Crescent Saxophones | FAQ
A professional quality saxophone at this price? Really?
Yes. Based on the major criteria — intonation, tone and durability — yes, really. I have never bought or sold student line instruments, and I would not carry these if I did not feel they were up to the standards of quality Just Saxes has offered since 2001. I think this is an area of some “cognitive dissonance,” though, for many when it comes to saxophones being made in mainland China (which the Crescent line is), mainly because the price is so low. I have these saxophones playtested by professional players every chance I get; I trust my own impressions, but it’s just as important (more important, actually) to have a good feel for the impressions of others, especially others who are more skilled as players than myself. No one has been unimpressed with these saxophones, although they are not to every single person’s taste, any more than any saxophone is. I always ask professional players what they feel the retail price on these saxophone is, and the guess is consistently in the $2500-$3000 range. They are always shocked when I tell them the price, and frankly I think the price confuses most people. It’s too low. It doesn’t compute. There must be a catch. In fact there is a catch. China’s economy and labor rates are not like ours here. Probably some day they will be, but right now, to a Chinese worker, literally 1/10th of what we in the US would consider poverty line wages nevertheless constitutes a good return on one’s labor. That is the catch.
These saxophones are heavy, well made, well-balanced instruments. I have not only disassembled these saxophones completely — taking the keywork and hardware completely off of the body to use Crescent hardware for very exotic custom work, which I would not trust to just any old keywork — but reassembling it as well. To appreciate how well put together these saxophones are, one just has to experience how well their weight is balanced and distributed across the thumbrests, so that the feels round and evenly weighted, under the hands. Moving the thumbrests just a fraction of an inch from manufacturers’ original placement unbalances the horn, and shows how carefully even the thumbrests have been installed; this is not true of even some of the best known vintage saxes, on which players often request to have the thumbrests moved in order to better balance their instruments, and it is not true of any saxophone to which great attention in design and execution has not been paid. These saxophones feel correct under the hands.
The one legitimate knock separating the pre-2010 Bauhaus Walstein line (bronze examples) from “The Big Four” (Selmer, Yanagisawa, Yamaha and Keilwerth) is that compared to the top of the line saxophones from the most expensive makers the pivot screw design in the past has been better on saxophones by “The Big Four” and (this is my own hesitation) the cosmetic finishing work is not as fine as on makes costing $4000+. This is more complicated, because (1) The Big Four, with the exception of Selmer, have never been quite as fine in their finishing work as we sometimes think — if one scrutinizes their manufacturing as closely as people tend to scrutinize saxophones that cost less than $2000, one discovers toolmarks on posts, and so forth, retained from the manufacturing and set-up process — but on the most expensive saxophones it is a reality that the handfinishing of keywork is finer; and (2) Bauhaus has already updated its pivot screw to a new “shoulderless” design (previously Yanagisawa was the only manufacturer making a true tapered pivot screw), and on my own “Crescent” line I have opted for a conventional Selmer-styled pivot screw (see photos in “features” section).
As far as sound, a comment on some of the A/B comparisons I’ve done is a good point of reference. I have a Yanagisawa SS992 here at the moment of this writing — a good one — and I have compared it side-by-side to the Crescent prototype. The Crescent, while subtly lighter in tone, actually has more accurate intonation and speaks significantly more easily in the palm keys and altissimo. Not coincidentally — since the Crescent is effectively copied from Yanagisawa (which was originally engineered after Selmer, with improvements in intonation over Selmer) — the neck from the SS992 can actually be substituted directly onto the Cresent soprano; it is a perfect fit, in fact. With the SS992 neck, the Crescent soprano changes to play *exactly* like the SS992, with the exact same tonal core (a slightly heavier bottom to the sound, and a bit more compactness) as well as the same resistance; with the Yanagisawa neck, the Crescent prototype has the exact same intonational tendencies as the SS992 (some flatness in the bell tones), and the same slightly more reticent high note response. With a 991 or 901 neck, the Crescent alto and tenor similarly take on the qualities of the Yanagisawa models, including intonational tendencies, timbre, and subtleties of response unique to each neck; most players will find the original Crescent alto neck darker and more spread than the Yanagisawa necks — more vintage American in color and feel.
