Antigua Winds is a name that my family store is more familiar with than anyone else in the industry. We were literally Antigua’s first dealer and still one of their main dealers. We have had a long partnership and have always enjoyed the product, service and value that their saxophones offer.
What was always missing from Antigua however was a true professional alto and tenor sax. I’m not talking about the term “professional” being assigned to a sax but rather a TRUE professional saxophone based on the saxophone’s performance.
Enter the new “Pro One” line of saxophones. This is Antigua’s first real attempt at becoming more than just a maker of good intermediate saxophones or a “good value” brand. This is going to be their calling card for the 21st century. This saxophone will define Antigua as a company for decades to come. So how did they do?
Don’t just skip to the end…
Their is no need to skip to the end to find out what I think of the horns overall; I like them. There are things that I am not 100% sold on as well though. What exactly? Read on as this is a true critical review of the horn, pros & cons and I will point out both. So keep reading!
Features, features, more features and then some bells and whistles too!
One thing that no one can deny with the Pro One is the spec list on this horn. It is LOADED with various talking points, almost to a fault. Some of these features will be seen as good, others as gimmick and others as a bunch of marketing hype depending on the person you ask. Honestly, I do think that they went a bit overboard here but nothing done negatively effects the performance of the saxophone.
Big Name Designer
Antigua brought in Peter Ponzol to take the lead on the design of the Pro One. Many know of Peter as a professional saxophone player, others as a professional mouthpiece maker, others as a custom neck maker and then still others from his days as a designer for Keilwerth in Germany. No matter which way you know of Mr. Ponzol, the fact remains that the man has been around many different facets of the industry and is extremely well suited for the project of designing this new series of saxophones.
Antigua did not skimp here. When preparing my notes for this review, I kept having a scene from the movie Jurassic Park popping into my head (weird I know). Its the scene where the park founder is giving the tour to the group of scientists on the island and he repeats the phrase “spared no expense” over and over as if this was going to impress them more with each repetition of the phrase.
Antigua spared no expense on the Pro One. Some of these features as described and highlighted by Antigua are ones that I am a bit skeptical of and others I don’t really buy into. However, there are a few that really are great features and a benefit to the sax. Regardless of what I think of these features, they are there and nothing I say will change that! So let’s take a look at the ones that Antigua points out as great features and I will add on a few that I think are worth mentioning.
PONZOL NECK DESIGN
First, let me clarify that this is not a Peter Ponzol neck but rather a neck made in Antigua’s factory that is designed by Peter Ponzol. The neck seemed to be a good taper that reminds me of a Series III neck from Selmer. I personally am a big fan of this design as it gives great altissimo response, intonation control and overall responsiveness. These necks will also be available as an accessory purchase in the stock vintage lacquer as well as gold plate with options in the octave mechanism to work on other brands of saxophones.
VINTAGE RESERVE ALLOY (Trade Marked)
This is one of the features that I am really most skeptical about. While I do believe that the material of the horn will make a difference, Antigua is not claiming that this is a different metal but rather a brass that is sourced from “a mill that uses only the highest quality refined ores to create the purest alloys available” and was arrived at by analyzing the metals from post-war French saxophones that lead them to reveal a “special chemical makeup, as well as the annealing and working process”.
To me, this is marketing. While I do understand some of what they are trying to convey here (like the grain structure of the alloy), I personally do not believe it to make much (if any) difference in the end to the performance of the saxophone. To me, brass is brass and it is more about the composition (how much copper & zinc) of the alloy and its gauge that makes the difference (but even that is a topic of debate among players & techcnicians). This is obviously simply my opinion as I have not had the same horn with “regular brass” and the Vintage Reserve Alloy side by side to compare.
What I will note however is that the horns (especially the alto) were very solid in their physical weight. The alto I could actually describe as heavy but the tenor was not as noticeably so. Whether this is due to the Vintage Reserve Alloy or simply the gauge of the metal I cannot say.
HYBRID TONE HOLES
This saxophone uses typical drawn toneholes through the whole horn. However, on the bell & bow tone holes (D# – Bb), they solder on tone hole rings like what are found on Keilwerth SX90R series. These are commonly referred to as “rolled” tone holes but the proper term would be “soldered rim” tone holes. For a long time, I believed soldered rim tone holes to be a gimmick personally. However, back several years ago when Keilwerth discontinued the straight tone hole SX90 series in favor of the rimmed tone hole SX90R’s, we took the oppurtunity to buy up a large inventory of the remaining SX90’s.
What we found really surprised us. We found that SX90R’s all played a little bigger and richer in the low register of the horn, especially on the alto. We had 20+ of these horns to compare and found this universally through the whole batch. So based on my experience in this, I am sure that this feature does make a difference as the Pro One’s definitely have this darker resonance lower register. No doubt this was from the influence of Peter Ponzol.
However, I do still question the execution of the toneholes that have the rims. Since only a select few toneholes have the soldered rims, I would have preferred that the D# stayed a straight tone hole. This is one of the easiest and most commonly damaged tone holes on a sax, especially in the hands of student players, which I believe is a bigger market for Antigua than say a brand like Keilwerth.
