I talked to the incredibly talented Kim Bock of KB Sax in New York. Not only is he a great saxophone player, but he’s also a skilled craftsman who makes custom saxophone necks entirely by hand.
I visited with him in his workshop earlier this year to try out his necks and he was kind enough to allow me to film the process of building them which is fascinating.
I’ve got one that I’ve been playing on for a while, and in the video you can hear a play test comparison so you can let me know if you hear any improvement.
KB Sax Necks
It’s important to point out that these KB Sax necks are different from many of the after market necks available these days. These are truly hand crafted by the designer himself. It’s not an asian import with a different sax shop’s brand stamped on it and then you choose your tenon size from a dropdown menu.
The entire process is very labor intensive. It’s all done by Kim Bock himself, in house with materials sourced in the US.
There are several steps involved into this entire process, check out the video above to see everything in detail!
Play Testing KB Sax Necks
After showing me how he makes the necks, it was time to play test a few. I had brought my vintage Selmer Mark VI tenor on this trip. Specifically, because I thought if I were to get an improved neck for it I might go back to playing that horn.
First I warmed up a bit on my original Mark VI neck.
Then the testing began. I tested four different necks comparing them to my original Mark VI neck… The Redwood hand hammered copper, the Vanguard hand hammered copper, the Vanguard hand hammered bronze, and the Vanguard M61 brass.
All of the KB sax necks felt better than my Mark VI neck but they each had their own distinct characteristics.
The improvements I felt with all the KB sax necks were access to more power. Basically putting the same amount of air through the horn got me more sound and there is a higher ceiling on that sound. If I really push, my Mark VI neck shuts down earlier than any of the KB sax necks.
The other very clear improvement was intonation and tonal evenness in the upper register. The palm key notes were especially improved compared to my Mark VI neck.
Jay’s pick of KB Sax Necks
While I liked the Redwood neck very much, I preferred the Vanguard models. It seems to correspond more to my personal sound concept.
I think we all experience sound and the feedback from our instruments differently, so I don’t want to say too much about the particulars. Other than that the hand hammered necks offered a sizzle to the sound that some might describe as brightness but to me it’s more a liveliness.
We often describe gear in one dimension dark to bright, but if you think of it in 2 dimensions, these necks actually play dark and bright at the same time, and it’s the particular mixture of those frequencies that gives it its unique character.
In the end, I asked Kim to make me a Vanguard hand-hammered bronze neck to try with my WO2 bronze Yanagisawa and while I didn’t think my Yanagisawa neck needed any improvement at all, I really enjoyed the new tonal color of this KB Sax neck so I ended up purchasing it and have been playing on it ever since.
I think with necks the differences can certainly be heard. But they are felt even more from the player’s perspective in terms of response, intonation and resistance.
In the end, the small improvements I get playing this KB sax neck add up. They make my main horn even more fun to play, and for me, that’s worth it.
For my Selmer, Yes my Mark VI neck can play in tune and the palm key notes can sound fine. However, it takes more effort. For that horn, this neck makes it easier to play as well as more fun.
You can find out tons of more information at the KB Sax website. This is not an affiliate link and this video is not in any way sponsored by them. I just wanted to share with you the fascinating process of making saxophone necks from scratch by hand. Their necks are fantastic. They recently began making them for alto sax as well, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one of those.
Thanks to Kim Bock for sharing his creations with us! If any of you have played on a KB Sax Neck before, please let me know in the comments below. I know they’re expensive, but I’d love to get your take.
If you want to hear more play tests, be sure to check out, “Play Testing 5 Alto Sax Mouthpiece Upgrades.”