Trying a B&S 2001 Series Saxophone (8/26/2022)
Well, a funny thing happened. I was on the SOTW
site and came across this guy that has been playing for a while, and
has tried hundreds of different saxophones; the China made stuff,
the top of the line stuff, etc.. Also very knowledgeable about the
industry in general.
One of the things I was curious about was how my Eastern Music ref.
54 actually stacks up against a name brand professional horn.
I like it better than my Selmer TS600, but that doesn't say a lot;
the Selmer was an intermediate horn. I was thinking of finding
a sax shop and trying some of the top brands. So, I was
curious to get the guys opinion and if he was familiar with the
particular Eastern Music model. He wasn't but he gave me a lot
of information, and thoughts on Chinese brands. He also told
me about what saxophones he had. If he tried hundreds, this is
something I wanted to know.
One of his horns is a B&S Medusa Tenor. B&S was a
German company that apparently didn't know how to market their
products and they weren't making a profit, and so stopped making the
saxophones. The tooling was sold off and for a short while the
horns were being made under a different names. I just saw a 2004
Medusa on Ebay, open box, for $6000+. Other horns made from
that tooling more recently I've seen for $14,000. Everything I
read says that the horns were very well designed and made, and
played really well.
I did some hunting and came across a some 1000 and 2001 series
B&Ss and a couple Medusas. One 2001 Series was refurbished
and apparently in really good shape, aside for some age spots.
The serial number is 00674 and I found a reference that it's a 1994
build. The 2001 series was the predecessor to the Medusa,
which got some minor updates; same tooling. I found it on Ebay
and bought it. $2000. Yeah, that's more money then I
thought I'd ever spend on a saxophone. But, if it plays as
well as people say, and it's basically a collectors item, because
they are no longer made (last Medusa's were in 2006(?)), I can't go
wrong. I had spent $1300 on a 70's Cleveland that didn't have near
the reputation. If it's actually no better than my Eastern
Music, then I can just sell one of them. It's on it's way to
me and I should have it in a few days. Here's some photos and
also some from the Medusa currently being sold by
WorldWideSax.com. The lighting is different, so one looks more
golden then the other, but they should be the same.
Looks like the most obvious difference is the mechanisms in the
middle of the sax. I think this is for the G#/Ab key, an
actual mechanical lift, to eliminate the key sticking under just
spring load, which seems to happen on all saxophones. I've
read that Antigua horns also have that feature. Also, a couple
of the lower keys are different button shape and position. But
that's about all I can see.
Well, it came, and the most obvious thing is that it's not the
lighting in the photos; they were accurate, it's actually not
black. It's a coffee brown and the keys have a slight gold
tinge to them.
The other thing is that it has some cosmetic defects which the
seller didn't show photos of and didn't mention.
The sale was no return, so I've been going back and forth with
them. We've agreed to a partial refund, so, my price
$1650 plus tax. They wouldn't take it back. I guess a lower
sale is better than hoping to sell it again. A bird in the hand.
With my Eastern Music sax I have a strap setup that allows me to
rotate the sax to the right by about 30-40 degrees. This is
much more comfortable for my left hand; it straightens out my wrist,
which was painful before I came up with this solution. I tried
to do the same thing with this saxophone and it didn't work.
At first it was because the strap was pressing on the mechanisms,
causing one of the keys to partially open, and acting like an octave
key; my middle C played high. But when I changed the position
of the strap, so it wasn't touching anything, it still did the same
thing. I was wonder if it was pulling on the bell and causing
a small opening somewhere; torquing the body, and causing a
leak? But I've fiddled with it a bit and now it seems to be
fine. I can rotate it and have no issues. [Actually
turned out that the octave mechanism on the neck was too tight to
the actuator, so when the neck was turned sideways it was slightly
lifting up on the octave key. Straightened it out and no
It is interesting that the ring for the neck strap attachment is
shifted slightly to the right which actually seems to accomplish
what I'm doing with the strap, to a small degree.
Another obvious thing, good, is that the table keys, and the Db/E#
and low C are closer than on my Eastern Music ref 54. So, my
pinkies don't have to stretch as far to reach them. Seems much
more natural. Also, the spring action is lighter, and the
B&S weighs a bit less.
Playing it now for a couple days I've gotten familiar with it, and I
switched back to my Eastern Music. I have to say, they are
very close in tone and response. Maybe the Eastern is a little
brighter. But other than the difference in key placement for
the pinkies, and the lower F# key, switching back and forth is no
issue. I'd say the Eastern Music actually overtones easier
cleaner, which is a surprise.
It's not quite cosmetically in excellent condition, it is 28 years
old, but it does play well. The brown color with golden keys
are kind of subdued. I think I like it better than the black
with nickle I thought I was getting.
I'm going to play it a bit longer and once the newness wears off,
decide if I'm selling one of the saxophones. I'm biased toward
keeping the B&S right now because it's German Engineering that's
proven itself for 28 years now, and it's basically a collector item,
but we'll see.
Two week update:
After some discussion on the SOW forum, it turns out that this brown
color is just because of the brass showing through the black
nickle. An old catalog actually shows the same color.
So, that mystery is settled.
I played it for two weeks exclusively. A suggestion was made
that switching back and forth between the saxophones wouldn't give
me a chance to get use to it. And the verdict is... yeah, it's
a good saxophone. But surprisingly it's not really better than
my 54. Might be slightly different in tone, but at more than
twice the price of the 54, I had no reason to keep it.