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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As part of my own evaluations, I decided to test five ligatures of various designs on my Keilwerth SX90 II and Vandoren SL4 combo, using a Gonzalez 3.25 reed. Now, I know many people feel that ligatures make no difference whatsoever, but for those of us who are interested in such things, please read on.

Unbranded Two Screw Metal Ligature
The standard two screw metal ligature is perfectly fine. It may not be the sexiest of ligatures, and may not have any fancy gizmos on it, but this ligature does the job admirably, while imparting a nice ring to the tone, as is to be expected of a metal ligature. Reasonably easy to put on, and to adjust the position on the mouthpiece.There is nothing much more to say about this ligature.

Rovner Dark
I got my first Rovner Dark ligature back in 1980 after I read that Brecker was using one, and have been using it ever since. Overall I still like it a lot, the single screw and fabric/leather design make it a breeze to use. My preference is to do all my reed adjustments on the mouthpiece and then stick it on the horn, and the Rovner is one of the best for doing that. To me, the Rovner does have a slight dampening effect on the sound, particularly if you put it on very tight. This could be said to darken the sound, which is indeed what many people report. I have found that by loosening the ligature after it is on the saxophone, some of the dampening quality of the Rovner can be mitigated. Given the ease of use, and the affordable price point, I still think that everyone should have a Rovner in their arsenal of ligatures.

Bois Classique
This is a ring type ligature, essentially a simple plastic ring with a rubber band inside. It works well and feels very free blowing. I would rate it highly based on its playing characteristics. The main drawback to this ligature is that you can't fit it off the horn. Inevitably when you put the mouthpiece on the horn, the Bois ligature is going to come loose, and the reed will shift. Similarly, tuning is also fidgety, as tuning the mouthpiece will also likely cause the Bois to come undone. I think this was the main reason why I stopped using this ligature after liking it very much for a while. Another problem is that you can't choose the position on the ligature on the mouthpiece. Depending on how fat your mouthpiece is, the Bois will either sit further up or down the mouthpiece, so you can't fine tune your sweet spot on the mouthpiece with this ligature. On the SL4 mouthpiece, the Bois can hardly fit the fat body of the SL4, and it sits just at the edge of the beak, which doesn't look ideal to me. On my Bari HR piece, it sits slightly too far down, but it sits quite ideally on my Riffault. However, the Riffault is not my ideal mouthpiece. See what I mean?

Rovner Platinum
I couldn't really get this to fit properly on the SL4 mouthpiece, despite struggling with it for a long time, so I'll just comment based on my use of this on other mouthpieces. The Platinum is a one screw ligature which uses a metal band instead of the usual fabric or leather, and is a non-inverted design. Truth be told, I bought this mainly because of the bling value. I find it a difficult ligature to use, especially for a one screw Rovner design. The metal band is quite inflexible and slippery. Worse still, the two brass bars that sit on top of the reed are rather slippery, so it hard to center this ligature properly on the mouthpiece. Also, as you try to tighten that one screw on this ligature, a lot of things start shifting around, so it is not a pleasant experience. In the event that you are able to finally fix this ligature on, it does the job quite well, and sounds and feels quite similar to a normal metal ligature. I suspect the Platinum ligature will not be a success story for Rovner. It doesn't have a great flexibility as far as being to accomodate different mouthpiece body dimensions and shapes, and can be rather difficult to fit on certain mouthpieces. And also, it doesn't look nearly as good in real life, as in the glamour photos in the promos.

Bonade Inverted
This is essentially a souped up two screw metal ligature, that has a plate with two metal tension strips built into the design, for clamping down on the reed. Same idea as the Vandoren Optimum, except with a fixed plate, and in a two screw design. I was not able to fit this on the SL4. In principle, the Bonade looks like a solid design, but I found that was not very flexible in being able to fit a wide range of mouthpieces. On my Bari HR, it doesn't fit the taper of the body well, and then the top screw can't close down properly onto the reed. It still works fine but it looks odd. Another thing I found was this was not an easy ligature to use. Those metal strips which are meant to clamp on the reed are pretty damn slippery, so trying to center the tension plate on the reed is a fidgety and laborious task. If you manage to get it on, then it sounds pretty much like any metal ligature. Overall, I don't like this ligature too much. Thankfully, it didn't cost too much to buy.

Looking back over my notes above, it seems like I am saying that metal ligatures sound like metal ligatures, imparting a bit more brightness and zing to the sound. Ligatures made of other materials seem to be a bit darker feeling, subjectively speaking.

For me, the go to ligature remains the Rovner Dark, but who knows - the Vandoren Optimum or MO ligatures could be the ones I have yet to discover. I am also intrigued by the Saxxas ligs, but I think the price on those are quite ludicrous.
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