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Nexus Select tenor

Nexus Select tenor saxophone reviewOrigin: Taiwan(?)
Guide price: £4900
Weight: 3.17kg
Date of manufacture: 2023
Date reviewed: August 2023

He ain't heavy...

Whenever I review a horn I sort of set a 'bar' based on a number of factors. This allows me to place it within the context of the marketplace and to choose the most appropriate level at which I point up issues. When it comes to a new horn from, say, Yamaha I have a very clear idea of where the horn came from and some idea of how much it costs to build. There's also a historical aspect given that there are many models of varying ages to compare against - and thus it's relatively easy to say "OK, it's Yamaha, it costs five grand - therefore I can set the bar at such-and-such a level". And for that particular horn it would be set quite high. For something like sub-£1000 Jupiter I still have a historical expectation but the bar is set that much lower because, ultimately, you tend to get what you pay for.

Reviewing a horn from a new brand often means dealing with a 'boutique horn'; one that's built by a (usually) undisclosed company and badged for sale by the resellers. There's often no historical/geographical data and no idea of the manufacturing costs (though it's possible to make a good guess). There are some certainties though. Boutique manufacturers are unlikely to produce a horn to a custom design. It's not that they won't, it's just that so few companies can afford to buy in the quantities necessary for the manufacturer to entirely re-jig a production line. What they will do, however, is tweak an existing model (within reason) so that the reseller can differentiate the product from the standard model...which may well be available from other resellers at a much-reduced price.
It's also the case that some resellers carry out their own tweaks, sometimes to the point of stripping the horn down and reassembling it with various customisations added - which is the process the Nexus has been through.
We really ought to have a word for such horns and I guess 'Boutweaque' fits the bill nicely. Just remember, you heard it hear first!

Another certainty is the retail price. As soon as you slap a price ticket on a boutique horn you're setting the level at which comparisons may be drawn and expectations made. This is a pricey horn, so it has to meet a pricey standard.
And then there are the claims that are made about such horns by the resellers. Most of these you can take with a hefty pinch of salt - even those from major manufacturers. It's just marketing, after all - but it never hurts to examine some of the claims in detail...

You may have noticed that I've put a question mark on the country of origin. I have no idea where this horn originates from, so I've settled on Taiwan. These days it could equally be that such horns come from China.

So with all that in mind let's pop this mystery horn on the bench and see if it all adds up...
The Nexus features semi-ribbed construction, whereby groups of pillars are fitted to strips of brass (ribs) which are then fitted to the body. Semi-ribbed means that some of these ribs have been broken up into smaller sections. You also get the usual handful of standalone pillars here and there.
There's a good-sized sling ring (17/12mm), an adjustable plastic thumb hook and a flat plastic thumb rest. Plus you get adjustable bumper felts on the bell key guards. What you don't get is a top F# key - but you do get a detachable triple-point bell brace.

Nexus Select tenor tonehole warpThe horn has a dual finish - the main body and keys are bare brass but the bell and crook are silver plated. Double plated, no less. You might think this means it's been plated twice but in silversmithing terms it means that twice the usual amount of silver has been applied just the once. I'm sure some folks will claim that this has tonal benefits but all it really means is that it'll take rather longer before the plating wears off through handling.

The toneholes are of the plain drawn type, and on the whole I'd say they were of average flatness. Which means they could be a bit better. Thing is, at the price the Nexus is pitched at it's up against the likes of Yanagisawa - who tend to do a rather better job in getting their toneholes nice and flat.

This here's the Auxiliary F, and you can see there's a bit of a dip at the front and rear of the hole - which corresponds to a rise across the apex of the hole. This presentation is very common - and while I like to see any and all toneholes being perfectly flat it really pays to ensure that at least the really critical ones are. They'd be the Auxiliary B and Aux.F holes - because these two holes rely on the closing force of other keys - and the G#, the low C and the low C# because these three keys are more prone to problems than any others. Get those right and you really do improve the response and reliability of a horn. Get the rest right and you get your money's worth.

