Walstein tenor saxophone
Origin: China ( www.woodwindandbrass.co.uk
Guide price : £549
Date of manufacture: 2007
Date reviewed : Aug.07
Description : A second-generation Ultra-Cheap Chinese horn, based on
a Yanagisawa design.
been a few years since the very first credible cheap horns from China
hit the marketplace. In those early days competent models jostled cheek-by-jowl
with less well-built specimens, but even then it was obvious that consumer
demand would force standards up.
The Walstein tenor is a product of the ongoing co-operation between Chinese
manufacturers and western dealers; the former having the skills and the
means to produce instruments cheaply, the latter having a need for consistency
The 'inspiration' for this horn is the Yanagisawa 992 tenor. I say 'inspiration'
because although it's clear that quite a lot of copying is in evidence,
it's rather difficult to say just how much. Certainly the keywork bears
some obvious similarities - but it's a great deal harder to determine
whether the body does. For example, the 992 and the 991 horns feature
an 'underslung' octave key - clearly not present on this horn.
It's apparent that a number of Chinese manufacturers are making one body
and fitting it with different keys - and subsequently claiming it to be
a copy of whichever horn the keywork is based upon. More often than not
the distinction is somewhat blurred - I've seen so-called Yamaha copies
with Selmer -style octave key mechanisms etc.
To be perfectly frank it's quite academic which horns these copies are
based on - it's going to be either a Yanagisawa, Yamaha or Selmer...and
at the prices these horns sell for, who really cares as long as they work.
On the face of it, it's a nice looking horn. The body is phosphor-bronze,
the keys are plain brass. There aren't any real benefits to using phosphor-bronze
as a body material ( aside from the specious tonal debate ) other than
it makes a change from brass and looks quite snazzy.
It certainly looks substantial enough, and this is borne out when you
pick the thing up. It's really quite heavy - which straightaway answers
the popular criticism than these Ultra-Cheap horns are somewhat lightweight.
In terms of build quality the horn is surprisingly respectable. You have
to look pretty close to see small cosmetic flaws in some of the fittings,
and if you do you'll note that everything is quite firmly attached to
the body. It's not quite as neatly built as the Yanagisawa, but easily
on a par with many a Taiwanese horn.
Whilst you're poking about you might like to check the integrity of the
tone holes. They're all level.
It's patently obvious that this is how they're meant to be - but warped
tone holes have often been a problem on cheap instruments. This factor
alone bodes well for the reliability of the horn - something that one
or two rather more established manufacturers would do well to take heed
About the only things I would class as being slightly flimsy are the
bell key guards - though they're certainly adequate enough to protect
the horn from everyday knocks. In the event of a more substantial bash
it's debatable whether the horn would be worth fixing anyway from an economical
Finishing up the body is a detachable bell and an adjustable thumb hook...which
even has the dimpled base as found on the Yanagisawas. I note that the
sling ring is slightly larger than that found on the Yanis - which means
you won't have problems fitting some of the more substantial sling hooks
The keywork is really rather good, both in terms of build and finish.
Much more importantly it's also quite accurately fitted. This really is
fundamentally important to the functionality of the instrument - sloppy
keywork means bad regulation, which means leaks.
My only real criticism of the action is that the point screws are of the
pseudo type, and thus have no provision
for taking up wear in years to come. Something of a moot point in this
case though - by the time the action wears you'll either be well on your
way up the upgrade path, or the pads will be so worn out that it'll be
time to buy another horn completely ( it won't be worth repadding a horn
that's this cheap to buy in the first place ).
On a brighter note, the action is powered by blue steel springs - which
lends the horn a snappy, responsive feel under the fingers.
As per the Yanagisawa horn on which the Walstein is based it features
such enhancements as double arms on the low C and B keys, linking rollers
on the bell key spatulas, fork and pin linkages on the side Bb and C...and
even adjusters on the main key stacks, which I believe are absent on the
All well and good, but the best feature is that the action's layout is
very similar to that of the Yanagisawa - which means it's laid out well.
I mentioned earlier that these Ultra-Cheap horns were often criticised
for being lightweight, and in particular the keywork was purported to
be soft and bendy. This is most definitely not the case with the Walstein.
