Aquilasax alto almost with me……

Aquilasax altoAs some of you may know, Steve (Aquilasax NZ) kindly offered to send me one of his nickel plated alto’s, to evaluate in advance of production of the new C Sax.

It’s almost here, just showed up today on the UK internet tracking site as (quote) ” AWAITING CUSTOMS CHARGING “ (gulp !) at the Parcelforce Coventry hub.

As soon as it arrives, I’ll take some close-ups, and give a very honest evaluation.

It will be from the same factory that will produce the C Sax.

Steve is also enclosing an Aquilasax alto metal mouthpiece,
so I should be able to get some good sounds out of it.

In the meantime, I’m having the odd ‘toot’ on my Martin Magna alto,
to get my alto ‘lip’ back – probably a bit unfair to go from
the Martin to a $450 alto, but then again, I may well be presently surprised !

Lets hope so, the new C Sax (at a sensible price) is one project that I really do want to succeed. But my evaluation will be honest and fair, I know you wouldn’t expect anything different !

This entry was posted in C Saxophones, Eb/Bb saxes, Mouthpieces. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Aquilasax alto almost with me……

  1. Lewis Pelham says:

    It is most certainly a demonstration of Steve’s confidence in the quality of the manufacturer to allow you to evaluate the alto.
    I for one cannot imagine that you could be anything but honest in your appraisal.
    Has it occurred to you that, being modern, with modern keywork, the Aquilasax could well be much easier to play than your beloved Martin…who knows, perhaps it can even blow the a**e off the Martin…nostalgia isn’t what it used to be! :-))
    I feel sure that I am not the only one looking forward to your road test…. please keep us in the picture.
    Not sure of your particular style of playing but please would you try playing both the altos as fast as you can to see how they compare in the fluidity area.

  2. al says:

    Lewis – I sincerely hope it doesn’t “blow the arse” off my Martin – if it does I’ll buy it ! My Martin Magna alto is from the sixties, best (and possibly last) that Martin ever built, and handles nothing like the 20/30’s horns. The Martin alto, however, will always excel in the lower register, the weight of the metal (and, yes, still with soldered/bevelled toneholes….) made all the other saxes in the dealers showroom – including the more modern Conn alto I part-exed for it – sound like wimps. So maybe the Aquilasax alto will excel in the upper register, and possibly be a tad more more ‘fleet under-finger’, but it could struggle in the ‘fire-in’the-furnace’ departmen like so many modern alto’s – unless designed to specifically have a BIG sound.

    I’ll play the ‘bridge’ from Take Five to check fluidity out, it can be played very fast and spans the registers/octaves, any clunkiness or quirks (or indeed leaks) will very quickly show. Mustn’t forget that this is basically a student level alto from Aquilasax, the Magna was very much a pro’ horn. Playing the Martin alto, with my old bronze Berg (not the modern rubbish…), I’m amazed at just how gutsy I can make the Magna sound, it can actualy out-guts the trusty Martin C-Mel with most setups – except for when I slap the tenor Lawton on the C-Mel. Better stop now before I get disloyal !

    Bit bemused, the Aquila-sax still doesn’t show as being out of Customs yet, went in at 10, I just hope it’s just a case of some lazy bugger not having scanned it as it left. If it’s still there, that may mean it’s being opened – never had anything from China before, there may be a Blair edict to not make life easy for Chinese imports… Whatever, it’s out of my hands, all I can do is wait, and stump-up if it comes to it..

    Gosh, this is just like a forum, only civilised……. 😉

  3. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    I think it’s great that Steve is so concerned that his products be critically apraised, he must place a lot of trust in you. well done to him.

    I also of course would be very interested to know your opinions on it, especialy as it would be the same manufacturer for the cmel. Remember however that the cmel will be better quality, Steve said that it would be the best avaliable. So any little niggling cutting corners kind of thing should hopefully be reduced.

    I hope that you’ll do a full Steve Howard style review 🙂



    ps if it blows the Martin to pieces I’ll become a dealer 😉

  4. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Oh, and pictures please 🙂

  5. al says:

    Owen, pictures certainly, and hopefully later some sounds as well. Although in this hot weather, with windows and doors open, there have been some disparaging remarks about my playing fying through the air – along with the comments, obviously ! The sax has to emerge from HM Customs yet….. Funnily enough, I did plan to use Steve Howards “Chinese Soprano review” as a sort of structure to give me an idea of how to approach a review. And obviously the C Sax should be of a different build quality (more hands-on, and input from Steve). I have this image of Steve, in China (which is where he spends a lot of time), totally knackered from play-testing the entire production run !

