December 2004

P. Mauriat Saxophones

I used to be suspicious any time someone claimed to create a cheaper alternative to a major brand. After all, you usually get what you pay for. But advancements in technology and computer-aided design, omnipresent in such places as Taiwan and Singapore, have produced respectable instruments in recent years. Additionally, the low overhead and labor costs overseas means savings are passed on to the consumer. So when I had the opportunity to try the new saxophones from P. Mauriat I was filled more with a sense of curiosity than trepidation.

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PMSA-67 Custom Class
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P. Mauriat PMST-66 Custom Class

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I had the pleasure of trying three of the company's signature saxophones-the PMSS-207 professional model soprano, PMSA-67 Custom Class alto and PMST-66 Custom Class tenor-in a variety of settings, including subjecting them to the scrutiny of my university saxophone class. Generally, all horns met with good favor and performed very well in all situations.

The PMSS-207 soprano has a full, easy-blowing sound and excellent scale. It's a bit less centered than a comparable Selmer Series III, but the horn produces a warm sound with rich color. The response in the upper register is amazing, and playing a two-octave leap into the palm keys is effortless. Overall, the design is solid. No flashy engraving (although it is present) or attempts at cosmetic dazzle. The feel of the key work is comfortable and solid with angled low C-sharp, B and B-flat keys. Other little touches include an oversized neck-strap ring and metal thumb hook.

There were few disadvantages with the soprano, but one came to light when I switched from using the straight neck-pipe to the curved pipe. With the curved pipe I noticed a drastic change in pitch and tonal center. Additionally, I was taken aback by the placement of the right-hand side keys. Like the old Selmer Mark VI sopranos, these saxophones' side keys are set significantly higher than they are on other modern sopranos. Some players may need some time to adjust to the difference. Another small drawback is the design of the front-fork F key. I found the awkward vertical bar uncomfortable to operate. I would prefer the soprano adopt the teardrop design used on the Custom Class horns.

Another detail on the soprano from the Mark VI is the use of a pearl button for the chromatic F-sharp. While the Custom Class horns lack this feature, the alto and tenor saxophones are a pleasure to play. Each possessed a full, dark, rich tone with a great deal of center. Where I like both horns a great deal, kudos go to the tenor. This beast produced a muscular sound that gave me a pleasant surprise when I first blew into the horn. In fact, few could tell the difference between the P. Mauriat and my vintage Mark VI tenor in a blind playing test.

I enjoyed the feel of the key placement of both the tenor and the alto. The palm keys fit my large hands perfectly, but their size raised some concern for players with smaller hands. But none of my students, especially the more petite ones, complained about the feel of these instruments. Like with P. Mauriat's soprano, the pad and key work on the alto and tenor is beautiful, featuring fine leather that hugs the tone holes and produces minimal key noise.

The Custom Class horns have a look reminiscent of the Selmer Reference Series. However, if one is judging a saxophone by its retro look, the P. Mauriat horns win hands down. I was amazed to see how the company has duplicated the weathered patina of a vintage sax, down to the wear patterns around the posts and tone holes. Accordingly, this "antique finish" produces a somewhat darker sound, but the center of the sound is never compromised.

While there is little to criticize with the Custom Class horns, I would like to see a bit more strength in the outer rods (especially the one operating the high F-sharp key). All function smoothly but a few appear to have too much flex when stress is applied.

Each Custom Class horn comes with a molded, flight-style case, which functions well though I would not recommended it for strenuous travel. The soprano lists for $1,590, the alto for $2,190 and the tenor for $2,590, and all three can be found for less online.

While the P. Mauriats lack some of the bells and whistles of rival companies-there is no extra neck and no mouthpiece bag-these horns don't need them. They are strong, centered, fun to play and, yes, half the cost of the major brands. Visit monteverdemusic.com for more information.

1 Comment

  • Nov 20, 2010 at 08:30AM Mitch Fadem

    I took a PM curved soprano with me to Afghanistan in nothing more than a fabric bag in my rucksack. The instrument held up to all the military baggage handling and played great for me during my deployment. My previous soprano was a curved Yanagisawa and I felt the PM had a much warmer sound and the keywork was superior. I happen to like the higher placement of the palm keys. I play mine with a Selmer C* soloist mouthpiece which I believe helps to get that warm sound.
    Lt Col Mitch Fadem

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