horns. On this forum, I've read many player's comments that their techs have all commented how well built they are. It is a solid sax, not flimsy in my opinion, and any concerns of breaking a key….? Well, I really couldn't see how. The sax is quite heavy compared to my Selmer, on par with a Yani from memory. It does seem to have a wider bore, but as I have read on another thread, that can't perhaps be proved, it just feels it. I haven't the largest of hands compared to some players I've seen, and it definitely is a larger instrument in my hands – more akin to the Keilwerths but not as much. Some people would prefer this, but this is personal preference and would be one of the two things I would change about the horn - yes, one of only two things in entirety. The other would be the palm D key. Not sure whether this explains it well, but in respect to the hand or tear drop of the key, the top digs into my hand and sticks out into the skin - it isn't curved and smooth into the key as with Yanagisawas, Yamahas and Selmers. This can be overcome by adjusting my hand position, and is also a personal thing as I've not heard a single comment from anyone else about this.

    The engraving is all over the horn and the neck, and is beautiful. I didn't order one with this engraving, so I was pleased to receive this as a bonus.

    Conclusion:

    Now don't get me wrong, I own a Selmer, and a Yani, I love them both, but I think one will be going now that the Barone has arrived in my mits. Having a sax that plays so well, but also has character, is great for altissimo, soft and articulate when needed….And costs a fraction of the big four? Even people without deep pockets can have an incredible sax, be it beginners or not.

    Upon re-reading what I have written here, you could be forgiven for thinking that I'm wearing rose tinted specs. I am not. I've played enough saxes to know that this Barone has attributes of older Conns (the early American sound that really kicks), the wood sound of a Selmer, the intonation and build associated with Japanese horns, and its own special…something.

    I bet you thought the same as me when you read Phil's comments that these saxes are indeed something special, I bet you'd have thought, “Well of course you'd be saying that Phil, you are trying to sell them.” That's healthy and experienced skepticism no doubt from us all. The truth of the matter is that he is right, in my opinion at least. I had to pay a bit more as I am based in the UK, so had import duties. You guys in the States must be laughing all the way to the bank! Even so, the cost is a huge saving on any of the big four, and also on a Mauriat – which are from the same stable. There's also a money back guarantee if you aren't happy. Do you get that with the big four? Or with a Mauriat?

    Until you try one for yourself you won't believe that they are as good as stated. As Phil says, he would not have added his name and have started this venture if he felt his reputation was at risk. It isn't.

    Extra note:

    I asked for a 7* Barone Hard Rubber piece, which is included also. It looks like it may take over as my main mouthpiece – this is an added bonus. A real ballsy hard rubber piece that kicks when you need it to.

    nb. If moderators feel this would be better suited in the Bb Tenor forum, please do move it there.

    addendum: I also look forward to see how this horn matures, for I also believe that played horns have more sound character. It's had the best start possible with a great character already (the sax's, not mine), so whatever it is that 'time' does to saxes, I feel can only add to it - or at least I hope so...
    Last edited by Il Padrino; 03-08-2008 at 03:18 PM. Reason: Grammar, punctuation.

  2. #2
    Forum Contributor 2008 Baphomet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Sounds like you've found the Holy Grail...

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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    IP,,
    Thanks alot for the informative review.I think it will bring afew people off the fence for sure.I am currently trying to figure out which finish I want and if I want a tenor,alto or both.

    Great read,,thanks again

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    Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru milandro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Hallelujah!
    Every comment that I make on anything only ever represents my personal opinion. I don’t have any universal truth to spread or convey
    Sent from my computer, at home, without advertising on its brand or the programs that it uses.

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    SOTW Administrator SAXISMYAXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Cheers for the well written review, glad you are happy with your pick.

    This actually belongs in the Misc Saxophone Manufacturers forum, so I'll move it there for you.
    Mike S.
    SOTW Administrator/Staff

  6. #6

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Sorry SAXISMYAXE, was spoilt for choice of which forum

    Hallelujah indeed.

    Holy Grail!? Possibly Big Hunk, in my opinion at least, you won't be dissapointed - all the finishes look great. Best of luck with them.

  7. #7
    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Hey Paisano, thanks for such an informative and thoughtful evaluation. Good writing and you answered the right (unspoken) questions. Thanks for taking the time!
    ____________________________________________________
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  8. #8
    barker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Thanks for this detailed review, Il Padrino. As another recent UK buyer of the same bare brass tenor model I found it very interesting.

    As you said, UK buyers do need to take account of import duty and VAT in addition to the purchase cost and shipping. I was given an estimate of 4-6 weeks from ordering to delivery in the UK, actual time was just over 9 weeks. I've only had mine for three days but here are my initial impressions under similar headings to yours.

