I’m looking for the best pro tenor saxophone – and this time I’m looking closer to home.
This Hanson LX Custom pro tenor saxophone is made in a village just 30 minutes drive from where I live in Yorkshire, England.
I’m looking for a new tenor to replace my Dave Guardala black saxophone which I’ve been playing for 27 years! It’s time for a change, so I’ve been testing a bunch of different tenors to see which one is the best. It’s a question I get asked a lot by my Sax School students too. I’m not being paid to test these saxophones – I just want to help you make your own choice.
I’m looking at four different aspects of this saxophone, then I’ll be playing it in four different styles to see how it performs.
The Hanson LX Custom
This saxophone is made by Hanson Musical Instruments in Marsden – a village in Yorkshire, England. Alistair Hanson was one of a team of makers who worked with Chinese instrument manufacturers around 20 years ago to bring their instrument design and production processes up to date. Read more about this in our blog post.
While Alistair still works with Chinese made, British finished instruments in his lower ranges, this Custom range of saxophones are made in Marsden.
The saxophone that I’m testing is three years old and is owned by pro sax player Kim Nishikawara. Kim’s been performing gigs with this sax for three years so I’m interested to see how it plays after all that hard use! After all, when you’re investing in a saxophone you want it to last.
Made in Marsden
Starting with a sheet of brass, the body and neck of Hanson LX Custom is made by Hanson in Marsden. The keywork is made in China and then finished, set up and attached to the saxophone here in Yorkshire.
Nowadays nearly all saxophones are made entirely, or partly in China. But with the body made in the UK, the Hanson LX Custom is as close as you’re likely to get to a truly British made sax.
This saxophone has a lovely warm, fat sound. It sounds more vintage than some of the other modern horns I’ve tested. The sound is also quite flexible, which is great if you’re playing in a lot of different styles. It also sounds good in recordings as you’ll hear in my video.
The mechanism feels really familiar on this saxophone. It’s light and well balanced and feels tight even though it’s played three years of gigs. There’s nothing that stands out on the Hanson LX Custom, which is a big plus for me.
It took me a little while to get used to the intonation on this saxophone, but that’s not unusual. When you play a new sax for the first time, it takes a while to get used to how it plays and how it differs from your current horn. When I tested the Yamaha and Yanagisawa saxophones, I found they were really easy to play in tune. But I also felt they lacked a bit of character.
With this saxophone I had to spend a few minutes with the tuner, as you would with a vintage saxophone – although unlike a vintage horn, the intonation on this sax is much better. And once I got my embouchure and mouthpiece placement right, the intonation felt really good.
The overtones and altissimo pop out really well. They’re clear and in tune with all the usual fingerings and compare well with other saxophones I’ve tested.
This is a saxophone you can only buy direct from Hanson – you can’t get it in your local music store. So is the price competitive?
The new version of this saxophone, made in England, with a solid silver bell and neck and a brass body, is around £4200, or $5400 US.
It’s about the same price as the Yamaha 82Z.
The Yanagisawa WO33 with a silver bell and neck costs around £6000 or $8000 US – a big difference in price.
The Hanson LX Custom in all brass, costs £3400 or $4300 US – a comparable price to the Yanagisawa TWO10 or the Trevor James Signature Custom Raw.
Personally I really love this silver and brass combo – it looks and sounds great. Importantly, it sounds great to me as a player which makes me want to pick it up and play it.
I’m playing 4 different pieces from our Sax School lesson library.
- Ben Webster – I Got it Bad
- Wilton Felder Street Life solo
- Sam Butera – Buona Sera solo
- Rimsky-Korsakov – Flight of the Bumblebee
I’m using the same mouthpiece throughout – a Theo Wanne Slant Sig Size 8 Hard Rubber and a Légère Signature 2.5 Reed. I’m using the same Rode NT microphone and audio interface and I’m not using any effects on the recording.
Let me know what you think of the sound of this Hanson Custom LX saxophone. How did it compare with the other tenor saxes I have tested?
I liked the versatility of this saxophone. I liked both the vintage sound and the commercial sound I can get from it. If I was playing a lot of commercial music I would probably use a different mouthpiece, but I was still happy with both the commercial and the bluesy sound i could get from this sax using just this mouthpiece.
I also felt it performed well in the classical piece. My fingers moved fast on the keys, and with a bit more practice on this sax I could refine it and play comfortably in a classical setting.
Overall I’ve been so impressed with this saxophone – how it looks, sounds and feels, and the fact it’s British made – just down the road from where I live!
Let me know what you think.
Check out my other tenor saxophone reviews: