RSBerkeley Virtuoso Alto Saxophone

Today, I am reviewing the RSBerkeley Virtuoso black nickel alto saxophone.  I already own a couple of the Virtuoso tenor saxophones and have been curious about the alto for some time now.  I have never tried a saxophone in black nickel before so this will be my first time.

RSBerkeley Black Nickel Virtuoso Alto Saxophone

This Virtuoso alto saxophone is a gorgeous black nickel with gold keys.  It really is beautiful to look at.  It has detailed engraving on the bell and neck.   It has a high F# key on it and the key work is ergonomically smooth and efficient.

The key work was very good and I felt like I could get around the horn from the very moment I picked it up.  The low Bb spatula keys were well placed but different enough from my Selmer Reference horn that I didn’t feel at home with them.  A little practice and time would fix that I am sure. I found the spring tension to be a bit too strong but that can be adjusted by any competent repair person.  It had resonators that were metal with rivets in the middle.  I’ve heard a few repair techs say these aren’t the best resonators but I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

The tone of this saxophone was fat sounding although it didn’t lose that distinct core to the sound.   Sometimes when a saxophone is too spread sounding it loses the core to the sound.  That isn’t the case with this sax.  It’s got a big sound that is still centered and focused.

The first thing I check when I try a saxophone is the intonation.  I tune the middle B and then see how the octave B tunes in comparison.  If the high B is sharp or out of whack I usually just put the sax back in it’s case and move on.   The octaves were great on this sax. The intonation was as good as I have seen on any modern alto saxophone. The octaves were in tune and the high notes weren’t sharp at all.  I really enjoyed playing this saxophone.  The low notes were lush and full sounding while the high notes had a  sweetness to the tone that I really liked up top.

I played an Ishimori Woodstone hard rubber mouthpiece on it with a Woodstone #3 reed.  The sax played well with this setup and felt pretty close to the resistance I get with my Selmer Reference 54 that I play most often.  The great intonation made it very easy to play right from the beginning.  The true test is to play the sax with music and this saxophone passed that test.  I played it with a couple of recordings and it was easy to play in tune at louder and softer volumes.  The tone was very flexible and felt like I could play with it while still staying in tune.  When I played at 95% volume it still kept  the same tone and I didn’t feel like I could out blow it.

I have provided a video clip below so you can see and hear the sax for yourself.  Anyone can write great reviews about a sax but the true test is to see and hear it for yourself.  The final test is for you to play it yourself.

If you are interested in a RSBerkeley saxophone you can click on and click on shop.  That will give you a list of dealers around the world.  Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks, Steve

RSBerkeley Black Nickel Virtuoso Alto Saxophone

Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site

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