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The Buescher 400

Common Name: Top Hat and Cane Model Top Hat and Cane Model Super 400
Model Number (alto/tenor/bari): B7/B11 S1/S20 S1/S20
Lowest Serial # Seen (alto/tenor/bari): 297xxx/298xxx 358xxx 350xxx/?
Highest Serial # Seen (alto/tenor/bari): 356xxx/358xxx 381xxx? 401xxx?
Bell Key Orentation: Right rear of bell Right rear of bell Right Rear of bell
Octave Key Orentation: Underslung Underslung Underslung
Gold Plated Norton Screw-In Springs? Yes Yes Yes
Snap-On Pads: Yes Yes Yes
Roller Color: Brown Brown Yellow
Tone Ring: Silver Silver Nickel
Available Finishes: Lacquer, silver plate, gold plate Lacquer with nickel keywork Yellow lacquer w/nickel-plated keywork
Engraving: "Top Hat & Cane" "Top Hat & Cane" "Buescher Super 400"
G# Key Stamped: "Buescher 400" "Buescher 400" "Buescher"
Note: Very early examples have a slightly different bell/bow design and NO model number stamped. Odd variant at end of the 400 run. Only difference appears to be the nickel keywork and model number. SOPRANO models are Yanagisawa stencils.
Common Name: Post Top Hat & Cane Selmer, 1st Gen. Selmer, 2rd Gen.
Model Number (alto/tenor/bari): S5/S25/B400 Not Stamped Not Stamped
Lowest Serial # Seen (alto/tenor/bari): 359xxx/360723 409xxx/406xxx/406xxx 638xxx
Highest Serial # Seen (alto/tenor/bari): 394xxx/381xxx 556xxx 710xxx?
Bell Key Orentation: Right rear of bell Left side of bell* Left side of bell
Octave Key Orentation: Normal (some reports of underslung option) Underslung Normal/Underslung
Gold Plated Norton Screw-In Springs? Yes Yes No
Snap-On Pads: Yes Yes No
Roller Color: Yellow Yellow White
Tone Ring: None None None
Available Finishes: Lacquer w/nickel-plated keywork. Other finishes are custom options. Lacquer w/nickel-plated keywork. Other finishes are custom options. Lacquer w/nickel-plated keywork. Other finishes are custom options.
Engraving: "Buescher 400" "Buescher 400" "Buescher 400"
G# Key Stamped: "Buescher 400" "Buescher" "Buescher"
Note: Consolidated the old "Selmer 1st Gen." models. There doesn't seem to be any difference. Model numbers may have shifted. * Bari retains bell keys on right rear of bell. Non-pro instrument. Bari retains bell keys on right rear of bell.

What Buescher Claimed for the 400

A SOTW poster found an interesting Buescher 400 advertisement that had the actual claims Buescher made for the 400 model. Unfortunately, the pictures are really small. Below are some pics from the ad and then my "translation". Things I completely made up are in parenthesis ().

Buescher craftsmen have long dreamed of creating and developing superlative saxophones that would transcend the modern conception of playing excellence. It meant breaking with tradition -- grinding out on new paths of research to blaze the trail to the stars.

Right away -- from the first test you make of a Buescher "400" you'll recognize the supreme playing qualities that mark the "elite" of the saxophone world. See and try the new Super "400s" by Buescher -- the saxophones musical America is talking about.

"Our Greatest New Model Announcement"

For more than a half a century, Buescher True Tone has been a symbol of supremacy in band and orchestra instruments. Buescher Saxophones are world famous for beauty of tone -- same of playing. This lends significance to the announcement of two new Saxophones -- the finest ever created by Buescher -- the new "400" Alto and Tenor.

... For many years the goal of the Buescher Company has been to (create) the perfect Saxophone. In the Super "400" models, we believe we have achieved that goal. After you are (ready), try a new "400" we are confident yoiu will agree that here at last has been create the perfect Saxophone.

Without hesitation -- and after due reflection on all the great advancements the Buescher Company has made in the past, I say -- the Super "400s" mark the greatest new model announcement in our entire history.

O.E. Beers
President and General Manager,
Buescher Band Instrument Co.,
Elkhart, Indiana

The new Super "400" Bueschers are infinitely improved from mouthpiece to bell!