    By the way, Owen, I had to ‘OK’ your last post because you changed your name to “Owen, the other viewer” – stick with that (or whatever you used originally) and future wisecracks will publish immediately, without human intervention. Only needs OK’ing for the first post of any name, stops spam that way. But I see you’ve sussed that, as you’ve posted again whilst I was composing this small novel…

    I have to ask, as you two responded so quickly to this new post – “Don’t you have anything better to do ?” 🙂

  6. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Ah I see, OK.

    Waiting with bated breath 😉

  7. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Oh, and no I don’t. Or rather, i do, but I’d much rather not do it.

  8. Lewis Pelham says:

    Owen, If it blows the arse off the Martin I will eat my Buescher.

    Alan. The computer is on all day; I am not. Several times a day, when passing, I peep at my favourite sites…viz, ebay, your site, saxontheweb and the Audi TT forum…must get out more. 🙂

  9. Lewis Pelham says:

    Oh yes, and another, American, site which sadly seems to be taken over by purveyors of Blue Pills, porn and agressive know it alls.

  10. al says:

    You guys know I was only joking, just wierd that I didn’t post anything for weeks, and then you come back with a virtual plethora of comments in a matter of hours. We must invite Ken to this party, then we could have a quorum……..

  11. al says:

    Uh-Oh – the alto sax is out of customs, just what I didn’t want to see……
    ” 04-05-2007 10:24 International Hub RELEASED WITH CHARGES”

    That’ll add pain and delay to the process, the drivers don’t collect money anymore, so I have to wait for the letter, unless ? Ah, I have a cunning plan…..

  12. al says:

    Just talked to a friendly human at Parcelforce Poole ( I didn’t spend decades talking to irate Customers without developing some useful skills….) – so as soon as it gets to Poole I can pay ‘over the phone’ without waiting for the letter, and the alto could be with me Tues/Wed.

    Monday, of course, is an extra ‘Grockle Saturation Day’, these Bank Holidays don’t really impact me (except for the knotted-hankerchief brigade cluttering up the place) now that I’m no longer gainfully employed – Yippee !!! And I hear rain is forecast for Sun/Mon – Shame…. 🙂 Luv’em really !

  13. Lewis Pelham says:

    Alan. We too suffer from grockles in the summer. Strange thing is that they all seem to be so fat. It is a frequent sight in the summer to see a grossly overweight family, always walking side by side in our narrow old streets, stuffing pasties into their faces as they waddle along. Helps the local economy I suppose.
    Despite their size they must be athletes because they invariably wear football shirts. 🙂
    No need to advise you, but during the Aquilasax/Martin confrontation please play fast in a key that uses low C# frequently. In my experience this is one of the major areas which reveal the shortcomings of vintage keywork. Fine if you are playing typical Standards in the usual “lazy” keys of concert C, G, or F, but a totally different animal in guitar keys. In the latter keys I am prepared to bet that you are both faster and more comfortable with the Aquilasax.

  14. al says:

    Lewis – I hate to even think this, but if I put the bronze Berg onto the Aquilasax it may just fly too well…. After all, most of the sound is in the player, then the mouthpiece – the sax is almost transparent, unless it’s a real ‘clunker’ which gets in the way of the technique. And I will check out the pinkie keys well, I’m often down in the B/C#/D# area – especially on Eb alto, where the ‘concert’ keys add three sharps… (guitarist in E = alto in C#) Intonation could be the only issue, but after dealing with 20’s C-Mel intonation, no modern sax could be that bad. Sigh – decisions, decisions, decisions…..

    So it might just be a case of (ahem) negotiating with Steve to retain this alto as a pair with the C Sax I’m inevitably going to buy from him. It’s difficult to explain that ‘little extra’ that comes from a vintage horn, often only audible under certain conditions, and then when you least expect it. ‘Hidden depths’, I think they call it. But then some vintage horns can be real clunkers too – I suspect some old-timers whose style was described as “economical” or “uncluttered” were just not so nimble on the keys as their saxes didn’t encourage it. By the way, I’ve invited Ken to join us – we’ll have a quorum then !

