Focus or Hocus-Pocus is a six-part series where we will test the various products that are designed to harness or alter the sonic vibration of the saxophone. In part one, we test the Klangbogen by ReedGeek.
There are many products out on the market that claim to harness the sonic capabilities of the saxophone, offering increased overtones and harmonics. Such experimentation is not new. Instrument companies have long experimented with various alloys, braces, and supports. I remember being told the silver cross on the old Martin Magana saxophones was designed to help harness the overtones and focus the sound of the instrument, so I am actually surprised that these ideas haven’t come to the marketplace sooner.
The Klangbogen (German for sound arch) is designed to maximize the airflow of the saxophone by reducing air turbulence at the neck tenon and palm keys. I have to admit that I didn’t really understand how something you place on the outside of the saxophone helps the airflow inside the instrument, but my friends in the Physics department helped me a bit. Basically, the saxophone’s sound is based around the airflow through the tube. Cuts or fissures in the metal (such as the neck and tenon assembly) interrupts the air flow and affects the vibration of the metal. The theory is that by replacing the mass, you can help improve the airflow and eliminate lost vibration. And I thought I was done with physics in high school!
I was sent two Klangbogen: a one-piece model in hand polished silver plate and the original three-pin model in brass. They are offered in a variety of alloys. According to their website, they offer the following metals:
Brushed Aerospace Matte: The most bell-like ring
High Polished Brass: Creates focus and “guts”
Marbled Satin Brass:
Heavy Silver Plate: Promotes added clarity and highs
High Polished 24k. Gold Plate: Promotes a velvety richness to the sound
Before I get into how the playtest went, I feel it is important to point out a few things:
The Klangbogen and other “heavy mass “ products are designed to help improve a person’s tone and overall instrument performance. It is not designed to transform a poor tone into a good tone. No product will do that.
The player must evaluate how the Klagbogen (or similar products) sound from behind the instrument and from in front. If possible, record yourself using the highest quality recording equipment available. What may feel great may sound terrible and versa.
Using the Klangbogen with other “heavy mass” items may cause the instrument to have too much mass, creating a node or interruption in the vibration of the instrument.
You should test the Klangbogen using a variety of mouthpieces and instruments. What doesn’t work with one may excel with another.
Be aware that the Klangbogen may not work for you. Just because it alters your instrument doesn’t mean that you may like the alteration.
It doesn’t matter what someone famous says about a product, they are not you. Use your own observations to inform your purchase.
Different alloys affect the response and sound differently. The more you try, the better you are informed.
I tested both models on a variety of saxophones including:
- Early 50’s Selmer Mark VI tenor
- Selmer Series 2 alto saxophone
- Yanagisawa WO 10 alto saxophone
I used the following mouthpieces in jazz and classical settings:
- Selmer S-80 and Concept mouthpieces on both alto and tenor saxophones
- 10MFan Classic, Retro Revival Florida Super D, and Drake Son of Slant mouthpieces on tenor
- Greg Weir mouthpiece on alto
Without question, the Klangbogen performed as advertised. In most situations, I noticed a greater midrange presence as well as changes in the extreme registers. On[SM3] my Selmer tenor saxophone, I found the silver-plated one-piece Klangbogen created a greater presence in the mid-range. However, it seemed to sacrifice the upper overtones. That’s when I noticed that I had forgotten to take off a silver Ishimori neck screw I was testing. Once I replaced it with my stock neck screw I found an increased brilliance and projection.
I found the most improvement and greatest change in response with the three-pin standard model in polished brass. As advertised, it offered “focus and guts.” What was most remarkable was that the focus of the sound would change depending on where it placed the lyre pin. When it was placed in the center of the unit, it produced a solid, focused, sound. When placed on either end of the unit, it would change the amount of centeredness.
My colleague in the TCBSQ saxophone quartet, Wade Howles, purchased one and brought it to rehearsal. The change in sound he experienced on his Eastman 52ndStreet tenor was striking. For me, the effects were more from the player's end of the instrument than the listener. However, when I placed the .16" diameter pin in the unit along with the standard .14" diameter lyre pin, the thickness and center to the sound were palpable to all.
On my alto, a Yanagisawa WO 10, I only had the option to use the polished silver one-piece unit. As the Yanagisawa doesn’t have a traditional lyre screw, the one-piece system is really the only logical option. One could try to use the .16” pin and the standard unit on the side lyre holder, but it doesn’t have the effect it is intended to have.
The brightness of the silver plate added a few more high overtones as well as a bit more resistance to the saxophone. I enjoyed the tone it produced from both sides of the saxophone. However, the ease of tone production and sonic spectrum I have come to love with the Yanagisawa was altered, thus it wasn’t my preference.
One notable trait is how the Klangbogen changes the altissimo and lower registers. I noticed greater project and response in both registers. This was especially true in the low end of the tenor while using the three-pin system.
There is very little I didn’t like about the Klangbogen. I would offer a point of warning to those who are either weak in eyesight or lack nimble fingers. In my case, where both are diminished, the three-pin Klangbogen was a real pain in the tukhus! However, I did like the sound, so I guess a little ICY HOT and a pair of readers will get me by.
In all seriousness, it was interesting to play around with the Klangbogen. But I would like to remind you that this is a tool for those who know how to play (or think they know to play). The weekend warrior will find little change to merit the price (around $85 for polished brass and $100 for silver). However, if you are looking for that extra something and don’t want to change instruments or mouthpieces, this is certainly worthy of a test.