Are my ears just fooling me?

I have been in this hoppy for a couple of years. I have been through alot of equipment, trying to find the sound for me (dont we all!) I have really enjoyed it but something is starting to bother me. I for some reason feel that every system I have ever heard cannot reproduce a saxophone with the body and emotion like when I hear it live. I am young but I have listened to and owned equipment all over the board. Most hifi gear I find is just really thin sounding to my ears, even with owning many tube amps. Is this normal? Does my ear just want to hear distortion with playback that really isnt there on the recording? I have never heard SET amps before and think they maybe down my alley...but is it just some more "ear candy"??
Hard to say w/o knowing what you have had. It could be as simple as a room issue. Or something w/o a crossover in the midrange perhaps.
Saxophone is one of the 'tough' insruments to reproduce!
Like Piano, violin.
They IMO are the 'big three' instruments tough to reproduce IF you have an ear attuned to that particular instrument.
I do not think it is your amps? It probably is your speakers are more at fault. I would look for old (1960's ish) speakers with a BIG woofer (12" to 15") and at least a 6" midrange, 8" mid would be better. (with pulp paper cones)
This is just my silly opinion.
The room may also have a bit to do with it.
How loud do you play?
What size room are you playing into?
Vinyl, tape or digital source?
What are some examples of equipment , Amps and speakers, even wire, that have dissapointed you so far?
I seriously doubt that a SET amp would be the best way to achieve the body and soul sound you seek.
However if you want to try any of them I would say your best chance is to get a speaker with an active woofer ( built in SS amplify) and an 845 tube mono blocs or Stereo amp for the mids and treble.
As a second approach to your problem you may have to experiment with some rather costly speakers to get the big sound and tone. The only speakers I know of that are bargains in the rich tone with sax blatt soul are FJ a rare German company you can get from Quest for Sound an Agon dealer, Alons/ Nolas the bigger ones and if you have a small enough space the Merlin floorstanders with Esotar tweeters and the Bam sytem. I have heard the Merlins with Joule electronics and the richness of the low and midrange was really outstanding.
In any case I would stay with tubes. Even though you might find satisfaction with some really good pure Class A amps such as those made by Pass or possibly the richly toned Class A and A/B Accuphase.
Did you try an Octal based preamp yet? The most common Octal pre amp tube is probably a 6SN7. If you go with one, made by Cary lets say, you would have the ability to tweak the sound by rolling the 6SN7s. There has been a lot written about the sound of the different 6SN7s in general they are on the richer fuller side.
My Quicksilver M60s, NAD 1600, and old Fried A/3s, though not fancy, flesh out the alto and tenor nicely and sound real. The trick, IMO, is driver integration/compatibility and tubes that err on the neutral/warm side. If these things are out of whack, saxes will not sound "whole."
Well I have heard some VERY expensive systems, and they have had better body. For instance the Wilson alexandria and lamm Triode set up was very nice. But I am a college student and cannot afford such things. As far as the merlins go, I have already owned the VSMs. They are a fine speaker, but personally I had to sell them because I felt I could not afford the electronics to make them sound full and big such as the joules.

I feel that I am not happy with speaker that do "tricks" such as the crazy imaging and through the roof detail. I want a speaker that can allow me to feel the music and forget about all this hifi stuff.

I have tried different rooms with tons of equipment, but have always stuck to 2 way designs. Do you think I just need a bigger speaker?

Resently heard some wilson sophia 3s with an audio research Vs115 amp that did the trick. But thats WAY out of my budget. Is it impossible to get great body for moderate prices?

Sources have been VPI tables, with audio research and conrad johnson Phono stages, Otari Reel to reel, bel canto DAC 3, and music hall Dac

What are some speakers that are strong in the "body" department?
Elizabeth-- what do you think of Klipsch Cornwalls. Do they fall in that category? I have a opportunity to buy some locally for 700.

Like I said I am coming from Merlin VSM's and I am worried about getting a speaker that is going to sound like the trash can compared to them!
List of gear that I have owned in my listening room. (I have recently moved, and the sound in the new room is a little better, but both rooms I feel are fairly decent that thats not the problem.)

Yet again I think its my taste, in the sense I want body to be the strong point in the system. I have gotten great sound using most of these components. The MV-52 is probably one of my favorites so far.

