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LA Sax Tenor header

LA Sax tenor saxophone ( basic model? )
Origin: Assembled in USA
Guide price : Not known, bought used for £400
Age of review model : Unknown, but at least 3 years
Date reviewed : Mar.02

Description : An intermediate level sax, finished in metallic blue with gold lacquered keywork.

LA Sax are a relatively new company on the sax scene, and they've made a name for themselves by virtue of the amazing range of finishes they offer their instruments in.
It's no longer the case that the budding sax player is stuck with either gold or clear lacquer, silver or nickel plate - LA Sax finish their horns in anything from electric blue to psychedelic chaos.

All very funky - but what lies beneath the glitzy surface?

Well, lets have a closer look at that glitzy surface first.
Esoteric finished are all good and well, but it must be borne in mind that saxes are prone to wear and tear, the odd knock and dent, scratches, dings and even bits falling off. In order to fix these problems the finish of the instrument is likely to suffer to some degree, if it hasn't already by virtue of the problem.

Traditional finishes have some advantages. Clear lacquer is just that...clear, so what you see beneath it is the colour of the bare metal. In the event of a scratch or a repair that removes the finish the difference in colour is minimal - and it's easy enough to patch up the odd spot where the lacquer has gone.
Gold lacquer is deeper and darker than the original brass, but small patches of brass showing through won't look too bad and it is possible to retouch the lacquer to some degree ( though it can be hard to achieve a perfect match ).

The plated finishes tend to fare better as they're inherently more durable - though when they do go through it means having to live with it unless you replate the entire body.

If you whack a funky finish on a sax, what will it look like once the finish starts to wear?

Like this... LA Sax tenor lacquer

You should be aware that unlike plain lacquer some of these funky finishes have a tendency to chip off when knocked - and because of the contrasting surface beneath you could end up with a rather shabby looking horn!
Bear in mind that there are some genuine coloured lacquer finishes to be found - and whilst these won't chip off they'll still be subject to looking tatty when they wear.

On stripping the horn down I noticed that the finish had been applied OVER the springs. Understandable really, as fitting springs afterwards would risk damaging the finish ( something to bear in mind if a spring breaks! ), but having said that the springs fitted are of the stainless type - so they'll last. Even so, if springs require tweaking during a setup then the finish may well chip off

I was pleased to note that the tops of the tone holes were free of the finish, and had been nicely levelled.

The keywork is nice - one innovation that really impressed me was the fitting of a nylon grommet in the top F/F# key barrel guard. Usually this is just a plain 'dome' of brass that keeps the long key barrels secure, but due to the whip of the keys they can sometimes be a source of noise. The grommet holds the barrels apart and away from the sides of the dome.

The setup was fair, I did note a few pads up at the back but given the age of the instrument this may not have been down to poor build.
LA Sax have used cylindrical point screws which means that free play can be adjusted indefinitely, which is always a plus.
I noted that some of the edges of the key cups were a little uneven - though this was a cosmetic glitch as the cups themselves appeared to be quite level. More concern too about the size of the low C cup - a bigger cup would make for a more reliable seal, I feel.

One or two of the pillars had suspect soldering - this could be an issue as the horn doesn't use straps for the pillars. If pillars pop off they'll need resoldering...and that'll damage the finish.

Under the fingers the action felt tight and secure, and quite comfortable. The bell key spatulas were well placed, though the low C/Eb spatulas were a little bit of a reach for me. I felt the palm keys were set a tad on the low side - some players may find the need for add-on risers.

Tonewise, fair to middling - a little lacking in definition perhaps, and a trifle thin at the upper end. The lower end was beefy enough, but the lack of definition left it sounding a little hollow. This is a sax that might benefit from a warmer mouthpiece.

Summing up then : A nicely put together instrument that, if bought at the right price, represents a fair deal. The secondhand price paid for this example makes it a bargain.
I have reservations about the durability and longevity of the finish, but provided you're comfortable with these then these instruments provide a interesting slant on traditional finishes.

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