July 23, 2024

Pimsoul writes “I play in a band, on alto sax. The think is, because the drums are loud the bass and guitar is loud, so i have to play loud too. But I can’t always keep up with loudness, so we thought about amplifieing my sax. Because it isn’t good for a normal guitar amplifier to use it for saxophone i’m looking for an alternative. I thinking about an amplifier for sax, but do they even exist? So yes, are these things expensive (when you compare it with the quality)? If they don’t exist, what are the other alternatives?
I would appreciate replies very much, thank you!
Kind regards, Pim
(excuse me for my bad English)”

There is not a “sax amplifier” per say. What you can use is pretty much any type of amp you want. Or a self powered speaker. Keyboard amps work great, something like Rolands KC350. Really depends on how much money you want to spend. And you would need a microphone as well, something like a Sennheiser 421.

But you might consider asking the other guys to play down at 11 rather than 13. If you can’t hear yourself play in a band, you have to wonder what the long term effects on your hearing (not to mention sanity). Is it worth losing your hearing to play really, really, really loud?

9 thoughts on “Sax Amplifiers??

  1. Hi, Most PA amps and speakers will do fine but be wary of the high end horns. Domestic speakers use tweeters which are generally quite soft sounding – horns on PA cabs are often of low fidelty and you may experience harsh harmonics towards the high end.

    Amplification of the sax via a conventional mic (as opposed to pickup) is very similar to amplification of the singing voice – ie a singer will often be able to give appropriate advice to a sax player especially if same range ( alto – female / tenor male ) etc.

    One of the biggest problems you may face is feedback. At the end of the day the mic/amp set up is an open system. For a given room and situation there will simply be a maximum gain (ie multiple of amplification) that you can achieve before feedback sets in. This is often disapointingly low.

    Well how do pro’s play near mega-watt stacks when playing stadium’s etc I hear you say? Well pro sound systems tend to have feedback devices which are costly but essentially detect the onset of feedback milliseconds after it starts and do “notching” – basically this is the same as turning down a particular channel on a graphics equaliser but much faster than you could ever do it by hand. The frequency that is diminished is the one causing the feedback -all very clever and very very fast. Unfortunately you cannot add a convential graphic (hand operated) because you will find that the offending frequency is different each time feedback occurs.

    Dont be put off by this – depending on your set up, personal sound/tone and situation you may find things work fine. However please dont spend a lot of money on expensive gear until you have had a chance to try it out under live conditions and check it does what you want it to do.

    If you do suffer feedback, one solution is to use multiple (conventional) mics. The reason this works is that each mic is receiving a very slightly different sound signal and when put through a multi-channel PA system tend not to combine too much – especially if you can space the mics a little. This does not give you a direct multiple – 2 mics will not allow you to reach double the gain – the two signal paths are not usually distinct enough for that but you will generally be able to get more gain than would be the case for a single mic. If you can combine a sax mounted mic and use a convential mic for fill in then you can sometimes get good results.

    At the end of the day though – you need to hear your full tone to play well a lot more than a guitarist does. At full “wack” most guitarists are responding to the most easily distinguished harmonics of their sound – they are not necessarily hearing the full spectrum clearly against the background of the band.

    You on the other hand will not be able to play well at all unless you can hear your full spectrum. This is why “knob position 11” guitarists and sax players usually have to part company.

    Also remember these guys will generally not understand your problem as they do not have to take more air or exert more power in order to play louder. Unless they regard you as a key component of their band (a lot regard sax players as a cool additional rather than a core requirement) then they may have little patience for your problem. If your fellow band members are not accomodating your with some level of sympathy and merely reward your physical efforts by cranking themselves up another notch then I would say goodbye to them and find a band that are prepared to play moderately in order to accomodate a valued member.

    Cheers Jon

  2. Hi Jon, thanks very much for your opinion, really appreciate it! It’s some very handy information.
    Especially the last part of your comment is interesting, about guitar players not understanding sax players often, I recognize this and will try to explane it to them

    Kind regards, Pim

  3. Sorry knabbel, that is a MICROPHONE, not an amplifier. An amplifier is the speaker part. It’s like saying Monster cable is the amplifier for a guitar. It’s needed, but it’s not the actual thing amplifying the sound. That was what the person asked.

    That being said, I hear great things about SD systems microphones. They are very pricey though….

  4. I had a similar problem some time ago, like somebody has already posted, the hole band should try to play less loudly, otherwise you will have difficulties to hear yourself even with an amplifier.
    Have you tried to use an amplifier for human voice?

