One Ligature to Rule Them All? Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature Review

Today, I am reviewing the new Roberto’s Winds Uovo {woh-voh} tenor saxophone ligature for metal tenor saxophone mouthpieces.  The Uovo ligature is advertised by Roberto’s as being “the only tenor saxophone ligature designed to generate sympathetic resonance, enriching the harmonic palette to enable your very best sound.  It opens up, enriches, and projects its sound in a way that you’ll immediately fall back in love with your favorite metal Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece.  The completely unique contact points on the plate send vibrations to the shell, a resonating acoustic chamber that intensifies the depth and body of harmonics.”  Whew!  I can’t even begin to understand what that means……  It does sound good though, doesn’t it?  One ligature to rule them all kind of vibe to it……. Cool!

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature

A few months ago,  Roberto’s Winds reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a revolutionary new ligature for metal tenor saxophone mouthpieces (including metal Otto Link tenor sax mouthpieces) that they had been working on.  I responded like any sax player would when approached about a way to make their saxophone playing better by buying something,  “Sign me up!   I would love to try it out!”

The Uovo ligature came in the mail and when I opened up the package my first thought was, ” Holy Cow!  How much did Roberto spend on merchandising?”  This ligature was packaged as well as any Apple product I have ever bought! (That means it is packaged with an amazing attention to detail and excellence…..)   First of all, the packaging this Uovo ligature comes in is exceptional.  It is just really solid.  The whole box and the detailed graphics on every side of the box just speak to the quality of this product.

When you slide the cover off of the box, the ligature is nesting inside a cradle as if it is the last dragon egg in Game of Thrones.  The cradle for the ligature can be pulled out with two golden loops on either side and the bottom of that section is a firm black protective foam rubber type material.  I was halfway expecting to see the newest iPhone in there somewhere.  Below that, is what looks like a red “Uovo” silk swab and hidden under that is an expensive looking full color pamphlet that is 12 two sided pages long.  Again, top notch, vivid photographs, QR code you can scan to get to a video tutorial and in-depth directions, and detailed diagrams about the Roberto’s Winds Uovo saxophone ligature.

Underneath the Uovo pamphlet is a treasure trove of bonus goodies that include a cool red mouthpiece cap, red false reed, a couple of tools to change the reed plates and three more reed plates made of Vibranium, Adamantium and Kryptonite.  OK, sorry, I was joking about the metals,  the four reed plates consist of two brass plates and two sterling silver plates.

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature

Now, at this point, the number one question in my mind was, “How much is this ligature going to cost?”  I sent Roberto’s an email and they responded, “It will be sold at a retail price of 425.00” .  After cleaning up my coffee I spit all over my computer screen when I read this, I emailed back that they might have an issue with that price point.  One, because that price is high for a ligature but two, because of the countless internet trolls skulking around the internet waiting for a cause to jump on.  And besides Kenny G, no subject causes quite as much raw emotion to sax players as the subject of expensive saxophone ligatures……..

*At this point, I want to add that since that time, Roberto’s Winds has added a few different pricing options when buying the Uovo ligature that you can see at the bottom of this review so don’t fret or get out your internet troll cloak and torches just yet.

Here is the response I received back from Tom at Roberto’s Winds in response to the price:

The price is well justified for a number of factors: 

1)  This manufacturing process has never been applied in the history of ligature making, and it is very expensive. We are using the world’s absolute best high resolution 3D Printers ( each machine is over $120,000) to manufacture high precision waxes, which are then cast in one piece and worked/finished by hand (There is a lot of craftsmanship labour required behind it). This allows us to make a ligature with absolutely no solder out of an extremely resonant material in a shape that is so complex, acoustically studied and tested that no other maker has ever thought of coming close to something like it.

Even the plates, if you look at them,  have a very complex structural shape and precision, I don’t know of any other ligature plate with contact points perfectly matching the contour of the reed!

2) It is a new ”revolutionary” patented design with a new headless screw mechanism, plate shape and cap!

3) Two plates are made of sterling silver which is a precious metal and there are many other accessories offered in the whole package.

