Something that I’ve been asked by students on many occasions, and a topic that frequently comes up in conversation with colleagues, is the old debate of vintage vs. new instruments. Before I continue, let me just say that I am not an expert on musical instrument acoustics. I leave those kinds of debates to those who are more knowledgeable in that area. That being said, I have played on a few modern saxophones, and I do notice a difference between them and their vintage counterparts.
Just to clarify, I perform on vintage Buescher and Conn saxophones: a curved soprano from the early 1920s, an alto from the early 1930s, and a tenor from the mid-1930s. I love the sound that I get on each of these instruments, and their mechanisms are logical and easy to play on (for me). For me, these instruments work best and I achieve the desired musical results that I am looking for.
However, there are many saxophonists who prefer modern instruments, and that is absolutely fine. If a modern mechanism and enhancements help those players achieve their desired musical results, then by all means they should play on those instruments. I’ve tried several of these instruments, and for my personal tastes, I didn’t find them acceptable. But that is just my opinion.
There is no “best” saxophone out there — there is, however, a “best” saxophone for you. So much depends upon the player’s desires and wishes. I encourage those that are interested in purchasing an instrument to play-test as many different saxophones as possible. Only through playing experiences and trial and error can one find an instrument that truly works for them.