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Bauhaus-Walstein pro tenor review header
 

Bauhaus-Walstein M2 professional tenor saxophone
Origin: Taiwan
Guide price : £1850
Date of manufacture: 2009
Date reviewed : Nov. 2009

Description : Bauhaus-Walstein's long-awaited 'pro' tenor.

Bauhaus professional tenorThe phrase "The one you've all been waiting for" has perhaps been rather over-used in modern advertising, but in this case I rather think it fits the bill quite nicely. The Walstein ( now Bauhaus-Walstein ) brand has been up and running for a few years now and it seems to me that their approach to marketing is less of the 'quick off the mark' and more of the 'all good things in good time'. Thus the original Walstein Ultra-Cheap tenor entered the market some time after numerous other dealers had been flooding the market with cheap horns of hit-and-miss quality, but in so doing it set a new benchmark for both the quality of horn you could get for not much money, and the level of after-sales service. To be more accurate, it set the level for pre-sales service due to their policy of having each and every horn checked and adjusted before being shipped to the customer. The success of this ethos can clearly be seen by the number of satisfied buyers who've been moved to express their delight with their Walsteins on the various saxophone forums dotted around the web.
The announcement that a new horn was in the pipeline came in late 2007 - and it's taken since then for them to come up with a horn that's intended to be a significant step-up from the original model but still carries the same 'bang for bucks' of the basic model. The question is, have they done it?

This is the new professional standard tenor - the M2, but already colloquially known as the 'silver-gold'.
As far as I'm aware the company intends to make this finish the standard for this model, which is quite a brave step considering the number of lacquered horn out there in comparision to plated models.
I was never a fan of silverplated horns ( not for any mechanical reason, I just never liked the look ), but I was quite taken with the Bauhaus-Walstein alto and wondered if the same would be true of the tenor. Well, it is - much to my surprise. I think it's the combination of the gold-lacquered keys and fittings and the bright bodywork - there's just enough brass showing to compliment the silver, and while I tend to feel that gold and silver don't mix that well I have to admit that the Bauhaus-Walstein gets away with it. In that sense it could well be that choosing this particular finish for their horns is a smart move - it's certainly distinctive.

Its handsome looks are due in part to the large bell rim, which gives it a very grandiose appearance. Big bells aren't new, but these days the trend is towards more compact designs - so this horn tends to stand out from the crowd. I doubt the size of the bell makes very much difference to the tone, but it looks as though it should - and in many ways that's half the battle.

The horn is of standard construction, with ribs for the main stacks and generously sized pillar bases for the remainder of the keywork, all of which look to have been fitted with care and precision. The guards also have decent sized stays apart from the Eb guard stay that sits on top of the detachable bell clamp, which has a smaller base in order to fit neatly on the clamp.
There's a removable side F# guard ( not much use to the player, but very handy for repairers ), an adjustable thumb hook and a usefully large sling ring which will accommodate a locking hook with ease. The bell key guards are suitably substantial and feature adjustable bumpers.

Bauhaus bell braceThe bell brace is of the standard ring design, but features an additional bracing arm - as used on many modern baritones. It's a real pleasure to see such 'belt and braces' features which make a real difference to the reliability and robustness of the instrument as opposed to fiddly keywork additions which are of little use to anyone and are just there to add bumf to the advertising spiel.
The brace won't mean the bell is any less likely to be damaged in the event of a fall, but it will help to spread the shock of the impact and lessen the likelihood of damage to the body. It'll also help keep the bell aligned in day-to-day use, where even light knocks can throw a bell slightly out of line.

Bauhaus tenor bell keys pillar braceIn a similar vein there's an additional brace for the bell key compound pillar. This pillar is of the arched variety, though unlike the alto the arch has only one mount point. On its own I'd consider this design to be weak, but the extra brace provides the necessary support. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's at least neat and tidy - and functional - and will prevent the pillar being knocked out of line due to impacts ( typically when the horn is in its case ). The toneholes are of the plain type, nicely finished and, most importantly, level.

On the keywork side the construction is neat and tidy with double arms on the low C and B key cups, a simple fork and pin arrangement for the side Bb/C trills and well-fitted key pearls. The point screws are of the bullet headed variety, which have a degree of adjustment in them provided the key barrels have been accurately drilled - which they have. I'd still prefer to see proper point screws fitted, but they can easily be added at a later date should the need arise. Those keys mounted on rod screws are nice and snug too, which gives a precise feel to the action.The action is powered by blued steel springs.

Both main key stacks are fitted with adjusters to the auxiliary bars, which will help your repairer when it comes to making small adjustments to the regulation.
The most significant point of note with regard to the keywork is the use of kangaroo skin pads. 'Roo skin is rather tougher, and more supple, than the standard leather used for saxophone pads, and it's less prone to stickiness too. The pads themselves are fitted with white porcelain reflectors ( or resonators ), which you can see on the G key cup in the shot of the bell brace above. Whether these make any difference to the tone is open for debate, but they certainly look very smart and should be quite easy to clean ( if you can be bothered ).
If there's a drawback it's that such pads and their reflectors won't be widely available, so in the event of needing a pad replaced you might have to put up with a standard pad - at least until your repairer can get hold of a proper replacement. Given the impressive customer support of Bauhaus-Walstein I doubt that getting hold of spares will be a problem.

