September 2006

Selmer La Voix Saxophones

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That is what I first thought after receiving the La Voix alto and tenor saxophones. My sentiment quickly turned to “If you can’t beat ’em, confuse ’em.” To be honest with you, I don’t know what the folks at Conn-Selmer are thinking these days. With the La Voix saxophones (French for “The Voice”), the Conn-Selmer company offers yet another Taiwanese-model saxophone to an already flooded market.

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Selmer La Voix Saxophone

Unlike the competition, which markets their saxophones as professional alternatives to the standard fare, the La Voix is offered as an intermediate-model saxophone for those who wish to upgrade from a student horn but don’t want to commit to the pricey professional models on the market. This is where it gets confusing—but first, let’s talk about the instrument.

The La Voix is an excellent playing saxophone. Both the AS220 alto and TS220 tenor offered a solid, free-blowing sound that was a bit more spread than the professional-model Selmers. Those players coming from a student-model saxophone (especially the A-300 Selmer or Bundy saxophones) will feel like they are moving from a compact car to a Cadillac. I was really taken aback by the freedom of sound and precise pitch each saxophone offered. The tenor was especially rich in the lower register and offered wonderful projection. The alto, while very good overall, felt a bit edgy and bright in comparison. The key action was comfortable but not quite like the Paris Selmers. The pearls felt odd and looked synthetic.

Each saxophone has what is called an “Ultra Bell” design, which is a short way of saying a big bell flare. This, along with a higher copper-enriched brass, is supposed to improve the projection and offer a bigger tone. Frankly, every Taiwanese saxophone offers features like these, so I would expect nothing less from the La Voix. Like other Taiwanese horns, the La Voix also offers double-arm braces on the low C and B keys as well as a reinforced table arch near the left-hand keys. There is full-body bracing throughout with solid posts and guards.

Each La Voix saxophone comes with a professional Selmer S-80 C* mouthpiece and specially designed Bam trek-style case. The case might be the best perk you get—it’s fantastic, with detachable backpack straps and a shoulder strap.

A couple of cosmetic elements really turned me off to the La Voix, not the least of which is the engraving. I know it’s supposed to be a selling point, but it’s cheap looking and further highlights the fact that this saxophone is an intermediate model. In addition, the Selmer “S” that is incorporated into the bell brace reminds me of the treble clef I’ve seen on budget saxophones. Finally, the lacquer was smooth but did not lend the same tailored appearance as past Selmer saxophones.

Each La Voix comes in the standard brass lacquer, silver plate or black nickel. While the horns retail at $2,700 for the lacquered alto and $3,100 for the tenor, the instruments are available online at about half those prices. They’re great horns as doublers or for someone who’s in need of a quality instrument but on a budget.

Now, back to the confusion. With the La Voix series, Selmer is marketing a Taiwanese saxophone with a French name and associating it (at least namewise) with the Selmer reputation of fine saxophones. Make no mistake, this is a great instrument, but it is not a Selmer in the true sense of the word. It isn’t supposed to be anything other than a quality intermediate horn.

It’s almost as if this saxophone is a halfhearted admission that the competition is gaining on the company—and that’s OK. Instrument companies are not immune to the ways of the world, and right now the new trend is coming from Taiwan. My advice would be for Conn-Selmer to use its knowledge, experience and history, combined with the price point and ease of production that Taiwan offers, and make a new “professional” saxophone. Why not? With the La Voix, the company is more than halfway there already.

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