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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.
Jaice, I understand where you are coming from in pointing out that the geometry is what matters to the sound production. But I'd like to hear your thoughts on whether you think the metal material resonance adds to the sound complexity? In this video (@ 14:30) this guy demonstrates how taping the different metal bodies cause them to sound very different. When we play, the sound we create must excite the metal resonances in a similar way as the taping of them in this video, therefore changing the color of the sound, don't you think?

 

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
For anyone who might be interested in listening to sound samples of different KB Sax necks, Kim has uncompressed audio files for download on his website here:


If anyone has some good audio equipment, maybe you'll be able to see what the differences are between the specific necks he tested.
 

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Jaice, I understand where you are coming from in pointing out that the geometry is what matters to the sound production. But I'd like to hear your thoughts on whether you think the metal material resonance adds to the sound complexity? In this video (@ 14:30) this guy demonstrates how taping the different metal bodies cause them to sound very different. When we play, the sound we create must excite the metal resonances in a similar way as the taping of them in this video, therefore changing the color of the sound, don't you think?

I think the challenging part of psychoacoustics is that we cannot fully isolate any specific variable. From a pure physics standpoint the sound you hear comes primarily from the tone holes not resonance from the body, although some small fraction does. The proof of this comes from things like vibrating loose parts. In a well regulated instrument, the body vibration is generally dissipated in entropic action radiating away from long wave node points. This is why low Bb generates the most body resonance but not in a cohesive independent wave form. In short, yes materials in the neck can influence but not drive the waveforms.
 

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Makes sense. I was thinking of the same 鈥榩roof鈥 in loose parts vibrating from playing notes that excite their own resonant frequencies. Certainly these side vibrations are not driving the waveforms but they are adding some color to the sound from whatever spectral content they are adding. Thanks!
 

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So far this is the only real study that has looked into materials vs. geometry


Happy New Year!
Unfortunately only focused on the mouthpiece. I do believe the thinner sax body is much more prone to vibrating than a solid metal mouthpiece, let alone HR.
 

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Well I know we have several material specialist as members here at SOTW who could give you a more specific answer but I don't believe aluminum is ductile enough for drawn tone holes and you can't really solder to aluminum so it would be more like welding the tone holes on. In short, I suspect machining and manufacturing a sax made from aluminum would likely be very expensive.
I also wanted to steer clear of this dead horse, but oh well...

OK, first thing: I have an aluminum flute, made in the GDR by Uebel in the 60s. It is as thick as a wooden flute, with precision milled tone holes. Aluminum is too soft to make thin walls. The bottom line is, that is sounds just like any other flute. It would be absurd to make a sax out of aluminum, since it would have to be constructed of two halves like an old serpent (considering the curves that cannot be milled and then heli-arc welded, and it would be very thick and very heavy. My aluminum flute, due to its thickness, weighs about 1/3 more than a comparable silver flute. Silly idea.

I hate to disabuse Jason of the notion, but heat conductivity is a very minor factor in sound production. It does NOT affect partial content. At best it changes the pitch because the speed of sound changes with temperature. But whatever the fundamental pitch, the partials are locked to it in harmonic relationships. Partial strengths are determined by tube impedances, which are determined by tube geometry. There might be some slight changes in impedances if there is a temperature differential in the tube, but that is going to be equalized very quickly when the player starts playing, and the player is going to do that to be sure before playing, because if the ambient temperature is low enough to affect the tube impedances, it is sure as shootin' going to affect the pitch a great deal.

To have this guy do his own tests is definitely putting the fox in charge of the hen house. To do this properly, it should be played in a double-blind situation in which the player cannot discern which neck they are playing. Second, the necks need to be checked to see how much dimensional variation there is between them, keeping in mind that in the neck, cross-sectional variations of 0.1mm can significantly affect the tone and response. One should have at least three, preferably more, examples of necks in various materials, and first check the amount of variation in necks in the same material to establish a baseline of variation NOT possibly attributable to material. And careful measurements of the necks in various materials is necessary, because it is possible that the metals respond differently to the manufacturing process, meaning that there will be consistent dimensional differences due to how the metal takes to the shaping process.

