I recently had a chance to play the new Viking M58 Legend Series tenor saxophones. I played both a cognac lacquer finish and the antiqued finish popular on many taiwanese horns. The horns were played every day for several weeks before writing the review.
NOTE: BOTH HORNS WERE ADJUSTED TO PERFECTION!!
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: This is one of my favorite finishes on horns today. It is similar to the “vintage gold” lac
quer on Phil Barone horns, although I felt the finish was a bit more uniform across the board. Mother of pearl keys were perfectly fitted, and the case is outstading (same case as Phil Barone horns, very high quality indeed). I must say the engraving was very tastefully done and looked outstanding. They didn’t engrave over the entire horn with sparse one-line engraving. It was done on the bell, and reflected the 1940′s and 1950′s Selmer engravings. Very attractive and gave the horn a very classy look.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: This horn EASILY has the best “vintage” or “antiqued” finish I’ve ever seen on any taiwan horn (including P. Mauriat). It’s not blotchy and strange looking; it’s an understated elegance, smoothly defined, applied very well with no runs, drips, or mis-matching layers. All the pearls looked great, enjoying the engraving as mentioned above. It had such a fantastic appeal that I had to play it first.
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: The first thing I did when I picked up this horn was blow through some of the Omnibook, and it never missed a beat. Very, very comfortable horns. None of the super heavy spring tension you get on most newer horns today; these actually had a lighter feel to it, but with the quick snap of a well regulated Selmer action. The absence of post-rib construction doesn’t hinder the action on this horn at all. It was precise, fluid, and felt fantastic. The pinky G# cluster was dialed in and fit my hands perfectly and really responded well; I was extremely comfortable moving around quickly on the lower end of the horn. Palm keys were closer to the body, but contoured correctly and will fit most hand types. Risers are an option, and although I usually use them, I didn’t feel the need on this horn. Rich has apparently taken great care in the construction of the keywork on these horns; it shows.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: While I felt the spring tension was quite similar to the cognac horn, I did detect just the slightest more pop to the keywork on this horn than the prior. I took my time really going over this horn and slowly pressing all keys, trying to feel every single bit of motion in the keywork to try and detect any binding, and felt none at all through the entire horn. I was suprised how smooth it was. I made sure I oiled the keys properly, but to be honest it didn’t change a whole lot about the horn, which to me indicates that it was properly oiled prior to me receiving it. Bonus points for that. Still had the smooth operation on the G# cluster, and the transition on all parts of the horn were nearly flawless. Side Bb cluster was placed lower on the horn, allowing the usage of risers if anyone holds their hand a bit higher up, but it felt perfectly fine to me and my fingertips were right on the lower-stack pearls without any problems.
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: Well the major thing with these horns it that they use reduced post-rib construction that has become almost commonplace on saxophones today. I think the Selmer Super Balanced Action did pretty well with minimal post-rib construction, and this horn is of exceptional build quality as well. The lacquer job itself is simply fantastic; the layers are precise and even, there are no runs, drips, nothing. The posts themselves have a slightly darker appearance in certain light and gives an extremely subtle elegance to the entire look of the horn. One thing you’ll notice when holding the horn and looking over the build quality is how light it is…no more cramping your neck or these huge bells and extra keys; this horn makes no mistake on being a Selmer copy in the spirit of the 1940′s and 1950s horns, hence the absence of the high F# key. (I believe it IS possible to get one though, should you require it). I can’t say enough about how much I love the engraving. I know it’s purely aesthetic, but it certainly means something when you truly appreciate and enjoy the look of your horn. This engraving was done very well; it’s not that “all over the body, holy crap lets engraving a single line all over the body and charge more for it” type of engraving. It’s done only on the bell, and is the Selmer floral pattern executed with great precision. Simply outstanding and absolutely GORGEOUS on this type of finish horn.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: This one was built so well, it made me dinner the night it arrived! All kidding aside, I was very pleased with this horn as well. With these lacquer jobs it seems like they put these giant dark burn spots in the weirdest places, and make it look more like a novelty item than a classic looking saxophone. I’m glad to say, that Viking Instruments got it right with this one. This antique finish is easily the highest quality I’ve seen on any taiwanese horn. I’ve se
en very good jobs before; but the precise execution, smoothness, and overall quality of the finish is really outstanding. It screams “vintage classic” all over. The engraving always looks great on these horns too; it is executed sophistication. No problems with the solder work, keys were fitted properly, tone holes level on both horns all throughout. I took extra time on the tone holes and went through every single one to really see what Rich Maraday was up to…I’m pleased to say there were all perfectly level and uniforn. Well done!
