Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature Review

Today, I am reviewing a beautiful new saxophone ligature I received from Jack Finucane at the Boston Sax Shop.  It is the Boston Sax Shop Superlative Sax Ligature for hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces.

I have reviewed a number of Boston Sax Shop products on this site in the past and have written about Jack Finucane a number of times as well.  Jack is the sax repair technician that I choose to take my horns to when they need some tender loving care. (Jack learned his saxophone repair skills by working side by side with my old repairman and friend, Ernie Sola, who sadly passed away a number of years ago) It’s an eight hour roundtrip drive down to Boston and back from Vermont but it is worth it for me to make sure my horns are taken care of the way that I like them to be.

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

Every time I have have talked with Jack, I am struck by his focus and attention to excellence and quality.  He puts a ton of time and thought into each product that he has introduced to the saxophone market whether it be a reed case, saxophone neck, saxophone reeds, neck strap or a saxophone ligature.  Jack’s top concern, is creating an exceptional product that is of the highest standards.

The BSS Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature is another product created with these high standards in mind.  The Superlative saxophone ligature is three things: beautiful, functional and simple.

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

Here is the description of the Boston Sax Shop Superlative Sax Ligature from the Boston Sax Shop website:

The impetus for Superlative Ligature literally started as a midnight sketch on the back of a cocktail napkin at the NAAM show in 2018. I wanted to create something solid, practical, vintage inspired and a yet fresh offering for saxophone players. The design language draws from my favorite three ligatures from the past: The Selmer ‘2 Screw’, Magnitone and Harrison. The result of 2 years of prototyping and listening to the feedback of some of the most notable saxophonists in the world is the Superlative Ligature. It features a single piece body design made up of 3 distinct radiuses that allow for plenty of reed/mouthpiece vibration while being solid and stable fitting on the mouthpiece. The laser cut reed contact plate grips evenly while giving the middle section of the reed room to breathe, as this is a common area for a new reed to swell, creating the optimum seal. The two screw inverted orientation is simple and ergonomic.

The ‘hand finished’ option involves adding a jewelry technique finish called stippling to the outside of the ligature. Each one is individual and personally done by myself.  -Jack Finucane

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

The Superlative sax ligature is first of all beautiful!  It comes in six finishes that you can choose from which include raw brass, 18k gold and silver plated.  Besides having these three finishes to choose from, you can also choose to have your ligature come with a “stippled” finish as in the photo below.  Jack describes this as “The ‘hand finished’ option involves adding a jewelry technique finish called stippling to the outside of the ligature. Each one is individual and personally done by myself.”

I really like the “stippled” look as it makes the ligature even more beautiful in my opinion.  It looks like a beautiful piece of fine jewlery!

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

Secondly, the Superlative ligature is functional.  It is a simple two screw design that will not slide or move once tightened.  It holds the reed on the mouthpiece which is the bottom line goal of any ligature.

I personally like the two screw design as I like to adjust the tightness of the rear screw or front screw to fine tune the response and playability of the reed.  Usually, if I want to get a bigger more spread sound, I feel like loosening the front screw a tad will free up the reed just enough to get a bigger and wider tone.

Sometimes, if I feel the tone of a reed is too spread or wild, I will tighten the front screw to clamp down the reed a little bit more.  I feel like this gives me a more focused and compact sound.

You might disagree with my views on the effects of the screws on a ligature, but I encourage you to experiment with these two screws yourself and see if you can notice any difference.

 

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

Thirdly, the Superlative ligature is simple!  For a gigging sax player, this is a huge plus for a ligature.  I can’t tell you the frustration I have had in dark nightclubs with complex ligature designs.  It’s one thing in a well lit room at home to put on a reed with a complex ligature but in a dark nightclub room it can be awful.

The BSS Superlative ligature is easy to see and the simple design makes it easy to put on and take off.  More importantly, once the ligature is on, it will not move when you are adjusting your mouthpiece for tuning or putting on a mouthpiece cap.

The Superlative ligature fits easily on all of my hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces.  Jack has made the screws so that the ligature can be opened wider to fit on a fat hard rubber Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece or tightened down to fit on a slightly more narrow hard rubber tenor mouthpiece like a D’Addario tenor sax mouthpiece or Vandoren V16 tenor sax mouthpiece.

I love the extra long screws because it gives a lot of flexibility to the ligature and if the metal of the ligature were to stretch over time, there is so much room with the screws that you won’t be in danger of running out of room for the screws to tighten more.

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

The Superlative sax ligature has a reed plate that sits on the reed and according to BSS, “The laser cut reed contact plate grips evenly while giving the middle section of the reed room to breathe, as this is a common area for a new reed to swell, creating the optimum seal.”

