March 2011. Guest Reviewer:
Jupiter instruments, in my mind, have historically speaking, been aimed at the student and school band market. I have been aware of Jupiter student
model horns over the years in teaching and school stage band situations. I always have found them to be a good solid horn, well built with good pitch
and a consistent tone across the range. When we talk student horns we are thinking bright tone that will project and a horn that is easy to get sound
over the full range of the instrument, especially in the lower end, low C through B and Bb.
When the XO Jupiter 2069GL Artistic arrived by courier I was unsure about what to expect from the new top of the line Jupiter Pro series Alto.
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the cardboard box and found an excellent quality case under the banner of the “XO Series Tourlite”.
It features soft interior mouldings, shoulder and back pack-style double strap, as well as a sheet music outer zip pouch.
When I unzipped the case the weight of the horn was also a revelation. ts overall weight gave a good indication that there had been no scrimping
on the metal – especially on the key-pad cups. As well as this solid build, the horn also features quality pads with resonators and blue steel springs.
My history as a performer has always been with early 60’s Selmer Mark VI saxophones. As a jazz saxophonist it’s a pretty safe bet your hero was
creating those great performances, pre 40’s, on either a Selmer, Conn or Martin. So I was keen to check out what Jupiter had to offer. In order to
assist me with this review, I asked a saxophone player friend of mine to have a blow of the new XO Jupiter 2069GL and compare it with his
Selmer Reference 54 Flamingo, which etails at almost double the price of the Jupiter.
Firstly the weight of each sax is about even, although the bell on the Jupiter had some flex when squeezed by hand, compared with the Selmer
which had no flex. However, the quality of workmanship and materials on each of the saxes is impressive and the Jupiter doesn’t pale in comparison.
My friend sounded great on both the saxophones. He was impressed by the action of the Jupiter and also with the full range of the horn response.
The tuning is excellent and the altissimo register speaks very well with easy transition from top F# to the front altissimo G and beyond. The lower
end produces a full, fat tone with the tilting G# – Bb table keys, making articulation around the lower notes a lot easier. When listening to the two
saxophones the main tonal difference I could hear was that, overall, the Selmer seemed to produce a more pronounced mid-range tone, whereas
the Jupiter, whilst producing a big full tone across the range, seemed to lack some of the mid-range tones evident in the Flamingo. But again we’re
talking half the bucks here for the Jupiter.
I recorded the two on my iPhone (not the highest quality sound one could hope for, I agree) and, listening back, couldn’t really hear a lot of
difference: he sounded great on both horns. Although I’m sure my friend would beg to differ. ompared with my own early 60’s Selmer Mark VI
the Jupiter feels a lot heavier, but the articulation feels amazing, especially against an old horn in need of attention. I have had to produce the
goods playing the Alto on a few big stages over the years. The last time I was in that situation I had to play a screaming altissimo B as my first
note, surrounded by a huge sound system and with in-ear monitors. In that situation you need a lot of confidence in your horn, it’s a long way
to fall it the note doesn’t pop. I feel pretty confident this XO Jupiter wouldn’t let me down.
The Jupiter retails at nearly half the price of the Reference putting it’s competition mainly at the Yamaha 62 and Yanagisawa 9
series altos, it should give both of them a run for their money.
Paul Williamson is an acclaimed Melbourne based musician. Check out his band Paul Williamson’s Hammond Combo
whenever you see a gig listed!