“ Brand: Buffet Crampon / Instrument Type: Clarinet „
Even though the picture is of a clarinet, this review is of a saxophone. I made a suggestion to Dooyoo and they have told me to put it here as the category is Buffet Crampon Vintage, regardless of instrument. I wish I could upload some pictures too.
The saxophone to be reviewed is a 1956, Buffet Crampon Dynaction Alto Saxophone.
I started learning to play Alto Saxophone in December 2006. The first saxophone that I had (still have as a spare) was a Trevor James Artemis, it cost me about £350. Within 10 months I decided that I wanted something that sounded a little 'richer', bit less tinny on the higher notes.
My budget was about £1,200 and for that I could buy a half decent new Yamaha or even a Selmer. Selmer are thought by most players to be the best, most players, not all. However my music teacher suggested I 'try out' a couple of older saxophones and gave me the name of a guy, Stuart Macdonald who owns 'Woodwind Exchange' in Bradford.
Woodwind exchange is on the bottom floor/basement of a warehouse and has very little 'shop front', basically it is a workshop/storeroom/Aladdin's cave for saxophonists and clarinettists. There are several soundproof rooms and lots of old sax's lying around. I arranged to spend a good few hours there and Stuart (an incredibly helpful guy) duly wheeled out the first 4 saxophones; covered in cobwebs some of them, battered bruised and to a greater or lesser extent playable. From the first four I chose one which had the 'best' sound, but it wasn't 'right'. Off Stuart went and got me four more, and this went on until I had tried about 20, then came a Selmer (balanced action) and a Buffet Crampon Dynaction.
**********The Buffet Crampon Dynaction**********
Surprisingly I liked the Buffet Crampon better; it had a much richer sound, was 'heavier', nicer colour, the key spread, especially the lower keys was a better fit, all in all I got quite excited. At this point I was not aware of the cost, age or overall condition of the instrument, but it 'felt right'. When I say it felt right I mean; it is weighty, more so than some newer sax's, I like that. The crook is just the right size and near enough to my face so that the main body sits right. If I am being really picky, the bell angles a little far to the left when holding the thumb rest in the central position, no great shakes there though.
The key action is nice and responsive and the keys themselves and the key layout are basic and functional, which is fine by me.
The sound is clean and rich even in the highest notes, as long as she is not pushed too hard, sometimes when making a transition between the higher and lower register keys there is a slight 'lag', this may be more to do with the pads than the action, I'll know for sure when I get her re-padded, a major job, and expensive. For the meantime, regularly using powdered pad paper helps quite a lot.
Art Pepper is known to have used the Dynaction, and he actually wrote a song called 'Dynaflow' which I guess was about this horn.
Buffet Crampon are better known for their clarinets than saxophones, yet up until the 70's certainly they were of comparable quality, and sound as Selmer's, and were made in a factory just down the road. In fact I have an original Selmer case which my sax came in.
My sax is called Dolly, some people do not christen their saxophones, I do. She was 'finished' on January the 7th 1956, which makes her just over 52 years old. She was one of less than 5,000 Dynaction's made, before the Buffet-Crampon factory began making their next model, the Super Dynaction, which they made for nearly 20 years. She is copper rich which accounts for the nice deep sound, even in the higher register. She is insured for £3k which is needed were I to replace her. I love her deeply. So I decided there and then that this sax was mine and duly parted with around a thousand pounds and agreed to pick up the instrument a few days later.
**Additional information when buying vintage saxophones**
This is not all there is to choosing a vintage sax by the way, I spent another hour choosing a mouthpiece, and different mouthpieces affect the sound dramatically.
I use a Rousseau number 4 mouthpiece which is more of a classical mouthpiece than a jazz one, but it is a nice 'clean' sound. I also use Rico Royal Plasticover 2 and ½ reeds.
~~~~Advantages of vintage saxophones~~~~
The first advantage for me is sound. Even lower end vintage models sound better than most new ones, to get an equivalent sound, in my opinion you are looking at 2 or 3 times the money.
I have small hands so a smaller key spread, as is common amongst older models, is helpful for me.
They rarely lose value, in fact many increase in value, as long as they are looked after.
Visually, to me, they are better; I like the 'weathered' look.
They are built to last and handcrafted.
They all have a history. Mine has a serial number, which is how I found out about when it was made etc.
~~~~Disadvantages of vintage saxophones~~~~
Sometimes they need a lot of work doing on them before they are well useable again
Parts are harder to come by.
They are often temperamental, though actually, that is an advantage too, as no one will know your sax like you.
This model is quite hard to come by now and if you get one keep it and cherish it.
I love this saxophone and am seriously contemplating buying another as I saw one on ebay recently for les than £1,000. My advice, go vintage!
This review (now updated) was also posted by me on Ciao, same member name.