The Buescher Aristocrat saxophones can be a little hard to wrap your head around. Some will tell you a Buescher Aristocrat is an off-brand Bundy. Others will tell you it’s the best you can get.
Both are true. Up to a certain point, you’ll find vintage Buescher Aristocrat that are top-notch. Yet, H&A Selmer (U.S.A.) bought them in 1963. After that, not all models were as great as the legacy Buescher saxophones.
So, what changes happened after the buyout? Are vintage Buescher Aristocrat saxophones worth it? We’ll look into all of this in this Buescher Aristocrat alto saxophone review.
Buescher Aristocrat Alto Saxophone Full Review
First things first, let’s clarify something. The Buescher Aristocrat comes in five variants:
|Model||Year of Production Range||Serial Number Range|
|New Aristocrat||1932 – 1935||264025 – 268999|
|Aristocrat Series I – ‘Art Deco’||1935 – 1941||269000 – 295124|
|Aristocrat Series II – ‘Big B’||1940 – 1951||292000 – 336999|
|Aristocrat Series III – ‘Post-Big B’||1951 – 1963||N/A|
To be fair, if you want a good Buescher sax, it should be one that was made around the 40’s and 50’s.
Anything that’s after the Selmer (U.S.A.) buyout won’t be playing in the same class as the professional, vintage Buescher horns.
Buescher New Aristocrat (1932 – 1935)
After Buescher’s success with the True Tone sax models, the company started manufacturing the New Aristocrat series.
With the New Aristocrat saxophones, you only get an alto and a tenor model.
Their sound has an edge since they come with metal sound resonators and their screw-in Norton springs are gold-plated. Yet, you still get the split bell keys like the True Tone models.
You won’t stumble onto New Aristocrat models often, but when you do, you’ll immediately fall in love with how free blowing they are.
They do require some trials on your end to get the correct setup for this freedom. This vintage sax is a joy to hold and play.
Aristocrat Series I – The Art Deco (1935 – 1941)
The Series I, also known as Art Deco, is the model following the New Aristocrat. It gets the name “Art Deco” thanks to the design engraving on its bell.
A slight change is that the bell keys on the Art Deco are on the left side of the horn. Moreover, the enlarged G# key comes with the “Beuscher” name stamped on it.
Instead of the black rollers, the Art Deco gives you yellow ones, which match the gold-plated color more.
With the Series I, you get a sopano model and a C-melody one as well.
And the best part? It’s always empowering and exciting to know you’re playihng the same sax as the jazz icons: Sonny Rollins, Sigurd Rascher, and Charlie Parker.
Aristocrat Series II – The Big B (1940 – 1951)
The Big B series saxophones come with incredible improvements of the intonation and a fuller sound.
They mark themselves with a “Big B” engraving on the bell. There’s also the “Buescher” engraving on the G# key.
Instead of using a round pearl key like the previous Aristocrat, the one on the Big B horn a long-shaped one. This key is the same you’ll find on more modern saxophones.
Although the Series II has a baritone model, there’s no soprano one.
Related: Selmer AS500 Full Sax Review
Aristocrat Series III – The Post-Big B (1951 – 1963)
With the Post-Big B, you still get the Norton rollers, the “Buescher” G# key engraving, and snap-in pads.
However, after the Selmer buyout in 1963, the horn became comparable to the Selmer Bundy saxophones meant for students.
Of course, there’s no “Big B” engraving on the bell of the Post-Big B.
Buescher Aristocrat Pros
What are the main reasons you should consider the Buescher Aristocrat?
- Vintage horns
- Full sound
- Excellent intonation
Buescher Aristocrat Cons
What could be the reasons to consider an alternative?
- Old models are hard to find
- New models don’t provide the best value for your bucks; can be comparable to Selmer Bundy student horns
Some good alternatives to Buescher Aristocrat are Selmer La Voix II and Mendini alto saxophones.
Which Is the Best Beuscher Aristocrat Saxophone?
Of the four models that exist under the Aristocrat name, the best is the Big B one —or the Series II.
Not to say that the other options aren’t excellent, but the Series II trumps the rest in terms of sound and quality.
The Series III (Post-Big B) doesn’t provide you with huge benefits over the Series II. In fact, it could be a little less promising.
On the other hand, the Series II comes with more enhancements over the Series I and the original New Aristocrat horns.
So, is getting a Buescher Aristocreat worth it? It certainly is. As long as it’s an old, vintage model before the Selmer buyout.
Although they can be a little hard to come across, especially for reasonable prices, they’re a great addition to any saxophonist’s journey.