Today, I am reviewing the Viking M58 and M60 tenor saxophones. This is another great saxophone that is manufactured in Taiwan. I had been hearing about the Viking tenor saxophones for a few years now and have been very curious to try them out. Rich Maraday is the owner of Viking instruments and he was happy to send me a M58 and M60 for this review. Rich is a great guy to talk to on the phone and is very sincere and passionate about saxophones and the music business.
Viking M58 (Left) and M60 Valkyrie (Right) Cognac Tenor Saxophones
Rich Maraday told me that his main goal in starting Viking instruments was to provide a great quality saxophone that is affordable and in a comfortable price range for working musicians. (I liked the sound of that……..) Here are some descriptions of the M58 and M60 from the Viking website:
“The M58s tenor was developed in the spirit of the Vintage SBA & Mark VI tenor . We added a under slung octave key to the new generation and are presenting a more custom aesthetic to this model.
These horns provide exceptional intonation, response, and dynamic range. The Viking M58s can cover any musical genre, and is considered a very versatile horn. If you are playing everything from a show pit to a rock and roll band, this horn might be your top choice.We invite you to the Vintage French sound spectrum, where you can experience the vintage French sonic quality without the huge price tag. Try the Viking Legend Series M58 s tenors for yourself! ”
“We believe the Viking M60 Valkyrie is that saxophone. This horn uses a different bore and geometry than our other models, and perfectly combines that Selmer focus and structure with the warm, resonant spread of the Conn school. This creates a unique playing experience unlike anything available on the market today.
“The M60 Valkyrie features a medium focus, while remaining incredibly warm, resonant, and is more spread than our other models. This may sound confusing but it is slightly focused while still remaining fat sounding. The resonance has structure, core, and an incredible deep richness that we feel surpasses almost any saxophone made today. Intonation is outstanding up and down the range of the horn.
“This horn features Pisoni pro pads installed with shellac (not pad glue) for a better feel to the action, has a two-point body brace similar to vintage Selmers, a wire BA-style neck octave mechanism, and absolutely gorgeous “portrait style” engraving. Our Cognac lacquer M60 has the engraving cut through the lacquer and the contrast is simply stunning. It is also available in an un lacquered model with silver accents.”
Viking M58 (Left) and M60 Valkyrie (Right) Cognac Tenor Saxophones
Both Viking tenor saxophones came well packed in cardboard boxes with padding all around the cases inside the box. Inside the saxophone case the saxophones had key clamps on them with a sheet of plastic around them and more bubble wrap. It’s good to see that Rich knows how to pack these instruments so they won’t get damaged in shipping. The cases have ample room to store your mouthpiece, neck and other saxophone accessories.
Viking Tenor Saxophone Case
The Viking saxophones I am reviewing are both a gorgeous cognac lacquer as you can see from the pictures. I thought the engraving was beautiful personally. I’ve tried a few other Taiwanese horns over the years but I don’t remember the engraving being as intricate or as detailed as these Viking horns. The engraving reminds me of the great job Selmer use to do on their SBA and Mark VI tenors. It really stands out!
The M58 saxophone came with two necks in the case. A neck with an underslung octave key and another neck with the LOR attachment on it. (Rich wanted me to try the horn with both necks to see what I thought)
Here’s a picture of both necks:
Viking Underslung Neck and Neck with LOR
The M58 saxophone felt great to me ergonomically. I don’t believe it is very different than my Selmer SBA tenor when it comes to key placement. I felt like I could get around the horn well and I felt very comfortable on it. I do have a history of tendonitis so I prefer a pretty light spring tension on my saxophones. The spring tension on the M58 saxophone felt pretty good to me. Usually, I take a new horn immediately to my repair person so he can tweak the spring tensions to what I prefer but I don’t think I would need to with this horn.