A trivial example is that I have a sop sax with two different necks, a straight and bent. They play and sound absolutely differently, even though they are made by the same company and are of the same diameter at both ends. What happens in terms of the expansion plotted against the length is absolutely critical. Even if these necks all have the same curve, how the metal reacts to the bend is critical.

Finally, a known factor, much more critical than thermal conductivity, is bore smoothness. A lot of energy is lost to the walls in the boundary layer, where air molecules are close to the material of the walls. If the interior smoothness of the bore varies according to the material, then that is going to be an important factor in how the neck plays. I have a Super 20 tenor with silver neck, and aside from the interior dimensions (which are the main determinant of sound and response) the inside of the neck is much smoother than many of the brass necks for other saxes I have, and that is significant.
 

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Yes, sure, exactly like that.

Would you happen to have a citation for that scientific finding, by the way?
That the earth is flat? It was in all the journals. You're probably too young to have seen them. :p

My point was, science is not always correct. Maybe a hundred years from now they'll look back on this thread and shake their heads. Or, maybe the threads have a shelf life and won't last that long. My original point was that my Shadow does not sound the same as the other SX90R tenors I passed on. I blame Keilwerth. If it's different enough (in geometry or design or whatever) to sound that different to the player, they should give it a different model number. I remain unconvinced that materials don't effect the sound of a saxophone. Some of the conclusions here are dubious imo. Like, that two utterly different materials (brass and plastic) sound "somewhat similar" therefore materials can't possibly make any difference to the sound. Really?

My advice to players .... keep an open mind and decide for yourselves, with your own ears. Machines and science and scientists are not the ones who will be playing the gear you decide to buy. If you wanted one of these necks, what would you rather have? Three of them to choose from or a pile of data?

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Just curious - if the wall material is vibrating, wouldn't the interior geometry be continuously fluctuating in shape and air volume?
That is a good question. My understanding is that the waves of vibration in the brass tube are at the molecular level the same as the vibrations of the molecules of air column inside. Any expansion and contraction of the brass tube due to its vibrations would be so minuscule as to be insignificant as far as its interior shape and volume.
 

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Whatever the difference between horns of different finishes a player feels or not, and whether psychoacoustic or real, shall we agree that the effect of which mouthpiece used, and tiny differences in the internal shape of the mouthpiece (ie in the finishing of exactly the same model), can make a vast difference to how the horn sounds and responds? Vastly greater I'd suggest than the minor potential effect of plating, lacquer or 'nude' brass.
 

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My point was, science is not always correct.
Science is not a set of facts, but a set of methods for evaluating the relative validity of competing factual claims.

It's true that scientific consensus (i.e., the dominant agreement among scientists regarding which claims are more likely correct) has often been wrong. But note that while scientists once believed in things like phlogiston, luminiferous ether, and the universality of classical mechanics, it is science that eventually disproved these things.

In any event, it's fine and even appropriate to be skeptical of scientific consensus, but you should be even more skeptical of other, less informed sources of information. Science has repeatedly shown us (via things like the placebo and nocebo effects) that expectations can have profound effects on our perception of and reaction to treatments or manipulations which themselves have no inherent influence on the relevant outcomes. And claims supplied (without evidence and against scientific consensus) by people who stand to profit from those claims should certainly arouse suspicion.
 

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Science is not a set of facts, but a set of methods for evaluating the relative validity of competing factual claims.

It's true that scientific consensus (i.e., the dominant agreement among scientists regarding which claims are more likely correct) has often been wrong. But note that while scientists once believed in things like phlogiston, luminiferous ether, and the universality of classical mechanics, it is science that eventually disproved these things.

In any event, it's fine and even appropriate to be skeptical of scientific consensus, but you should be even more skeptical of other, less informed sources of knowledge. Science has repeatedly shown us (via things like the placebo and nocebo effects) that expectations can have profound effects on our perception of and reaction to treatments or manipulations which themselves have no inherent influence on the relevant outcomes. And claims supplied (without evidence and against scientific consensus) by people who stand to profit from those claims should certainly arouse suspicion.
Very well said!

