Introducing the Most Unique Sax Tone Development Device on the Market
From time to time I am sent emails from manufacturers regarding various products to review. Recently, I received an email from a Mr. Hsiao, who is the inventor of a product called the Timbre Trainer. According to Mr. Hsiao, the Timbre Trainer seeks to help expedite the break-in process with your instrument by allowing for increased vibrations, resulting in an overall more free-blowing, resonant and rich sound.
The way this device works is so unique, that you really need visuals to understand it properly (see link and videos below).
In a nutshell, the Timbre Trainer is a device that connects to any usb-ready audio-playing device (iPod, iPad, smartphone, etc), and from there attaches to the neck of your horn, where the sounds from the digital audio device are transmitted onto the horn itself. The concept here is that the sound from the recordings, such as classic jazz albums, will actually “soak” into your horn, and bring about the same ageing process as the horn would get from decades of being exposed to the sounds of live music. According to Hsiao, it’s the years of exposure to live music that give instruments that highly sought-after, rich “vintage” sound.
To see for myself what the overall results would be, I decided to test play this device on a Lupifaro Platinum tenor saxophone I have been play testing over the past couple of months.
About the Product
According to Hsiao, “The Timbre Trainer is a vibration generator which uses the sound waves from your favorite music to directly vibrate your instrument. These vibrations continuously play in your instrument, ageing it and opening up its sound. In today’s market, vintage instruments played over many years are more valuable and sought after than newer instruments. Overall, the older instruments have a better sound due to the vibrations over many years. Their materials have gotten used to the frequencies of the particular vibrations they were exposed to, thus leading to instruments responding better to players’ commands. Vibration releases the mechanical stress of the instrument material. Mechanical stress is the stress between metal crystals (in saxophones or brass instruments) or plant fibre (in guitars). Stress reduces the resonance of vibration which needs time to be ‘released.’ Although we know this, how often and how long can we play our instruments a day?”
So basically, the Timbre Trainer converts musical sound waves into vibrations and directly applies them to your instrument.
Since I have been test playing a Lupifaro Platinum tenor saxophone for the past couple of months, I decided to use this horn as my test subject over using my Mark VI tenor saxophone because I was told by Hsiao that he has seen greater results with newer instruments over vintage instruments.
The Timbre Trainer is easy to connect to the neck of your saxophone. In regards to which music I selected to play thru my saxophone was Chris Potter’s Gratitude album, but it is completely up to you which music you choose to play thru the Timbre Trainer.
I tried the Timbre Trainer for 2 weeks and used the device between 3 and 4 hours a day. For the Lupifaro Platinum instrument I noticed a bit of a difference by day 7 in terms of the overall response of the instrument and by day 14 found that the Timbre Trainer opened or enhanced the sound of the Lupifaro tenor saxophone with regards to adding some additional edge, resonance and projection.
For me, every time I picked up my saxophone after the Timbre Trainer was applied for 3 to 4 hours a day, I felt as if the instrument was already warmed up and ready to go, which is similar to why some players prefer synthetic reeds over traditional cane reeds.
The Timbre Trainer is a device that can generally speed up the break-in process. I believe this device must be used on a consistent basis to see the greatest results.
I would have to say the Timbre Trainer will not turn that stuffy Mark VI into a real player but do believe that you will notice a difference using the device, whether it’s a major change or small enhancement.
Please leave any comments or questions for those who are interested in finding out more or have used the Timbre Trainer and would like to share their experience.
April 10, 2015 @ 12:24 pm
One could also buy a new saxophone and let it lay on top of speaker cabinet while the music of your choice plays; the entire saxophone will then soak up the sound of the music and will become an excellent instrument. Better yet, you could save the $150.00 that the snake oil sales people at Timbre Trainer are charging and get a couple lessons, buy some music and listen to it, or just practice your long tones and overtones. The concept behind the Timbre Trainer is absolute nonsense. It’s like homeopathy for an inanimate object, or audiophile nonsense about “burn in”. Don’t get scammed by them.
September 30, 2015 @ 6:05 pm
October 3, 2015 @ 2:03 pm
Believe it or not – physical objects do remember!
if i touch a physical object it remembers that it was me that touched it – its got my fingerprint.
If i hit an object with a hammer it remembers it – its got a new mark to remember me by.
So objects do have memory.
Unfortunately physical objects get worn out by time, so they must eventually loose their memory.
October 4, 2015 @ 10:19 am
Those are interesting hypotheses, James, now all you need is the evidence to support them. :) The object hit by the hammer may change, but where is the evidence that it ‘remembers’ the event or the change? Anthropomorphizing inanimate objects is easy (and fun) to do, but it doesn’t make the objects sentient. Nails and inanimate objects don’t have nervous systems, so it is unlikely that they feel or remember anything. If you were making a joke, I’m sorry for the seriousness of my reply, but as a scientist (PhD, geochemistry), I don’t like snake oil items like the Timbre Trainer.
