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  1. #1
    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Default Sax plating difference?

    Hello

    Maybe this was asked before....

    I'm interested to know what are the differences between laquer and silver plating (and maybe other platings too). I would like to know the practical reasons for choosing one over the other (for example maybe silver plating keeps it in better condition longer, feels different on the fingers, weight difference, etc).

    I also would like to know if it affects the sound in any way, but, I'm only interested in either scientific explanation - that is - a physical reason of how it affects the sound, or - a blindfold test with many saxophones of the same model.
    Things like "I've played a couple of saxes (even same model) with laquer and a couple with silver plating and they sounded different to me" is not interesting for me at all.

    On the second post in this thread: http://71.6.135.46/vbulletin/showthr...=plating+sound There is a link to another thread. When I click it it says it has moved servers and gives an error page. How can I find this thread?

    Thanks very much and best wishes.
    Last edited by clarnibass; 07-12-2006 at 09:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    Short answer, with which many disagree, but which has the weight of scientific testing behind it: the plating/lacquer does not affect the sound at all, unless it changes the inside of the bore significantly (which it does not). Any differences between similar horns in different finishes are attributable to the fact that there are subtle (or not-so-subtle) manufacturing differences between the different exemplars, or attributable to the power of suggestion and expectation.

    Silver plating is definitely more durable than lacquer, although it is thin and subject to mechanical wear on areas where there is a lot of contact with clothing, etc. It also tends to tarnish.

    There were a few extensive threads on the issue some months ago, as you noted. Hopefully when the server issues are settled down they will be available.

    Toby

  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Thank you very much kymarto, that is pretty much what I thought and knew. I'm wondering if there is someone who thinks the plating does make a difference in sound, and has scientific facts or other methods backing it up (i.e. blindfold tests with many saxophones). My guess is no, but maybe there is?
    I'm also interested to know what are the real reasons for prefering one plating/laquer over another besides how it looks, or if by coincidence the best sax you find has a certain plating.
    Last edited by clarnibass; 07-12-2006 at 12:10 PM.

  4. #4
    Distinguished SOTW Member Captain Beeflat's Avatar
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    Clarnibass.....Be careful, you will drag them all out of the woodwork. This topic has been covered, SO many times. The more logical will accept that the finish is on the outside & all the noise bounces down the middle. Any difference in sound between finishes is as nothing compared to the variation in sound between reeds from the same box.

  5. #5
    Forum Contributor 2011 dstack79's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    Quote Originally Posted by clarnibass
    Thank you very much kymarto, that is pretty much what I thought and knew. I'm wondering if there is someone who thinks the plating does make a difference in sound, and has scientific facts or other methods backing it up (i.e. blindfold tests with many saxophones). My guess is no, but maybe there is?
    I'm also interested to know what are the real reasons for prefering one plating/laquer over another besides how it looks, or if by coincidence the best sax you find has a certain plating.
    Here's somebody that has conducted some empirical research....

    http://www.acoustics.org/press/133rd/2amu4.html
    Tenor: Guardala (B&S circa 1996)
    LT Guardala Crescent
    RSJ 3S/3M

    Alto: Unison 2000
    Vandoren V16 A7M
    RSJ 3S/3M

  6. #6
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    From the above referenced study: "At the lower playing level, there is no significant difference between the lacquered and unlacquered conditions, but at the higher level, the unlacquered bell radiates more energy at all frequencies... The fact that the effect of the lacquer is noticeable only at the louder playing level implies nonlinear behavior. A plausible hypothesis is that the lacquer damps vibrations in the bell flare, but this has not been verified."

    Interesting...

  7. #7

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there's a fundamental problem in scientifically measuring the effects of plating/lacquer in that there isn't a machine that can play a horn in a standardized manner. You could use the same player for two otherwise identical setups, but there could be confounding variables even with that if the player is making slight changes in the way he or she is blowing the horn in order to produce the sound. I suppose you could somehow argue that such alterations are not occuring by taking measurements of the air speed or something, though.

    Having said all of that, I feel like I can hit overtones more easily on silver-plated horns. I don't have a scientific explanation and so far, I don't own any silver horns despite that, but the harmonics seem to pop-out more easily for me on them. I've tried a wide variety of brands and vintages with a variety of pad jobs, but always the same mouthpiece/reed setup and I keep finding that to be true. If you have a scientific explanation for why that might be, I'm listening. If you think I'm nuts, that's ok too.

