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RS Berkeley’s Virtuoso Saxophone: Capturing Colossus

Chris Kelsey says that RS Berkeley’s Virtuoso saxophones aim for that vintage-Selmer vibe

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RS Berkeley's Virtuoso alto saxophone

No one has ever gone broke exploiting saxophonists’ infatuation with the Selmer Mark VI-from the folks on eBay auctioning vintage ’60s horns for reserve prices of eight grand and up, to the many contemporary sax manufacturers (Selmer included) who do their darndest to produce a reasonable facsimile of the iconic instrument. RS Berkeley falls under the latter category. The company now has its own Mark VI-inspired line, the Virtuoso Series, which was designed with input from such luminaries as Tim Ries-the Rolling Stones’ favored sax player-and the late Michael Brecker, and is manufactured in China. Yet its major inspiration seems to come from the workshop of the Selmer Company circa 1954.

The Virtuoso website touts such features as a “custom neck” (available in multiple finishes, and the company says it can customize the neck to fit the artist), “ergonomic keywork” and an “engraved bell”; “Vintage Personified,” or so they call the horns-which in sax-speak usually means “just like a Mark VI.” In this case, it’s not all hype. The company sent me two horns for review: the VIRT1001M alto (the “M” signifying its matte finish) and the VIRT2006DL tenor (“DL” for dark lacquer). In both cases I used the neck that matched the body of the horn.

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