I found a rather strange blob inside top E tonehole. It looked like soft solder, but was much harder - though not as hard as silver solder. Thing is, there are two types of solder in general use on a horn; silver solder is used to assemble the keywork and soft solder is used to fit body together and fix the pillars and fittings to it. So the presence of a third kind of solder raises the question as to where it came from and how it came to be in that place. We may never know, but it's still something that should have been picked up at the assembly stage and dealt with.

Nexus Select tenot tonehole blobI could just have let it be, but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to remove the solder to see what was under it. I've seen this sort of thing before, and it's always a result of something going wrong in the tonehole pulling process. Maybe the tool is a bit out of whack, or perhaps there's an imperfection in the brass - but either way the tonehole splits as it's drawn out of the body. It's a very expensive flaw, which is why much money can be saved by repairing the crack. It's a viable repair procedure but perhaps not one you'd expect to see on a premium price horn. Still, at least such a repair would be a huge improvement over some of the bodges I've seen on Chinese Ultra-Cheap horns - including filling the splits with superglue or popping an Elastoplast over them. Yes, really.

Nexus Select tenor tonehole blob fixedAnyway, having removed the solder from inside the hole and polished it all up I found...nothing. Well at least nothing I could see. I gave it a good scrute with a loupe and yes, there are few marks, for sure, but they looked like tooling marks from the tonehole pulling process. I really couldn't see any anomalies either in the tonehole wall or the rim. It's a bit of a mystery.
All this aside, I'm pleased to report that the construction was otherwise neat and tidy.

The bell brace is a bog-standard triple point job in the modern Selmer style, and because it's fixed in place with three screws - with a corresponding bottom bow clamp - it indicates a detachable bell. This is pretty much standard practice these days, so it's not really anything to write home about. Or is it? Well, we'll come back to this feature in a little while...

The bottom bow looks interesting - notice how nice and clean it is...because there's no bottom bow plate/guard. Someone's taken it off. I think this is a risky move. There are good reasons why there's a bottom bow plate fitted - the most obvious of which is to protect the bottom bow from knocks and scuffs.These are inevitable - you might think you take the utmost care of your horns but you'd be surprised at how many times you rest the horn on the bottom bow.
Nexus Select tenor bottom bowMaybe it's when you're fitting the crook or faffing about with a reed...or perhaps when you're having a natter to one of the other horn players. And then there's always the odd slip where you knock the horn against something...the most common of which is fumbling when putting the horn on a stand.

Worst of all is the major knock, whereby you manage to put a dent in the bottom bow. The extra thickness of metal provided by the bow plate helps to reduce the amount of damage to the bow tube and to spread the load of the impact. Without it there it's rather like having a car that doesn't have any bumpers (fenders); the first time you have a little knock it'll likely take out one or both of your headlights. It's just asking for trouble.

Another useful feature of the bow plate is that it helps to stiffen the bow tube. You'd be surprised at just how much the body tube flexes even just under its own weight. If you level off the bell key toneholes and then stand the horn upright, the horn's weight will strain the bell such that the toneholes will deform slightly. It won't be by much - maybe a thou or so - but a thou is big enough to represent a leak. Removing that plate makes the bottom bow slightly less resistant to flexing...and you have the low C tonehole sitting right in the middle of it. There is a plus side though, and it's that when (not if) your horn takes a bash it'll be that much easier to remove the dent...

The truly daft thing is that the removal of the bow plate is perhaps entirely unnecessary...and that's yet another thing we'll come back to.

It's claimed that the crook angle is "higher up than just about any other modern neck you're going to see on the market". And so it is, sort of. Y'see, there are two considerations when it comes to the 'presentation angle' of the crook - one of which is the angle at which your mouthpiece sits in relation to the main body tube and the other is the height of the crook measured perpendicular to the top of the receiver socket or the bottom of the tenon sleeve.

This diagram shows how the measurements are made. The crook tenon sleeve is stood on a flat surface (the baseline) and the distance from that surface to the bottom of the tip is the height.
Crook presentation angleThe baseline is now drawn up to run through the centre of the tip and the angle of the tube is measured from that line. In this example the presentation angle is practically zero (which means the tip lies parallel to the baseline), which is fairly standard for modern Selmers. In fact this crook is running a tiny bit 'negative' because it points very slightly downward.
I measured the Nexus crook presentation angle and it's around 11 degrees positive (so it's pointing upwards) with a tip height of 70mm.

