The TM custom is a horn built in Taiwan but assembled in the US by master technician Randy Jones. His shop, Tenor Madness is well known as one of the best shops around.
The Horn: The saxophone itself is very simular to other high end Taiwanese horns from P Mauriat, Cannonball, ect. The horn is assmenbled one by one here in America at Tenor Madness by Randy himself. It features true rolled tone holes, shellac is used in pad installation. The keys are fitted one by one and the horn is set up perfectly the first time. Randy also solders the bow to body connection for a leak free fit and added stability. The horns are also hand engraved by Sherri Hunley, one of the best in the business. My particular horn is the Cognac lacquer finish. They are available in matt, unlacquered, cognac, silver plate and gold plate. The case is a good Asian made contoured case, no mouthpiece or neck strap.
Fit and finish: The fit and finish are beautiful. The pads are premium to the customer's specifiaction. You can order any pad/reso combo you want. This horn needs no key fitting. Imagine a premium TM overhaul. That's what comes to your door. A saxophone that is ready to take to a gig right now. The metal used for the key work is a little softer than I would like to see, but it doesn't seem to matter because they are so well put together. The tone holes are perfectly level, there is absolutely no slop or side play in the stack keys and premium corks are felts are used in the assembly process. I have owned mine for about 18 months and I have done 2 very light regulations on it, which means closing a couple of very small leaks. I didn't touch the set up at all.
How does it play?:
When my horn came in, it took about 20 minutes to unwrap the bubble wrap mummy. Randy's staff uses about 30 yards of bubble wrap to secure and protect the horn during shipping. I put my RPC 115B on the horn and it just came alive from the minute I started playing. The horn doesn't sound like anything else out there. It has its own thing going. It has some TH&C going on the bottom end and some Selmer going on in the midrange. The tonal color is beautiful and dark while still having brightness when needed. The spring tension is a perfect medium light. The intonation is superb. I was shocked by how good it plays. I am a horn flipper/hack tech and have been playing for 36 years. I have played most everything either through my business or through playing customer horns after repair. This horn is almost as good as Selmers costing in excess of 7k. The bottom end of this horn is huge, but not boomy like most other Taiwanese tenors. The only drawback to this horn is the weight, thus why I give a 91/100 rating, its heavy. The cost of this horn is $3995.00
Would I reccomend this horn? Definately!! The TM is my main axe and I can play anything except those 7k horns that I cannot afford to keep. The staff at TM is awesome and a true family operation. Randy is obcessed with getting it right. His new offering is a little more geared for Selmer guys and the good news is that I will have one late this week for evaluation. He has made some very small changes to the body of the horn, but the big changes are in neck design and composition. This should be an instresting week. I can't wait to try the new one.. If you want a horn that plays and don't want to blow your downpayment for your first house, give the TM Custom a try!