The most common first reaction from a professional saxophonist when playing the Walsteins has been along the lines that, “It plays like a pro horn, but the price is a student horn price.” That’s the cognitive dissonance I originally underlined. As the A/B and neck swapping comparisons with the SS992 point out, the biggest differences between the Crescent line and the Yanagisawas from which they take their cue are subtle enough that a neck change makes them virtually indistinguishable. There are areas where “The Big Four” are still leading the Crescent line — mainly in the neatness of finishing work, cosmetic considerations — but I do not claim the Just Saxes lines to be the best saxophones in the world; I do, however, claim them to be among the best values available, dollar-for-dollar, on any saxophone available anywhere. Moreover, it’s not unusual for professional players who play Selmer or Yamaha in particular to remark on the greater flexibility — the less locked in, more innately expressive pitch center — of the Crescent alto and tenor. The bottom end nearly always gets a suprised “whoa” the first time a strong player encounters it. Tonally, I have played the Crescent alto side by side with a newer Reference 54 alto and I would give the Crescent the advantage in most categories of feel and performance; I think the Ref will outperform it only when both are pressured very hard by very accomplished players (the top 1% or less of players who have very strong tone production).
So are these any different from any other saxophone imported from the PRC?
Yes. Both in terms of the raw lumber — the factory I have chosen, from many, not just separating by region but by specific factory — and in terms of improvements made stateside by my own hands, the Crescents are unique in the market. Crescent owners also have the benefit of assistance (and savings) on aftermarket options that are not available with other makes, as well as a stateside warranty from an established, internationally renowned saxophone boutique with a spotless reputation established for well over a decade.
I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly over many years. I have seen bad saxophones being made, still today, even coming from Taiwan. The engineering and execution on the Crescent do not share their tragic flaws (in general, the bad “Asian horns” feature bad intonation, squawky tone, soft keymetal, a tendency for parts, especially collar and brace screws, to break). Certainly there is some wide divergence between saxophones being made in mainland China today, and many factories still produce poor quality instruments that deservedly inspire suspicion and caution. Indeed, at the time I first encountered it, the Bauhaus line was the first mainland-made saxophone I had come across that was truly of excellent quality. Still, even when the current Crescent prototype soprano first arrived in NOLA, after determining the best region in PRC manufacturing, it had some significant (but thankfully fully correctable) imperfections. Designwise, lumberwise, it is exactly what I want, and performancewise it exceeded my expectations, which were already high thanks to my experience with the Bauhaus Walstein line. Thankfully, all of the imperfections are on the level of the pivot screw issue; they are all things I can address with replacements and adjustments. There are a few fairly minor — minor physically, but profound in their effects — tweaks that I additionally perform to improve the Crescents here in the shop that I do not pass along to my factory, as I have learned the hard way that there is no such thing as “exclusivity” when requesting it from PRC factories.
The main role the importer has, when it comes to these saxophones, is one of research, of finding out what factories are making the best saxophones, and having the expertise to know the difference. Improvements made at the level of hardware, bore and adjustment tweaks are also, however, crucial. Having made my business’s name specializing in vintage saxophones, and their repair and customizing, I know what just about all of history’s great saxophones sound like and feel like when firing on all cylinders. I have researched the best factories in China to querry, and have sampled the wares from multiple factories. The Crescent line comes from the factory that has given me the best saxophones with the best service and communication. The Crescent line is far from the least expensive offering I sampled; it is the best offering I sampled. The saxophone that leaves Just Saxes is additionally not the same saxophone that arrives, not nearly.
Moreover, I have researched and experimented with aftermarket ways of expanding the possibilities these saxophones offer, and I can offer this insight dependably to customers who wish to expand on their possibilities with aftermarket options.
Of course, I am also a full service saxophone repair shop, and I warranty these saxophones against any and all mechanical manufacturing defects for 1 full year from purchase. My reputation is flawless after 9 years in the vintage saxophone biz — I don’t have any disgruntled ex-customers (I cannot recall ever having had a saxophone sent back to me, for example, from those that have gone out by mail, despite my 14-day return policy) — and I put my good name behind the Crescent line and every saxophone I sell.
What finishes are available?
Originally, the Crescent was offered only in goldplate. Silver and gold plating, and combinations of both, have been the highest grade choices of the best vintage American — and French — manufacturers for their flagship lines for as long as saxophones have been made. This is reflected in the differences in the market value of vintage saxophones when they appear in gold plate, with the most valuable saxophones from any vintage line being those with original gold plate in good condition.