Response: To me, response is how quickly the horn responds to your airstream for articulation, tone changes, and volume.
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: One of the absolute best features on this horn. The response is absolutely phenomenal and differs from any other taiwan horn I’ve played. This thing RESONATES in your hands like crazy; it is free-blowing but has such CORE to it. You really get a sense of hearing, feeling, and being involved in the overall sound of this horn. You get that great pocket of resistance like the old Selmers had, but it is very easy to blow and shape. Less work for better results. The low register speaks easily, is still free blowing, and still retains that core. Altissimo is PHENOMENAL and I would consider this one of the best horns I’ve ever played in the altissimo register. 4 octaves seems quite normal on this horn; and the best part is it has the evenness of range to simply sound like an extension of the horn…not a completely different instrument. Rich really hit a home run on the design of this horn; this horn is light in weight, resonates like crazy, and has fast response.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: Very similar to the horn above, but the resonance seemed to be a little deeper and a little less lively. The lower register seemed to simply fall out of this horn. Low C as simple and easy as middle C, similar to the cognac, but every so slightly easier to speak. Loved the resonance on this horn, and that free-blowing quality was met with a greater pocket of resistance. Not by much, but it was noticeable. You could really shape things well, but still have the kick and resonance. Keep in mind, while the low register was a piece of cake, it was not boomy nor spread. It was a focused sound and that core was still present.
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: I’ll keep this short and sweet. This horn plays in tune. Bottom line. Octaves are dead on, overtones are dead on, very even through the range, no problem notes. Lower range is great, altissimo is spot-on with minimal effort. Nothing else to say; phenomenal intonation.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: Ditto. VERY surprised they were identical. I felt that maybe you could shape the intonation more on this horn if you wanted to, but there was absolutely no need because everything was spot on.
Dynamics/Projection: Not the same thing, I know, but included in the same part of the review. Projection, in my mind, is the ability to fill up a room with your sound; the ability to make your sound carry to the far corners of the room, no matter what volume. To me, volume is simply how loud you can play…a higher amount of decibels.
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: The projection is absolutely focused, identical to a Selmer, and stays consistent throughout all dynamics. That is one of the many great things about this horn. It will hold the structure no matter what dynamic you are playing at, which is important. It is one of the more focused horns I’ve played. And while some modern taiwanese horns have found some focus, I find they don’t have the resonance or lively flexibility this horn has; you can push this on R&B gigs absolutely no problem, but tone it down for a quiet jazz gig. I liked it best in a versatile big band setting; you can rip a solo on a funk tune, then turn around and play a soft ballad. Same set up, no problem. The horn could get whisper, whisper quiet. Yes, I said it twice. But don’t let the quiet quality fool you; it will roar with the best of them. I can’t get over how the core stays so consistent; reminds me of a late SBA.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: Very similar to the above horn; although I felt the projection was very, very slightly rounder. Don’t take that to mean “spread projection” because it is most definitely focused. Just not quite as focused as the above horn. This horn didn’t have quite the definition at lower volumes that the cognac horn had; although it was certainly still clear. I felt the upper altissimo had a touch more power. Again, these are all things that could easily be attributed to being a different M58 Legend horn. Structured, focused, powerful, sensitive.
Tone: To me, tone is the general description of the sound produced by the instrument. Adjectives like bright, dark, warm, thin, edgy etc. can be used to describe tone. I also refer to the “eveness” of the tone…this is if the tone of the horn stays consistent throughout the ranges.
