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Discussion Starter #1
I recently purchased a new Keilwerth soprano (on which I plan to post a review soon), and one of the things that surprised me about it was the dramatically different feel of the offset left vs. right hand stacks. I don't feel that it's any better or worse, but it feels like a bigger difference than I've experienced on altos with inline vs. offset stacks, for example (I've never played a tenor with inline stacks).

I hadn't really paid much attention to this before, but my previous sopranos both had inline stacks. It seems that, unlike Tenor and Alto for which virtually all modern horns use an offset configuration, many modern sopranos continue to be manufactured with inline stacks. For example, I know that both Antigua and Yanagisawa sopranos have inline stacks.


I tried out a large number of sopranos in various NYC-area shops last Summer, but didn't check the alignment of the LH vs RH tone holes (I wasn't thinking about this question then), and I don't really remember feeling that the keywork on any of the modern horns differed radically from one brand to another.

Is it possible that inline stacks remain more common than offset stacks on modern sopranos?
 

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You waited for the Keilwerth, so I hope you love it and we looking forward to your review.
I have no idea what inline and offset means. My research did not supply details.
 

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I have considerable time on 'straight' saxes, having 'cut my teeth' on a Martin baritone and later a Martin tenor (as a back-up) as well as several years on a Buescher 400 (Selmer). 'Straight' saxes typically have not only the stack holes in a row, but the bell is not turned to the right like a Selmer, so they are truly straight. I prefer the Selmer-style saxes but honestly I think most players can go back and forth between the two styles without much notice of the straight or offset stacks. On a soprano I doubt if it makes any difference, but I know the Chinese sopranos I've seen were straight stacks. A 1963 MK VI came through here some time back and IIRC it was a straight-line too.
One thing I have noticed about the Selmer USA altos and tenors of the 1980s/1990s is the lower stacks seem to be rotated a little more than Selmer Paris and I kind of like it. I'm not sure if that is reality or simply a different feel but it strikes me every time I play one of them.
 

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In all of my years of playing soprano saxophone, I have NEVER given a thought to this issue. I never even knew it existed, if it does.

I just looked at three of my straight sopranos ('59 MKVI, '27 Conn NW II, and '26 Martin Handcraft), and as far as I can tell, the tone holes on the top of the tube appear to be in a straight line. It is difficult to say for sure because they are covered by pad-cups that come from opposite sides of the tube and the cups cover the tone holes to the extent that they cannot be readily seen.

I've owned many different sopranos over the years and now I couldn't tell you anything about how their tone-holes were aligned. To me, it is a non-issue. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I have no idea what inline and offset means. My research did not supply details.
My apologies, I thought this was more widely known.

Starting with the Super (Balanced) Action saxophones, Selmer introduced an angular offset of approximately 15 degrees between the toneholes and keys of left-hand stack (i.e., from middle C down to G/G#) and those of the right-hand stack (i.e., from F# down to D), with the RHS oriented clockwise relative to the LHS. Following the success of the Mark VI, most major saxophone manufacturers eventually copied this layout (on alto and tenor, at least).

In my experience (on alto, at least) the difference in feel between the inline and offset configurations is usually subtle. However, if you're aware of these two configurations and you ever work on your horn, the difference is hard to miss. Just look at the G# and F# keys. If these two similarly-sized keys line up when closed, then your horn has an inline configuration, otherwise it has an offset configuration. I never really noticed it until I started repairing my own horns.

As I said above, I don't think either configuration is necessarily "better", but I was surprised that I could actually feel a significant difference when switching between my sopranos. So now I'm simply curious regarding which sopranos are still being manufactured with inline configurations. FWIW, I think that Selmer retained the inline configuration on its sopranos throughout the SBA and Mark VI runs.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm resurrecting this thread from last Fall because the topic recently came up again (in this thread).

Specifically, I'd like those of you who play on modern (straight) sopranos (i.e., Mark VI or later) to please take a look at your horn(s) to see whether the LH and RH stacks are inline or offset. My original post got few responses and I'm guessing it was, in part, because players did not know how to tell the difference, so this time I'm including a quick and easy way to determine which type you have:

The G# and F# keycups (i.e., those covering the tone holes responsible for producing G# and G, respectively) are adjacent, similarly-sized on most horns, and connected to the LH and RH stacks, respectively. Because of this, they should line up when they are both closed (i.e., when you finger F or F# on the lower stack). If they line up when closed, then you have inline stacks. If they are visibly offset when closed, then you have offset stacks.

I've attached photos to make the above instructions clearer. On the left is a picture highlighting these keycups on my Antigua, which has inline stacks. On the right is a picture highlighting the same keycups on my Keilwerth SX90, which has offset stacks.

View attachment 259566 View attachment 259568

As I've said before, I don't think that one of these configurations is better than the other, but they do feel different to me, so I'm curious about which horns have which configuration.

Thanks in advance for your help,

--Melchi
 

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I think this is interesting from a design evolution point of view, I think this was more of an ergonomic modification than one for sound. From discussion on another thread, I think the biggest ergonomic modification that needs to be made right now is putting the thumb rest in the correct position, but that is beside the point.

I read an article in an engineering? journal while I was waiting to see a professor in grad school around 1990. The article talked about the advantages and disadvantage of keeping tone holes in a straight line. I have never found it since. It had something to do with the generation of harmonics, IIRC. One of the reasons for the offset bell on altos and tenors is to put the bell keys in line with the R and L stacks.

Obviously, the trade offs of straight alignment vs. offset alignment are manageable, if the theory even held water in the first place.

Here’s my current primary sax:

1983 Keilwerth Toneking (Schenklaars stencil)
RH and LH tone holes are inline, but the D# and the three bell tone holes are offset about 30° toward the left.

FWIW
I have a Yanagisawa S991 copy made in the Oves factory in China. The upper and lower stacks are straight.

I have another soprano that is supposedly a Selmer SA80 II copy. It was assembled by Prestini from parts made in a Taiwanese factory. The upper and lower stacks are offset.

It will be interesting to hear from people with the name brand horns.
 

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I have grave doubts whether rotating one stack with respect to another makes any tonal difference - especially when we consider the large number of tone holes, used constantly, that aren't on either stack.

I can see that it might have more ergonomic effect on soprano than on the others, because the soprano is held in position by the hands where the others use the neck strap and the rotationally adjustable joints at the neck tenon and mouthpiece to neck joint for alignment to the player's body.

In all cases the fact that you are equipped with 16 multi-degree-of-freedom joints on each hand kind of obviates a lot of the hype in favor of or against the supposed ergonomic effects on any of the saxophones, it would seem to me.
 
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