Interesting sax v sax tenor comparison over a whole weekend:
Lupifaro Platinum v Selmer Reference 36
Both are meant to embody some of the character of earlier famous Selmer models. The Lupi is said to be a cross between a SBA and Mk VI and has some of the Mk VI direct, strong character minus that fringe of tonal sizzle on a good one. The Selmer is said to pay homage to the Balanced Action and is warmer and deeper than the Lupi. Both are great - in their own way.
Lupifaro has a clear, powerful, fresh tone with a resonant mid-weight bottom end. There's a very even tone across the registers, a sense of energy and drive in the sound. It's not raw, neither is it sweet. It is an excitingly vibrant sound to listen to. The tone is centered and keeps its tonal integrity when pushed.
Selmer ref 26 is warm, round with a nice cut to the sound, a hint of sparkle and a consistently lyrical quality. Big, deep-toned, resonant bottom end. There's a sense of layered harmonics and smoothness to the sound. It responds with a nice bit of grit and growl when demanded of it. The tonal character is slightly spread.
Lupifaro altissimo is easy to play, tunes very, very well and is strong. No F# key.
Selmer altissimo is also easy to play, but tuning is less consistent with traditional front fingering across the lower alt E to G. Front F plays in tune, front F# plays flat. Front E wants to play sharp so the side F key needs to be set low enough to vent down the E closer into tune which muddies the note a bit. So this was adjusted only a little and the height of the bell keys opened up, and that does improve the alt E a lot without flattening F. I thought this may have been neck related and wondered if another neck might play better, but I think it was down to set up.
Tuning across the other registers is excellent on both.
Both subtone beautifully.
Both have a remarkably similar feel to how air blows through the horn; a very similar degree of resistance, which means moderately free-blowing with a perception of a little pressure to shape against.
Lupifaro has simple minimalist keywork, and the stacks are mounted on basicshaped long ribs. It came with a great set up, and only the pinky table needed a little lightening for my taste.
Selmer has sophisticated modern keywork on mini ribs, and a really beefy bell mount for the body to bell brace. The pinky table needed just a little lightening, and the lower stack also needed a little lightening to play with a totally even feel across the instrument.
Both instruments have tight, responsive keywork, and exactly the same system of bullet shaped point screws and metal sprung receiving inserts at the end of the rods. The size of the screws on the Lupifaro are thinner and in shape are more pointed than the Selmers. The height of the Lupi bottom stack is set a little lower than the Selmer. Even with mini ribs, the extra brass in the keywork of the Selmer makes for a heavier instrument than the Lupi. Neither have adjustable stack screws, which I think is an omission.
The finish of the Lupi is a yellow lacquer, that perhaps tries to imitate the dull golden worn look of brass on an old instrument. It's fine but an acquired taste.
The finish of the Selmer is traditional clear golden lacquer, and this one shows a fair degree of lacquer wear on the left hand side of the body.
The common point in intention of the tenors' designers - to create a vintage-inspired sound - is where the similarities end. They are in fact very different horns with their own tonal imprint. Both are accomplished and deeply satisfying in their own right.