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B&S 2001 tenor saxophone

B&S 2001 tenorOrigin: Germany
Guide price: £500 (used)
Weight: -
Date of manufacture: 1990
Date reviewed: April 2007

A pro quality horn from the short-lived B&S marque

In my review of the B&S 2001 alto I commented on the similarities with Keilwerth's horns, so when a B&S tenor came into the workshop I fully expected to find the same features - given that it bore the same model number. On examining the horn, however, it appears that there are few, if any, similarities.
The body is typically contemporary affair, with the stack action set on straps (a single strip of metal, to which all the pillars in a particular group are attached), adjustable thumbrest and a detachable bell.
There's a sufficiently sturdy bell brace, a generously sized sling ring and a detachable arched bell key compound pillar.
The pillars and fittings are neat and tidy, and have been well fitted to the horn.

One handy feature, for repairers at least, is a detachable guard on the lower F#. It can often be quite tricky gaining access to this hole with a pad setting plate when seating the pad, and this key is often the source of a small leak where a pad seat has been fumbled.

So far so good.
This horn was in for a general service, and my first impression of it was how badly the action was set up. On dismantling the instrument I was able to get a closer look at the setup and discovered a few unpleasant surprises, the most notable being a significant number of slightly warped toneholes.
As mentioned in other reviews, there are number of ways in which a tonehole can become warped - and for horns that have seen some 'action in the field' it's often down to dents and other body damage.
This tends to affect specific toneholes though, the ones adjacent to any damaged area of the body - so when warps are found throughout the body, and with no signs of damage to the body, the culprit is bad manufacturing.
Given the build quality of the alto and the target clientele this horn was aimed at, I was rather disappointed to find such anomalies.

The horn is finished with a neat coat of clear lacquer which lends the horn a nice, clean look.
I found a couple of small brown spots (from flux bleed) on the bell joint and under the bell rim which really shouldn't have been there on a professional horn that's barely half a dozen years old.
*I originally had the date of manufacture as 2001, but it's since been said that it's closer to 1990 - in which case the flux bleed spots are more forgivable.

The keywork is neat and well built. There's nothing in particular that stands out about the design of the keywork, it's quite functional and doesn't have any superfluous gadgets.
B&S 2001 tenor low C# About the only thing of note was the design of the low C# mechanism, which was inclined to be a bit bouncy. I tried adding felt buffers here and there, but to no avail - what's really needed is a flat spring on top of the lever...not a difficult or expensive mod.
There are no adjusters on the mains stacks, so home tweaking isn't going to be a simple affair.

The setup was poor, and I noted one or two slightly warped key cups. Some of the cup angles were way off, requiring some significant adjustment to bring them back on the level. Given that the pads on these keys had been set at an angle it's a very fair bet that this was how the horn left the factory.

I noted the use of synthetic cork throughout. This really didn't do the action any favours at all. Synthetic cork certainly has its uses, but not when it comes to general action buffers. The stuff compresses too readily, is hard to adjust and lends the action a spongy feel. Replacing it with felt in strategic places brought a great deal more 'snap' to the action and improved the feel and response no end.
Proper point screws and blued steel springs give the keys a nice, tight feel, and with regard to ergonomics you'll find that everything is where it ought to be.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about this horn is the tone.
When it first came into the workshop and I gave it a test blow, I was immediately taken with its brightness. Tonewise it felt very familiar indeed, and I was very keen to see what improvements a decent service would yield.
With the leaks all gone and the action feeling nice and slick, the horn's tone felt much more stable and centred. It's undoubtedly a bright and punchy horn - a stark contrast to the 2001 alto reviewed a year earlier.
It has bags of cut and clarity, plenty of attack and precision across the range - with beautifully crisp, clear low notes.
I think what comes next might upset a few people.
I said it felt familiar - and that's because it plays almost exactly like my trusty old Yamaha YTS23.
OK, so there's a slight difference (dare I say in the 23's favour?) in that the B&S is a little more rounded, particularly at the top end - but it really is very slight.
I was that surprised that I did a side-by-side comparison. After more than 20 years of blowing a YTS23 I know its every nook and cranny - and each time I pick it up and blow it I'm reminded of why I love it so much. You could creep round in the night and swap it with the 2001, and aside from the feel of the action I really don't think I'd catch onto the ruse for quite some time.
In that sense it becomes quite hard to recommend the 2001.
For sure, it's a good horn - a very good horn...though one that will undoubtedly require a decent service to make it play at its best. But why bother?
It's not a particularly cheap horn, and the cost of having the toneholes sorted and the action set up will add another £80 or so to the price, and all you'll really have is a Yamaha YTS23 with a different action.
Of course, if you can pick one up at the right price then it becomes interesting - but used 23's can be had quite cheaply these days.
All in all I liked it - but if I were looking for a tone that's perhaps a touch rounder and an action that's a little slicker...I'd get a Yamaha 62. As we all know though, the slightest difference in a horn's response can make or break the deal for the individual player - so if a bright, punchy horn is what you're looking for then the B&S 2001 tenor is worth a try.

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