I play tested both the Black Pearl and SX90R (normal lacquer and "Vintage" models) side by side at sax.co.uk in December. There was very little between the two of them to be honest and in the end I went for the KW simply because I felt more comfortable buying the bigger name. The PM was about £250 ($500) cheaper and the tone and overall feel was very similar indeed, although I am not expert enough a player to have thoroughly play tested each one sufficiently to be able to give a definitive review.
Looking back now, knowing more about PMs than I did I reckon the PM would have been a fine purchase. I've played a couple of other PMs subsequently and I really like them, they feel very solid and high quality, the tone is great and the ergos are better than my pinky stretching KW whilst they have that big, warm tone that I like. I wish they didn't say "Paris" on them though!
In summary I reckon they're both excellent saxes and would have no problem recommending either, but I also think that saxes are personal to the player and so of course you really have to try it yourself to se if ymmv to mine
One thing to remember is that in the US, the Keilwerths tend to run nearly twice the price used. I personally would go for the Keilwerth based on my (limited) experience, but the price difference will most likely more than $500.
P. Mauriat Black Pearl min. list price:$3046 (saxalley.com)
Keilwerth SX90R:$3770 (kesslermusic.com)
These were the lowest prices I found.
One idea might be a SX90 if Kessler Music still has any left, those probably represent one of the best values.
Actually I already own an SX90R and am curious about the sonic similarities to the Black Pearl, as I'm considering purchasing one for my gospel and RnB work. I wonder if the PM Black Pearl will be have more traditional intonation and response given its smaller bore size and such. The SX90R feels like a baritone at times! I'd like something that had a contemporary punch but traditional weight and response.
Hmm that does sound weird... and very annoying. I hope you get it sorted out and I'm 100% certain you will. FWIW I don't think you need to spend $3,500-4,000 on a new sax to play gospel music, just more perseverance with your JK
Thanks, Rick. Actually, there's no way I'm spending that much money on a new horn. I just posted this to get feedback from people who've played both horns about the sonic and technical comparisons. I'm not playing my Keilwerth at all these days. Actually playing a YTS-875S at the moment, but I'm not too thrilled with the sound of it at all. In reference to the rnb/funk/gospel stuff, a lot of the gigs I do involve playing actually out in the audience and I'd rather not take my main jazz horn on the road for those shows. (People get crazy at the shows!) Mostly what I do is jazz performance, so I'm looking into a PM 66R for the deep dark tone in jazz settings, and a Black Pearl for situations where I'd prefer a bit more edge and buzz and NOT to be playing my "jazz" horn.
Yup, the JK is VERY annoying. I played a show at the Kennedy Center in February and took it out and freaked over how warm and dark the sound of it was. Then I tried playing it along with my quintet in soundcheck. Unbearably out of tune! Back in the case in 5 minutes.
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