This is the best choices, to me, on every front, so that is why I have chosen to release the line primarily in gold and silver plate,with options available not only for bare brass and lacquered finishes but alternative alloy compositions. Not only are silver and gold non-toxic (brass by contrast has lead and copper content), but in tandem they provide a layer of protection for the brass that withstands the ages better than any finish; even if the gold flakes away, the silver is just a jewelry cleaner bath away from being spotless once again. “Lacquer leprosy” — a process where blemishes appear over time under lacquer, on even the most vaunted vintage and modern saxophones — is effectively a non-issue with plated finishes, as well. The baritone is the one exception, and will not be available in gold plate, as the factory cannot gold plate baritones at this time (their plating tub will not accommodate the baritone’s larger body.
In short, at this writing, the alto is regularly available in gold plate and silver plate; the tenor in bare brass, lacquered, silver plate (gold lacquered keywork) and gold plate; the baritone in lacquered finishes only; the sopranos in goldplate only. These are the normally available finishes, but any saxophone may be custom ordered in any desired finish, and in any available alloy. Custom orders usually take about 70-100 days to deliver.
What about resale value?
This seems to be an area of considerable confusion for many, especially when it comes to the commentary/advice that is out there on the internet, much of which is just at best well-intentionedly wrong. The straight dope: there are no saxophones that deteriorate in value more than student line saxophones from the best known makers, despite that they are consistently recommended on webboards on the basis of holding resale value well. The average student saxophone, bought new, will devalue roughly 70-75% upon resale to eBay (if you look at retail prices of the most affordable sellers on the web, and compare them to average eBay sales, you will see that this is true). There are several brands of ROC-made saxophones — Cannonball being the most obvious example — that devalue less than Yamaha student saxophones when making the journey from new to used; indeed, the Keilwerth ST-90 is an “Asian horn,” and on average (in my research) holds its resale value better than Yamaha’s YTS-23 models.
Comparing used to used is of course pointless, since whatever one has bought a used saxophone for, if one has done one’s research, is what it should resell for as well, without damage from use.
Another oft-repeated cliche is the idea that “The Big Four” deteriorate in value less than, say, ROC-made saxophones, or any Asian saxophone. Just doing the basic math shows the confusion inherent in that widely held belief: the average “Big Four” new pro-line saxophone will deteriorate between 53-63% when going from new to used status; a saxophone purchased for $4300 that depreciates even just 50% depreciates $2150. You can buy two Crescents with that Big Four horn’s depreciation, and still have enough left over to add a killer mouthpiece.
Is this a good choice for a student?
Yes, and I would argue — in the best interest of both parent and student — that the Crescent altos and tenors in particular are the best available choice on the market for K-12 student because in all the categories except intonation (more on this in a moment) the Crescent line outperforms all the student model saxophones being made today (most of which are now made in Taiwan or China, regardless of the brand name’s nationality).
On the basis of (1) durability, (2) ergonomics, (3) tone / timbre, (4) resale value, and even attractiveness, the Crescent will absolutely outperform the Yamaha and Selmer student lines by a considerable margin. In terms of intonation, it will outperform all but the older Japanese-made (my understanding is that there are now Yamaha student models that are being made in Taiwan) YAS-23 models — and even in this latter case there is a trade-off in expressiveness that makes the Crescent more fun to play for a student who has good ears (meaning musical talent); the intonation of the Crescent altos and tenors is completely on par with the best saxophones being made in Taiwan, and like them is just short of the dead-on accuracy of the $4000+ Selmer and Yamaha top models (these two lines’ modern, professional models have the most accurate intonation of any saxophones previously made, save perhaps SML). In terms of price, the Crescent beats the Yamaha and Bundy lines by almost 100% of the Crescent’s full price.
- Durability – There are some misconceptions floating around about student model saxophones being particularly durable; they are not. They are generally in the shop more than professional models because they are handled more roughly, yes, but the other part of the problem is that they are generally not as well made as professional quality saxophones; the Bundy line saxophones are, for example, notoriously soft in the keymetal department. It is very easy, for example, to make adjustments or repairs to Bundy saxophones by bending the keys, because the keymetal is so soft. Although Bundy saxophones have never gotten the bad rap of early Taiwan makes, in terms of their soft keymetal, in my experience the Bundy lines are generally just as bad, if not worse. The keymetal of the Crescent line, on the other hand, is as rigid and strong as all but the very stiffest of modern saxophones, and more rigid and strong than the majority of the very finest vintage saxophones (I say this having specialized in rescuing and restoring vintage saxophones, full time, for the past 9 years).