I then measured a few other tenor crooks and came up with this little bunch of results, with the crook tip height given first (angles are approximate):

TJ RAW 50mm - 11 degrees positive
TJ RAW vintage crook 60mm - 11 degrees positive
Selmer SA80II 62mm - parallel to baseline
Selmer SBA 52mm - 8 degrees positive
Yanagisawa 992 58mm - 8 degrees positive

Nexus and TJ RAW crooksSo yes, the Nexus does have quite a steep presentation angle, but it's by no means unique. But what about that tip height of 70mm. It really just means that the crook stands a little taller - and you can see it here in this photo of the colourised Nexus crook against the TJ RAW crook. Both crooks start at the same place, but the Nexus rises higher to the point where the key is mounted - and thereafter they follow a very similar curvature.

And how does that affect the player? If you were swapping between the Nexus and the TJ RAW you'd probably want to adjust the height of your sling slightly. That's it. Pretty much, at least. There are a few complexities but essentially you have two fixed points; the sling ring and the centre of the tip of the crook. Adjust either of those and it will alter the angle at which the player holds the horn and the angle of their own neck. This is why I don't find modern Selmers comfortable - the relatively neutral presentation angle causes me to stoop a little to get the mouthpiece at the preferred angle in my mouth. My old Yamaha 23 was fine, as is the TJ RAW, given that they share a similar positive angle on the crooks.
And what about the claim that this angle makes the crook less resistant? I doubt it - because when a speaker stand dropped on my Yamaha's crook and bent it down just before a gig, I had to make a hasty crook key adjustment and play the gig with a pulled-down crook. Aside from my being a bit uncomfortable it didn't seem to affect the Yamaha's free-blowing attributes.

Crook strain testAnd while we're on the subject of the crook, what about the claim (made in one of the Youtube presentation videos) that removing the brace which runs under the tube doesn't sacrifice "any kind of structural integrity"?
I think it's fair to say, broadly speaking, that in engineering terms the removal of material from an object will affect its rigidity. But rather than waffle on about physics and engineering, how about we test the claim?
I set up a test with an old tenor crook and a weight. I secured the crook tenon in a clamp, set up a dial gauge on the tip and tested the clamp for deflection at the test weight (2kg) so as to exclude it from the results (there was none). I then hung the weight from the crook and measured the deflection. I then desoldered and removed the brace and repeated the test once the crook had normalised at room temperature. I measured an increased deflection of 0.3mm. The result doesn't surprise me in the least because that's why they put braces underneath the crook - it's a relatively weak part, and anything that helps to stave off the dreaded pull-down has got to be a very useful feature. Indeed, check out the crooks on the Yanagisawa T-WO32 and T-WO33 tenors which have an additional brace fitted to help stiffen the relatively weaker silver tubing.

Is it going to be an issue? Hopefully not, but tenor crooks in particular tend to suffer from pull-down more than altos and baritones - and removing that extra stiffness means the point at which it will happen will come that much sooner than on an identical crook that still has its brace in place. Anyway, I should say at this point that the fit of the crook in the receiver was exceptionally good - easily one of the best I've seen for quite some time. Full marks there.

The keywork is pretty standard stuff (and powered by blued steel springs) though it's worth mentioning that there are no stack adjusters for regulation and/or key height, but you do get the usual trio of adjusters for the Bis Bb, G# and low C#. There's also a sliding pin to adjust the opening height of the top F when the front top F key is in play.
You get a full set of abalone finger pearls which have a concave profile and a slightly domed Bis Bb pearl. There are also flat ovals fitted to the side F# and G# touchpieces.

