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Now that we're well into the new year, it only seems appropriate to once again bring up the age-old, beaten but still breathing, topic of whether materials and finish matter. In my late night reading, I came across a couple of short articles from Kim at KB Sax:


For those who might not know of him, Kim used to be a professional sax player for over 20 years and has been hand-crafting his own necks for the last several years. As an experienced player, it would seem he's fully capable of evaluating subtle differences in materials and finishes of his necks, but just in case, he used high-end equipment to objectively measure the frequencies produced by different materials. Any guesses as to what he concluded???
 

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Keilwerth saxes (S/A/T), Selmer clarinets (S/B), Altus Azumi flute
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For those who might not know of him, Kim [...] has been hand-crafting his own necks for the last several years.

Any guesses as to what he concluded???
Whichever conclusion helps him sell more necks in exotic materials and finishes?

Seriously though, the information in your links doesn't actually contain any data quantifying the "objectively measure[d] frequencies produced by different materials".
 

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Of course the material makes a difference ..... duh! If it didn't, we'd all be playing cheap disposable plastic horns. My Shadow is nickel silver and doesn't sound like their other nearly identical models made of brass. You don't need a machine to measure them in nano units to tell the difference.

That's my opening salvo (waiting for the incoming ....) and I'm sticking with it. :D

Turtle
 

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Ok I'll bite. So from an acoustics and scientific perspective finishes on the outside of the horn make zero difference. The same is true for engraving. What does make a difference is the material the neck is made of and how easily it retains or dissipates heat. Anyone who has played a super 20 with a sterling neck knows it takes time to "warn up" the neck, and when you do it's hot to the touch. It's incredibly efficient at maintaining a warmer air column which in turn reduces resistance emphasizing more higher partials and creating a "brighter" sound. Copper and other non-alloy metals behave similarly but dissipate ambient heat at different rates. Brass, being an alloy, is molecularly less able to retain heat.

Now this phenomenon is only part of the equation. As a player warms up any neck, it's going to lower resistance. It just happens at different rates and dissipates faster or slower. Taper of the neck, especially at the mouthpiece end has much more influence on sound because of air speed. I think the majority of neck producers know this and have narrowed the entry point to give that noticeable "brightness" at the cost of whole horn intonation. That's another thread though.

Materials matter only in how they act as a variable in the physics necessary to create a vibrating air column.
 

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I don’t know if I would send any better with one but those hammered copper necks are insanely gorgeous. :)
 

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Since it's a 2 part question, I wouldn't go so far as to say the finish matters to the sound. I think it matters more to the player ..... I definitely prefer having a finish of some kind on the horn.


Turtle
 

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Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
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duh! If it didn't, we'd all be playing cheap disposable plastic horns.
Well, I for one, am playing a cheap disposable plastic saxophone. Sounds like a metal one to me.

 

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That doesn't look cheap. You wouldn't really toss it, would you? It does sound good .....

If you could print that right in your living room, on one of those new plastic printers, that would be a huge plus. Eliminate trips to the shop. Play it till it drops ..... print another one. (y)


Turtle
 

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Sorry, that is not convincing. I think it's your playing that makes it sound so good.

But, identical to its metal counterpart ...... even over my tiny laptop speakers they don't sound the same. In person, the diff is going to be greater.


Turtle
 

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I'm guessing it's more like "similar" but not identical.
In this case similar sound, given totally and utterly radically different material, is good enough to convince me that the material (as expected given what we know from acoustics experts) is not relevant in regard to acoustics.

But I do get it, that anyone who thinks that a woodwind is acoustically similar to a bell or a guitar, might think otherwise.

But a huge difference regarding how you feel about the instrument which will affect the way you play or perceive it, and a huge difference in regard to how a company might understandably hyperbolize the different materials in their favour.
 

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"Similar" is not a very accurate term ..... But I'm glad you're convinced. I suppose that helps you regarding your feelings towards your instruments. Acoustic experts theorize and attempt to measure finely, but musicians, we hear what we hear.

Nothing against plastic, I'm not biased for or against any materials. In fact, I love plastic's low weight potential.


Turtle
 

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Of course the material makes a difference ..... duh! If it didn't, we'd all be playing cheap disposable plastic horns. My Shadow is nickel silver and doesn't sound like their other nearly identical models made of brass. You don't need a machine to measure them in nano units to tell the difference.

That's my opening salvo (waiting for the incoming ....) and I'm sticking with it. :D

Turtle
Bird sounded great on that white plastic, Grafton alto that he played at a recording in Canada. Go figure. James Galway sounds great on any flute he picks up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Whichever conclusion helps him sell more necks in exotic materials and finishes?

Seriously though, the information in your links doesn't actually contain any data quantifying the "objectively measure[d] frequencies produced by different materials".
I certainly can't deny that that's a valid point. Kim is in charge of the testing, and the specific data is not posted, so it does give the impression of a conflict of interest. However, I believe he is sincere in truly wanting to know if there are differences, and the way to do that is by changing just one variable (e.g. material) and objectively measuring the frequencies (which so many people seem to forget!!!). I imagine if he thought it was more beneficial to post the specific data, then he would. My guess is it probably doesn't matter much; he's satisfied with the results for his needs, which is to help his customers find a neck with the specific qualities they want.

Ok I'll bite. So from an acoustics and scientific perspective finishes on the outside of the horn make zero difference. The same is true for engraving. What does make a difference is the material the neck is made of and how easily it retains or dissipates heat. Anyone who has played a super 20 with a sterling neck knows it takes time to "warn up" the neck, and when you do it's hot to the touch. It's incredibly efficient at maintaining a warmer air column which in turn reduces resistance emphasizing more higher partials and creating a "brighter" sound. Copper and other non-alloy metals behave similarly but dissipate ambient heat at different rates. Brass, being an alloy, is molecularly less able to retain heat.

