First a little background for those who didn't see the preliminary threads on this subject on the Sax-On-The-Web forum…
I make my living doing music and nothing but music. I started on drums and quickly switched to sax and have been playing professionally all my adult life.
I’ve owned three Selmers (Modele 26, Mark VI, Mark VII), a Conn 10M, a Pan American (back up horn), an H.Couf (Superba II), and a gold plated Grassi (Prestige). I also have a 1925 silver plated King alto.
In addition I play wind synth (Yamaha WX5-VL70m-TX81z), guitar, bass, vocals, flute, percussion and some keyboards.
I love shiny horns, my system eats up lacquer and brass, so when they quit re-lacquering saxes in Florida, my H.Couf started to turn green. I often play in places where they wear tuxedos and I know that most people listen with their eyes, so having a shiny sax not only makes me feel good, it gets me better paying gigs! So about a decade ago I bought a gold plated Grassi Prestige hoping it would stay good looking.
Eventually the lacquer started coming off my Grassi and taking the gold plate along with it, I investigated re-plating it with advice from the members of the SOTW forum (thanks) which led me to Anderson Plating.
The people at Anderson recommended silver colored nickel plating as the most durable finish that can be applied to a brass instrument.
Plus: Many years ago I traded some of the software I write for a late 1800s alto sax (I write aftermarket style and fake disks for Band-in-a-Box at http://www.nortonmusic.com). The sax was nickel plated and still looked new.
I found the cost of re-plating and overhauling the Grassi to be about as much as a new sax, so I went back to SOTW to investigate buying a new sax.
I prefer to try out a sax before I buy it, but this is the Internet age and it is simply impossible to find most of the brands in local music stores. I was a little nervous buying the proverbial "pig in a poke" so I asked a lot of questions from SOTW members and other sax players that I know.
Finally I narrowed it down to either a Baronne or MacSax. They both have a good reputation for both value and quality, and are very similar in construction.
But neither dealer makes a silver colored nickel sax. I asked both Phil Barone and Mike Crouch if they could plate one with silver colored nickel instead of the black nickel that they currently offer. They both said that they could.
Since I have no direct experience with either brand I asked if I could return the sax in the unlikely event that I didn’t like it. Phil Baronne said that if I was buying a sax he currently offers, I could return it. But since the silver nickel is a custom job it would be something he wouldn’t be able to sell, so I wouldn’t be able to return it. As a small businessman myself, I understand completely. Definitely no points off to Phil for that decision.
However, Mike at MacSax said that if I didn’t like it, I could return it. So MacSax got my business.
After some e-mails I decided on a Mac Classic with two coats of nickel plating and no lacquer. The two coats of nickel was Mike’s idea, and the no lacquer was mine. Since my hands eat up lacquer, it just seemed like a good idea.
The sax arrived on January 26th, but I had a gig near the salt water that day, and an out of town engagement on the 27th so I wouldn’t be able to play it until the 28th. But I opened it up right away, and my first impression; it’s beautiful!
Both Leilani and I were blown away. The finish is very deep and reflective – much better looking than silver plate. The engraving is superb, not too much, and well done. It’s stunning. (Did I mention it is beautiful?)
It arrived in a very serviceable plastic sax-pack type case.
I tested it with 3 different mouthpieces, a mid 1960s Berg Larsen 100/0, a brass Link 8/NY, and a hard rubber Link 6.
I compared it with my Grassi, since that is what I am currently playing and I know it well. Both the tone and intonation are superior to my Grassi (and I love my Grassi).
With the Larsen, the Mac’s tone is much darker but with a nice edge and great focus.
The brass Link gave it a somewhat brighter sound, still bigger and darker than my Grassi but with a lot of projection.
The hard rubber Link gave it a Stan Getz/Lester Young type sound.
I mostly play “Texas Tenor” on the gig, so I’ve decided to go with the brass Link.
The intonation is better than any sax I’ve owned. All the notes were within ± 20 cents of zero, according to my electronic tuner. Of course it is impossible to keep a perfectly straight embouchure and the intonation varied a bit from mouthpiece to mouthpiece.
It’s free blowing with just enough back pressure to let you know you are playing.
I don’t play a lot of altissimo, but I find them easier to hit with this than either my Grassi or my old Couf.
Mike gave me a money-back guarantee, but he isn’t getting his sax back. I sold my Couf and my Grassi is now my back-up horn.
The Mac is definitely a keeper. It looks beautiful, blows freely, and it sounds great. If you like the pictures, ask for the “Bob Notes Norton Edition”. ;-)
And now for a few pictures. To see the rest, go to: http://www.nortonmusic.com/macsax.html
In the case it arrived in:
Full frontal exposure:
Wouldn't be complete without a profile:
It reflects nearby colors:
Even the neck is engraved:
More engraving and reflection:
And more reflection - out on my porch:
That's about half of them. See all 14 pictures here: http://www.nortonmusic.com/macsax.html