Just What Do We Know About F. Köhler?

F. Köhler, Empor tenor sax, vintage German tenor saxophone, silver plated sax, vintage case

Empor tenor # 2244 Source: saxobrainiac on eBay.de

Over the past few years I have been doing my best to research some of the best, and in some cases the most obscure, saxophone manufactures who were in operation in Germany during the 1900s. F. Köhler certainly fits into both these categories, since not only did they build some exceptional saxophones during the early to mid-1900s, but they also were among the most obscure manufacturers—yet still had a rather profound influence on German saxophone design and production.

I started researching Franz Köhler quite a few years ago, but found very little information on the man. It took quite a long time to piece together enough information so that I could publish a page dedicated to F. Köhler saxophones on my website.

One thing that appears to be confusing for English audiences is the similarity of the Köhler name to another German saxophone manufacturer: Kohlert. To add further confusion, the umlaut over the “o” in Köhler, makes it harder to search for the name without a German keyboard on or in one’s computer.

Even if a person looking for info on F. Köhler were to copy & paste the man’s name into a search engine, the returns would be surprisingly thin. Sure, there are references to F. Köhler horns on places like SOTW—where owners are trying to glean info on their acquisition, or trying to sell their saxes—but verifiable info (not simple opinion) is hard to come by.

Between what Uwe Ladwig published in his book, Saxophone: Ein Kompendium, and what Dr. Enrico Weller, from the Musikinstrumentenmuseums Markneukirchen, has written on the museum’s forum in reply to questions, I was able to piece together enough information that answered the most basic of questions about F. Köhler saxophones, and their history.

Why are some F. Köhler horns stamped MIGMA and others not?

F. Köhler, MIGMA, soprano saxophone bell, saxophone engraving

Source: thesax.info

MIGMA is an acronym for: the Musikinstrumenten-Handwerker-Genossenschaft Markneukirchen. Translated that would mean: Musical Instrument Manufacturer’s Cooperative Markneukirchen.

MIGMA is not a manufacturer of instruments, rather they partner with master craftsmen and dealers specializing in instruments from Markneukirchen. According to former page on MIGMA’s site, since 1943 they have been marketing, selling, and distributing: strings, bows, guitars, brass winds, Orff instruments, drummer’s sticks and mallets, accessories, as well as component parts.

Franz Köhler was a MIGMA member from 1954 to 1962.

One of the mysteries surrounding the F. Köhler saxophones is the almost seemingly random engraving of the MIGMA name.

Not counting stencils, F. Köhler built only one model of saxophone: the Empor. This Empor model was built in not only alto and tenor versions, but later also in soprano and baritone voices as well.

Looking through the limited F. Köhler saxophones that I have been able to locate for Bassic Sax Pix, you will notice that most do not carry both the MIGMA and Empor engraving.

  • The ones that do include both names are: alto 3082 and bari 3009.
  • Soprano 2725 is engraved only with the MIGMA name.
  • Baris 3190 and 3531, as well as tenors 2244, 27xx, and 3420, are only engraved with the Empor name.

Given that Franz Köhler was a member of MIGMA past the point he shut down his saxophone manufacturing facility in 1961, one would expect that even the higher serial numbered-horns would be engraved with the cooperative’s acronym. Hence my comment about the randomness of the MIGMA engraving.

Since I’m not familiar with how MIGMA helped manufacturers market, sell, and distribute their instruments ATT, I can only speculate. Perhaps F. Köhler didn’t sell and distribute all their horns through the Markneukirchen cooperative, thus only those that went through MIGMA were engraved that way.

Unfortunately like so many now-defunct, former East German saxophone makers, any paperwork that may have existed on F. Köhler is long gone. Piecing together info on F. Köhler saxophones and their history is a bit like putting together a piece of IKEA furniture minus the directions, Allen key, and dowels.

If you have a F. Köhler Empor saxophone, or one of the company’s stencils, and you would like to contribute to the knowledge base, please drop me an email. Thank you!

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2017, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.


  1. The Catalogue of the exhibition “Faszination Saxophon” contains a number of very interesting information about Kohler that might answer many of your questions. It is written in German with full English translation and available at the Musikinstrumentenmuseum Markneukirchen (http://www.museum-markneukirchen.de/FaszinationSaxophon.html).
    (congratulations on your fascinating site)

    • Thank you Pascal for this link! I don’t know why I didn’t come across it when I researching the different manufacturers.

      The information is very interesting. I just took a quick look at it the other day, and will have to go back and read it thoroughly to see how it compares to what I already have. I remember coming across new things though, but can’t remember now what brands those things were discussed under.

      Thank you again, for bringing this to my attention. I find the Musikinstrumentenmuseum Markneukirchen’s website is incredibly informative. One day I would like to go and see the museum itself.

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