  15. Lewis Pelham says:

    Would be delighted for Ken to join us, but do you have a Bridge Party in mind? 🙂
    Perhaps, with vintage horns, the “hidden depths” were only apparent to the player…really looking forward to your road test. I too will probably buy an Aquila C Mel…tenors are gorgeous but C Mels are just soooo handy (and lighter to transport.) Must ask Steve if he can make up a King Super 20 silver bell and crook…just adore the octave rocker. As you know, I have an engraver pal…just might dismantle the C Mel and engrave it all over. Future puzzle for the anoraks/historians.

  16. al says:

    Lewis – totally agree that even relatively major changes in our sounds seem often only apparent to the player ! Annoying, isn’t it ? But then the happier, or more inspired, we feel allows us to excell at any particular moment. So how it sounds to the player is often all that matters….

  17. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    It’s all back to that age old question, what has a greater impact on sound, the player, the horn, or the mouthpiece (or if you’re roger, the ratio of silver to gold to platinum in your shirt buttons and the resonant frequency of your glasses)

  18. Lewis Pelham says:

    Absolutely right Owen. If the player is aware of, and pleased with nuances of his sound, either real or imaginary, and regardless of whether the audience (or ordient!) can detect them, he will play better. Of paramount importance…he must be wearing the right hat.
    An old pro friend of mine, a world class saxophonist, was playing with a tenor player; someone who, in my friend’s words “could not blow his nose”. However, the tenor player sported a goatee beard and a beret. No prizes for guessing who the audience gathered around at the end of the gig. Presentation can mask almost anything.

  19. al says:

    An old pro (the musical kind….), said to me in my early days “Start good and end better, and no-one will really remember the bits in between……” (and) “”If you ever cock it up, or play a note that just doesn’t fit – play it like that in the same place next time thro'”

    Stood me in good stead over the years, the terrifying bit is when another player follows you ! By the way, Ken has registered here – more than anyone else has, well done Ken – so I expect a posting is imminent………

  20. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    “If you ever cock it up, or play a note that just doesn’t fit – play it like that in the same place next time thro’”

    Words to live by 😉

  21. Lewis Pelham says:

    Always remember that every note has it’s place in musical notation….an obscene discord could be accurately described as a “minor diminished inverted 13th in the doric mode”…translated, this means “Christ, a semitone away from the intended”…excused by “added for dramatic effect to make the (hastily found, and correct) resolution all the more satisfactory.
    Thelonious Monk once famously said “.. I know that they were the wrong notes, but they were the WRONG, wrong notes”.

  22. al says:

    Yes, if you look at how the chords progress, e.g. augmented fifths (or major sevenths !) – I’ll bet the first few who tried those got some funny looks….. Aquilasax alto will be with me on Tuesday, excepting disasters, quite heartening when the Parcelforce bloke says “Yep, I’ve seen that one – three foot long with Chinese writing on it, I scanned it myself this morning…”

    Better than “We had a hice game of footy with it in the yard…”, or “Don’t worry about the dents” – I suppose 😦

  23. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Or “That’s the one that fell off the truck on the M25…”

  24. ken says:

    Lets hope the people in the shipping department of the Chinese factory have had training in packing a sax, unlike the guy who sent me my 10M from the States, who together with the police detective I had contacted to find him, simply put the case into a cardboard box and sent it.
    Ahh, here you all are. I spent yesterday sending messages to the two dogs on another part of this site.

  25. al says:

    Ken ( that worked, so as long as you use the same name & email, I won’t have to moderate further comments, they’ll just appear, no need to login). Anyway, what I was hoing to say was, the first Buescher C-Mel I got from the States had a small cardboard ‘armband’ around middle of the case – with the handle conveniently sticking out of a slot, and just big enough to put the Customs form and the address label on ! Add to that, minimal packing inside the (thankfully quite sound) case, naturally no neck plug, but, against all odds, it arrived quite undamaged…..

    As opposed to the idiots who ‘double-box’ with loads of polystyrene chips in between, and three miles of gaffer tape, but leave the sax and all the bits to rattle around unprotected inside the case. For some unknown reason they think that once the case lid is closed, nothing moves !

  26. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Hey Ken.

    My project cmel came relatively undamaged, but without a neck plug, and no padding around that area, despite me sending him the cybersax info. Oh Well. The register doodaa was bent so badly that it took a lot of effort to get it off, and beyond my skill to bend it back into shape. I was going to get one off someone on SOTW, but other things have got in the way.

