Today, I’m reviewing the MacSax Empyreal Alto Saxophone. This sax is manufactured in Taiwan for the MacSax company in Austin Texas. This is the Unlacquered Finish model. It looks like bare brass which gives it a cool vintage look. I am told that the brass is subjected to a gas treatment that gives it a stable and uniform color. The Empyreal Alto comes with a Theo Wanne hard rubber Gaia mouthpiece as well as a Theo Wanne “Enlightened” ligature. I used all of these for the sound clip below. I’ve had this horn for a couple weeks now and I am very impressed with it. From the first moment I played it, I knew it was a great horn! It’s one of those horns that resonate under your fingers when you play so you can feel the vibrations of the sound. I love that!
MacSax Empyreal Alto Saxophone
The MacSax Empyreal alto saxophone has a cool vintage look to the finish. It looks like bare brass and does have some scuffs and marks here and there but that just adds to the vintage look. If you click on the pictures below they will enlarge so you can see more detail. It reminds me of when you purchase that “vintified” new furniture and it has marks and scrapes on it to make it look older.
- Build Quality:
I’m not a repair man in the least so I can’t speak with authority about issues dealing with construction and repair but to me the sax is solid and seems to be made with high standards. The keys are all nice and firm and it is made of strong sturdy metal. It doesn’t feel like you will bend a key if you push it too hard like on a few other saxophones I have played. The saxophone came setup right out of the box and had no leaks that I could see with a leak light. A couple of things I didn’t like about the sax were that the spring tension seemed too strong for me. I prefer a light spring tension so my fingers have to work as little as possible to push down the keys. If I were to keep this sax, the first thing I would do is to bring it to my repairman and have all the springs adjusted to be lighter. The rest of the key work on the sax was perfect and ergonomically pleasant feeling. One area that could be improved for me was the side Bb,and C. For some reason they slope down away from the high side “E” which made them further from my hand. Not a big deal, but I would probably have my repairman bend those keys upward so they were closer to the palm of my hand.
The tone of the horn is compact and focused. I found it neither bright nor dark but when comparing it to my Selmer Reference alto it does have a more compact and focused sound than my Selmer. My Selmer Reference alto has a wider more spread sound to it. The tone does remind me of a really good Mark VI a friend of mine has. I remember playing it once and thinking how focused the sound was. I had the same thoughts while playing this Empyreal saxophone.
The MacSax Empyreal is great to play and control. I felt at ease on it right out of it’s case. The true test of course is playing it to music which I did pretty quickly. It involved no effort on my part to lock it in intonation wise and play with a rhythm section. Large intervals were easy to achieve. Altissimo was as easy as my Selmer. The low notes spoke even easier then on my Selmer.
Intonation was great. It wasn’t perfect but I have never played a saxophone that was. This is just as good as the most in tune saxophones I have played including my Selmer Reference and some great Mark VI altos. Low Bb to middle C# were right on “O” on the tuner. Perfect. Middle D-E were slightly sharp. 10-20 cents without any adjustment but this is normal for every saxophone I have ever played so it’s easy to adjust to. (You just have to “voice” those notes a bit lower) The high register was also perfectly in tune. The first thing I check when I play a saxophone is the intonation between the octaves. If I play a B and then press the octave key the note should go up an octave and be relatively in tune without any adjustment or changes needed from my embouchure. I have played hundreds of saxes that were incredibly sharp in the upper register. I’m happy to say that the MacSax Empyreal was perfectly in tune with the octaves.
The MacSax Empyreal alto saxophone is another great saxophone out of Taiwan. To be honest, if this Macsax and my RSBerkeley tenor are good indications of the quality coming out of Taiwan, I think the big 4 sax manufacturers better make sure they are on the top of their game or they will be losing some serious market share to Taiwan. This alto plays as good or better than the best alto’s I’ve played over the last 10 years. I would have no problem suggesting this to a student or fellow player who was looking for a great alto. As usual, the truth is in the playing………if you are curious about the MacSax Empyreal alto saxophone try one for yourself. Their website is www.macsax.com . Tell them Steve sent you……………
Great review Steve. Thanks!
Gerardo Avila says
Thanks for the information, very usefull.
What kind of rubber mouthpiece do you highly reccommend for jazz-Tenor sax.? Thanks
Any of the ones i have reviewed on my site. Pick one you like the sound of and go for that one.
Quote: “One area that could be improved for me was the side Bb,and C. For some reason they slope down away from the high side “E” which made them further from my hand.”
A lot of Taiwanese saxes have the side keys like this. I have a Barone vintage alto and I had to bent the keys up to bring them closer to my palm. It works well .
Are you sure that mouthpiece comes with the sax? I checked their site and it doesn’t come with a Theo Wanne.
I thought they did. The one I got to try came with one and I thought I read that they did back then. Maybe I’m mistaken or they changed that policy??
Maybe they’ve changed it since now it comes with a D-jazz mouthpiece, which costs significantly less than the Theo Wanne, I’m not complaining, but I just found it strange that it came with a different mouthpiece than what your review said it came with.
Austin Zhang says
The reason why is when Steve reviewed this they didn’t have their own mouthpiece piece line. Since the review they have hired Eric Falcon (great mouthpiece maker BTW) and have shipped their own mouthpieces, which are great!
This review was what I needed to make my decision between 3 or 4 altos I’ve been looking at. Thank you!! I’m very excited to receive it.