It’s been a week that I have this Virtuoso tenor saxophone in my possession and in that time I have played (2) four hour gigs with it. This performance experience has provided me with plenty of time to push the horn to its limits in terms of volume dynamics, key system action and sonic response. Since my performance situation involves playing through a 1000 watt sound system using a wireless microphone, I am also able to walk the floor and hear myself as others hear me. With that in mind, it is my greatest pleasure to report that the Virtuoso possesses every quality that I could ever dream of having rolled into one tenor sax. The sound of the horn is the best that I have ever produced on stage. It has the fullness of color with just the right amount of edge that I need for the pop music genre I work in. Equally important is the effortlessness with which the instrument articulates from a whisper to a roar, regardless if I’m playing a low Bb or a note much further up the horn. The altissimo range is also non-resistant and clear. The horn is a professional players dream and to top it off, the intonation throughout the entire range of the instrument is absent of the commonly founder upper ‘register stretch’ I’ve noticed on so many tenor saxes. For the record, I’ve owned many tenors over the past 40 years including four Selmer Mk 6’s, every Yamaha made, a Keilwerth, a Guardala NY model, King Super 20, Conn 10M, etc. None of these horns have all of the qualities found in the Virtuoso. Each one had stellar qualities which drew me in to it, but none had all the desired qualities together in one instrument the way the Virtuoso does. That’s what makes it so special to me.
Since I’m a full-time instrument repair technician, I have another very different set of criteria by which I judge saxes apart from their playing qualities, namely build quality. Build quality includes such things as fit and finish, tightness of keys on their pivot screws, absence of keywork end play, presence of necessary adjustment screws, quality of assembly as regards solder joints, tone hole flatness, spring quality, hardware quality (stainless steel pointed screws with polished heads and long pivot screws being polished and having consistent diameter)and most importantly, key strength. Equally important is correctness of setup as in pad sealing, key heights, cork and felt shimming and neck socket fit. All of these areas were excellently addressed with the Virtuoso. From a visual standpoint, I found the engraving to be just right; not too much and not too little for a horn in this price range.
For comfort, I swapped out both thumb rests, replacing the LH rest with a short one, which I also rounded for added comfort. The RH thumb rest had a sharp edge, so I put a generic plastic in place. Both changes are fully reversible and are not invasive.
That’s all I can really say about this horn. It plays better than any horn I had previously owned (and currently own), has the best intonation of any tenor I’ve played, possesses the most effortless response and has the sound I have been searching for over many years.
Additional information about these horns can be found at rsberkeley.com