Nexus Select tenor bell key tableWhat you don't get is a tilting bell key table.
I've no problem with this because I prefer not to have one - but lots of players find them to be incredibly useful. But if you look at the bell key table you can see that's something's not quite right. The Bb spatula sticks out some way further than the low C#? Why would that be? That would be because it was built with a tilting table which was subsequently disabled and the connector between the Bb and C# removed.
Nexus Select tenor underside of Bb spatulaWhen you look at the underside of the mech it all becomes clear. That tube sitting under the Bb touchpiece would normally have a rod screw going through it on which the touchpiece pivots, but you can see that there's now just a brass pin sitting there which has been soldered in place. OK, it works - but it leaves you with a sticky-out bit on the end of the Bb spatula which doesn't look at all neat and tidy.

I think, for me, this comes under the heading of lack of attention to detail. It's not such a big deal on a cheap horn, but at this price point I tend to get a bit antsy when I see issues that really ought to have been addressed either during the manufacturing process or during subsequent setup/quality control.

There's also a detachable compound bell key pillar...or least what looks like half of one. As far as I can remember I don't think I've ever seen a detachable compound pillar that wasn't fixed to the body at two points (a semicircular brace). And I think I would have remembered if I had because it seems to me to be a rather bad idea. This pillar can be subject to a great deal of stress when the horn takes a bit of knock. You don't have to drop the horn - it's enough that it might cop a whack while it's in its case. The force of the shock travels through the case and into the horn, which causes the bell keys to act rather like a set of small slide hammers - the upshot of which is that the pillar gets pushed backwards and all the bell keys fall off. It's not an uncommon problem.
Now, that's not to say that I haven't seen a 'half semicircular' compound pillar - but in each case the pillar has been of a solid design that's soldered to the body. Here you can see both types; a semicircular pillar that's fixed with screws at both ends (on a Yanagisawa TWO20) and a half semicircular pillar soldered to the body (on a Yanagisawa T4).

Compound bell key pillar typesThere's a reason why detachable compound pillars tend to be fixed at both ends and that's because the design is inherently weaker than a soldered pillar (of more or less the same thickness) - and on the Nexus it looks to me like this pillar started off as a standard part and then had half of it removed. I could be wrong, but there's a reason why I think this might be the case...and that's yet another thing we'll get to in due course.

Another detail issue I noticed was the fit of the low C and Eb rollers.
They're a relatively simple part and yet play a major part in how the horn feels and responds under the fingers, so it always pays to ensure that you get them right. And getting them right would involve ensuring a good fit between the slots in the touchpieces, some thought as to how they're profiled for speed and comfort - and making sure they actually roll.
So the fit on these rollers isn't that great (see also the low Bb roller above) and they really look to me like they could have filled out more of the slot - but in terms of rolling, well, they certainly are. Rolling drunk, that is.

Nexus Select tenor low C/Eb rollersOK, so this is a very minor quibble in the great scheme of things. I mean, they work, they go round and probably by mere good fortune they don't quite collide and bind up and life is good. But the same rollers on many a far, far cheaper horn are very much better than this because they've been drilled on centre and profiled to fit the cutaway in the touchpiece rather better - both in terms of length and diameter.

I also want to mention the corkwork. On the whole it's quite good. There's a setup video on Youtube showing the process of fitting felt to parts of the action. Very nice. But I wonder why they didn't go the whole hog and fit similar materials to the rest of the keywork.
Nexus Select tenor corkworkTake these two examples, on the top F key. There's a bit of bog-standard cork that buffers the link between the front top F lever and the F key. This is a sliding connection, so it's advantageous to minimise friction here...which plain cork isn't very good at. Also, plain cork compresses easily - which lends the mechanism a very slightly spongy feel. It's a very minor point, I'd agree, but it's little tweaks like this which add to the overall feel of the action.
Likewise, the buffer on the F key foot is plain cork. The palm keys tend to get given a hard time; on a slow ballad you might gently reach for one of the palm keys and give it the merest flick - but when the band starts cookin' you're more likely to really punch those keys in the heat of the moment. And that's when a compressible buffer fails. The key feels spongy, the pad opens slightly more than usual and there isn't that sense of the key coming to a definite stop. A few bits of composite cork or pre-compressed synthetic felt ensure there's less friction in the mechanism and gives the action a more solid feel. Granted it's easy enough to upgrade these bits of cork but I rather feel that a pro-spec horn should have these things in place right out of the box.

