Original / relacquered
Are relacquered SELMER saxophones bad?
As already briefly touched upon in the article “What do optics have to do with sound,” I would like to go into somewhat greater detail here on the subject of “re-lacquered SELMER saxophones” and share with you our experiences in this regard:
We’ve heard the following said now and then from interested parties: “No relacquered horn for me,” or “Only original lacquer because relacquered horns are bad and of little value!”
We can say as a matter of principle that any change of the surface is accompanied by a change in tone quality and play characteristics. Nonetheless: whether the change is positive or negative is impossible to determine.
The surface coating (lacquering or galvanization, i.e., silver-, gold-plating, etc.) is an essential determinant for the sound. The different layers have differing surface tensions and vibrational properties which give rise to more or less overtones in the diverse frequency ranges.
Hence, when a saxophone is relacquered or silver-plated, etc., another surface tension and consequently also a modified vibrational behavior becomes manifest.
The coating procedure, unfortunately, cannot be reversed in order to then decide which sound property is best. This means that only the present state of a relacquered saxophone can be evaluated. Whether the original horn was better or not will thus remain a mystery.
We frequently have SELMER Saxophones that SELMER itself relacquered. This workmanship is impeccable and it is hardly recognizable, if at all, that the lacquer is not the original. I see no diminution in value for such saxophones stemming from relacquering.
It is another matter altogether with saxophones prospectively or already relacquered unprofessionally: oftentimes for optical reasons every single scratch is completely removed. As a result, the sheet metal becomes thinner, which clearly and definitively alters the vibrational properties — often negatively!
And this is mostly followed by application of a thick, filling lacquer!
As a consequence, the engraving or the SELMER hallmark is filled with lacquer. You can surely imagine the effect this has on surface tension and vibrational properties: such a saxophone generally sounds dull, muffled and its response is often sluggish and stiff.
Here I should emphasize that beyond the halls of SELMER there are certainly operations capable of relacquering a saxophone with high quality. What I want to say here is that the statement “relacquered saxophones are bad” cannot be generalized.
What counts at the end of the day is: Is it “your” sax, does it match “your” sound ideal? If the answer is yes, then it matters not whether it is relacquered, stripped, re-silver-plated or whatever else, because it is simply “your saxophone”!