Bauhaus T-M2E Earth Series tenor saxophone
Guide price: £2170
Date of manufacture: April 2012
Date reviewed: June 2012
The latest model in the Bauhaus professional range
It's been a few years since I took a close look at what Bauhaus-Walstein
have been up to.
I reckon its fair to say that the company's been rather successful - what
with their range of entry-level Chinese-built horns that have proved to
be as popular with experienced players as they have with beginners, and
their professional range which has provided some very stiff competition
for the bigger names.
Part of this success has been down to providing the right products at
the right price, and being diligent with quality control - and I daresay
that the mere fact that the company's still around after a few years (and
in quite difficult economic times globally) carries a lot of weight with
the buying public; people feel far more confident buying into a brand
that has a track record.
But some of it has been because of their desire to keep tweaking things.
The Chinese range, which started out at quite a high standard for the
genre, has improved quite a bit - and the Taiwanese range hasn't exactly
been slouching either.
Quite a few have turned up in the workshop in the hands of advanced and
pro players (as indeed have one or two of the Chinese horns - the sopranos
and baritones as main horns, the alto as tenors as backups).
Rather reassuringly for existing owners, these horns have only been in
for general maintenance rather than any structural problems - which bodes
well for reliability in the long term
The T-M2E - or Earth Series - tenor is a development of the the standard
M2 Silver-Gold, which I reviewed back in 2009.
To all intents and purposes it's the same horn. Same body tube, pretty
much the same keywork - the only real difference being the finish...or
rather the lack of it.
Yes, it's yet another pre-aged vintage finish...or, as I call it, brown.
To be fair the photo doesn't really do it justice. I tend to use flat
lighting so that you can see all the details, but under everyday lighting
the yellowness of the brass shines through, punctuated by the odd sparkle
from the engraving that's cut through the finish.
It's a finish that seems to have grown on me over the years, possibly
because I've always had a bit of a soft spot for a well-played horn that's
long since lost its lacquer. I think it suits this horn, but that might
just be because it looks quite elegant with its slightly larger than average
here on in you could just read the Silver-Gold review and it will
tell you all you need to know - but I guess it's worth giving this
new model a bit of a shake-down if only to see whether standards
have been maintained (or even improved).
The body is of standard modern fully-ribbed construction, featuring plain
drawn tone holes ( all nice and level and well-finished on the rims),
a detachable bell, a removable side F#, domed metal thumb rest and an
adjustable metal thumb hook. Extra features include a four-point bell
brace and a brace for the arched bell key pillar, both of which will add
an extra degree of robustness to the body and help to prevent damage from
all but the most severe knocks.
This belt-and-braces approach carries on through to the bell key guard
feet, which are nice and large. This is a feature I'm particularly keen
on as I'm forever having to refit guard feet where they've been knocked
off. The large surface area of contact with the body should help them
to spread the load in the event of an impact, and with a bit of luck this
will prevent quite so much (or any) damage to the corresponding tone holes.
The keywork appears to be unchanged and still sports the same useful
features, such as regulation adjusters on both main key stacks, cupped
key feet on the lower stack (giving a larger contact surface area, and
so less noise and rebound), double arms on the low C and B keys (though
still not on the low Bb for some reason), simple but effective fork and
pin connectors for the side Bb and C keys and a set of a black kangaroo
skin pads with ceramic reflectors (or resonators).
The point screws are still the bullet-headed type, but at least the holes
in the key barrels have been drilled accurately - so there's none of that
key wobble that's typical of a certain other well-known Taiwanese manufacturer
- and there's even a little bit of adjustability built in. Finally, a
set of blued steel spring powers the action.
Perhaps the most notable change is that the case is now of the box type
rather than the shaped silver one supplied with the original models. It's
rather bulkier, but on the plus side it gives a lot more storage room
for bits and bobs. On the downside it's still a zip-fastening case.
of the reasons the M2 series has done quite so well is that it feels
good under the fingers. It's a decent-enough action out of the box
but with the extra in-house tweaks that come as standard, the keywork
feels that little bit more positive. The worst you should expect
at this kind of price point is a spot of double action (though I've
seen far worse), but even that's a disappointment...and it makes
even the best horn feel a bit clunky. No such problems on this horn.
I'd still like to have seen height adjusters as well though.
There are a couple of nice touches that make a difference.
There's the slightly domed Bis Bb key pearl against the concave pearls
on the main stacks, which makes for a comfortable transition from the
B key, and there's a slightly domed metal thumbrest for the octave key
which I find makes it a lot easier on the thumb when playing for extended
Of course, the big question is how does it play in comparison to the
standard silver-gold M2?
And what about the lacquered model?
Tonewise the M2 series has always enjoyed a rich, full, slightly laid-back
approach. There's a leaning towards warmth but without the all-too-common
muddiness that often accompanies it, and just the right amount of sparkle
and fizz to give the notes a nice bit of a cut and clarity.
It's a very moreish horn too, with a slight tweak of the embouchure bringing
out different aspects of the tone as desired. This bodes well for versatility,
helped along by it's notable stability - it's a very easy horn to steer,
and that makes for a very relaxing blow.
Better still, if you push it, it goes with you. As you blow harder the
volume goes up...but the tone maintains its balance. Even better than
that, it does exactly the same as you back off. This is an important feature,
quite a lot of modern horns seem to be at their best only when they're
being blown at full tilt. This makes for a great first impression but
soon turns out to be a bit of a disappointment when you want a bit of
Blowing the Earth Series tenor beside the silver-gold and the lacquered
(Studio Series) proved to be quite interesting.
With eyes shut and someone else handing me the horns (and surgical gloves
on to disguise the feel of the individual horns) I was hard put to tell
much difference, other than there were three distinct horns. This is down
to the natural variation you'll get with any seemingly identical horns
- it's about 5% or so on average.
Of the three the Studio was the most detectable, having a noticeably different
presence. This will be due to the size of the bell - and is more noticeable
to the player than it is to the listener.
So there we are - they're all the same, more or less.
Y'see, things got really interesting when the gloves were off (quite literally)
and when I could see each horn.
It became quite clear to me, and to the listeners, that I played each
horn in a slightly different way.
With the lacquered Studio horn I felt more focussed, more intent, retrospective
even. With the silver-gold I felt more lavish - it's hard not to play
up to its 'flashiness', to wallow in that big, fat bottom end.
On the Earth it felt more stripped-away...more exposed...naked.
At this point I wouldn't blame you if you were thinking I'd lost the
plot, but despite the fact that I know that the material a horn is made
of is going to make no detectable difference to the tone, and the finish
even less, I'm still very much aware that psychology makes a difference.
It was my first sax teacher, Alf Kendal, who said "Give your horn
a polish before a show - you'll play better" - and he was right.
It's like wearing a sharp suit or having a haircut...you just feel more
presentable. Such things matter, they make a difference - a small one,
admittedly, and perhaps only to you, but it's still a difference.
So if you feel you'd play better if you were naked, the Bauhaus Earth
Series is going to be right up your street.