Antigua Winds – Pro One Sax
“Percussionist Fred Hoey originally founded the company in 1991, so 2011 will be Antigua Winds 20th year of business,” says Kerry Klingborg, general manager at Antigua Winds. “Hoey – a great percussionist, author, clinician and percussion industry innovator – was always involved with getting people value priced, good quality reliable musical instruments.” When he retired from C. Bruno, Hoey decided to start Antigua Winds to do on the wind instrument side what he had done on the percussion side of the business for so many years.
“Fast track 20 years later, and we have a full line of wind instruments from piccolos to euphoniums,” says Klingborg. “We operate our own modern state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Taiwan and China that we fully own and we source all of our own materials from Japan, the United States and Europe. It’s not like an off the shelf manufacturer who buys things and has their name put on them. We know where those materials come from, who designed the instruments, and who trained the people who build those instruments. So from start to finish, quality control is very important to us.
“We’re probably most known for saxophones because we go from the lowest priced, entry-level instruments all the way up to the Antigua Pro One. The Pro One is probably the most significant product launch in our history and, with the response to the saxophone and the innovation that’s in the Pro One, it’s probably the most significant new saxophone since the invention of the saxophone by Adolphe Sax. It’s just getting that kind of reaction.”
The Pro One – Innovation at Work
What’s so innovative about the new Pro One sax? “Well, there’s a number of things but starting out at the top, we’ve got a new neck designed by Peter Ponzol. Actually, the whole saxophone is designed by Peter but most significantly the neck,” explains Klingborg. “Peter is somebody I’ve known for a long time as not only a great player but an educator and technician as well. He has his own line of mouthpieces and necks and he really knows what makes a neck tick.”
Klingborg says that Ponzol developed the new neck specifically for the new Pro One line of horns: “There was a list of design intentions which included balanced resistance, lower blowing resistance, a nice core to the sound and a great overall feel to the instrument and many of those attributes, start out in the neck so that’s where we started. We used our existing pro horn as a base of where to work from and Peter developed a new neck for it which got us well on the way to where we wanted to go.”
Rather than just slapping on a new neck to their existing Pro horn and calling it a day, Antigua has pulled out all the stops with the new Pro One line. Moving down the body of the saxophone, the Pro One is loaded with new designs all based upon playability and tone.
One simple example is the problematic G# key. “The G# pad has always been a real pain for saxophone players because it sticks all the time,” explains Klingborg. To fix the problem, Antigua has incorporated one of Peter Ponzol’s older designs – the G# pad lifter. “Peter developed it a number of years ago and it’s basically a mechanism that lifts the G# pad off the tone hole every single time.” In addition to the pad lifter, the Pro One has added a bridge in between the F and F# keys – a feature frequently added by custom saxophone technicians. “We’ve also added a connector between the low C# and B to allow a more efficient sliding or rocking between the low C# and B without your finger getting caught underneath the B key,” says Klingborg.
Bells and Whistles
“There’s been a whole lot of hype and mystique surrounding the bell diameters on saxophones all the way back into the 1930’s when Conn had their larger bells,” says Klingborg. “In the past ten years or so there’s been a resurgence of large bell sizes, so we did a lot of research to find out what the ‘right size bell’ was. We felt that the bells on current saxophones from competing lines were more suited to classical playing and were a little smaller than we thought they should be. The new hybrid bell is a little larger than your typical Selmer and Yamaha but slightly smaller than what’s become fashionable. You end up with a bell that responds well, projects well and is not just right in front of your face.”
In addition to the larger bell, Antigua has made significant changes to the ergonomics and playability of the horn itself. “We’ve rolled the tone holes on the bell keys,” explains Klingborg. “Those are big pads, you’re using your weakest fingers on your body, and you’ve got long levered keys going down there so we’ve used the wide flanged rolled tone holes on the bell in order to get a larger area for the pad to seat on. You need all the help you can get to play low,” laughs Klingborg.
Klingborg asserts that Antigua’s most significant innovations with respect to the Pro One are the double key arms on the low C, B and Bb keys. “There is a very innovative arm that we’ve applied for patents on which consists of a double arm that comes off of the hinge rod with two outriggers that emanate from the arm and have rubber tip adjustment screws,” says Klingborg. “The adjustment screws stabilize the pad cup and more efficiently transmit the energy from your finger to closing that tone hole all the way across the face. Instead of one line of contact pushing the pad cup closed, you have a broad surface pushing that tone hole closed. It transmits all the energy from your finger much more efficiently into closing the pads making it much easier to play. We call it the Trident arm and it works very well – both the alto and the tenor get nice sub-tones at very low volumes with a nice core to the sound. The dynamic range is amazing – you can play this saxophone very quiet or loud it without breaking up and a lot of that on the low end is due to the combination of the rolled tone holes and the Trident arms.”
It’s all about the Little Things
In addition to the ergonomic and mechanical innovations incorporated into the Pro One, Antigua Winds has a brand new alloy for the horn itself. “We call it ‘Vintage Reserve,’” says Klingborg. “We researched post-war French saxophones for not only the metallurgical composition of the metal but the grain structure and the hardness of the metal as well. We emulated the metallurgical science of the metal and the grain structure of the metal and then we developed an annealing process to make the saxophone blow freely and easily without breaking up.
“We also use a brass thumb rest for the left thumb instead of plastic. It’s a subtle but somewhat significant thing because the connection between man and machine is vital. On the saxophone, both you and the saxophone are the instrument so when you’re playing it, the brass thumb rest allows the vibrations from the saxophone to be transmitted into your hands and you become more in tune with what’s going on with that instrument. The same thing goes with the right thumb hook but we actually carried it a step further. We put three domes in between the base plate that the thumb hook is attached to keep that from being one big huge block of metal that robs vibrations from the body underneath your right hand. The new design keeps the instrument vibrating more efficiently and you’re able to feel the vibrations of the instrument much better.
“We use real mother of pearl finger buttons instead of plastic, and we’re using the finest pads that you can buy, it’s really a complete package right down to the case. The finish is a vintage gold tone lacquer and its extensively hand engraved. From changes in the ergonomic, placement of the keys, to the very material that the horn is made of, we really tried to take everything to the nth degree.”
From the larger bell and rolled tone holes, to the new trident, arm, Peter Ponzol neck and custom metal alloy, the Pro One and Antigua winds are looking to take the saxophone world by storm.