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  NAMM 2005

Greg Vail

NAMM Saxophone reviews from NAMM 2005, Music Trade Show

Updated APRIL 5th, 2006

NAMM 2005
was Jan. 20-23 in Anaheim CA.

NAMM Show in 2005, Anaheim, California.

Sax Story (TEXT) | Sax Story (PICs) | Yamaha/NAMM 03 Reviews | NAMM 2004 | IAJE 2005 | NAMM 2005 | IAJE 2006 | NAMM 2006 | NAMM 2007

Sax Reviews site @

NAMM stands for the "National Association of Music Merchants" and is held in Southern California each January.

NAMM reviews will be up by the end of the month - JAN. 2005. The Convention starts this Thursday and Greg Vail will be there playing everything and posting full Reviews and Notes.


JUST ADDED 1.26.05 -

NAMM PICs 05 - NEW SAX Gallery

NAMM PICs from the Flute World

Just a few quick notes.

I was surprised to see so few in attendance Thursday. It was the lightest I have seen in years. Don’t know why but I did hear that the registration was a huge mess, taking 2-3 hours to get in if your badge was note mailed out ahead of time.

I saw big lines but was happy to have Yamaha waiting with my badge at the Marriott with NO LINE at all. Thanks guys.

First day fun…

Started at Yamaha. The Flutes are great and they had a wood flute and alto flute to blow. The alto flute is amazing and is worth the price when playing others, I was so bummed that it was that much better. The Pearl Alto Flute was pretty lame by comparison as was the Selmer and Jupiter.

The 600 series Pro Flute with gold lip plate they had was really nice; fat, full sounding and a real deal in relationship to some of the other Pro Flute makers.

The Yamaha wood flute was really cool sounding, smaller, more focused and ethnic in vibe. I don’t see it as a good ensemble piece but thought it would be a great color to add if it was not 8 grand-ish. That is out of my world for a color option. It was kind of hard to play high stuff on too, but it could be a head joint adjustment issue since it is so different from my norm.

I had my camera stolen and then turned in, minus the memory card, so pics might be an issue this year since I have to be there before camera stores would be open. That was a drag. People can really suck, but I am glad the camera is back in the bag.

Other things…. Beechler Mouthpieces have been on my Soprano Sax since day one. After 20 years, the ligature broke and it is so small a mouthpiece that nothing was fitting well. I saw them at the show and the cool lady from Beechler just gave me a new one. I was as happy about that as anything I could be. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You – Lady Beechler!!!!

Judy was her name and I have never seen one lady loved by so many other dealers. She is famous for real customer service and is a nice lady too. Judy sold my friend a Gold Soprano 7 for a great price and I sent a buddy in to buy the Bari Sax stand she had on display and she was very kind to him and now left me needing to duke it out with him for the stand cuz it's beautiful and ended up being much cheaper than either of us thought it would be. JUDY... Gotta love her.

The Yamaha Saxes were great again. I loved the standard lacquered 875 Tenor and 875EX Altos. I did not like the buzz or feel on the Silver 62II Tenor. The sound was all wrong for me. The Black Lacquered Tenor 875 was not set up very well with the action too close and sound to covered, dull and small – nothing like the gold lacquered cousin on display.

The best feeling sax of all of them was the 82Z Gold Lacquered Alto. It sounded a bit thinner and brighter than the 875EX but felt like butter. I liked the tone on it too, but the 875EX is pretty much what I play now, so it was the winner again.

Just a note that Mike Lutley was not working this show so the ‘Midas touch’ was not in the house, and it was a drag to see a new Tenor (that 875) set up so closed and wrong in my opinion.

Talking about the feel of a sax and then sound. I was at Kielwerth doing only Altos today with some great players I know and love. I really liked the Shadow last year and spent a good deal of time on the Alto Shadow again today. It sounds great. Really nice, full character, centered but not too much to spread when played really hard, great harmonic response, beautiful sax. I just hate the feel of the thing. The rolled tone wholes? Key mechanisms? Not sure why, but what an adjustment for a Japanese Sax regular. Funny thing is the rolled tone holes seem to sound better to me. I don't notice the 'klunk' feel on the Bari and it's not a real issue for me on the Tenor, but the Alto and Sop feels very strange to me.

Cool note here. This old guy walked up to me and asked how I liked the sax. I told him it was great sounding and he went on to say he had done some design work on it and thought it was one of the best around. He then said I sounded great on it and I said thanks Herb (I think the was the first name on the badge.) He went into the booth to all the guys in suits shaking his hand and thanking him for coming. They all called him Mr. Couf. I realized it was the H. Couf of saxophone making history that had introduced himself and been so kind in words and I was honored and blessed by that moment. H Couf said I sounded great. Pretty cool.