Anyway, enough of the minor quibbles - let's have a look at something that's more of an issue.
Pseudo point screw in key barrelThe aformentioned Youtube setup video suggests that there's a 46 step assembly process for the horn - which includes tightening up the action. All very impressive - it essentially means each and every horn has been worked over by a repairer prior to sale. This adds reliability and value. No complaints there.
However, it looks like they need to add a couple more steps...

The point screws are of the pseudo variety. In terms of achieving precision in the action the design of these screws means that they rely on one of two (and ideally both) factors; either the hole that's bored into the key barrel has to be a snug fit against the diameter of the point screw - or the hole must be shallow enough that the tip of the screw contacts the bottom of the hole. We can rule out the latter because the average depth of the holes on this horn is around 7mm and the length of the point screw tip is around 5mm.
And, unfortunately, we can rule out the former - at least in some instances on this particular horn.

Here's the Bis Bb key - and I'm giving it the old tried and trusted wiggle test.
I noted in the video that the keys were being given a bit of wiggle in the axial plane (from end to end) - and in that respect the keys are fine. They all sit snugly between their pillars. But the problem is in the lateral plane - you can wiggle some of the keys from side to side.
Nexus Select tenor Bis Bb playAll told I counted seven keys that were affected - Bis Bb (both ends); octave thumb key (both ends); side Bb lever (both ends); side C lever (both ends); side F# (lower end), A key (lower end) and the G key (top end).
And because the keys sit snugly between their pillars we can rule out the possibility that the instrument has had a knock.
In terms of playability the free play in all but the Bis Bb and keys won't have much of an effect on the functionality of the horn - apart from making the action feel imprecise (especially on that wobbly octave thumb key) and it'll lead to rattles in short order. On the Bis Bb and A, however, it's going to affect the regulation between the A and Bis Bb - and thus the regulation with the Auxiliary B key. That's not great. It'll also knacker the regulation of the forked or long Bb, which is a bit pants.

What's also a bit pants is the height of the Bis Bb pearl. It's set way too high in relation to the top B.
I've got reasonably large fingers but there wasn't a hope in hell of my being able to easily roll my forefinger from the B to the Bb - and least not without the Bb pearl holder giving me a nasty pinch. The whole thing needs to be set very much lower, and a good place to start from would be to move the arm that holds the pearl further down the Bis Bb key cup. That'll give you about 3mm - which still isn't quite enough. Thereafter you'd have to look to changing the design of the arm.
Newus Select tenor Bis BbIn the meantime I resorted to bending the arm down at an angle. It's not ideal, and you have to be very careful that you don't distort the key cup - but it at least makes the key more accessible (and less painful to use).

I think that wraps up the workbench run-through other than to add that there are simple but effective fork and pin connectors for the side keys and that there's a nicely-sculpted thumb key on the octave mech. I'll also add that there's no trouser guard alongside the lower stack.
The horn comes in a decent shaped case with proper catches (hurrah!) and a little bit of storage space for the crook and the mouthpiece.

OK, we've had a few "We'll come back to this later" redirects - and now it's time to bring them all together as we talk about the weight of this horn.
It's a very light horn. At 3.17kg it's pretty much the same weight as the Selmer MkVI and just very, very slightly heavier than the Yamaha YTS-23. Indeed, part of the ethos behind this horn was to step back from the modern trend of heavy horns and produce something that wouldn't give you a hernia. The way in which this has been accomplished is quite intriguing. The Youtube channel blurb says that they "designed a saxophone that stripped back to the bare essentials" - but there are potential signs that in order to reach the target weight, parts of the instrument have been removed. For me this throws up an equally obvious question, which is that because Selmer and Yamaha (and other manufacturers) were/are able to make a fully fitted out horn that came in at just over 3kg - why would a horn that's been designed to be light need to have standard parts removed? I'm sure if I contracted a manufacture to build me a horn to a specific weight and then found I had to remove bits of it to meet that weight, I'd be pretty cross about it. Or maybe I'm just confused about the definition of designed. As opposed to, say, adapted.