And my exact thoughts on how @TurtleJimmy Shadow is different from other sx90rs. There are probably minor differences between the horns physically that can cause some discrepancies, but regardless of those, if you like the shadow more and want it to sound different, it will. Your testing of these horns is good for your opinion on which horn you prefer, but holds zero merit when talking about the effects of material on the horn, unless you have excluded all other variables that could cause sound variance and done the testing in a double blind fashion where you couldn't possibly show bias (consciously or subconsciously) toward one over the other.
 

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Whatever the difference between horns of different finishes a player feels or not, and whether psychoacoustic or real, shall we agree that the effect of which mouthpiece used, and tiny differences in the internal shape of the mouthpiece (ie in the finishing of exactly the same model), can make a vast difference to how the horn sounds and responds? Vastly greater I'd suggest than the minor potential effect of plating, lacquer or 'nude' brass.
YES. Most definitely. I finally was able to get another Dukoff Hollywood, the tenor mp I've used for the last 6 years, as a backup .... It looks pretty much the same, no finish left on either one, but this newer one for me is quite different. Same overall sound but with additional edge. Brian Powell worked on it just recently, and I'm pretty sure he's the one who sculpted in a tiny ridge along the sides ..... works like magic. It responds about the same, plays just as easily, but there's more texture in the sound. I would call that a vast difference. Opens up a whole new sound. That was more exciting than getting a new horn.

And to mmichel: Don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in science and I'm careful about about sources of information and so forth (my Dad was an aerospace engineer). I was just trying to be funny (maybe flopped a bit) and inject a little lightheartedness into an otherwise pretty serious discussion. I would say that acoustical science is a bit opaque, at least as it's presented here.

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Very well said!

Your testing of these horns is good for your opinion on which horn you prefer, but holds zero merit when talking about the effects of material on the horn, unless you have excluded all other variables that could cause sound variance and done the testing in a double blind fashion where you couldn't possibly show bias (consciously or subconsciously) toward one over the other.
Sure, I'll buy that. For me it was a pretty strong difference, but it does come down to a preference. No other variables have been excluded, I don't have any time for that, or horns to compare, etc. Keilwerth has basically nothing to say on the subject, they don't even include the shadow tenor on their website. I had to find out somewhere else that the body is made of nickel-silver, the one known difference from the other SX90R horns, which are brass.

Turtle
 

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I would say that acoustical science is a bit opaque, at least as it's presented here.
Wouldn't that be down to the people who present it here though, as opposed to the actual scientists who carry out the work.

Any actual scientist involved an independent academic study (ideally not sponsored by a commercial entity) would have to use accepted lab conditions and be peer reviewed etc. Opaqueness should not be tolerated.

Otherwise it's all down to old wives' tales (with apologies to my wife) or so-called common sense which dictates that because materials make a difference to the acoustics of a guitar or a bell, it must also make a difference to a woodwind - even though it has very little in common acoustically.
 

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I find in interesting that experts who are NOT selling something tend to move away from the material matters arguement whereas thise who are selling items invest heavily in material snd finish differences.
 

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.... so-called common sense which dictates that because materials make a difference to the acoustics of a guitar or a bell, it must also make a difference to a woodwind - even though it has very little in common acoustically.
I was never in that camp of thinking but remain unconvinced that the material a sax is made from makes no difference to the sound. I'll probably remain a skeptic until this subject comes up again in here next year.

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All that is needed is someone with a microphone and a spectrum analyzer so we can see which, if any, frequencies are different in a sound made by one piece of equipment versus another.

If KB already did that and is interpreting results, just show the waveforms so we can see the data behind conclusions.
 

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All that is needed is someone with a microphone and a spectrum analyzer so we can see which, if any, frequencies are different in a sound made by one piece of equipment versus another.

If KB already did that and is interpreting results, just show the waveforms so we can see the data behind conclusions.
All I can tell you is that any reed, or adjustment thereof will have a more pronounced impact than any 5 ounces of lacquer on the outside of the horn.
 
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