Then was on my way to check out Selmer’s with a friend that I really like having listen to me and got sidetracked by an LA Sax straight alto just sitting there. I spent about 20 minutes and lost my buddy to other booths before a new guy at the booth walked up and said I sounded great and started asking me question about which other Saxes I played and models. I ended up talking to Jay Beckenstein at LA Sax, for the next hour or longer and had a great time discussing the IAJE Convetions, the jazz business, and cool instruments.

We ended up at the Pearl booth playing Flutes – what fun. I had him try the Alto Flutes and it was his first time. Great fun. We had the Pearl girl showing us what she could do on them and even breaking out the Irish Flute and Penny Whistle. I had a great time until seeing the time and had to call it a day to get to the steady gig.

Back at it in the AM.

It was a great first day at NAMM!!!!!!


I brought my friend Shannon with me and we did breakfast with the guys at Mimi’s. It was good to hear what was happening all over the show with a drummer, bass player, percussionist, 2 sax players, 2 studio owners and 3 guitarists all going thru the high points from day 1.

Shannon and I hit Yamaha first so I could show her the Flutes and Saxes at Yamaha. I did play the saxes a bit and the quick thoughts –

Yamaha Tenors – I did not care for the Silver 62II but when comparing it to the new Selmer I knew the Yamaha 62 still kills the competition in that price range. Shannon liked me on the lacquer 875 and she knows what I sound like. Yamaha Altos – same thing. She agreed I sounded best on the 875EX.

I did get to hang with Flute god Jim Walker for a bit. He sounded just great playing this new, very cheap line of Q flutes. I know he would sound good on a paper flute but I played it too and it was a nice option for a new beginner instrument. The Q alto sax was pretty nice too but was a bit hard to get the bottom notes out. I could not tell if it was adjustment issues or a design issue, but I was tripping on an entry level sax that retailed for around 600.00.

Jim signed some CDs for us and I just love hearing him play. Off to the main floor.

I played all the Yamaha Saxes, Keilwerth Saxes, Unison Saxes, LA Saxes, Chicago Saxes, Selmer Saxes and P. Mauriat Saxophones. I also hit the Pearl, Gemeinhardt, Selmer, Dean, Jupiter, Haynes, Muramatsu, and Yamaha Flutes.

I did not get to many of the student lines for comparison at differing price ranges and totally missed Yanagisawa, Cannonball, a new German Company Stephanhouser, all the Chinese c*^# and whatever I did not see.

I had friends that reported the Chinese C*^# is still c*^#. I was told I could get an Alto Flute for 300.00 but it didn’t play below a G. The sax world is blowing up with new stuff. Oleg had a new sax, necks, mouthpieces, and sax parts; every sax maker seems to be making mouthpieces too now, lots of new products and no way to get to all of it in 3 days.

What did I dig?

The Keilwerth Saxes seemed much better this year. The Selmer’s are still great but which model I liked best was harder to pin down. Dean flutes had a nice Alto Flute for 2 grand. The Yamaha Alto Flute was the best I played. The Gemeinhardt played lame below an F but had great top response. The Dean Alto Flute had a nice bottom but had no high Bb or higher.

Yamaha lacquered 875’s were the choice over there but not the Black Lacquer cuz it was set up very close and sounded dead and lame.

I played gold and platinum clad flutes and dang those high end things are easy to play. My favorite flute all NAMM was a thick wall Platinum Clad by Muramatsu. Alto Flute was the Yamaha. Head joints in wood and all wood flutes were everywhere this year. Also curved Soprano’s are very big business.

The materials on saxes continue to get more complex. Platings and finishes are getting to be a bit much too. There is lots of stuff out there, so what are the real recommendations.

New companies are more likely to have quality control issues and ship things that are messed up. Chinese makers are just lame still. Taiwan seems to have it down better now and the safe bet for those unsure is to stick with a name brand since the names have something to loose if you are unhappy with the purchase and you can find them too. Resale value will always be best with a name for when you want to change, get rid of or upgrade an instrument. Just a few thoughts.

Day 3 is kinda included above. The show was really great this year with more new stuff for sax players than I have seen in years past. is over.

NAMM 2005 is over. IAJE 2005 is over.

What are we doing here other than hoping music can survive the multibillions lost every year due to online theft, radio decline for real music and little support for the arts by the masses.

But that’s for another day.

NAMM was killer.

Go see Ben Vail’s NAMM 2005 Page and PICs here.

Shannon should post one soon too. Link to come.

Until next year, remember you can think it – someone has already made it.

SAXBOY – Greg Vail – Greg Vail Music


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