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P Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor saxophone

Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor saxOrigin: Taiwan (www.pmauriatmusic.com)
Guide price: £1600
Weight: 3.4kg
Date of manufacture: 2010
Date reviewed: March 2014

Mauriat's stab at the intermediate market - with a mixed bag of features

The intermediate-quality instrument market is a hard place in which to do business. Student models are nearly always bought on price, pro models on performance - but the middle ground is all about getting the balance right. Too cheap, and no-one will take you seriously; too dear and you simply won't come up to scratch. It's difficult, too, from the point of view of knowing what (and what not) to provide. Fortunately (for the buyer) there's a lot of competition, and with each manufacturer having slightly different ideas about what constitutes an intermediate horn, there's a nice range of choice.
And it's into this cut-throat market that Mauriat have pitched their Bravo 200.

It's a decent-looking horn, with its matt finish lacquer on a rose brass body with contrasting gold lacquered brass keys - and the nicely engraved "Silver VI" nickel crook makes it look very businesslike. The large bell diameter is a nice touch at this price point- it's 156mm (6 1/8"), which is just a tad smaller than the large-belled TJ RAW tenor.
The construction is fairly typical; drawn toneholes, which were all nice and level and neatly finished off; semi-ribbed pillars - which means a combination of standalone pillars and small groups of pillars fitted to plates on the main stack action and all the usual mod-cons, such as a detachable bell, an adjustable metal thumb hook and a triple-point bell stay. There's also a large, slightly convex brass thumb rest, a large sling ring, adjusters on the bell key bumper felts and a semicircular compound bell key pillar...though this doesn't have any additional bracing, such as you'd find on the Bauhaus M2.
I'd say the body build quality was pretty good - nice and tidy, with no sloppy solderwork and an even coat of lacquer.

The keywork was similarly nicely finished, and fitted with proper Mother-of-pearl touchpieces (or in this case, Abalone - which is much the same, just more decorative). The main stack pearls are slightly concave, with a slightly domed Bis Bb pearl (which makes for a smoother transition when rolling your finger off the B key). Likewise, G# and side F# touchpieces feature slightly domed Abalone pearls.
The design of the keywork is fairly straightforward - plain and functional seems to be the best description. There are no-nonsense fork and pin connectors on the side Bb and C keys, a swivel arm octave key mech and a tilting table for the bell keys.

Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor corksYou get adjusters for the G#/Bis Bb and the low C# - but there are no adjusters on the main stacks, either for key height or regulation. I feel this is a bit mean at this price point - and the use of fairly thick, standard cork for the stack regulators isn't going to help matters.
However, there's some use of felt up and down the action, which will go some way to keeping the action noise down a bit.
And it'll be needed. As with many Mauriats I've seen, the action rattled a fair bit. A great deal of this will be down to the use of parallel point screws. These have a tapered tip on them, but because the pivot holes in the key barrels are drilled deeper than the length of the point screw's tip they're completely ineffectual.
I also noticed some wobbling on the palm keys. I could put this down to fair wear and tear, but as this horn's only four years old and with no signs of heavy use, I think it highly likely that the wobbles were there from the off. The keys are finished off with decent, well-set pads and the action is powered by blued steel springs.

The setup was average. Given the age of the horn it's hard to comment accurately about it, but I noted the spring tension was set way too heavy. It could be that the horn has had some work done to to it in the last four years, but I'm inclined to doubt that anyone would elect to have the action set this hard- or that any repairer would consider it an ideal setup. The key heights were spot on though.

Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor caseThe horn came in a shaped semi soft case. Seems decent enough, but a whack to the case led to some nasty damage to the top F# upper pillar. I've often moaned about the size of pillar bases on pillars that are especially vulnerable to knocks, and this proves my point. A larger base would have spread the impact force; it might not have prevented the damage, but it would have lessened it...and that can be the difference between your horn being playable or not after a light knock. It's a little odd, because all the other standalone pillars have decent-sized bases.

There's not much storage space inside the case - a compartment for the mouthpiece and one for the crook, and that's your lot. Anything else will have to go in one of the three zippered bags attached to the exterior of the case...though one of them is big enough to take a flute in a case.
I hate the lack of storage space inside the case - even a small compartment for reed and cork grease would be good enough, simply because these are precisely the sort of things I want immediately to hand when I open the case.
It seems I'm not alone, because this case was littered with free-floating reed cases, pegs and bit of paper...some of which had found their way into the bore of the horn.

Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor bell keysThe horn felt fine under the fingers (after a decent set up). Modern horns, for the most part, have the ergonomics nailed...at least for the vast majority of players. Everything was where I expected it to be, and the use of grease rather than oil for the ill-fitting point screws had helped to quieten the action considerably.

Tonewise it's a credible performer. As expected at this price point it has a 'middle of the road' feel to it - not too bright, not too warm (despite the tonal claims the manufacturer's blurb makes for the rose brass) and even-toned across the range. It's stable too, there's no sense that it will run away with you. This makes it a solid platform, and many a player who's upgrading from a student-quality instrument will immediately notice how much more in control the Bravo puts them.
And while that's a quality worth shouting about , it's also something of a limitation because it comes across as quite a 'dry' horn.
It's the difference between playing your horn in the lounge - with the furniture, carpets and curtains acting together to deaden the sound - and playing in the bathroom, where the harder surfaces add a bit of an echo (or reverb, as its known in the trade). The former is a dry sound, the latter a 'wet' one. Some horns seem to have an inbuilt reverb; it's small, granted, but it's still there - and it lends the tone a bit of depth. It's like looking for the last morsel at the bottom of a soggy bag of chips, or tipping your pint glass to get that last drop of beer out...it's that sense of reaching for more, of hoping that it's there. The Bravo seem to have a definite cut-off point. What you hear is what you get.
There's still a decent bit of crackle to the low notes, and enough edge to the top notes to allow them to cut through nicely - in fact I quite liked the solidity of the palm key notes.
Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor  crookNone of this makes it a bad horn though, it just makes it different - and some players will find that the horn's temperament complements their mouthpiece setup and playing style perfectly. It's also not the case that the stability means it lacks response - it might not have as much immediacy as I'd like, but it's got enough.
The tuning is, as expected, just fine.

Perhaps the biggest problem for the Bravo is the competition. £1600 is a fair chunk of cash to splash on a horn - and when buyers perhaps lack the confidence that pro players have, it's not unreasonable to assume that they'll tend to concentrate a little more on features rather than out-and-out playability. And the first obstacle the Bravo comes up against is the formidable TJ SR. It's around the same price, but the build quality is better and there are some very useful refinements to the keywork (such as regulation adjusters) - and then there's the tone. It's a chip off the SC RAW block, and it shows.

Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor bellThere's the Bauhaus M2 as well - a horn which has more than a passing nod to the warm, rich tones of the vintage era. And it has the looks too.
What about a Cannonball? Given that it's hard to track down any prices on the web it's difficult to point at a particular model, but none of them are slouches.
And then there's the ubiquitous Yamaha 480, a horn that's always punched well above its weight.

All of these horns should be on an intermediate tenor buyer's shortlist and they all have slightly different things to offer - but I can't help but think that the Bravo is perhaps overcompensating a little by virtue of the number of 'references' it makes to certain other horns. There's a 'VI' on the crook, and the trio of buzzwords on the bell - Paris, Global, Custom. I had a good look over the horn, but I couldn't find "Made in Taiwan' stamped anywhere on it.

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