Sax Players, Don’t Waste Money on a “Vintage” True Tone!

Here’s a reminder for my sax-loving friends, brought on by a search for a specific style of vintage Buescher alto to compare to a Lyon & Healy stencil a reader owned.

You don’t have to buy an expensive relic to learn what it was like to blow a Buescher True Tone (c1905-1932). Buescher kept making saxes based on the True Tone bore even after they were bought out by Selmer in 1964. Sometime after the Aristocrat was introduced as their new premium line, Buescher put some of the Aristocrat’s improved keywork on the True Tone and relabeled it the “Elkhart.”

By then the other manufacturers had a premium and a student line, and Buescher use the Elkhart for their student sales. When Selmer bought out Buescher, they changed the name once again to “Bundy.” But within a few years, the True Tone/Elkhart/Bundy’s 60-year-old engineering was beginning to show its age. Starting with Yamaha, other vendors were selling saxes that borrowed most of the improvements characterizing Selmer’s “Balanced Action” series (called “Selmer Paris” by most stores). The True Tone/Elkhart/Bundy not only had old-fashioned key placements that were supposedly harder for kiddies to use, but they had a narrower bore than the newer instruments. (Not to mention that they were packaged with terrible mouthpieces because Selmer hoped you’d upgrade.)

Disturbed by the Bundy’s failing reputation, Selmer paid their best engineer to revamp the Bundy and the result was the Bundy II, otherwise known as too little, too late to save Selmer’s student sales.

I would not necessarily recommend buying a Bundy II unless it’s to take to the beach. But if you have your heart set on learning what it was like to play a Beuscher True Tone back in the day, skip the “fully restored,” $800-1200 True Tones on eBay and pick up a playable Selmer Bundy (1) from your neighborhood pawn shop. Just sayin’ – there are all kinds of snobbery about such things and more than one sax player in search of a true “vintage” horn has been taken for a sucker.

That said, if you’re looking for a vintage sax, skip the TrueTones and check out Aristocrat, which was only discontinued by Selmer because they didn’t want it cannibalizing sales of their own pro horns.

BTW, the current “Aristocrat” is an Asian-built horn not remotely related to anything Buescher ever designed or built.

Best of luck, all!


About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like,, and to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.

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