    Best wishes,
    Steve

  8. #8
    Distinguished SOTW Technician tbone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superbaguy
    If you think I'm nuts, that's ok too.

    Best wishes,
    Steve
    Steve, The human mind is a wonderful thing. If one believes something strongly enough then it "IS". (At least in their mind)

    Actually you could apply a fixed tone via a transducer at the start of the bore and finger the keys and make the horn play. It was done years ago. I vaguely remember an article involving Santy Runyon and some scientist doing just that.

    Maybe the perceived differences you get when playing plated horns (no lacquer under your fingers to dampen the sympathetic vibrations) cause you to play better. Who knows for sure?

    Do you sing better with your shirt off vs. fully clothed?

  9. #9
    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    Actually there is an interesting point here. Nederveen, in his classic work on woodwind acoustics, posits that the effect of materials and finishes might be detectable in unsupported structures such as bells, which are free to vibrate in ways that most of the body of the instrument is not. He predicts a maximum of 3 dB difference in metal bells, which is just noticeable.

    However that being said, there are some fundamental differences between French horns and saxes. First of all, in brasses _all_ the sound is radiated from the bell, whereas in saxes the majority of sound energy passes through the bell only in the very lowest notes. Secondly, the bell of a French horn is much larger than that of a sax, and much shallower, so that the bracing effect of a circular cross-section is much weaker and therefore the possibility of resonant coupling at playing frequencies much greater.

    And, as superbaguy hints at, a test of this type should really be done in a double-blind situation to control for the effects of player expectation and consequent performance differences.

    Another reason to be skeptical (or sceptical) is the fact that no methodological information is given. Was this test performed by one player or more? Are the results shown averaged over many trials, or single instances? How much variation was there between different trials with the same setup? How were the given results measured, and at what distance? To say that they were measured "outside the bell" is not very informative.

    A more informative test would have been to have blown the horn in a way that the player could not see the horn, with the horn supported mechanically, and then have a second person damp the vibrations of the bell with his hands or some other device and see how the response curve changed.

    The results, as shown, have little more scientific validity than the famous TV ad touting toothpaste, which claimed that Crest had been shown to be an "effective decay-preventing dentifrice".

    Another thing to note is that except with the different bell flares (which conveniently were not measured to ensure identical dimensions, or at least it isn't mentioned), the difference between the coated and uncoated bell was at most one or two dB except at the highest frequencies, which is indetectable, and which is well within the margin of error when you are playing at 80-90 dB (and don't forget that dB is logarithmic).

    Perhaps overall it would be more accurate to say that material and finish do make a difference, but in most cases it is so minor as to be absolutely insignificant.

    BTW I was able to access the thread mentioned by the OP, so I guess the server is up.

    Toby

  10. #10
    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Imho that test of the french horn doesn't give enough information to be reliable. A machine measured test will not convince me, since it is pointless. I am sure the plating has some effect, but every material in the room you are playing in will have effect. It comes down to what humans can hear and what they can't.
    A better test would be blindfold, with everything the same other than plating (as much as possible), and have many saxophones of the same model and condition (as much as possible) and at least several people listening and playing. Then have both the audience and players try to guess.

    Kymarto - are you sure the thread works? If you reread my first post, you can see I don't mean the thread that you get from the link I posted, which works fine, but the link in the second post in that thread. It still doesn't work for me.

    Superbaguy - I know someone who is a very good players (other in the area are better though) but he is the best by far with playing overtones. He can control pretty much every overtone in every fingering, or just play the oevertone series really fast and accurate. He bought a laquered saxophone which he preferred over silver. He can also play all the overtones just as easily on almost any saxophone.

    Although it might be a matter of spychology and not music, but I'm still interested if there are other reasons than "it looks pretty" for people buying a sax with one plating and not another (other than, as I mentioned, by coincidence the best sax you found is silver plated so you buy that one).

    Edit: I managed with a rediculous (but logical) way to make that link work.
    Last edited by clarnibass; 07-13-2006 at 08:17 AM.