I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of this oval cutout in the reed plate or the description above but it does sound good to me.  I personally do not like ligatures that hold the reed on the outside edges of the reed only.  The Rovner Platinum ligature is one ligature that does this and it always seems to give me a “hollowness” to the tone that I don’t like.

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

The Superlative ligature reed plate is narrow enough that the outside edges of the reed are not clamped down as you can see in the photo below.  I also like that you can see the reed plate while placing the ligature on the reed so you can make sure it is lined up with the center of the reed also.

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

The reed plate is the only part of the ligature that is in contact with the reed.  The metal band of the ligature does not touch the side corners of the reed as you can see in the photo below.  In my mind, this allows more of the reed to vibrate and respond which will produce a more lively sound.

The BSS logo on the front of the ligature makes centering the ligature much easier as you can use the logo to judge how centered the ligature is on the reed.

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

I know most of the sax players who are reading this will want to know of the sonic effects and incredible benefits of using this BSS Superlative ligature over all other ligature and sadly, I am not going to address that today.  All I can say is that I love how the Superlative ligature looks!  I love how simple and reliable it is!  Lastly,  I used it with the above Saxquest Core tenor mouthpiece and I absolutely loved my saxophone tone, sound and response.  Those three things make me very happy so in my mind, the BSS Superlative ligature gets a thumbs up from me!!

As far as comparing it sonically to every other ligature on the market, that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  You can also read my blog articles on “What difference does the ligature make?”  Part 1 and Part 2 for more information on the effects of ligatures…….

Boston Sax Shop Superlative Tenor Saxophone Ligature

If you are interested in the beautiful Boston Sax Shop Superlative tenor saxophone ligature, you can get one at the Boston Sax Shop website.  Thanks to Jack Finucane for creating another fabulous product for the saxophone community and thank you for sending me one of these Superlative ligatures to review.

Disclosure:  I received the product reviewed above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review products that I believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     Steve
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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Avatar Mark Rybiski says

    I have a plain 18K model for several weeks now that I have used on a variety of HR pieces. Something interesting for me is I like placing the ligature more forward on the mouthpiece. Most other ligatures I place more toward the middle of the reed table. I think this may be due to the length of area the ligature covers. I also won’t get too much into the sound other than I can play the range of the horn with all notes speaking clearly at all dynamic ranges with what I feel is improvement.

  2. I have a plain 18K model for several weeks now that I have used on a variety of HR pieces. Something interesting for me is I like placing the ligature more forward on the mouthpiece. Most other ligatures I place more toward the middle of the reed table. I think this may be due to the length of area the ligature covers. I also won’t get too much into the sound other than I can play the range of the horn with all notes speaking clearly at all dynamic ranges with what I feel is improvement.

    Hmmm, Interesting! Many times I push the ligature back towards the butt of the reed when I feel like the reed could respond better or needs to be freed up a bit. I wonder if that oval in the reed plate allows the reed to be freed up even when the ligature is more forward on the reed? I will experiment with that as well…..Thanks Mark!

  3. Avatar Grahame Easthope says

    I have one. Silver plated. No stippling. It’s wonderful.
    The end.

  4. It took me a couple days to find the sweet spot.

  5. Avatar Bob Rockwell says

    I am very happy with mine and it fit every mouthpiece i have except(and I think this is funny) my ebonite Berg Larsen. Probably because no one plays them anymore.

  6. I haven’t played one as I play a metal FL Otto Link. But this is interesting because if you read Paul Harr’s review of this lig in the current edition of Saxophonist.org magazine you will get an entirely different slant on this ligature. One thing that turns me off is the price. It is over a hundred bucks. I use a metal Silver Selmer lig on my metal Otto Link. It is functional, holds the reed securely and gives the sound a boost. I love it and the price is well under a hundred bucks. But each to their own.

  7. Larry, I’m curious what Paul’s review says that is an entirely different slant. I basically say it is beautiful, functional and simple. Does Paul disagree? Thanks, Steve

  8. I have, like many players, tried dozens of ligatures with a variety of mouthpieces…some “ok”, others good, and a select few, great! I thought I was already using the best lig available with the Silverstein but my plain brass BSS ligature provides the most consistent response, color, and consistency of any tenor ligature I’ve EVER used! Thanks for a masterful product Jack!

  9. I have an 18k I use on a Navarro HR. The Navarro is very lean and has been hard to match to a ligature but it seems to work pretty well. I do find I like it pushed back further to free up the reed though. I have tried a few ligatures with this setup, including an echo brass, an Ishimori, and a Winslow. It is very comparable to the Ishimori while having a slight darken effect comparatively.

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