Old room: 15x13 feet New room: 13x20 feet

Plinius 9100
Plinius SA100
Conrad Johnson CAV-50
Conrad Johnson MV-52
Classe CAP 151
Conrad Johnson PV-5
audio research ph3
Bel canto dac 3
music hall dac
VPI scout with benz ace
otari mx5050

Totem model ones
totem forests
merlin vsm-m with bam

So does anyone think that its just smaller speakers are not to my liking? Would a bigger speaker add the body that I am after?

Try the Sheffield Labs drum track recording - close your eyes and listen. If that sounds like somebody playing on a drum set with you in the room then stop worrying.

The biggest difference between live music and live instruments is dynamics and high SPL. If you don't have big enough speakers and enough power then NOTHING you do will ever come close to sounding like a real instrument. It will simply sound either thin and lacking body or, alternatively, overly distorted when you try to crank it. Loud, dynamic and above all CLEAN sound is what real instruments do so very very well.
How picky are you? First what is your idea of a sax... Yamahas sound way different than old Selmers..for that matter new Selmers sound way different than old Selmers. Silver instruments sound different than brass.... different mouthpieces make each of these instruments sound different again. Have you only heard reproduced sax sound ...knowing that even at live events, saxes are sound reinforced... All this being said, what is your opinion of what a sax sounds lik?

Well, you might want to look into a pair of....."gulp"
(I can't believe I'm gonna say it but) a pair of
Cerwin Vega XLS 215's. I have a pair coming to try for the
hell of it, but think they may be something special. And, it's one of those "big block motor" things that may get you
where you need to go!?!?
I think you are on the right track with the Cornwalls.
Saxophones sound wonderful on my K'horns, and do so with little power.
In fact I am driving them with a 10wpc t'amp.
This is my wife's living room system and she does not want to worry about tubes.
The mid range horn with the 15" woofers seems to imitate saxophones and brass the best.
To answer the question of what saxs sound like IMO, whenever im at a restaurant with live jazz, I am always dumbfounded of how the sax fills the room with this amazingly warm and low "buzz" if you will. It is so engulfing and sends shivers up my spine. I do hear differences between saxs and players, but all in all, when the saxs dip low in real life I find them to have the presence that no speaker I have owned is able to reproduce IMO.
Hi Macd, I think Mechans is on to something when he recommends an octal tube preamp. I have an all tube single ended system and when I switched out my pre that was using small "peanut tubes" to one that uses "octal" 6sn7's the tone was much richer and fuller. I have used three preamps that used small signal tubes in my system and they all sounded great but lacked a rich full tone, also I have owned two preamps that use octal tubes and both of them sounded much richer with a big tone. Just my observation with my system but something you should try, I think?
Good Luck, Tish
The live sax you hear at the jazz club is probably way louder than you play on your system. Take a spl meter along next time to check it out.
As Shadorne pointed out earlier, number one requirement is big headroom for your system. This means highly efficient speakers, say better than 95dB sensitivity, Klipsch are a good bet; and powerful amplifier. Yes, just what a pro or PA gear setup is about, but such equipment set up properly has a way ahead better chance of getting there.

Normal audio systems struggle to put out the necessary dB's cleanly, and generate very audible amounts of nasty type distortion doing it. If the system has no trouble putting out realistic sound levels, then you can just concentrate on eliminating the distortion which intrudes from more subtle areas, and you should be very close ...

I am always dumbfounded of how the sax fills the room with this amazingly warm and low "buzz" if you will.

I assume you are talking bari sax as this can hit about 65 Hz?

