I have reviewed plenty of different electronic saxophones on this channel. And today I have another one for you, but as you can see it is clearly different. Now I have to be honest with you. At first I was kind of skeptical on this thing. Maybe because it’s all plastic or so small, but after playing on it for a while… well I’ll get to that.
It’s actually quite a marvelous idea that if pulled off well, would be kind of a game changer and a unique solution to a common problem pretty much all saxophone players run into.
Travel Sax 2
This new gadget is the Travel Sax 2, and yes, it’s already evolved from the first iteration. Whether you’re looking for a gadget like this or not, it’s fascinating to see what is possible technologically these days. The first Travel Sax was a kickstarter project back in 2019. At the time, the founder of Travel Sax Ramon Mañas said that their goal was to solve 2 common problems for saxophone players.
Problem 1: the noise of practicing the saxophone can be a huge inconvenience if you have neighbors or housemates.
Problem 2: traveling with a saxophone can also be another huge inconvenience cause they’re kind of big.
They set out to develop a convenient travel size tool that would allow saxophone players to practice effectively in near total silence. The kickstarter project was a success, they launched the original travel sax, learned a bunch from that initial run and have now redesigned the instrument and accompanying app and that’s what I’m going to review for you here. There are a bunch of things that I really like about this instrument, and a few ways in which I think it can still be improved.
Let’s start with the good:
Small & Portable
This thing can fit in a large pocket. It is a size and weight that you could have no excuse to not bring it with you anywhere. I have had it sitting on my desk for the past couple weeks and if I want to take a break from work, or I’m waiting for something to upload or download, instead of picking up my phone to pass the time, I can just pick the TS up and play something, which is obviously a much better alternative to getting sucked into the doom scroll.
The key layout is based on a real saxophone. All of the keys are there, they even have rollers on the pinky keys as well as an adjustable thumb rest. Also the keys actually move in the same way as a real saxophone, making it instantly familiar to your hands and fingers.
The TS2 now uses these stainless steel springs on the keys, which is great. I found that the action on mine was a bit too stiff so I popped the keys off one by one and adjusted the spring tension. I don’t recommend doing this yourself since you could potentially mess up your instrument, but in my case I managed to lighten the spring tension which really improved the playing experience for me.
They have reduced the saxophone key layout down to the size of something like a sopranino saxophone, but it still works fine as you would expect. I have played some rather long sessions on this and haven’t felt any discomfort.
As you can see I have added these extensions because it just feels more natural and comfortable to me having the TS2 a bit further away from my face. You can put a real saxophone mouthpiece on this thing just like the EMEO or the Yamaha YDS-150. I prefer to play it just blowing into the tube though. I personally don’t see the point of using a real mouthpiece on one of these since you cannot learn anything about saxophone embouchure or tone production this way. In fact, I feel as though using a real mouthpiece you could end up developing bad embouchure habits that you may carry over when switching to the real thing.
When playing with just the tube, articulation is very responsive and is quite similar to how you would articulate on a flute touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth. They offer an accessory kit that includes this extension as well as a curved neck and a mouthpiece with a smaller opening to make articulation even easier. Having the instrument a bit further away from your face is a lot more comfortable I find.
The fact that the TS2 has internal sounds makes it something you can just pick up and play. Now, these sounds are the most basic midi instruments. They don’t sound very good, but that is a necessary trade off and one that I’m fine with. The basic sounds allow the TS2 to be lighter and less expensive. If you want fancy sounds, you can plug it in to a computer or even a smartphone or tablet and use software for that.
I love that you can play audio via bluetooth on the TS2. So I can put a backing track or recording on and play along. This is fun and great for learning songs, transcribing solos or just practicing playing over chord changes.
Here I’m playing over a backing track from BetterTrax.com. You can plug in headphones or have the sound come out of the external speaker. There’s also a mini jack input for audio.
The TS2 is set by default to match the basic fingerings of the saxophone, but you can change those as you like if necessary and program your own personal altissimo fingerings using the app.
One thing I like to use the TS2 for is ear training. You can put it into automatic mode so that the notes will play when you press the keys without blowing. This way I can sing, and play at the same time. This is such a great way to practice playing what you actually hear in your head.
Is it fun to play?
When judging any instrument, one of my most important criteria is, how much fun is it to play? Does the instrument make me want to keep playing, or do I find myself fighting with it and getting frustrated?
Once I adjusted the spring tension and got the hang of how the app worked I started to really enjoy the Travel Sax 2. Not in the same way as I enjoy playing a real saxophone mind you. This thing looks like a toy right? But, I think that is where the appeal comes from. The size and toy-like nature contribute to the fun of playing it. Even though it is built entirely out of 3d printed plastic it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy.
Now let’s talk about areas for improvement:
While much improved from the original travel sax, this is an area that I’d like to see further improvements. Everything works pretty well, but I am curious as to how it will stand up to many hours of use and the repetitive movement. Because it is all 3d printed though, I imagine replacement keys would be pretty easy to get if ever you needed that.
While it’s not all that loud, if you were playing this in the room with headphones on the noise will definitely be annoying to anyone around you. It’s like a really loud keyboard typing. I think they could improve both of these things by adding some sort of cushion where the key touches the body. This could make it feel more like a real saxophone pad and reduce the clacking sound a bit.
I actually tried this myself on mine and there’s already a significant improvement.
This is a little nitpicky, but I would like to see them add an auto off feature. I have had the battery run out on me a few times since I forgot to turn it off.
Who is this for?
You may have seen my reviews of other wind synths out there, and if you are considering buying one, you should probably watch those as well to get the full picture of what is available.
The Travel Sax 2 is the right choice for someone who wants a practice instrument that mimics the key layout of the saxophone and is small enough and light enough to take with you anywhere. It’s for someone who isn’t particularly bothered with the internal sounds, they just want to hear something come out when they play. This is by far the smallest, and most convenient tool available meeting those criteria.
If you’re looking for a performance instrument, there are better options like the AKAI EWI and Roland Aerophone. If you want something that feels more like a real saxophone, is a bit more responsive, and you don’t mind it being bigger, heavier and more expensive, go with the EMEO.
The Travel Sax 2 is perfect for the person who wants to be able to practice a bit when staying in hotels, traveling, taking a break at work stuff like that. It’s actually small enough that you wouldn’t look any weirder than people sucking on those vape thingies if you were to play this in public, but with the added benefit of being allowed on public transportation.
I believe that this instrument will make a lot of people happy and does solve these problems in a unique way. So I can recommend it with confidence.
The current price is €649 euros, but you can get a version with colored keys for a bit more. They gave me a green one, but I would have chosen the blue or red as those look pretty slick. Full disclosure, I did not pay for this instrument, it was provided to me by Odesei the company who makes the Travel Sax 2. They did not see this video before I published it and had zero input on the content of this review.
I did manage to get them to offer a special bonus to BetterSax subscribers. I really think having the extension accessories is a must, so if you add that to your order and use the coupon code bettersaxts2 at checkout, you’ll get those accessories for free which is a €45 value. If you use that code, BetterSax will get a small commission which helps us continue to make content like this for the saxophone community. So don’t forget it.
Now while the Travel Sax 2 is a pretty nifty gadget, there’s another robosax out there that you should also consider. I made a video about the EMEO which is more of a hybrid sax, and you can watch that one next right here.