- Ergonomics – the Crescent line’s keyboard is fully modern, and I would put its main stack spacing well ahead of, for example, the SA-80 and Selmer Series II lines, in terms of original manufacturing specs. I can of course tweak the Selmer models I mention to make them more comfortable, but as released originally by the factory the Crescent’s keytouch spacing will be significantly more comfortable for 90% of players than either of those esteemed models. The keyboard feels round, and fast, and lively, and natural to the curve of the hands and fingers. Moreover, the leverages of the LH table are extremely well designed, and allows for a very light — yet still mechanically dependable — operation of the pinky keys for the left hand, a common problem area for many players. The “slider” design, in my opinion — seen only on B&S and Yanagisawa top of the line saxophones in the past — is also the slickest design there is for the B-to-C# transition. The keytouches themselves, while rivaling any modern make, are not as jewel-like in appearance as the famously elegant Selmer Mark VI, but its leverages and mechanical design are superior to that of the Mark VI (I will demonstrate why in a future video).
- Timbre – the Crescent has a full, colorful tone, with rich bottom partials — it has a “dark,” sweet tone. This is not true of any of the traditional student models by Yamaha and Selmer-Bundy, the two mainstays on the student market. Yamaha 23 series saxophones tend toward an empty core, modest bottom partials, and bright, slightly buzzy sound; the Bundy line veers off into that same direction, but without the 23’s advantages of very accurate intonation, and with a brittle aspect to the tone.
- Resale value – the average Yamaha and Selmer student instrument (in my sampling of eBay past sales, comparing it to Woodwind & Brasswind retail pricing, which is very much on the low side) is about 70-75%. The retail for a YAS-23 was $1700+ at the time that I researched retail pricing, making its average depreciation from retail purchase roughly $1100-$1300 — more than the entire price of a new Crescent. A Yamaha student saxophone bought used absolutely will hold its resale value better than a Crescent, because if bought at the appropriate price it is already at its depreciated value; however, the same is true of a Crescent — or any saxophone — that is bought used at its correct used price.
- Attractiveness – there is nothing that screams “student saxophone” like a saxophone with gold lacquer and nickel plated keys. Moreover, there are a good number of design choices on the Crescent that in the past have only been available on the most expensive professional line saxophones. Really, the pictures speak for themselves. The Crescent line is prettier in person than in photos, and I think you will probably agree it is representing itself well in the photos.
- Intonation – while this is actually one of the most important considerations for a student saxophone — or any saxophone — I am addressing it last because it is the one category in which the Crescent beats the other student line saxophones without beating the Japanese-manufactured (as opposed to Taiwan-manufactured) Yamaha 23 student line. The Yamaha 23 student line is more exact, by a small margin, than the Crescent. The flipside of that the 23 line is very “locked-in,” meaning that its pitch center is relatively inflexible; this is great for playing “Mary had a little lamb” without sounding out of tune, but not great for making real music, which many kids are fully capable of hearing, comprehending, and making. Talented kids are going to hear inflection and subtlety, and to want to express themselves with inflection and subtlety. The heart of real music and expression is in inflection and subtlety. The Crescent is a very small bit less exact in intonation specifically because it is less “locked-in.” If you listen to the sound samples, you will hear natural inflection and note bending which you will tend to hear less of from players who play more locked-in saxophones; there are two reasons for that and one is that players who are more expressive will eventually tend to gravitate away from saxophones with a very locked-in pitch center. Being more “locked-in” is not a feature of any of the most valued and esteemed saxophones of the past 100 years, including the Mark VI. Although the vaunted Mark VI is very accurate intonationally, compared to other saxophones of its era, a Yamaha 23 is in most cases slightly easier to play in tune — again more accurate slightly in this sense than even the Mark VI — for a beginner. Does that make the Yamaha 23 better than a Mark VI? Absolutely not, and market values reflect this. The band director, when the player is at a very new/beginner level, will probably prefer very slightly to hear the student play on a Yamaha 23, in part, too, because it is a known entity, for school band directors over many years. However, a student with good ears and the skills most kids have by about month 4 or month 5 (with regular practice) — and the band director herself or himself, given the chance to test drive one — would almost certainly prefer to play the Just Saxes Crescent.