    Sound
    This is the horn's greatest asset. I've had the same Selmer MkVI for 34 years and have to say I prefer the sound of the Barone. I do find it bright - which I am pleased about as my intention has been to use it for live work in amplified pop/soul bands where I need some projection but would rather not use my VI these days - but it does indeed also have lots of body to the sound (more than my VI) and a character I like. It responds very well across the whole dynamic range and in altissimo. In a word, the sound is huge.

    Tuning
    No issues, as spot-on as you could expect from any quality horn.

    Action & Spring Tensions
    This is where my particular horn does have some issues. Key heights are not even, particularly R2 which is visibly lower than other right hand keys. The low C key was scraping its key guard so I carefully had to adjust the guard to create enough clearance before I could play the horn, then it played perfectly.

    After about 3 hours use I began to notice a leak from the G# key when playing F#, F, E & D. A minor adjustment to the screw fixed this. Then F# went the same way and this was easily cured with another minor adjustment to its own screw. However, now the F# key leaks slightly when playinng F and E, although R3 fortunately does close it otherwise all my low notes would have died! It seems as if the corks which move the connecting rod may have compressed already. I should point out that I have quite a light touch when playing so this isn't through abuse! Then low C# also needed adjustment as it began to leak when playing low B & Bb.

    The side Bb key is lower down the body than I'm used to on any other horns, so occasionally I've been clipping side C with it and fluffing the note, but I'm getting used to this now. Also, the low C spatula is a bit of jump up when sliding from Eb so I'm hoping to get my tech to adjust it.

    I have fairly large hands but I do find that low B & Bb are a bit of a stretch although I'm getting used to that. Otherwise (with the exception of side Bb) I've had no problem adjusting to the ergonomics.

    The Finish
    As you have said yourself, the horn at first appears very yellow in colour but mine is also showing signs of darkening already, I'm glad to say. There are some very amateurish buffing/sanding marks on parts of the bell, particularly a roughly rectangular patch around the maker's logo. Hopefully this will fade into the general tarnishing in time.

    Like you, I find that the palm D key has a sharp edge at the top which slightly digs into my hand, so I'm hoping to get this filed down to be smooth. So, this would seem to be a 'feature' rather than a one-off issue.

    Therefore, in general, I wouldn't say that the horn - regardless of it being bare brass - is as well finished as you would expect from one of the Big 4. I've not tried a Mauriat so can't make a comparison there.

    Conclusion
    This is the first time I've bought a horn without being able to try it first but, at the price - and as a second horn - I thought it was worth a punt. Because of its fantastic sound I think the PB will prove to be a good buy when it's had a proper setup, provided it stays in adjustment otherwise it could start getting expensive. If I'm right, I could see my beloved MkVI being relegated to 'light duties', although the jury is still out on this.

    I'm a bit old fashioned in still believing that any brand new product should work perfectly for some time before it needs attention (I know this is often not the case these days with horns, unfortunately, and something we've all had to learn to accept).

    The Mouthpiece
    I requested a 6 as a step-up for my daughter from her Yamaha 5C. I did try it myself for a few minutes and was immediately impressed. I'd be more than happy to use it as a backup for my JJ DV7*.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    "Paisano" Chi? Io? Ma che cosa stai dicendo? Che ne sai tu?

    Pleasure, I appreciate it when others have taken time to inform, so I thought it fair that I could also.

    Grazie mille Gary.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Barker - thanks for your addition. Good to hear that you are also very pleased. Looks like I won out on the set up, perhaps not the finish. Still, Phil is sorting this for me.

    It's always good to get independent thoughts, and from the same batch of saxes by the sound of it.

    Can't say that I have found it bright sounding, but perhaps I tend to play brighter anyway, even with my hard rubber preferences, without much baffle. Still, the fact that you are MK VI veteran and are impressed says a lot also. Hope that your tech can sort the issues out and am sure it won't take much, I have every confidence that the sax will work its way into more work you do, and let the MKVI have a break now and then

    All the best,

    Il Padrino.
    Last edited by Il Padrino; 03-07-2008 at 12:44 PM. Reason: missed letters

  11. #11
    Forum Contributor 2008 ehrgie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Phil's gotta be loving this , nice review I think I may have to buy one of these, oh honey I need to talk to you .