On the layout side the keywork continues to impress, with a nice feel under the hands. Everything's where it should be, and the set-up out of the box is worthy of praise.
As with the alto though, I still feel the lower stack keys would benefit from felt on the key feet rather than the cork that's fitted - it makes for a quieter action. It's an easy enough upgrade though, and one to consider when you drop the horn in for a service.
The sample alto was fitted with abalone key pearls, which I felt looked a bit gaudy - so it's nice to see plain pearls on the production models...and real mother-of-pearl too. No slippy plastic here.

The finish is particularly good, with tidy lacquering on the keywork and bright silver plate on the body. It's worth noting that the silver has been lacquered over as well, which means it won't tarnish ( one of the big drawbacks of silver plated instruments ) and can be cleaned as easily as a normal lacquered finish ( i.e. not at all, in my experience ). The addition of a stamped brand logo is nice step-up from the laser etched logo on the sample alto, and I'm very pleased to see that the engraving has been plated over - which will prevent corrosion starting on the bare brass. It also makes the engraving less scratchy.

The horn comes in a shaped case which is functional and reasonably well padded. There's not much room inside for your bits and bobs though, and the case has a zipped fastener - and once a zip breaks the case has effectively had it. It's good enough for general use and comes with a shoulder strap for easy carrying - but I see that it still sports the dubious plastic strips on the bottom bow section which allow you to stand the case upright - ready for someone to knock it over.
Given the relatively cheap price of the horn, and the quality, it'd be worth investing in a case of at least the quality of a Hiscox.

Bauhaus front top F keyIn the hands the Bauhaus feels slick and solid. It's not as compact as, say, a Yamaha, but neither is it as big and chunky as a Keilwerth. There are a few small details that make a big difference to the feel, such as the slightly rounded BisBb pearl ( in contrast to the slightly concave key pearls ) - which makes rolling over the the Bb a cinch. Likewise, the teardrop front top F touchpiece is perfectly positioned and will equally suit those who prefer to roll their forefinger up and those who like to lift it.

Everything adds up in terms of build and setup then, all that remains is for it all to fall into place in the blowing.
I had high expectations of this horn given the results of the Bauhaus alto, which I reviewed in 2008 - and I'm delighted to say that I wasn't at all disappointed.
Tonewise this horn has much the same character as the alto; it's free-blowing, punchy and precise without being overly bright. It's a big sound too - when compared side-by-side with a Yamaha YTS62 it had more presence and a beefier mid-range, as well as a richer bottom end. The YTS62 is quite a hard act to beat, both in terms of sound and feel, but as much a fan of Yamaha horns as I am I'd choose the Bauhaus over it because it would give me the vibrancy that I want as well as throwing in a bigger sound for free. I'd even go so far as to say that a more fair comparison would be with the Z series Yamaha, but that's a £2800+ horn - which perhaps shows how much potential this tenor has.
The Bauhaus pulls off quite a neat trick by 'standing at the crossroads' tonally. The presence and midrange response goes well with a standard jazz mouthpiece, such as the Link 7*, and the punch and clarity is waiting in the wings if you want to use a bright piece, such as an M or D series Dukoff. I'm almost tempted to say this horn begs for a two-mouthpiece set-up given that it's so hard to choose between having a rich, warm sound and a punchy, bright one. That might not sound like much of a big deal, but you have to bear in mind I'm a staunch advocate of having one mouthpiece and sticking to it - and learning how to make it do whatever you want it to.
Fortunately I was rescued by the appearance of an RPC 115B piece that gave me all the richness I wanted and enough boot to kit out a small army.
I then compared it to a Mauriat 66R. I had a lot of good things to say about the playability of this horn when I reviewed it in 2008, so I was very keen to see how the Bauhaus compared. It was clear from the off that these two horns are like chalk and cheese in terms of blowing, though they both meet the standard I'd expect for a pro horn. The Bauhaus has a focussed tone, you get the sense that you can point the horn in a certain direction and send the notes just 'there'. The Mauriat has more of a sawn-off shotgun approach - anyone in range gets an earful.
My initial impression was that the Mauriat had everything the Bauhaus had, and then some - but after a very short while became apparent that the Mauriat's loudness came at a price. Although very free blowing it has a tendency to suck the air out of you, which makes it quite a demanding blow against the Bauhaus. It also proved to be rather less stable, although it's fair to say that the Bauhaus excells in this area.
Something else that proved to be interesting was just how much feedback the Bauhaus had over the Mauriat. The 66R is a louder horn, but almost all the sounds goes out in front, the Bauhaus wraps its sound around you. It's hard to describe, but if you play the two horns side-by-side it's completely obvious.
I think what surprised me most was that before I played this Bauhaus I would have had a 66R in an instant. It's a big, strident horn - and that's what I like. I'm not so sure now, the Bauhaus seems more refined, more precise - and very graphically demonstrates the cost of Mauriat's undeniable presence.

Of course, the big question is whether it's worth the extra cash over the standard Walstein. In a word - absolutely.
Good as the standard horn is, the pro model gives so much more. The cheaper model competes more than adequately with horns priced up to around the £1000 mark in terms of tone and feel, but the pro model takes the marker up to over double that price. This is a horn that takes on the Mauriats and the Yamahas on a level field of tone and response, then kicks them both firmly in the old family jewels with its price.

It's well-built, it looks great, it feels great, it plays great - and it's affordable. As such it comfortably fills a niche in the marketplace, for a tenor that has punch and body without a substantial price-tag - and I think the Bauhaus is going to be popping up all over the place.

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