Now this phenomenon is only part of the equation. As a player warms up any neck, it's going to lower resistance. It just happens at different rates and dissipates faster or slower. Taper of the neck, especially at the mouthpiece end has much more influence on sound because of air speed. I think the majority of neck producers know this and have narrowed the entry point to give that noticeable "brightness" at the cost of whole horn intonation. That's another thread though.

Materials matter only in how they act as a variable in the physics necessary to create a vibrating air column.
Yes, now this is something that I think is a lot less controversial. If air moves differently at different temperatures, and if the different materials have an impact on the air temperature within the column, then materials matter. However, if the finish on the neck (e.g. plating or lacquer) were to have an effect on the temperature, could we still say it makes zero difference?

Of course, as both you and Kim have pointed out, the shape and dimensions will have a much greater impact.
 

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However, if the finish on the neck (e.g. plating or lacquer) were to have an effect on the temperature, could we still say it makes zero difference?
A coating on top of the metal might have an infinitesimal impact on insulation but it will not change the air column, only slightly prolong the period it retains heat. The cooler the ambient temperature, the faster the heat dissipates, so the impact of additional layers of metal, cellulose, or polymer are higher the colder you get.

One could argue in a physical system nothing has zero impact.
 

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Bird sounded great on that white plastic, Grafton alto that he played at a recording in Canada. Go figure. James Galway sounds great on any flute he picks up.
Bird probably sounded great honking a car's horn ..... He sounded great on a plastic sax, that you would expect .... doesn't mean it sounded the same as his brass horn. Doesn't mean that materials don't effect the sound of a saxophone.

If the material makes no difference to the sound, then why haven't we seen aluminum saxes? They would weigh less than brass, I assume, and be a selling point.

Turtle
 

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I can see this thread is gonna be as conclusive as the other three dozen on the subject over the years...

I do agree with @mmichel ....if you are gonna go to the trouble of testing various samples where only ONE single variable is changed ( a good method, btw)....then for goodness sake...don't just post your interpretations/conclusions.....post the darn results for all to see and hear....

(regarding anyone who makes the claim of a discernible difference....be certain there is only the sole variable of material (or finish, or whatever). Because if there is more than a single variable (say it is finish and geometry/spec)....the veracity of your conclusion flies out the window....)

For example:


My Shadow is nickel silver and doesn't sound like their other nearly identical models made of brass. You don't need a machine to measure them in nano units to tell the difference.
"other nearly identical".... is akin to "kinda pregnant"

If the specs of your nickel silver horn are absolutely IDENTICAL to the specs of the 'other models' you claim sound different...with the sole exception being the nickel silver....then you are on terra firma.

If you do not know whether every other spec is identical....then it holds little water. A small difference in neck spec, body tube spec, bow spec, etc...just added a second variable so one cannot conclude that it is the finish/body material which makes it sound different.
Add tho THIS, the serviced condition of the horns. Are they all in the exact same good tack ? If not, there's another variable right there.

So, if one wishes to state with confidence that there is or is not a difference, one has to have the information/confirmation that everything else is in fact identical.
Easiest way to do this is accurately measure up the two or three horns, maybe weigh 'em too.. and see if in fact their specs are identical.

Then after that is done, have a tech assess each one to confirm whether they are in the same playing shape.

When all of that has been confirmed....now you have some grounds to claim the sole variable among the test subjects is the material/finish.
 

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Sorry, that is not convincing. I think it's your playing that makes it sound so good.

But, identical to its metal counterpart ...... even over my tiny laptop speakers they don't sound the same. In person, the diff is going to be greater.

Turtle
I was going to steer clear of this thread, but just can't help myself...:devilish:

I'm in total agreement that Pete's playing makes both those horns sound great! However.........those are two different make & model horns. The material (metal vs plastic) is not the only difference. I would expect them to sound at least a bit different even if they were both made out of the same material because of other, far more acoustically important factors. (I see Jaye made a similar point while I was typing this)

So the fact they don't sound identical doesn't prove anything regarding the effect of the material. And, beyond that, the fact that they sound quite similar, in spite of vastly different materials, suggests the material isn't all that important.

I rest my case.
 

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"other nearly identical".... is akin to "kinda pregnant"

If the specs of your nickel silver horn are absolutely IDENTICAL to the specs of the 'other models' you claim sound different...with the sole exception being the nickel silver....then you are on terra firma.

If you do not know whether every other spec is identical....then it holds little water. A small difference in neck spec, body tube spec, bow spec, etc...just added a second variable so one cannot conclude that it is the finish/body material which makes it sound different.
Add tho THIS, the serviced condition of the horns. Are they all in the exact same good tack ? If not, there's another variable right there.

So, if one wishes to state with confidence that there is or is not a difference, one has to have the information/confirmation that everything else is in fact identical.
Easiest way to do this is accurately measure up the two or three horns, maybe weigh 'em too.. and see if in fact their specs are identical.

Then after that is done, have a tech assess each one to confirm whether they are in the same playing shape.

When all of that has been confirmed....now you have some grounds to claim the sole variable among the test subjects is the material/finish.
I'm assuming that the Shadow (an SX90R horn) is the same model as their other SX90R tenors .... except the Shadow is made from nickel-silver. I guess Keilwerth would know if there are other differences.

Going through all the rest of that you've laid out in order to "prove" my theory ..... send me a couple of other Keilwerth SX90R tenors and I'll get out the tape measure. :)

I agree this will be inconclusive .... nobody has proven anything, or is likely to.

Turtle
 
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