I can confirm that Tower of Power Soul Vaccination Live is a good recording that will sound real (just like you are there)

Doc Krupa on bari sax. If it does not sound live then you need to investigate.
Forget it, it's hopeless. And if you are not prepared to spend big dollars - it's double hopeless.
sorry my youtube link did not work....type in open baffle speaker in youtube and have a listen..
I am a pro sax player. Buy some Legacy Audio Fcus 20/20's! Put in some Richard Elliot, Warren Hill, David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Dave Koz, Kenny G, Boney James, or any oters and just marvel at what you here. Same with trumpets.....Rick Braun sounds fantastic through the Focus 20/20's. In fact, no other speaker I've ever heard makes instruments sound moe real then the Focus 20/20's do.
the best sax I had was with Altec model 19's driven with the McIntosh MC240....never after that....
Didn't finish reading the thread after I saw that you could buy some Klipsch Cornwalls locally for only $700. Snag them!! Speaking as a professional orchestral musician/audiophile, I can honestly say that generally speaking, nothing I have ever heard reproduces the timbre of acoustic instruments more accurately than horn speakers driven by tube electronics. The Cornwalls are sensitive enough that they can be driven by all but the very lowest watt SET amps, so that would be a very good match if that is the direction you are looking to experiment in. I own a pair of Cornwalls myself, and am very pleased with them, though someday I do want to own some fully horn loaded speakers.
It's hard to find well recorded saxophone music. Try the title track from Grant Green's "Idle Moments" and Harry Allen "Blue Skys" on John Marks Records.
I have to agree with the Klipsch recommendations above (I'm probably biased because I own a pair of the Khorns). These speakers are fast and play horns very well. Every time I hear a sax blast come through my head raises and a huge smile gets planted on my face.
You are correct. Welcome to the club!

I have found that room size relative to the size of the drivers is critical.
It is easier to achieve that kind of presence in a smaller room, strictly speaking, if you can dedicate the room to audio

Setup is critical too. Speakers away from wall, toed in a bit, can produce a very satisfying sax.

Cables like Cardas help to warm up a system, make the sound more rich.


I tend to agree with the posters who are suggesting tubes with either horns or hi effiency speakers with larger drivers. I know exactly what you mean by"that tone" and full 3D body and presence. I listen to live jazz in small venues fairly often. Those who have mentioned preamps with tubes other than the common miniature 9 pin type may be on to something also. My preamp uses 101D tubes(which are directly heated triodes). The speakers use dual 6.5inch drivers for the midrange(you need to move lots of air to mimic size and presence). DRIVEN by 300b amps, it`s as close as I`ve ever come to that live feel.I think the Klipsch with a good DHT tube amp (SET or PP) will get you well on the way.
Best of Luck
The Merlins actually can do the job quite well and you don't have to get crazy expensive amps to do the job.

But you want to keep in mind that anytime you hear a sax live, the perspective will be different from that of a recording if for no other reason than the mic placement. IOW the only time you can really expect that to know what that sax really sounded like means you have to have been at the recording session.
Stringreen asks the right questions and Atmasphere hits the nail right on the head, as usual. Until you find a recording that you KNOW captures that live sax sound you're heard and crave, you're just chasing your tail.

There are a couple suggestions in this thread, such as the ones from Shadorne and Rrog, but you need to find the recording that works for you as a test before you start auditioning equipment. If your recording isn't up to snuff, no piece of gear will magically transform it.

My pick would be Body and Soul by Joe Jackson. Well recorded with great sax work and designed to sound live with that Blue Note feel.


Indeed that is a great recording.
Never pretended to be worldly with my limited brand experience but I've only known a few speakers that have been satisfying with sax, none of which would I recommend to a student. Too big, too demanding. However, I did notice a pair of Kappa8's for auction (Boston area) if you have the room and amp for them. Always been particularly critical since I used to play sax, badly. Sometimes, to be polite, I would audition speakers for several minutes when I wanted to walk way after the first few seconds.
Have you heard Shindo electronics with DeVore speakers (with a good source)?
I have used vintage Klipsch speakers when they were the only speakers they made. I agree completely that you will get a very good approximation of a Sax or just about any other horn with them. The problem is that for music that does not feature horns they can be shouty are very position dependent and with the wrong electronics can be bass shy and shrill. In spite of that if you pair them up with good tube preferably vintage type tube amps or Macs either SS or tube they can be excellent. The biggest issue as far as I am concerned is achieving tonal balance by priving the stiffly suspended large woofers with enough power to match the highly sensitive monster Alnico motored Squwakers, Some of the crossover mods you can buy apparently address this issue. That said put on some Grover Washington and you will hear the Magic.
I own my original 1976 Heresys and later bought 1978 LaScalas in 2004. I use a small SS Mc the MC2505 and the synergy is great.