Make your saxophone sound better?
We know that apart from the actual saxophone, mouthpieces and reeds can make a difference to your sound. Many people think that ligatures, thumbrests, straphooks and other accessories also make a difference. When I first heard about these I must admit I was rather sceptical, but as we saxophone players are always on the lookout for gizmos that will improve our sound, I thought I should at least try some out with an open mind and attempt to test various accessories to see if they actually do “walk the talk” that is claimed by their inventors. I want to make these tests as scientifically sound as I can, so when possible I am testing them blindfold. The first review is the leFreque sound bridge
The lefreQue Solution
The first review is a very interesting invention, the lefreQue. This consists of two pieces of metal which are held onto the saxophone via silicon bands. The idea is to breach the cork, which the manufacturers claim is unsatisfactory as a material to link between the mouthpiece and the rest of the instrument, in other words it acts as a “soundbridge”. The claimed results of using the lefreque are more sound, more emotion, more colour and more enjoyment. The leFreQue costs between €39.95 (brass) and €199.95 (gold plated silver). I am unable to find on the website whether the different metals are intended to sound different or whether the difference is purely cosmetic. It is quite easy to fit, although no instructions came with it. There are a choice of different size silicon bands, so you can choose which seems to hold the two plates in position without either slipping or being too tight. Extra bands are available which is a good idea as I imagine they won’t last forever or could easily get lost. The two plates are not identical, the upper plate has four nipples which create a gap between it and the lower plate. There is no explanation with technical reasons for this, but I don’t doubt there may either be some acoustical theory behind the design, or else it was arrived at by research and development, AKA good old trial and error.
Compare with & without leFreque
The first audio is reference file with no leFreque, the following 11 are blindfold tests with or without.
In this test I was able to create a reasonably rigorous blind test, as I was blindfolded and handed the saxophone with the lefreque already in place (or not). The weight of the lefreque is minimal (<10 grams) so I was unable to tell by the weight of the instrument whether it was fitted or not. In the audio file, there are 11 examples, with and without the lefreque, you may be interested to take part in a double-blind test to see if you notice any significant difference between any of the clips, which are of course in no particular order. These were recorded in a professional studio with an AKGC12VR (very) top quality microphone.
Most people who have listened thought there was no discernible difference between takes with lefreque and without. Certainly as a player I could not tell, either by hearing any significant difference in sound or feeling any difference in response.And of course you would expect to hear some differences with different takes and exactly the same set up anyway.
I did finally receive some communication with leFreque, who disputed the validity of the tests as they were carried out in mono, not stereo. I do not understand this argument, as the only difference between stereo and mono recording is that stereo gives you a wider sound image, it is exactly the same sound there in the room when recorded in mono. Most of the great saxophone recordings have been made in mono. No marketing claims are made that would suggest the leFreque is only audible when recorded with stereo microphones.