  11. #11

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    I'll try singing with my shirt off and see if it helps. If that doesn't work, I'll shave my chest because I need to improve my singing in a big way! Anyway, I certainly do not doubt that a more accomplished player can play overtones with ease on any sax regardless of materials or plating.

    Have there been studies with the solid sterling neck/body/bell combinations that are offered? You'll have a hard time convincing me that those don't change the sound. That's a far cry from merely plating a horn/neck/bell, I know, but what I don't know is enough about metallurgy (did I even spell it correctly?) to know at what point in bonding silver to brass or gold to silver in the plating process does it become more a part of the neck/body/bell to begin to change it's characteristics.

    Do those of you who are arguing against plating impacting the sax believe the same to be true of mouthpieces? I play hard rubber, so I really don't have a frame of reference there, I'm just curious if there are different takes on those for some reason.

  12. #12
    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    The short answer again is: as long as the metal is sufficiently rigid it don't make no never mind what kind of metal it is. For the body walls to affect the sound they have to vibrate, and more importantly they have to have resonant frequencies that couple with playing frequencies, or there ain't nothing causing them to vibrate enough to make any difference. While a sheet of metal can have relatively low resonant frequencies, as soon as you make it circular it sends the resonant frequencies through the roof. There is simply no way that metal that is thicker than about .016" in a body of circular cross-section can couple with playing frequencies.

    Don't be fooled by what you feel when you tap the metal - that is an elliptical deformation and that kind of vibration is not generated by playing.

    As I said before, theoretically a silver bell could make a very slight difference in response, because it is unsuspended and free to vibrate in ways the rest of the body cannot, but as for the rest of it? No way.

    Mpcs: have a look here --

    http://hal9000.ps.uci.edu/Does%20Sax...Matter.doc.pdf

    Toby

  13. #13
    Distinguished SOTW Technician tbone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kymarto
    The short answer again is: Toby
    Aw, shoot, I was looking foward to the long winded answer!

  14. #14
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    Two words:
    silver
    sonic

  15. #15
    Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist
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    Quote Originally Posted by kymarto
    ....As I said before, theoretically a silver bell could make a very slight difference in response, because it is unsuspended and free to vibrate in ways the rest of the body cannot, but as for the rest of it? No way.....
    I note that for the experiment they chose a French horn, which has an extraordinarily-large diameter, extraordinarily-flimsy bell. It is very easy to dent some of these bells with a firm press from the thumb.

    They just don't really compare with the pretty firm structure of a sax bell.

    I applaud Tony for the sound presentations he has made here on the topic.

    BTW, if gold and silver have been demonstrated in double-blind testing not to significantly affect the sound of a flute, then I would hardly expect them, in a sax neck, to make a difference.

    On the other hand, I NEVER underestimate the power of the human mind to believe anything.

  16. #16
    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumps
    Two words:
    silver
    sonic
    Two other words:

    bore dimensions

    I have an early Super 20 with full pearls and a silver neck. Very nice horn. I've played later Silversonics that were not nearly as nice. I also have a The Martin that is a killer horn, but with a very different response than the King. I did measurements all along the bore comparing them. Significantly different from end to end. No surprise why they play differently.

    Toby

  17. #17
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kymarto
    I've played later Silversonics that were not nearly as nice.
    If they were Eastlake horns, I wouldn't be surprised.

  18. #18
    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumps
    If they were Eastlake horns, I wouldn't be surprised.
    Whether they were or not, they had those two words:

    silver
    sonic

    Toby

  19. #19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by clarnibass
    I'm interested to know what are the differences between laquer and silver plating (and maybe other platings too). I would like to know the practical reasons for choosing one over the other ...
    Yeah, one looks cool and one looks lame. Which one is which depends entirely on the subjective opinion of the player.
    Justice C. Bigler
    alto: JK SX-90R clear nickel 110,xxx
    tenor: JK SX-90R nickel silver 121,xxx

  20. #20
    Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist
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    If you enjoy the look of a tarnished horn, or alternatively, enjoy spending a LOT of time polishing inaccessible places, then choose silver plating.

    Semi-tarnished keys on a bass clarinet, with a black wood background, doesn't look too bad, but on a sax with a tarnished silver background... Hmmm - not what I would go for.

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