The build quality of the M58 saxophone looks very good to me also. As I set the horn up and took the key clamps off I was looking at the keys and inspecting them. I didn’t notice any weak or shoddy mechanisms, nor any play or movement in the keys. The keys felt sturdy and firm to me. In the past, I have had some student come in for lessons with saxophones they got off ebay. The metal was so weak and flimsy that just the act of playing and pushing the keys would bend the metal. They were horrible. This is not the case with these Viking horns. They seem like quality parts and manufacturing to me.
They also seemed very well set up. I didn’t notice any leaks and could play down to low Bb with no problems the first time I played it. I appreciate Rich sending me a horn that is in good regulation and using the key clamps and padding to make sure shipping didn’t knock it out of whack.
I tried the horn first with the underslung neck and found the tone to have a nice core to it but with a full sound. The intonation was quite good. I would say better than my SBA for sure. Notes that I expected to be sharp and would adjust for on my SBA were actually perfect and I didn’t need to adjust. I must say that this horn and all the other Taiwanese horns I have reviewed on this site have all had excellent intonation in my opinion.
The M58 saxophone has domed metal resonators. (Just like my Selmer SBA). The low register was lush and fat sounding and the altissimo was easy to reach and in tune. I have included a sound clip of the M58 with the underslung neck below.
Next, I was eager to try the neck with the LOR attached. I have no idea what LOR stands for but I joked with Rich on Facebook about it being related to “Lord of the Rings” (thinking I was being funny) and he said the inventor really loved those movies so maybe that is what it stands for………….
Now the LOR neck did feel and play differently for me. It’s hard to say if it was the difference in neck or if it was all attributed to the LOR device. I can’t say. I know the neck with the LOR device felt more powerful and centered to me. I didn’t find it more freeblowing for me but it had a resistance that I felt I could blow harder against or something. I really liked playing that neck…….I put a sound clip below of the M58 with the LOR neck also. You can listen and tell me if you hear a difference and or what differences you hear…………
Sound Clips: In the sound clips below and the one at the bottom of the page, I am using a much brighter mouthpiece than I usually use for sound clips on this site. This is a metal Otto Link that Jon Van Wie put a baffle in and refaced. This is my go to mouthpiece for loud gigs……funk, rock, pop etc…….. It has a brighter, louder, more cutting sound than most other mouthpieces. It can sound pretty bright and even harsh at times but with some reverb on the gig it just kills………..I say all this because I don’t want you to think these are just bright rock & roll horns. Trust me, I also tried the horns with darker mouthpieces and they were beautiful sounding. Dark , lush and round sounding. I know in a perfect world I would have recorded clips on 5 different mouthpieces but I only have so much time in a day……………
One thing to notice in the clips is that even though these are new horns to me, I could get around the horn pretty well and the intonation is very good on these recordings and I’m not even used to the horns yet………….
Viking M58 (Underslung Octave Key Neck) Sound Clip with JVW Baffled Metal Otto Link
Viking M58 (LOR Neck) Sound Clip with JVW Baffled Metal Otto Link
(Can you notice a difference between the LOR neck and the underslung octave key neck? (Feel free to make a comment below………)
In the end, I felt the M58 was a very good horn! Rich’s pricing probably changes over time like most commercial products but at the time of this review I see that these tenors are listed for 2350.00 on the Viking website. In my opinion, that is a great price for a tenor of this caliber and I would have no problem recommending it to a student or another player. I still love my SBA and am not ready to trade that in but to be honest, I have played many new Selmer, Yamaha, Cannonball, Keilwerth and other tenor saxophones over the years that I have not cared for at all. (Bad tones, stuffy, bad set-ups, bad intonation……..) Most of those were at a higher price point also! These Viking tenors are great in my opinion and worth checking out if you are in the market for a tenor sax.
M60 Valykrie Review
The M60 Valykrie was an identical experience to the M58 as far as opening the case and unwrapping it. Rich protected it exactly the same with the key clamps and all the bubble wrap. The M60 sax felt a little heavier to me than the M58 saxophone. If you read the description above from the Viking website, it says the bore is larger than the M58 and gives a tone and sound similar to a cross between a Selmer and Conn. This was very interesting to me as I have loved my Selmer SBA for as long as I have had it but………I had one infidelity where I strayed to a Conn 10M for about 3 months. (my SBA is still mad about that…..) I was curious what this sax would play and sound like………..
