Sax Dakota Straight Tenor and Alto Saxophone
Over the past few years at NAMM, I have seen many saxophonists test play the Sax Dakota Straight tenor and alto saxophone. Due to their popularity at the show, I never had a chance to sit down and test play both saxophones. Recently Peter LaPlaca, owner of SaxDakota, sent me his straight tenor and alto saxophone so I could gain a better understanding of what these horns had to offer. I will be reviewing these saxophones on the following criteria: Appearance, Build Quality, Tone & Response, Action, Intonation, and my overall thoughts & recommendations.
The Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophone come in a finish called Gray Onyx. When I first saw these saxophones, the body had a finish that reminded me of the Cannonball Raven model and the keys had a matte silver finish which I thought was similar to the Keilwerth SX90R Vintage model saxophone. The black mother of pearl complimented the body and key finish nicely as well as the hand engraved floral design on the neck and bell.
The build quality overall was good. Some of the features of the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophone are: Pisoni custom pro series pads and resonators, a brass alloy that is made up of 78% copper content, stainless steel rods to minimize travel time, and lock down posts that secure the long rods which prevents them from wobbling and moving out of alignment. While test playing the straight tenor and alto, I saw little to no play between each key and the key heights were comfortable from low Bb to high F#. A feature that I typically see on various bari saxophones and I thought was unique was the 3 part strap system on the tenor and 2 part strap system on the alto. I found this very important when adjusting my neck strap to find a comfortable position when playing both saxophones.
Tone & Response
Both the tenor and alto were quite free blowing and had very little resistance. I found the sound to be much more spread than focused with a timbre that was neither too bright nor too dark. I have read some reviews in the past that describe the sound as nasally which I would agree with but I believe this is due to the bell being straight and further away from you. I found that it took more time to adjust to where the sound was coming from initially but, the overall timbre and complexity of the sound I would recommend comparing to your current setup to hear the overall difference.
The action felt fine. I found the spring tension to be even through-out and not stiff. It felt just like playing a traditional tenor or alto saxophone. I personally would have a few keys built up with cork or epoxy for more comfort and ease.
I found the intonation to play well through-out but did need to invest more time when playing up in the palm keys and into the altissimo.
Overall Thoughts & Recommendations
I had a great time test playing the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophone. I found both the tenor and alto played well and the setup felt comfortable. I would recommend anyone who is interested in the Sax Dakota straight tenor or alto to test play one against your current alto or tenor because although ergonomically it would be easy to get used to, sonically, you are going to have to decide whether you like the sound or not. I see the straight tenor and alto as a saxophone that would let you stand out from the crowd because there are not many players at the moment touring with them and they are truly unique. From a transportation standpoint, you would have to check both saxophones and could not place them in the overhead bin. My recommendation would be to have a custom case made because the standard case that comes with the tenor and alto is very nice but I do not believe will hold up very well from a lot of domestic and international travel. All in all, I would like to thank Pete for sending me the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophone to test play and hope to hear from those who have played them.