A few words about my new PM 86-UL
Let me tell you about my new saxophone…
A little over a month ago I bought a new P. Mauriat 86-UL tenor saxophone and quite frankly, I’m loving it. I’m really happy with my decision to check out this relatively new company on the scene. I’m impressed with this horn in 3 basic areas, the sound, build quality, and the general concept.
Before I get into all of that, just a quick word about myself. (After all, it’s my website) There are probably a hundred guys out there reviewing horns so why should you be interested in anything I say on the subject? Well…I’ve been playing professionally for a while now. This is all that I do. I have no interest in selling these horns or anything like that. Also, I worked in quality control at Conn-Selmer for a few years so I know a thing or two about instruments, manufacturing, repair, etc.
Now that I have you thoroughly convinced that I’m an expert on the subject, let me tell you what I think of this beast. First and foremost, I love the sound that comes out of it. Any serious player will tell you that they sound basically the same on any horn and I totally agree. I think I sound like me on this horn, and the sound that I’m looking for comes out easily. I’ve found that this horn is extremely centered throughout the range, which makes playing it so much easier. It’s easy to produce an even tone through all registers because that’s how the horn wants to play! You don’t have to fight against brightness at the top, dullness in the middle, and a honky low end.
I find that producing a warm and colorful tone that’s mellow but has enough power to fill the room is right in the wheelhouse for this horn. I played it in a pretty large room the other night with my quartet. I felt totally comfortable because I didn’t have any trouble generating the volume I needed and was able to push over the drums without changing the core concept of my sound.
As for the build quality, the action was definitely heavy when it arrived. After a couple of days of struggling with it I just took a spring hook to it and after a few minutes the action was right where I wanted it. This was no problem for me since I used to do that kind of work all day everyday when I was working for Selmer. The keys feel great. They move efficiently and cleanly. There’s no endplay in the rods and no wobble. I like the way the horn feels in my hands. There was a bit of an issue with the neck tenon when it arrive but it was an easy fix for me. The neck was a little tight going into the receiver, which isn’t necessarily a problem. It wasn’t out of control but a tight receiver can lead to a little bit of neck-pulldown after years of pushing it into the socket. Wasn’t a problem though, I just hit it with a little steel wool like I did many times with bass clarinet necks in the factory. I probably wouldn’t recommend that to anyone who doesn’t have experience with this type of work. Otherwise, the horn seems to be well built. It feels solid in my hands. All the pivots seem to be centered and at the same depth and all the edges around where the posts have been drilled are smooth and neat.
One thing that I love about this horn, and I don’t understand why all manufacturers don’t do this, is that it has metal touch pieces for both thumbs. I think this feels great and gives a really solid connection to the horn. There’s nothing worse than having a several-thousand-dollar-horn dangling in front of you with only a dinky little plastic piece to grab onto!
So far all the technical stuff looks cool with this horn. Now let’s get into the more ethereal aspects. It seems to me that the overall design concept for this horn could be summed up as ‘no-nonsense, rugged individualist.’ It doesn’t have a huge bore or bell or anything weird as seems to be the rage these days. I think that this body concept is what leads to the horn playing so consistently and evenly. The key layout, with the metal thumb rests and brown touch pieces feels kind of manly, like it’s dependable. I think the matte finish on the keys contributes to this. It feels simple and real. The finish on the body is really unique. I like raw horns and I like that this one stands out a little bit with the reddish color. I don’t think the look is a significant factor in terms of tone but I find it really attractive.
One thing I’m not crazy about is the case. The horn came with a very nice case with tons of storage. It’s nice but I think it’s too big. I travel a lot and usually with several horns so a large case is not exactly convenient. Maybe someone at P. Mauriat will read this and feel my pain and send me a tiny shaped case!?!?!?!
I’m really into this horn. I think it plays and sounds great and I’m looking forward to spending a long time with it!