  1. New improved upper octave key mechanism for better altissimo response.
  2. Exclusive (neck-lock design holds the neck in place better so) it can't leak.
  3. All Long Rods are made of Nickel Silver.
  4. New Buescher Super-Brass Used On Keys And Key Parts -- Cannot Bend -- 99% Harder
  5. Key action is higher to promote truer action -- yet (completely illegible and I'm not creative enough to come up with something) -- this greatly improves (something).
  6. All cross hinges are (something something; might be talking about plate construction vs. ribbed)
  7. New Corkless Slide Connecting Areas
  8. G# Low B and Bb New Direct Action
  9. (Ergonomic offset altissimo octave vent key.)
  10. Longer Bell -- New Proportions -- To Bring a New High In True Tone
  11. New Tapered Norton Springs -- Will Not Break -- Faster Action
  12. Beautiful Elaborate Handcut Engraving"
  13. Bell Keys Move To Back Instead of Side of Bell
  14. Drawn Tonehole Sockets -- Eliminate Leaks
  15. (Redesigned G#/C#/B/Bb cluster.)
  16. Independent (low B and Bb keys).
  17. Wide Bow -- Entirely New Proportions -- Greatly Improved Low Register

New Buescher Super-Brass Keys

Here, (pictured), is a remarkable improvement in saxophone design. All keys which were previously subject to frequent bending and getting out of adjustment are now made of "Buescher Super Brass", relieving you of annoying adjustment difficulties.

This is an outstanding development. It permits (sax) craftsmen to regulate the mechanism to a much finer degree. The strength of these keys is substantially greater than that of an ordinary saxophone mechanism. This makes possible a permanently fine -- fast "Feather Touch" action. Many keys on an ordinary saxophone will bend under slight pressure. (This changes the pad shape and the (seal) below and permits small air leaks to develop.) On the new "Buescher Super Brass" mechanism, these keys are so solid, so tough that the instrument remains in perfect adjustment under the most adverse conditions.

Snap-On Pad with Tone Resonating Centers
Brilliance when you want it -- tone all the time.

Buescher utilizes a different type of pad, called the "Snap On Pad". It is snapped in place like the fastener of a glove. The snap button is a large metal disc which holds the pad securely in place and acts as a sonic resonator. This brightens tone -- greatly increases brilliance and power.

Wider Bow -- Bell Keys on Back
Makes low register more brilliant: tone quality uniform.

On the new "400", the bow is wider. Bell keys have been moved from the side to the back of the bell. By experimentation, we found that these changes in the saxophone's design greatly increased the response of the low register tones and (illegible; possibly "made the tone more brilliant").

Key Post Higher to Increase Tone Space
Greatly improves tone quality -- yet action is shorter.

An important reason for the superior tone quality and resonance is the "400"'s use of higher key posts, which increases the tone space between pad cup and tone hole. Now, when a key is open, the pad is almost parallel to the socket, instead of at right angles to it.

New Type Bell. New Proportions.
Brings clarity to low register tones.

Note the remarkable way the low tones play. We have developed a very impressive bell which has a silver (two words illegible: possible "plated and soldered") tone ring around the rim. The bell of the tenor is 6.5" in diameter. These new proportions help you play low tones with expressiveness or extreme fortissimo and improve quality in the low register.

Many, Many Notes

  • According to the good folks at, there were at least two versions of the original "Top Hat & Cane": it had a different bell taper and tilt. Read all about it and see some good pics HERE. (They also have a feature regarding the restoration of a 400 there, too.)

  • Note something about the serial number and model number ranges above. There were two horns called "400" that had the Top Hat and Cane engraving, but had different model numbers -- and then those model numbers were recycled for the Super 400. Additionally, there is significant evidence to indicate that the TH&C, Super 400 and the "Post Top Hat" 400 were all available at the same time. This might indicate that you could get 400's at different price points, with the "Top Hat & Cane's" beauty being at the top of the rung.

    After all, what's the difference between the Super 400 and the TH&C? The S400's only available in the two-tone finish of lacquer with nickel-plated keywork and it had a nickel-plated tone-ring, rather than a silver one. And, of course, different engraving.

    Oh. Also note that while the "Post TH&C" is a decent hornm, when someone is talking about the greatness that is the 400, he's talking about the Super 400 and "TH&C". The Selmer instruments are considerably lower quality.

  • There are Super 400 sopranos. These are produced by Yanagisawa and were produced under Selmer's ownership.

  • Like the Aristocrat of the same era -- and prior to Selmer's cheapening of the 400 line, these horns also had gold-plated Norton screw-in springs.

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