The first thing I noticed were that the ergonomics were different than on the M58. Things felt like they were in a different place compared to my SBA that I’m used to. The spatula low Bb flat keys felt closer to my hand than I’m used to and the side Bb and side palm keys seemed to be in slightly different places than the M58 sax. It wasn’t bad at all but I would have to get used to it more. Also, the spring tensions were also a bit firmer than on the M58 but like I said earlier that is something I would get adjusted on any horn that I would buy. (and I did indeed even do it on my SBA when I got it almost brand new in 1996) The cool thing to take into consideration if you buy one of these horns is that Rich has priced them low enough that even if you decide to bring it to a tech to get tweaked the total price would still be lower than some of the other Taiwanese horns out there.
Viking M60 Valykrie Cognac Tenor Saxophone
The engraving on the M60 was incredible. Rich says that the engraving is cut right through the lacquer. I’m not sure what that means but I know that it looks really nice as you can see in the pictures. (Especially the one below)
How did the horn play, in my opinion it did seem to have a fatter more spread sound than the M58 or even my SBA. (listen to the sound clip below) It did kinda of remind me of a cross between a Selmer and a Conn. It also reminded me a lot of an H-Couf Superba tenor that I use to have. Like the Superba 1 this horns had a fatter meatier quality to the sound. On horns with this fatter tone quality I love to play higher baffle mouthpieces. I feel like the fatness of the tone combines with the brighter tone to give a nice balanced bright sound that is still fat and killer in funk and rock situations.
The intonation was great just like the M58 saxophone. The altissimo notes came out easily but I did notice that some of the notes above altissimo A needed a different fingering than I use on my SBA to be in tune. This is no big deal really as once you find the fingerings that work best on any horn…..those are the ones you use. I’m assuming the difference could be attributed to the bigger bore of this horn and me not being used to it. I did find fingerings within a few seconds that gave me the altissimo B,C,C# and D with no trouble though.
In the end, like the M58 sax this is another great option and choice for tenor players. Which is better, the M58 or the M60…….I honestly can’t say. I would need more time to figure that out for myself. I only played them for a few days and I enjoyed both. To be honest, if something happened to my SBA, I would probably drive down to Rich’s place and try out each of the tenors in different lacquers and materials to see which tenor I liked the best over countless hours (driving Rich insane in the process………..I can be a bit obsessive though………).
The M60 is priced at 2750.00 as of today on the Viking website. Again, this is a reasonable price for a horn of this construction and quality in my opinion. If you are looking for a new tenor sax with some of the properties of that Conn, Couf, Keilwerth fatter kind of sound this is a good tenor to consider. It gives you that fatter tone while still keeping a solid core to the sound and is priced reasonably.
This recording is a great example to me of how you can hear a difference in horns with the same mouthpiece. Above, I wrote about how I like to use high baffle pieces on horns like the Viking M60 saxophone because the fatness of the horn’s tone balances with the brights of the high baffle mouthpiece. I’m using the same JVW baffled link, but to me, the tone sound fat and round. It sounds fuller and fatter than how the JVW sounds on my SBA tenor. Of course, with my JVW and SBA the sound man on a live gig usually adds a little reverb to the sax sound to fatten it up but with this M60 sax, I feel the fullness is added naturally with the larger bore…………Honestly, when listening to clip I forget it’s a high baffle mouthpiece I’m playing………….
Viking M60 Sound Clip with JVW Baffled Metal Otto Link
Viking M60 Valykrie Cognac Tenor Saxophone (check out that engraving)
If you are interested in a Viking M58 or M60 tenor saxophone you can click on Viking Instruments . Rich Maraday is a great guy and will answer any questions that you might have. In my opinion, he has priced these beautiful tenor saxophones at a lower price point so musicians can afford them but he has kept the quality at a high level which is huge. Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you get a Viking tenor sax be sure to stop back here to share your opinions with us. Thanks, Steve