The next question that arises is just how much weight has been saved by removing or customising these parts?
A quick dive into the old spares box brought up a few contenders, and I can tell you that a Selmer tenor bottom bow guard weighs in at 26g; a trouser guard along with pillars and screws is around 30g and a crook brace around 15g. Chuck in some solder and a few other miscellaneous parts and you're looking at a total weight of around 100g - or three and a half ounces in old money.
If we bung those parts back on the sax we have a working weight of 3.27kg. Which is exactly what the Rare tenor I reviewed back in 2018 weighed in at.
So is it a Rare with a few bits missing? I doubt it because there are significant differences in the design...and the build quality - but it at least makes the case that, purely from a weight perspective, there are production model boutique horns out there that will match the weight of the Nexus if you're handy with a soldering gun and a junior hacksaw. Now I freely admit that's a preposterous idea - and if you (wisely) baulk at the prospect of hacking bits off your brand new sax, you can just go buy a Remy tenor. It weighs in at 3.17kg out of the box...with all its bits still attached. How about that?

Nexus Select tenor bottom bow clampBut here's something that made me chuckle...
Remember the detachable bell? Well, it isn't. I mean, it used to be - it was designed and built that way - but someone's soldered the bottom bow joint together. Nothing wrong with that - plenty of players opt to have detachable bow joints soldered up on the basis that it's more reliable and leakproof than a clamped joint. Which it is, if your repairer isn't clued up about modern epoxy adhesives.
But isn't the raison d'être of this horn to be light? Well, right there in that now superfluous clamp is probably around 50g (2oz) of brass. You could have whipped it off, popped the very useful bottom bow guard back on and still come home with 25g in your wallet. And if you really wanted to go the whole hog, you wouldn't now need a detachable bell brace. Fit a soldered on one and you can very likely save another 25g. Of course you'd now need to fit a stay for the low Eb guard, but that would only account for a few grammes.
It surely has to be obvious by now that if the horn's weight was such a key factor it would have been so much more sensible to have designed all these weight-saving features in (and a few others, like pillar/post to body construction) from the off...

But here's a thought - if you buy into the notion that reducing a horn's weight makes the horn more vibrant and responsive, what does it say about all those aftermarket products that add mass to the horn...for precisely the same reason? Makes you think. At least I hope it makes you think. If I ever see a Nexus come in with one of those heavy-mass crook clamp screws on it I'm not sure whether I'll burst out laughing or into tears.

I'm going to say that I was somewhat disappointed with the setup. I (and many other repairers) do this kind of work all the time - either as part of ongoing servicing or as a setup on a new horn - but we tend only to do so when the existing setup leaves something to be desired. As far as new horns are concerned it's all down to the setup processes in place at the factory. Some companies are fairly lacklustre about it, others are rather more on the ball. As the price of a horn increases, so should the expectation that the quality of the setup out of box does too - and once you get to a couple of grand's worth of horn it really ought to be something you can rely on. Once you start paying even more for a horn it's got to be to be a cast-iron guarantee.
And in some cases it is. Pitch a horn at five grand and you're up against the likes of Yamaha and Yanagisawa - and like it or not, the build quality of these horns sets the standard at this price point. You have to meet that the very least - whether you're an independent repairer or working for a manufacturer. And the Nexus didn't.

Under the fingers the action feels fine (much more so after I'd tweaked the Bis Bb a bit). It wasn't quite as precise as I would have like but that's often the case where pseudo point screws have been used...particularly if there's any play in them. I think you'd be hard put to notice it if you didn't spend all day tweaking horns, but it's there nonetheless. I made a few tweaks to the key heights and the spring tension here and there, but on the whole I'd say the setup was good. I had no problems with the layout of the keys - all pretty standard really.