During the course of my review I decided to tweak the height of a few
keys and found it quite tough going to physically bend them.
The pads seem adequate for the job. I don't doubt that they're quite
cheap ones, but they looked OK and were well seated. It's worth commenting
that setups on these horns these days is less about fixing obvious errors
such as ill-seating pads and wobbly keys, and more about tweaking the
action to suit the player's needs.
Some of the corkwork looked less than neat, but nonetheless functional
( now how picky is that!? ).
As far as the build quality goes then, this horn represents outstanding
value for money already...but all the build quality in the world counts
for nothing if the horn doesn't blow very well.
As it happens though it blows well, very well indeed.
There are those who believe that the material a horn is made from has
an effect on its tone. I don't subscribe to that view for a number of
reasons - but if you're expecting a phosphor-bronze horn to be full and
warm in tone then the Walstein isn't going to disappoint you.
The overall tone is medium to warm. The depth of tone increases towards
the lower end, so much so that the low notes are really quite remarkable
in their richness. This feature alone is worth the asking price for the
Going up the scale the tone remains on the warm side, but has enough edge
to maintain the clarity - tuning was good throughout.
I tried a variety of mouthpieces with the Walstein, and the only one I
noticed any problems with was my Dukoff D8. This tended to make the top
end sound a bit pinched initially - but as I use this piece almost exclusively
with my Yamaha 23 it occurred to me that I was trying to play the Walstein
like a Yamaha. I gave the horn an extended blow with this piece and noticed
the top end starting to fill out.
I tried the mouthpiece that came with the horn. It's slightly better than
those I've played before, but unless you're lucky and get a good one (
and it really is pot luck with these things ) you'd be well advised to
replace it immediately. Beginners should budget another £30 or so
for a Yamaha piece ( but see addendum below ).
In terms of the feel, the action is positive. Factory setup is surprisingly
good for such a cheap horn, but it still benefited from a few tweaks here
and there on the main stacks. Being based on the Yanagisawa, the key layout
fits under the fingers a treat - and I noted that the right hand layout
feels a little large under my fingers...same as the Yani does.
The whole thing comes in a fitted semi-soft case, which is both light
and quite strong - certainly good enough for general use.
I liked this horn on the whole - and although it's not perhaps what I'd
look for tonewise ( and nor is the Yanagisawa ) it's nonetheless quite
an interesting horn.
It's clear that horns like these aren't going to oust the established
brands when it comes to experienced players looking for a top quality
instrument, but at the same time the playability of them is a great deal
better than it ought to be for the price. In terms of the horn's target
market - the student - it excels in every area and completely overshadows
otherwise competent horns like those by Jupiter and Trevor James in both
quality and price. It also fires a warning shot across the bows of Taiwanese
manufacturers who're hoping to find shelter in the higher end of the marketplace.
Value for money wise it's absurdly cheap - I'd be tempted on looks alone
- and as a second generation Ultra-Cheap horn it has more going for it
than earlier Chinese horns which, although adequate, weren't always that
More than that though, you could buy a horn like this on the strength
of its tone - and up until now that's been the province of horns that
have exceeded the £700 mark.
As such it represents a very fine beginner's horn - and many a more advanced
player will find it'll make an ideal backup horn, or just an interesting
I had the chance to compare this horn side-by-side with a Yanagisawa
991 - the results proved to be quite interesting. You can check out the
What with the global 'credit crunch' and rising costs everywhere the
price of the Walstein tenor has gone up since this review was published,
but along with the rise in price comes a significant upgrade. The horn
now sports a set of Italian leather pads, and while this might not sound
like much of an improvement it actually makes quite a difference. The
original ( Chinese ) pads were basic and functional - but they were slightly
soft and inclined to be rather sticky initially. The new pads are firmer
and a lot less sticky and have improved the overall response of the horn.
The action feels faster and more positive and the definition between the
notes is more precise. The pads feature slightly larger reflectors for
the bell notes, and these bring a nice crispness to the tone without sacrificing
the low-end grunt for which this horn is noted.
Given that prices are rising globally, the Walstein would have maintained
its value for money even without this upgrade - with it it's better now
than it ever was.