Viking M58 Legend Cognac Lacquer: The first thing I would say is there horns have a lovely and lively sound. They are different from other taiwanese horns because they have this resonance. And, oh, did I mention CORE??? What a fantastic core sound. I can’t get over it; people talk about what a great tenor sound is like, what you recognize as a great tenor sound…well, in my mind, you have to have a core to the sound. And the better the core, the better the sound. The thing that makes this tenor stand out is not only is the core absolutely phenomenal, it’s got all the resonance and overtones surrounding the core, giving an outstanding COLOR to the sound. The vintage Selmers had it, and these horns have it. Rich, compact, focused core with a very lively resonating color palette. They are naturally a bit brighter than some other modern taiwanese horns; but don’t compare brighter to thinner/less thick/less rich. This horn has that type of brilliance that everyone wants in their playing, it gives clarity and definition, and lets you switch genres so well. You can use this horn for anything; classical, jazz, funk, smooth jazz, R&B, rock, you name it. It has all the ingredients for success. That defined, rich core with the amazing resonance and overtones will take you anywhere you want to go in the musical world. There is no thinning out in the upper register, no muddiness in the lower end. It is even up and down the range of the horn; even well into the altissimo. It’s still YOUR sound up there; it doesn’t change into a whining, dying animal or sound like a different instrument all together. Absolutely blown away by the sound of these horns.
Viking M58 Legend Antiqued Brush Finish: Before I go into this, please, no finish debates. I will say this horn was noticeably darker than the cognac model. It was a special type of horn; all the core and resonance of the cognac, but it was darker by nature. It was really cool to feel that type of resonance coming back at you. You could really hear your sound, feel it, shape it. Let me state though, this is NOT a “dark” horn. It’s not a spread, dark sounding horn. It is focused, and right in the middle between bright and dark (which means you can SHAPE this however you want; any sound you want is yours for the taking). I would rate the cognac horn at medium to medium-bright in terms of tone. There’s a funny store about this horn in particular. I brought it over to a friend of mines place; he’s been playing the same Mark VI tenor for over 35 years now and is an outstanding player. I told him to close his eyes and I’d put on his gear for him; so he tries the horn blind, and says “Did you give me my horn back?” and played some more, then said “Hmm…not mine. A Selmer, though. Maybe earlier than mine.” I thought that was a pretty solid compliment for Rich’s horns. Then I had to go into the entire thing for him when he opened his eyes to see some antiqued lacquer horn staring up at him. He likened this horn to be a Super Balanced Action/early Mark VI clone. While I certainly have more experience trying newer makes of horns, I couldn’t help but share in my enthusiasm with him about the sound of these horns.
The main thing that drew me to review these horns was actually a post that Rich Maraday, owner of Viking Instruments, made on the forums here. Someone really was a jerk to him for no real reason, and his post was professional, courteous, and still friendly, and most of all, honest about his products. I was so impressed with the integrity he has shown on these forums that I asked if I could take a shot at playing his instruments. I was pretty up front with Rich, that it would be a risk. I’m not really known for holding back punches, but Rich told me go for it and give a 100% honest review, even if the results were not to his liking. To me, that’s a man who is confident in his product. And as well he should be, the horns blew me away. I’ll hopefully be talking to Rich after the holidays about purchasing a horn. The cases are fantastic and I recommend these to anyone who is interested in a top quality flight case.
Rich has also mentioned to me he has a couple projects in the works for December and January that will be exciting for people who want that vintage Selmer sound without the ridiculous and enormous price tag.
Viking Acoustic Balance M40 – This horn is going to be designed in the spirit of a Selmer BA. It will have a very, very high copper content and be a different sounding horn than anything on the market today.
Viking M85 model – This will also have a very high copper content, not quite as high as the M40 but close. This is going to come standard with a high F#, Mark VI engraving, and will be a broader, more aggressive sounding horn. Think the more aggressive Mark VI range (150,xxx ranges).
The real thing I forgot about is; Rich has altos, too!! I need to get my hands on those altos in the near future and play the hell out of them for a few weeks and see if they compare to the tenors. I know he also carries the M58 Bari series, both low Bb and low A models.
