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Saxophones My new one-of-a-kind tenor


Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Surrey, UK
I have just bought a unique tenor sax from a dealer in the USA and thought you might be interested to hear about it.

It was originally an SML Rev. D from about 1954, but it has been radically rebuilt be a tech in Munich called Leopold Kondratov. My horn is pictured on his website: http://www.meinsax.de/fotogalerie.htm

Not only does it have a modern keywork, it also has unique mechanism with each key cup having a ball joint in the centre which allows it to float for a perfect seal before being tightened up.

There is a ring around the body below the strap ring where the body tube has been cut and the lower part rotated to give a 'balanced action' style (rather than the original in-line tone holes). The ergonomics are as good as most modern horns; only the F# auxiliary key (RH) isn't very well placed as it's too far back for me. The left and right hand pinky keys are fine.

It's a heavy beast but still comfortable to hold and play. The tone holes have rolled rims and all seem to seal properly, even after its trip across the Atlantic. I really like the silver plate finish.

The horn blows beautifully from bottom to top. I've never played an SML before, but the sound is lovely: slightly similar to my MkVI but with distinct differences. Easy at the bottom, clear at the top and a big sound throughout. Intonation seems to be good as well.

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I like that ball joint idea on the key cups, i guess you can pop the cups off as and when they need repadding so not disturbing anything else...neat!

All you need now is a decent Lawton 8*BB and away you go.

And the burning question I'm sure everyone wants to know, but are to polite to ask? yeah that one, come on...
I love SMLs...
What is that connection between body and bell I see in the pictures. Just an optical effect?
Is the "Variklappen" the sealing system you describe?
I’ve met Leopold last year at the Musikmesse, his approach is pretty radical and his work fantastic. He actually would do custom work on any good quality horn that you bring to him. Not cheap. He was also interested in buying body tubes from a friend of mine but unfortunately for a factory it is too complicated to attend to the kind of orders that he would want to place .
I love SMLs...
What is that connection between body and bell I see in the pictures. Just an optical effect?
Is the "Variklappen" the sealing system you describe?

I saw that too! Why?

Lot's of interesting technical details on the SML and The Martin Tenor on Kondratov website.

Rhys; a very nice sax. A player and a looker! SML are great saxes. The tube/bore is big , like Kings (H.N. White).

The system involved is one that I'm sure any body with an engineering background when thy start playing the sax would immediately consider as a great improvement to the sealing of the tone holes which surprises me that non of the big manufacturers have included it in their designs as it basically negates the need for laborious levelling of the pads on instalation
I love SMLs...
What is that connection between body and bell I see in the pictures. Just an optical effect?
Is the "Variklappen" the sealing system you describe?

The connection is a Selmer-style three point ring between the body and the bell. It fixes to the body tube at the same position as the new ring where the 'cut and shut' took place, so it does look a bit busy there.

I noticed that there is a number stamped on the octave thumb lever, so I guess that is from the source of the keywork, whatever that was.

Here is what Leopold's own website says (in English-ish) about the mechanism:

The new mechanics for saxophone Varioklappen- Mechanik was developed to make the adjustment of pads as precise and simple as possible. In the Varioklappen- Mechanik keys are attached to the mechanics with a ball joint. If a key is closed, it will automatically adapt to the ideal position to close the tone hole. Then the key can be fixed in this position by fastening a screw in the ball joint.

° The pressure point for closing is exactly in the middle of the key and therefore extremely precise
° Pads can be changed without demounting the mechanics. Keys can be clipped on and off easily
° The adjustment of the pads can be done faster, easier and more precise. Special tools are not necessary
° All types of pads can be used
° Because of the very easy and fast adjustment of the keys, unusual materials as silicone and rubber can be used for the pads
° The Varioklappen- Mechanik can be played with fixed as well as with movable attachment of the keys to the mechanics


PS I'm thinking of taking it down to Steve Howard's for a technician's view of the sax and a player's view of its sound. He's not one for gimmicks, but is always interested in unusual stuff.
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What is that connection between body and bell I see in the pictures. Just an optical effect?

Had another look at the pics on Leopold's website. I think what you are seeing near the body to bell brace are two of the bumpers that limit the travel when the low Bb and B keys are open.

On most saxes, the keys that are normally open (e.g. the low C, B, Bb) have their opening travel limited by a felt bumper on the key guard.

On Leopold's design the key guards are more open (just protecting around the sides but not on top). So instead of felt bumpers that push against the key cup itself, there is an arm somewhere else that finishes in a felt pad that presses on the saxophone's body. For the low B and Bb these stops are high up on the rods and press against the bell. So from the side they appear close to the body to bell brace.

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