  5. Pim, your best bet is not to try to amplify yourself on stage. The sax is an instrument that is best amplified through the PA system. If your band has a sound man, he will ensure that you are audible in the mix.
    If you want to really hear what you are playing you need to get in ear monitors. I have been playing with loud bands for thirty years and I was amazed at how well I could hear my voice and horn while playing with loud players and you can still hear the band, they just won’t be killing your ears.
    Now I know you are probably thinking IN EAR MONITORS, I can’t afford those! NOT SO. Here’s how I do it for less than you would pay for a decent amp.
    First, get a small mixing board (I use an Alesis Multimix 6 FX for about $100.
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MultiMix6FX /
    Then get a pair of Sure E2 In ear headphones.( I found them online for less than $80.00)\
    Plug your sax mic into a mic input on the Alesis and run a regular guitar cord from the line out of the Alesis to your usual channel in the main mixing console.(Line In)
    Get a stereo headphone extension cord with a mini stereo female plug on one end and a standard 1/4″ stereo male plug on the other. This will give you some extra length so you can move around. I usually stick the connector from the headphones to the extension in my back pocket for a bit of stability.
    Plug the stereo male end into the headphone output of the Alesis board and plug the Sure E2 mini stereomale into the female end of the extension.
    When you put the E2’s into your ears you will hear yourself perfectly and it will block out just enough of the rest of the band to make for a very plesant gig. You’ll still be able to hear them well enough but at the same time you’ll be grooving on the fact that you can hear every nuance of your own playing like you never have in a live situation.
    Now the only thing you have to be careful of is too much volume in your “in ears”. I have never had a feedback incident in four years of using this system and I believe it has done a great job of saving my ears but if you turn it up too much you might get feedback which can be painful if not destructive to your hearing. Use common sense if it hurts when you are playing it’s too loud. I have played with some really loud bands and I never have to turn my in ear volume up to a painful level.
    I have never had a problem but I’m saying this so no one comes back to me saying I caused them to go deaf.
    This system works great if you use your head and if you use it right you will never want to play without them.
    This system does not work for players who think they can run sound from the stage. You won’t be able to hear the PA with your in ears in but you will be able to hear yourself much better than you would from any kind of amp or stage monitor.
    That’s it. Problem solved for less than $200.
    O yeah, if you sing or play another instrument, run them through your board too. You can add your own effects and once you get your mix of instruments from your board balanced correctly, you will rarely have to make any changes.
    I run my vocal, a sax mic on a stand for Soprano, a wireless for Alto and a Zendrum all through my board. We run our sound from the stage without a sound man and people have been telling us for years that we sound like a studio mix.
    Good luck

  6. As previous posts said, the best way to amplify yourself is through the house PA. But be wary of soundmen — they are all drummers and want to stick a mic halfway down the bell. That being said, I started working on a small quartet that believes in everyone amplifying themselves. I tested out everything on the market, and found that the best solution was an acoustic guitar amp. Although I’ve never been a fan of Crate products, I picked up a Gunnison 60 Watt. ( there is a more powerfull model also). This thing works like a champ! Two channels, phantom powered, digital multi effects, sweepable mid eq, 12 in & a horn with a high cut knob, powered and unpowered outs, feeedback filters and more. There are other companiees making acoustic amps, but the price – quality factor sold me. I guess because an acoustic guitarist looks to reproduce their sound as true as possible, these amps do the same for horns. Make sure you use a quality mic- a Sure 57 is a standard. I’ve been using an Audix OM 7 lately and liking it. The amp also tilts back, so it can be used as a monitor for big gigs.

  7. In Ears are definitely the right solution when playing in a band. For several reasons:
    1. to hear yourself properly – which is essential to keep the right pitch
    2. to play in a controlled manner instead of forced blowing (can exhaust you in a couple of minutes)
    3. to protect yourself from too much noise.

    I myself use *2* small mixers: one for Input (a Tapco 6306) and providing a clear signal to the PA. And one for Monitoring (Phonic MU 1202x), connected to my Shure E3 in ears that are plugged into the bodypack of a Sennheiser wireless transmitter (EW 300 IEM G2). The Monitor Mixer (that receives the stage monitor mix as well) is connected to the Input Mixer by using the latter’s AUX channel.

    The dual approach prevents myself from doing something stupid on stage under the stress of the moment (you can blow up the PA – and many eardrums – by feeding it the wrong signal, causing a loop).

    As I don’t trust sound men anymore – they always react too late when playing solos – I use a Boss A/B- foot switch (originally for guitar players) to pump up my volume: my Mic is plugged into the A/B-switch. The ‘normal mode’ A is connected to Mic Channel 1 on the Input Mixer, that has a slightly lower volume than ‘solo mode’ B – connected to Mic Channel B.

    Mic Channels have pre amplification, which is essential to connect EWI’s (WX5/VL70 in my case) directly as well.

    As a microphone, I use the LDM 94 from SD Systems: a dynamic mic that is half the price of a LCM89 or 85 (both condenser mics) and a better/less vulnerable solution on stage.

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