October 4, 2015 @ 1:53 pm
lets look inside the sax, lets suppose a professional sax player plays consistantly in such a way that the air flows through it in the same manner month after month, year after year. Now when he’s blowing deposits of spit will build and deposit themselves in the same places of sax (like a fingerprint unique to that player) these places of spit are difficult to remove.
After years of playing look inside the sax and we see mountains, hills, valleys created by these deposits, crafted by that player.
Now several decades later, little johnny comes along, picks up the sax, blows air inside. What happens, it courses its way through these ravines that have been memoried there and presto we have an awsome sound.
Now compare that to a sax that has been taken out of a box 60 years later, that has never ever been played, surely they cant sound the same.
well thats my feeble attempt at backing this one.
October 4, 2015 @ 2:09 pm
everything around us has memory, but everthing around us doesn’t have intelligence.
if objects didn’t have memory – planes wouldn’t fly.
The human race wouldnt exist if cells didn’t pass on memory,
October 4, 2015 @ 2:45 pm
Your argument seems to suggest that if a beginner plays on John Coltrane’s sax, then what that beginner plays will sound awesome. However, if the same beginner plays using a new saxophone or an old saxophone that has not been played, then the sound will not be a good. If that is your argument, then it is nonsense, and it is testable.
I don’t know what your abilities are as a player, but you could go find a saxophonist that you admire and play their saxophone. Do you honestly believe that you would sound like that player because the saxophone that you are playing was played by that given player?
You are suggesting that the inanimate saxophone can “memorize” the greatness of a given player. If that’s the case, then popular players such as Sonny Rollins, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Kenny G,, Evan Parker, Dave Sandborn and others should spend a few months playing on new saxophones and resell them for high prices because the those saxophones would have “memorized” the abilities of the players.
What if Sonny Rollins played on John Coltrane’s saxophone for a concert tonight. Would Sonny sound like Sonny or like Trane? If Trane’s saxophone had memorized the awesome sound of Coltrane, would that sax be able to allow the awesome sound of Sonny to play through it?
October 4, 2015 @ 3:23 pm
Ok – hears another idea .
some mouthpiece makers claim that if you alter a mouthpiece by one thousands of an inch, you will change how that mouthpiece sounds. At that level of change – the build up spit that changes into a hard crusty layer of yuck inside of a saxaphone, must after decades change the intonation, which is reinforced by who ever plays it, in specific areas of the sax by that player. The sax player has moulded his sound.
If someone else comes along with the exact anatomy as the previous player – the sound will be the same. because no 2 people are the same (twins maybe) how can the sax possibly sound the same?
The instrument has got to sound different to an identical unplayed one, and probably sound better.
Anyway – i’m digging a bigger hole by backing this one.
October 11, 2015 @ 4:08 am
I believe what James is saying here, is that an older professional sax has gone through a sort of “tempering” and given an internal patina that shapes and mellows the sound much like any older wooden string instrument does. So, along comes new student and picks up the older pro sax and may well sound better than if he/she had picked up the same model of sax, made the same year as the old pro sax, that had never been played on. I wouldn’t ecpect that they would sound awesome. That comes with practice. It’s just that the sound might be better on the old sax. Just my 2 cents.
October 11, 2015 @ 2:47 pm
I was just plumbing the depths trying to find some reason if there was an credence in this device.
Its like when people used to think the earth was flat!
Its like black holes – i don’t believe they exist, if they do at some point they will explode and wipe out everything around them.
I believe theres a particle x that exists in our solar sytem that is stationary and lights up when particle y leaves the sun. particle x must have a very long half life, and i don’t think it exists in some other solar systems which is why no light is showing – hence the black hole.
i also beleve if particle x became unstable or started to decay it would move faster than particle y, hence again no light.
the idea that nothing can travel faster than light means we haven’t found the thing that is moving faster than light
January 22, 2019 @ 2:22 pm
Beneath all the hocus-pocus talk of the marketers, there is a valid physical concept in play: vibratory stress relief (VSR). It is used by machinists to de-stress and stabilize workpieces before final finishing. This little device seems like a very poor implementation of that, and it deprives the player of the use of their MP3 player for hours and hours.
VSR done properly consists of finding the resonant frequency of the workpiece and sending a strong signal through the piece at or slightly below the resonant frequency for a prescribed period of time. The trick is to find an oscillator/transducer combo that can range to below the lowest fundamental of a saxophone (around 100 Hz for a tenor). There is no information provided on the lowest frequency of the Timbre Trainer, which is a crucial parameter, so there is no way of telling whether it could ever be efficient or not. It might be more efficient to do low-end long tones for VSR and that would have other benefits.
I suppose VSR might be worthwhile for someone selling a lot of new horns, to get them sounding their best before putting them up for sale. But the equipment required to do it right, including a means of testing for resonant frequency, seems daunting for an ordinary Joe Blow who doesn’t go around buying brand new instruments all the time. Still, it seems possible to do a validation test of VSR for saxophones, with an optimal VSR device, a sound generator that can do both tones and white noise (for testing purposes) and reasonably good recording equipment and software for analyzing before-and-after tests.