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The Buffet `S` Series

The S1

The S1 is a much improved version of the Super Dynaction with major keywork changes and some moderate changes to the bore. According to many, this is the best model ever produced by Buffet.

Around s/n 26xxx (1977), Buffet introduced their "150th Anniversary" horns (I'd assume this is the 150th anniversary of the Buffet company, not of the Buffet saxophone :). I can't really tell any significant difference in these and the non-anniversary horns. It's possible that the only change was that Buffet produced all of the horns for this year in silver plate.

According to Buffet, S1's were available in lacquer, standard, and silver plate was as a custom-ordered option.1

    Techie Notes:
  • Standard high F# key. Somewhat unusual layout that seems to have an extra LH keyrod (patented).
  • Sculpted low Eb/C keys that pivot slightly and a redesigned low Bb key and LH pinky cluster (all patented).
  • Wrap-around bell-to-body "resonator" brace (similar to the "SA" horns).
  • Extrodinary intonation.
  • "Cutout" in the neck to improve intonation.
  • Swiveling thumbrest
  • Key layout is more "Selmer-like"
  • S1 baritones lack the patented Eb/C keys.

The S2

The S2 (and Evette S2) is essentially a combination of the S1 and SuperDynaction designs in an intermediate horn. It's a interesting concept.

[As far as we can determine, the] S2 model was not sold in America [and is therefore pitched in A=442hz]. [The] S2 was available in lacquer, standard. It was possible to get them with keys and body in silver plate on special request.

The S2 was developed from the professional model S1, however it has always been considered an intermediate model.1

Techie Notes (changes from the S1):

  • Pitch is A=442hz, standard.
  • Roller keys for the low C/Eb reappear.

The S3

The S3 is an S1 without the patented C/Eb keys (and may have some bore alterations). It is Buffet's current pro model.

"Prestige" Models

The S1 and S3 Prestige models are versions of the S1 and S3 with solid copper bodies (although silver plating was available on request)1.

The Prestige is a horn that is designed ostensibly for orchestral use1 (it's nice that Buffet finally acknowledges their strength, but it's a little late).

Why these horns are copper, according to Boosey & Hawkes' old website is because "copper warms up more evenly and produces a sweeter tone than brass"1. This is debatable, but a good percentage of companies are now offering copper necks to create a "darker" tone.

I've not seen any Prestige baritones and tend to doubt that Buffet produced any.

Rumors & Facts

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the S Series horns recently. I've decided to research data from as many sources as possible, but accept and provide information taken directly from correspondence from Buffet for the model breakdowns and dates produced (not s/n data -- Buffet did not have this available).

What follows are the current RUMORS that seem to have some basis in fact -- and some facts to counter the rumors:

  • RUMOR:

    A SOTW poster insists he has a catalog that lists all three models for sale in "the early 80's". This catalog essentially positions the S3 as the "super-pro" horn, the S1 as a jazzier alternative and the S2 as an intermediate. I'd find it hard to believe that Buffet just happens to have three sets of saxophone tooling around, considering their low saxophone prooduction.

    IMHO, he's talking about the S1 Prestige, which I had initially thought was the same as the S3 Prestige. It's not, but it's obviously easy to confuse unless you can see the low C/Eb keys.

    I have not seen enough S1's to seriously question Buffet's comments on the horn introduction/discontinuation dates, even though there is some discontinuity for the S3 introduction -- and Buffet says the S3 Prestige came out before the "standard" S3.1

  • FACT:

    The S1, S2 and S3 were and are AVAILABLE as high pitch, A=442hz, in Europe -- Buffet told me that if there is an "A" after the serial number, the horn is an American model, A=440hz -- and American models were (and are) available by special order only. If there is an "E" or NO LETTER, the horn is a European model, A=442hz.1

    This "standard" has been disputed to a great extent for lacquer S1's (not the S1 Prestige, S2 or S3 however). There is a difference in intonation and horn size, albeit a slight one, so it is possible that people who insist they have an A=440hz horn that has an "E" in the serial number -- or no letter at all -- are mistaken.

    Furthermore, I have an MP3 file (posting soon!) of a guitar sample of A=440hz vs. A=442hz and you can hear the difference in pitch. It is slight, but noticeable.

    If you're 100% sure you're right and Buffet's wrong, get a good quality digital tuner (say, a top-of-the-line Korg) and tune your concert A (i.e. F# on an Eb alto) to be dead on 440hz. If you can play concert A dead-on in tune WITHOUT ADJUSTING and you can play the majority of other notes in tune without adjusting, it's an A=440hz and Buffet's information is incorrect. If you can tune your concert A to 442hz and more notes play in tune, it's an A=442hz horn and Buffet is correct.

    The difference in pitch can be EASILY compensated for, so it's not that big a deal unless you're a machine and can't adjust.

    Finally, on this subject, Buffet has told me that the neck and "other small things" were modified slightly for the American-market horns.1 IMHO, they're talking only about bore size and (possibly) the style of resonators and springs. (Oddly, springs appear to be silver plated on some silver horns and gold plated on some copper horns. This was also the case with some SDA horns.)

  • There also has been a rumor that Keilwerth has taken over some production of the Buffet horns. I asked Buffet if this was the case what the serial number range of these horns is. I got no response.

    It's obvious that there are a good deal of Buffet horns being produced by Keilwerth -- the horns look too much like an SX-90 not to be.

Footnotes & References

  1. Quotations from my e-mail correspondance with the Buffet company themselves.

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