  27. Lewis Pelham says:

    Ken. You say that the sender “simply put the case in a cardboard box and sent it “…Did he, I wonder, take the trouble to put the 10M in the case? I certainly hope so.

  28. ken says:

    Lewis,yes but it arrived totally beaten up. MIR in Halesowen made a fine restoration job. I told the story on Wade’s site about 18 months ago. The seller would not send the sax, so after a month I contacted the local police and had a conversation with a detective who asked me to email the details. When I told him the name of the company, he said “Ahhh, yes, I know them. I’ll go and see them tomorrow”. The next day I had an email from him saying “I went to see Mr Wilson this morning and watched him pack the saxophone”. I was not about to send it back for the seller to keep the insurance money.

  29. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Wow, that’s quite cool 🙂

  30. Lewis Pelham says:

    Ken. Yes, I remember the story now. Nasty when people do not do the decent thing; especially at that distance. One would have thought that Mr. Wilson would have had enough nouse to say “…Hoy pal, that’s not well enough packed, a bit more around the octave trigger I would suggest.”…Hey Ho.
    Nice firm HIR; bought my first C Mel there in ’93

  31. al says:

    Alto just arrived, and first impressions favourable – I’ve started a thread on the Bravenet C-mel forum, go on Lewis – join us on that one ! Wade has hinted that he is going to ditch the old forum, due to “Invasion of the SpamBots !” I will also be starting another posting here, and a formal web page, once I start really evaluating.

    Here is the link, which may or may not work, the new forum seems to have its quirks……

  32. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    Delighted to hear that Alan, will be watching closely over the next few days.

  33. al says:

    Here are some pics, realistically the review won’t be completely done until early next week.. I’m impressed with the sax, seems sturdy enough too, it’s no lightweight ! Sorry if you all don’t have broadband, I didn’t want to ‘dumb down’ the pictures in case anyone wanted to zoom in on the detail, they total about 3 Megs.

  34. Owen, 'the other viewer' says:

    I hope we’ll be getting a sound sample Alan 🙂

  35. al says:

    Yes, in time Owen, but there is the conundrum. If it sounds good, well, we all know that most of the sound is in the player – and if it sounds bad, then I’ll take the hit as well, as it’ll be me and not the sax….. !

    But I will record something – maybe even with a backing track – early next week when I have a day to myself. Until then I’ll enjoy playing the alto in any spare moments. Talking of which, it’s past 9:30 and I need to eat. Over and out…

  36. Lewis Pelham says:

    Have you tried the alto yet with an “Adults Only” mouthpiece? How does it fare in the altissimo range? Does it scream and roar? Am I alone in being uninterested in how sweet and girlie it sounds playing Misty or Funny Valentine.
    In all probability I am jumping the gun…you will try all that stuff anyway.
    In some ways I am far more comfortable with Bb tenor playing Blues…..playing in a key one tone above concert, one has only to hit the concert key root note & that is a seventh in Bb pitch. It is then second nature for a harp player to knock off a sharp to find the minor third. I am now afraid that a C Mel would force me to think….that would never do. :-))

  37. al says:

    Lewis – yes, I tried it originally with my elderly bronze alto Berg (85,0 sms) and the harmonics were surprisingly mostly there – a couple required coaxing and a slight embouchure shift…. How could you have known I was going to record Misty and My Funny Valentine – are you psychic 🙂

    I’ll see if I can’t record something that registers on the Richter scale just for you…… Funny how my ear has slotted back into ‘Eb’ – I still dearly love the 20’s C-Sop but playing my Martin Magna alto, and now the Aquilasax one, has slightly distracted me from C-Mels. I always used to play tenor for my own satisfaction, and alto mostly for the practicalities of getting a sound outside of the guitar/keyboard scrummage. I could always get tenor to cut thro’ with the Lawton, but alto cut thro’ easier and better ! We’ll see.

  38. Ken says:

    Have any of you put money on to a new C Mel yet? There are just 100 available in the first batch.I would love aquire an Aquila C and have expressed an interest, but I’m not recovered from the last purchase of a certain Bb and my lovely wife has other priorities, such as bathroom and kitchen improvements. Mmmm…..maybe there’s a way.

  39. al says:

    Ken – no money has changed hands yet, I think the latest ‘available’ date is more towards the end of August.

    From conversations with Steve I think probably a minimum of three batches are planned.

    Common sense says the later saxes should have any problems eliminated, but that’s being rational……

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