I’ve heard excellent comments on his M58 soprano as well; supposed to be a hell of a horn. Maybe I’ll get a chance to blow on one someday.
I will say that Rich Maraday is one of THE nicest, most honest people in the business. He isn’t pushy, he isn’t a “salesman” that will try and convince you that everything else out there is crap…he’s simply a guy selling a fantastic product, and he’ll talk to anyone who has questions. The horns sell themselves; they’re incredible and different from other horns being made today.
You can reach Rich Maraday at email@example.com, or just give him a call at 845-361-9353.
Comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged, your appreciation of these reviews is what keeps them coming. Flaming posts, rude remarks, and attacks/insults can be directed to my PM box. Feel free to ask any questions and I will answer them here for you.
As always, your mileage may vary. These are only my individual experiences. You should ideally form your own opinions on horns by playing them.
Hope you enjoyed!
Charles Grey SOTW Review
This personal story is just so surreal in a good and positive way (on so many levels) that it just needs to be shared with the SOTW community.
Rich Maraday (owner of Viking Instruments) is somebody who’s path I have crossed in a very general sense for the past 15 years or so. We both live in the Hudson Valley region of NY and have met on the band stand of a couple local bands every now and again.
Rich also comes comes from a family where his father was a professional saxophonist as well….. and a well respected one at that!!
Rich use to work for USA Horn. He had a VERY real sense of what the player needed way back in those days. I know I had several private students (as well as other private teachers in the area) going to USA Horn to deal with Rich. Heck, I even bought my Buffet Festival Clarinet 10 years ago from Rich at USA Horn.
So, lets fast forward to this past week. Rich called me up and said -
“Listen Charlie, I just got in a shipment of horns and I need somebody to come over and set them up. These horns NEED to play when my customers get them and I do not want to take any gambles and I know you KNOW saxophones and what you are doing.”
As I have met Rich in the past, this mentality didn’t surprise me. When I do my repair work, I don’t like to compromise my ideals. Rich is very much the same way so I agreed to go over and help him out
That brings us to yesterday. I show up at Rich’s house and I get welcomed at the door and brought down to the “Basement” which he set up as his base of operations. This one of the nicest basements I have been in. It felt like the ULTIMATE in man caves!!! Sitting out is at least 12 Tenors and 3 Altos with many more in the cases all ready to ship out.
Now, I have a very open mind when it comes to foreign horns as I know from personal experience that these could be very good OR very bad.
So while making small talk, I pick up a M40 Tenor. Ummm…. DUMBFOUNDED is the only word I can come up with as I blew the horn. This thing PLAYS!! RESONATES too” Ok – so I drop the light down it and found a tiny leak. Ok – simple adjust and Holy Crap this thing roared!!!
OK – on to the next one…. an M58. What CORE!!! Even through every thing I could throw at it. Again – minor adjustment – away we go.
As I blew down the lot I found some that needed nothing. Found some that needed a little more. I unpack and blow downs new yamaha’s, selmers, mauriats, and buffets daily at my day job. The “out of the box” quality is as good as or better than any other factory.
In the end – every single horn had this “vibe” that was just astonishing!!!
I am writing this story because in today’s society and economy, you don’t see guys doing what Rich is doing. The reason is … because it’s not easy!!!! Here is a one man operation where everything has been well thought out, quality is not sacrificed , and professional knowledge is successfully applied to the product development.
You got to give credit to a man who is making a quality product that is on par or dare i say better than many others.
Now, its one thing to say all this, but after playing the horns he was paying me to setup, I walked up to an M58 and said….. I’ll take that one!! That’s my new pro gigging horn.
Rich is a man of his word. He will tell you like it is…. for better or worse and stand behind his product. I look forward to helping him in the future.
I also agreed to bring my M58 and an M40 to the Symposium this coming weekend for people to try. Just find me and ask if you are going and want to try one.
Bottom line….. no hidden surprises with Rich. Life is not always perfect, but if you want an advocate in an imperfect world to help you get the best quality possible, Rich is the Man!!!