  12. #12

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Let me do the talking to 'honey', I speak Italian

  13. #13
    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Quote Originally Posted by Il Padrino View Post
    Let me do the talking to 'honey', I speak Italian
    Send me...I speak "French".
    ____________________________________________________
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    I have never really strongly considered the Barone horn's due to the unansowered questions that lingered about them. However, I willl strongly consider getting a Barone when I get the money together for a Soprano or a Bari.

    Thanks
    ~Carbs

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    Forum Contributor 2008 ehrgie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Quote Originally Posted by Il Padrino View Post
    Let me do the talking to 'honey', I speak Italian
    Yeah but talking isn't the only things Italians can do well .


    Carbs- Don't be so vague, especially since heretofore you have been anything but, so please let us know what issues are you concerned about?

  16. #16

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    ehrgie,
    The next horn I buy, I will be keeping for a very long time, I can't afford not to. Mostly I have been thinking Vintage for both of those horns.
    I am worried about Durability, tuneing things like that. Is what I have been concerned with.
    Also the untested nature of a Barone. No offense Uncle Phil, but I was worried about 1) the Resale of the horn, and 2) how long it will last. Go without needing adjustment.
    The reason I was worried about resale is becuase no one other then people really here know about the Barone, which means the sale would have to happen here.
    I mostly play on horns where the brand has been tested through years, and decades of trying to get it right. Considering the 3 brands I play Selmer, Yani, Yamaha, you kind of get my drift. I do not worry about brand, if it plays good I play it. But it comeing out less then a year ago did have me worried....

    However more recently, my Private Lesson Teacher tried out a P. Mariout at TMEA, and he was raving about it for the past few weeks (often go into his shop when I don't have a lesson just to hang). I told him that Barone was supposedly just like Mariout but with a reduced cost. I personally have been watching these reviews closely.

    I don't have $2K to spend on a Soprano or a Bari, I don't even have $2K. To me its unreasonable for a horn that I would occasionally bring out and play. NOt occasionally but you catch my drift that for me Tenor, and Alto are my main horns, and really Tenor is the one I enjoy playing the most.

    Also I have yet to see any reviews on the Curved Barone Soprano, which with Soprano is probably the direction I would like to go. Or at least try out....

    ~Carbs

  17. #17
    Forum Contributor 2008 ehrgie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Thanks for the response carbs, the only issue I see with uncle Phil's horns is #1 resale, your absolutely right no one will know much about these horns, and generally if your not giving it away people will steer clear. I think the mechanics of the horn will be good for years to come just like other horns, the reviews have said it is solid, people have and will continue to use and gig with it, IMHO the reliability will be proven out, the ability to resell will be the issue.


    Carbs give me a break every horn you have had except your new selmer you have considered selling , I don't see you owning a horn for very, very long time, but if you do more power to ya.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Thanks ehrgie,
    Your right, except the YAmaha 23, then that ones not mine its my parents....

    I am looking at trying some different mouthpeices and seeing which one fits my Yani the best. Jazz wise its fine, and I have strong hopes for the S90 that I will have sometime withen the next week or so for classical. Its got a nice rich sound on it now, the action and everything is fine. I just don't like the tone with my S80. I like the sound more with the Rovner I have on my Tenor STM 7 Link.

    Back to the Barone horn, if it plays as good as everyone says then I would be very interested in trying out a curved Sorpano. And maybe compare it against a Straight Soprano from a different maker. Also I have to change my ways, with college comeing up, I am having to settle down with my trading and get serious on sticking with a horn, a mouthpiece etc.

    AS for the Yani, If I last past that first semster of College with Theory and the such. Then more then likely I will keep the Yani just due to the Sentimental value of having spent so much time with it....

  19. #19
    Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru milandro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Incredibile, ci sono sempre troppi Italiani in giro, dappertutto!

    Ok, we all speak Dante's lingo!

    Carbs, if you say your "... next horn I buy, I will be keeping for a very long time, I can't afford not to...." you shouldn't be worried of re-sale value.

    However , buying anything new always implies loosing some money of the purchase price but, as horns go, Phil's start acquiring status here and there will always be some folks interested, should you want to sell it, even in 20 yeas time when you hopefully will have plenty of cash!
    Every comment that I make on anything only ever represents my personal opinion. I don’t have any universal truth to spread or convey
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    Distinguished SOTW Member Carl H.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Phil Barone Tenor Saxophone review

    Quote Originally Posted by Carbs View Post

    Back to the Barone horn, if it plays as good as everyone says then I would be very interested in trying out a curved Sorpano. And maybe compare it against a Straight Soprano from a different maker.
    Why not a straight Barone? I've had mine for closing in on 5 years now and it beats every other sop I have played.

    Sometimes your logic eludes me.
    So far, this is the oldest I've been.

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