Will I have trouble finding repairpersons to work on an “Asian horn?”
There is no good reason for a repairperson to have a negative reaction to working on a Just Saxes “Crescent,” unless it is in the interest of steering you toward something in their own retail stock. With my replacement of the pivot screws, and my attention to the entire mechanism, the “Crescent” saxophones are mechanically up to par with any other saxophone. All of the rodscrews and pivot screws are as high in quality as on any of the most expensive saxophones in the world. Unlike some other makes, when it comes time to overhaul, the Crescent is not a disposable saxophone. Indeed, it would only become better, for example, with a custom Just Saxes overhaul. I am not having these made with my own pad choice yet, but I am considering importing them unassembled. This is something for later, however, unless dictated by demand, because the factory seats the pads extremely well — better than the most expensive brands seat their pads. If I were to install all of the equipment myself, I would not get a better result than the factory does in terms of simply seating the pads — you cannot really improve a lot on 100% airtight — and I would have to ask considerably more return for that labor.
I do offer a Just Saxes custom installation as an option, however. This service is $350 for soprano, $425 for alto, and $475 for tenor, and includes choice of resonator and resonator sizing. I would not be able to offer full custom pad installation at this price if the factory were not doing an excellent job of assembly and in its mechanical manufacturing.
Parts also cost about 1/2 of what they do for other saxophones. I have every part on the saxophone in stock, and will charge no more than $17.50 per key for existing customers. The average prices of replacement keys for professional saxophones vary, as a general rule, between $45-$75.
Replacement necks are $125 to past customers (Crescent necks purchased aftermarket, without prior purchase of a Crescent saxophone, are $175).
These are excellent prices for replacement parts, and as a Crescent owner you may purchase them direct at the same price. For most Crescent parts, Yanagisawa professional line parts may also be substituted, and Selmer pivot screws’ threads are a perfect fit; this means that replacement parts are usually available locally as well, and not just via an order by your repairperson to Just Saxes, but from a variety of sources.
What is the warrranty coverage and return policy?
Like all purchases from Just Saxes, your purchase satisfaction is guaranteed and backed by a return policy that is in place for all purchases (please see: Policies page). The one addendum to the normal return policy is that I must ask a 15% restocking fee for a return based on taste, to account for damage and depreciation (I will not sell a saxophone that has been previously owned as new, no matter how short the ownership); if greater damage is apparent when I receive a return — caused by the user or the shipping company), the purchaser will be responsible for this damage. I have never had any saxophone return request, though, in 9 years, except on one recent occasion when I sent a customer the wrong model of a Bauhaus Walstein tenor by mistake (I paid the return shipping, of course, since it was my error), so this addendum is in place on a trial basis. If I find that interest in test-driving the Crescents is far outweighed by committed purchases, I will likely ammend the restocking fee policy by reducing it.
The Just Saxes warranty on all Crescent saxophones is 1 year from purchase date, and covers any and all manufacturing-related flaws (but not use or user-damage related problems). In the case of a flawed part, the customer may elect to receive a replacement part, at Just Saxes’ shipping expense, but will have to pay their own repairperson for the repair. The customer may also elect to ship the saxophone to Just Saxes at her or his own expense, in which Just Saxes will perform any necessary repairs or supply a replacement instrument. Although warranty repairs by Just Saxes maintain the complete warranty, any repairs by other parties void the warranty for any disassembly by other parties (this is so that Just Saxes cannot be held responsible for damage not caused by either the manufacturing or Just Saxes).
When will they be available? What are shipping/turnaround times?
All pitchings are available for purchase now. Baritones and curved sopranos tend to be available in smaller bulks, so occasionally they are sold out, but either may be purchased to order (when sold out), with delivery times depending on current order status with my factory. Delivery time depends on how many saxophones in the desired pitching are serviced and ready for shipping. Servicing new saxophones normally takes about 3-5 days when not yet completed, and packing takes 1 or 2 business days, and shipping by Fed Ex is anywhere from 2-5 business days depending on your location.