Tonewise it initially comes across a very straight down the middle kind of horn. Well behaved, steady. Not too much of this, not too much of that. There's a nice evenness to it across the range - but the more I blew it the more I felt that the evenness was perhaps getting in the way? It was almost like the horn wouldn't 'let go'. It's by no means unpleasant. And here's a funny thing...the more I played it, the quieter I seemed to play. It's like it pushes back at you. Or me, at any rate.
Playing the horn by itself reveals a slightly closed-in soundscape. You know how some horns seem to project their sound all over the room? Well, the Nexus is more introverted and seems to hold the sound around itself. I'd normally attribute this kind of behaviour to a horn that's on the warm side, but the Nexus doesn't really fall into that category. It certainly has some low-end warmth, but then most tenors do - and yes, I'd say the tonal spread is quite wide...but there just seemed to be a little something missing. I like to think I'm reasonably good at sussing out a horn's characteristics, but from time-to-time I come across ones that need a bit of context in order to figure out where they are in tonal terms - so I dug out a handful of similarly-specced tenors and did a bit of of a comparison.

First up was the Nexus versus a Selmer SBA.
In terms of basic sound the horns are quite similar - they have the same tonal approach, which is to say that the soundscape is rich with some emphasis on lower end warmth. The difference comes in the 'wetness' of the sound. The Nexus is much drier. If that analogy doesn't float your boat then try 'dustier' - because the Selmer sounds shinier. More glitter around the notes, in other words. The Selmer's also a more expressive 'puts it out there'. I would call that a win to the SBA.

Nexus Select tenor bellNext was a Yanagisawa 992.
Again, quite similar - and again there's that slightly closed in feel to the Nexus as compared to the 992. It's not as pronounced as with the SBA, but the 992 sounds a little bit more forceful...more confident and assured.

Then a Selmer SA80II.
Ouch. The SA80II produced much the same results as the SBA, only very much more so. It has that typical Selmer shine to the tone, but it's rather more spread than the SBA - and it's louder. These two horns are like brothers - one older than the other with a few more grey hairs and not quite as supple in the old joints. And up against the Nexus it pushed it into a corner. In fact that's quite an apt description of the difference...the Nexus felt a bit huddled up, a bit shy.

And finally, my TJ RAW.
This comparison made me smile. I knew it was going to be a tough - and yes, perhaps unfair - one because this is my own horn. I'm used to it, I know all its foibles. I picked it up, blew a few notes...and then reached for the SA80 - and spent a very enjoyable few minutes comparing the two. I've always said that the RAW has more than a dusting of the Selmer approach, and in playing the two side-by-side it's really quite apparent.
Anyway, back to work...quite simply, it's as per the SA80 comparison but even more so.

OK, so horn Vs horn comparisons are of very limited use to anyone but the person making them - as indeed are any of my comments relating to the tone of the horns that come up for review. They're just a guideline - perhaps a list of things to check for...and they're really only a part of my review because folks will only ask me for them if I don't write them down. But at the end of the day I'm just like any other player who walks into a music shop. I pick a few horns up, try them out and pick the one I like best. Of all the horns in this test I'd still pick the RAW - but if that was off the table I reckon I'd be sorely tempted by the SA80II but would probably go for the SBA on the basis that it feels more comfortable and doesn't quite stamp as much of the Selmer in-house sound on the tone as the SA80II does.

So...the bottom line then. I think the Nexus is a decent enough horn - but more care needs to be taken with regard to the setup procedure and attention to detail. At this price point they really do have to make the grade, and it really wouldn't take that much more effort to get there. I'll admit that this has been a tough review - but I can't really cut a five grand horn any quarter, especially as a similarly-boutweaqued horn (the Remy) turned up on the workbench a few days later and fared rather better on the whole...and for close on a grand cheaper. I'm not impressed by the way in which the weight has been reduced - but I should add that the client that brought this horn in bought it precisely because it weighed less than his last horn. And in the end it all comes down to weight - because you'll have to weigh up whether you feel the horn is worth a try...and you'll need to weigh it against some very fierce competition.

Postscript September 2023:

Having read this review the manufacturers have publicly acknowledged that this example fell below the standards they aim to achieve, and have stated their intention to up their game. I call that a result because it shows that they care about their products - and on that basis am much more comfortable recommending them.
Better yet, they have offered to pay for the extra work required to bring the horn up to scratch - and the owner instead suggested a donation to a worthy cause. It's my understanding that it will be given to a local (USA) school's music department. I don't believe anyone can complain about that.


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Copyright © Stephen Howard Woodwind 2023