TRIDENT KEY ARMS (Patent-Pending & Trade Marked)
This is unique approach that I have not seen before so I give credit to Antigua & Peter for this. Many saxophones have adopted the double arm bell key approach over the years promoting a stronger and more stable key arm. Some might look at this picture and say “all they did was add a 3rd arm”. This is not the reality of the mechanism. When you look closely at the mechanism (click the image for a full size version), you will see that the left and right key arms are not actually attached across the length of the key cup but ar rather lifted up and each has a large adjusting screw at the end.
Why would they do that? Initially, I scoffed at the concept of what they were doing here. So when we had the samples in store, the very first thing I did was throw a leak light in the bell and started cranking on one of the screws. Sure enough, on the side opposite to the side I was tightening, a leak started to develop. The more I cranked, the larger the leak. Once I started to back the screw off back towards where it was when we received it, the leak started to disappear.
The idea is that this can give players and technicians another way to adjust and stabilize these lower pads. Whether or not anyone will really use it, I don’t know.
The downside to this feature is its weight. Both my father and I felt that these key arms did actually make the functioning of the keys a little heavy. It didn’t hinder the playing of the horn, but you can feel the increased weight of the mechanism when operating the low B & Bb. The Trident Key Arms are put on to the Low C, B & Bb key cups.
HYBRID BELL DIAMETER
This is another one of those features that I do not buy into. To me, the throat diameter of the bell (the actual bore) is the only measurement that matters. However, since we did not have the luxury to test the same horn side by side with multiple bell options, I cannot 100% say that it is. Basically, the “Hybrid” setup is a more traditional bore through the bell throat combined with the extended bell lip.
Yes, they did a very good job with ergonomical layout of the keys. However, my one complaint here is the right hand thumb rest. Not so much the shape or position, that is actually quite good. Instead, my issue is that the thumb rest is quite high off of the body tube. So those with big hands that commonly find themselves having their thumbs reach beyond the thumb rest will find quite a drop off from the rest to the body of the horn.
F – F# KEY BRIDGE
The added the bridge arm on to the F that connects to the F#. This is a mechanism typically found on top end saxophones and is really nice to see added on.
C# – B CONNECTED ROLLER
This is a feature that Antigua doesn’t mention in their literature and it is a shame. This is one of my favorite saxophone mechanisms. This is most commonly found on Yanagisawa 991 series saxophones where instead of having two separate rollers for the C# and B in the left hand pinky cluster, the roller on the C# paddle is also connected to the top of the B paddle. This makes the flat “roller” on the C# tilt towards the B. This simply makes a smoother transition for the pinky when going between these keys.
G# LIFTING MECHANISM
This is my personal favorite feature on the horn. Most sax players are familiar with this mechanism from Keilwerth saxophones. This mechanism should be a requirement on all saxophones in my opinion as it ensures that your G# will never stick down.
Let me repeat that, your G# will not get stuck down.
I do not understand why the brochure for the Pro-One does not highlight this or even mention this feature. Since this a mechanism most commonly found on Keilwerth, I will guess and give credit to Peter Ponzol for making sure that Antigua put this on the horn. Thank you Peter!
PISONI PRO PADS
The Pisoni Pro pads have become the de facto standard for professional saxophones. Selmer Paris & Yanagisawa use them. We use them for our Kessler Custom Handmade models and we use them commonly when doing professional overhauls. These are the best traditional leather pad on the market. They give a solid feel in the hands and hold their seat better than traditional pads.
The Pro One saxophones play quite well. The best description that I can give is that they give the broader style tone of a Keilwerth but with more control and pitch stability. This is actually a bit of a departure from Antigua’s typical design tendencies of modeling Selmer. This horn is a big rich and broad tone. They do not possess the center and focus that is commonly associated with Selmer, but this is obviously a personal preference rather than a pro or a con.
Overall, I am probably more impressed by the alto as it really has got a ton of guts to its sound. It was an absolute cannon with power to spare. This is a major win for Antigua as I felt that the other alto sax offerings from Antigua were a little lacking compared to their tenors and sopranos. The Pro One puts their alto sax in a completely different category.
The tenor is also a very solid horn. I find that the tenor market is a tougher one as there is a proliferation of really good lower cost tenors, including Antigua’s own models. The Pro One offers a much bigger tone with better presence than the other Antigua models.
Antigua does not include a mouthpiece with the horn (though their website specifications still list an un-named “Custom-matched hard rubber” mouthpiece). Instead, they have partnered with Peter Ponzol and American Way Marketing (distributor of Ponzol’s mouthpieces) to offer a professional metal Ponzol mouthpiece for $375 (normal MSRP of $495). This is obviously optional and has to be purchased separately (information for this is provided with the saxophone).
Antigua includes a contoured travelling style case with both horns.
The Pro One is a very good sax. In my opinion, these are a better offering than many similarly priced horns from other makers that compete in the same price range. The market has been flooded with $2500-$3500 saxophones over the past few years. The Antigua Pro Ones come in at the lower range of this price spectrum but I find offer more performance and features than any of the horns from similar competitors in this price range.
For Full Specifications and Photos Visit:
https://www.kesslermusic.com/html/antigua/proonesaxophones.htm or https://www.antiguapro-one.com/