Not everybody wants to buy a new case and then immediately tear into it and alter it to fit their horn, but that's what I would advise. For $150, you get the basics for building a custom protective case for your horn. For $400, this is generally done for you, assuming that you have a modern generic tenor. My goal is 100% protection from "standard" drop situations, e.g., from the shoulder strap, the back pack straps, the trunk of a car, off of a table, maybe even down a flight of stairs. For crushing and stacking type of loads, I'm afraid these cases can't readily meet the requirements of a true hard shell case.
One of the things I like about this type of case is that the carrying handle is split, with half on each side of the case. They connect with a piece of Velcro such that, even if the closing mechanism fails (a zipper in this situation), the case can't pop open and your horn flop out on the ground. The case is well made, as it should be for $150, and is probably a better-than-average value among sax cases. That being said, the rest of the review is mainly the case's shortcomings and how to correct them, if possible.
The first fitment problem for me was the Eb key, which is odd because a tenor's Eb key guard is in a fairly standard place. The worst fit was on my Dolnet, mainly because the key guard is more substantial on that horn, but it's also a touch higher up on the body tube. Moving the original pad up towards the thumb hook would work on every tenor I've ever seen, but for some reason it was too low and had to be moved. Well, as it turns out, the pad could be crushed to fit. That's because the "pad" was made from EPS, also known as Styrofoam. I'm not a fan of Styrofoam because it is a "one-time" pad. Once crushed, it stays crushed. That's why motorcycle helmets using Styrofoam are no longer DOT approved once they've been in a wreck.
All sax cases in this price range are going to be generic, and this is no exception. It is intended for horns with left hand bell keys and guards. I own one, but it's not my main horn. This case has thick padding on the right-hand side but very little on the left-hand side, apparently because the key guards are supposed to provide the protection for that side of the horn. Not a great idea even for RH bell key horns.
As with many cases, there is very little padding side-to-side for the bell. This is easy to remedy. What is needed is a padding that secures the bell by holding it from a position between the key guard and the bell rim. This reduces the need for the key guard to protect the horn and doesn't matter whether the horn has RH or LH keys. It's kind of a generic spot on saxophones and it keeps the horn from being able to bounce side-to-side in the case and have the bell rim slam into the hard side of the case.
This picture is a pad being placed for gluing. I've wrapped a piece of foam (contoured to match the body tube) with velour, hot glued the velour on to the foam, and it's now ready to be hot glued to the side of the case. Hot glue is applied to the pad and the case is held closed until the glue sets. This pad has an identical one on the other side that has already been attached. When the case is closed, these two pads pin the bell of the horn away from the sides of the case.
Keep in mind that when you are hot gluing foam material the foam acts as an insulator and the glue can take several minutes to cool and set. You also need to be careful with your glue gun temperature because the glue can come out so hot that it actual melts the foam padding and drops away from the surface to be glued. I have to unplug my gun once in a while to make sure it doesn't get too hot.
The ProTec ProPac neck slot is again meant for a snug fit with standard modern horns. The underslung octave key on my Conn 10M isn't really happy there. My Martin has the tightening screw on the front of the neck (rather than on the body tube) that doesn't fit in the slot. Fortunately, this area is Styrofoam and with pressure and heat the slot was modified to fit non-generic necks.
Even still, I really don't like the fact that the tip of the neck (for any neck placed in the slot) is actually touching the case hard side, but that's a part of the design that keeps the case so small. Placing the neck in the bell might be better.
So how could the manufacturer improve the case and stay in a competitive price range? For one, it could eliminate the little plastic feet on the bow end of the case. These appear to be so that the case can be set upright using the "subway handle" at the other end of the case. Bad idea to tempt anybody to try balancing the case on these tippy little feet.
The manufacturer could save a few pennies by eliminating them. The shoulder strap has a feeble "pad" that slides on the strap, making it easy for the case to quickly shift fore and aft (before dropping off of your shoulder). While I wouldn't recommend using a shoulder strap with this case (unless you place the strap over your head), the sliding shoulder "pad" is unnecessary and only adds to the likelihood of a dropped case. Save a few more pennies on the worthless goo gaws and add to the protective padding or functionality of the pockets..
Worthless goo gaws seems to be the standard for cases in this price range. A common feature lots of little zippered areas and compartments inside the pockets. Maybe I could find a use for all of them. 10 thumb drives? A selection of gum? One odd design concept on the ProPac is that one of the exterior pockets is on the side such that it would rest against your back when using the backpack straps. Even with that pocket empty (which kind of defeats it's purpose), it wasn't very comfortable as a back pack. Eliminate the pocket on that side and add two inches to the one on the other side. Click on the picture above and you can see that a standard folding music stand would fit in the long pocket if it were just a bit longer. It's hanging out of the pocket in the picture.
This case is way, way better than the hard cases that I was using for my horns (cases from the 1930's-60's). Half the weight and more protective. I doubt that this case will last decades like the original old wooden cases that came with my horns, but it is such an improvement that I'd be happy with a few years of daily knock around use. If you really need a functional backpack case, I'd recommend the Soundwear Pro for about the same money.