4) There is no other universal, adaptable ligature for metal Otto Link’s quirks, which are inconsistent and asymmetrical. It took Roberto and I over two years to model, design and test all the different prototypes and variants of the shell and the plates before coming out with this one, which solves the problem of a ligature fitting a metal Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece.

Tom at Roberto’s Winds did a great job explaining the reasoning behind the higher price tag and I did recognize that Roberto’s Winds must have put a ton of time and money into the development and creation of this Uovo ligature so I needed to spend some time with this baby and see what it could do.

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature Extra Goodies

The Roberto’s Winds Uovo ligature body feels very light as you hold it in your hand.  At first, the lack of weight made me think that it was perhaps made of plastic but upon closer inspection and seeing how hard the walls of the body are, I realized that it is metal.  Roberto’s Winds informed me that it was bronze. The lightness is due to the fact that the ligature is not a solid mass but the outer shell has a hollow cavity behind the outer shell.  This is described as a “resonating acoustic chamber” on the Roberto’s Winds website.

Here is a quote from Roberto’s about the bronze used for the Uovo ligature: “There are many different types of bronze and brass, generally bronze is an alloy of mostly copper and tin.  Brass is mostly copper and zinc. This bronze alloy has a higher content of copper than brass, but it’s harder, which translates into a more resonant sturdy object. Think about the Tibetan Bells… they are made of bronze.”

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature Brochure (12 two-sided pages) 

The Roberto’s Winds Uovo ligature is a slide on ligature and if you have read my past reviews, you know that I really don’t care for slide on ligatures because they are usually not adjustable.  Where they slide and are tight, is where the ligature needs to go and that is the only option.  I hate that!  I mess with my ligatures a lot and it is not uncommon to see me moving it forward, backward, loosening it, tightening it, etc….. (I also experiment with moving my reed backwards or forwards at times to see if I can improve its response and sound).  All these adjustments make subtle differences (sometimes huge differences) in how the reed responds and sounds for me.  Luckily, the Uovo ligature is not like all the other slide on saxophone ligatures I have tried, it is adjustable!  That was a great design decision!

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature on Florida Otto Link

At the bottom of the Uovo ligature is a floating reed plate that is held on by an adjustable screw that can be turned to raise the reed plate higher or lower. This adjustment screw is important because it varies how far forward or backward the ligature will slide on to the mouthpiece.  This adjustment screw also allows the Uovo ligature to fit on a variety of different size metal tenor sax mouthpieces which is a big selling point for the Uovo saxophone ligature.  I tried it on most of the metal tenor sax mouthpieces I have here and it fit perfectly on all of them.  The biggest test was seeing if it worked on a metal Phil Barone tenor sax mouthpiece I have.  The Barone tenor mouthpiece has a radically different body angle that can make putting a ligature on it tricky.  To my surprise, the Uovo worked perfectly on my Barone SNY tenor sax mouthpiece and held the saxophone reed just as well as on a metal Otto Link mouthpiece body.

I will add this helpful tip as I write about adjusting the Uovo ligature: Read the informational pamphlet that comes with the ligature!  I glossed over it and went a month having to look for a screwdriver every time I wanted to adjust the ligature.  The pamphlet very clearly tells you how to adjust the height of the reed plate by just putting your finger on the adjustment screw and turning the ligature either clockwise to lower the plate or counter clockwise to raise the plate.  When I saw that the other day, I felt pretty stupid…….

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature on Florida Otto Link (notice the gap at the crest of the ligature for the Otto Link top ridge)

The Uovo ligature stays on the mouthpiece firmly when slid on tight to the reed but I was careful when adjusting the mouthpiece to grip the body of the mouthpiece rather than the body of the ligature to avoid mistakenly moving it. On a metal Otto Link, the Uovo has the added benefit of fitting around the top ridge of the Otto Link mouthpiece (photo above) which helps to stabilize the ligature and make it even more secure. When slid down tightly on a mouthpiece that isn’t an Otto Link, the ligature is pretty darn secure on the mouthpiece as well. I am testing it on a metal tenor mouthpiece without a ridge right now and it is not moving at all.

One cautionary note:  When using the red mouthpiece cap that is included, make sure you hold the ligature in place when pulling the cap off.  The red cap is design to surround the egg shape of the ligature so the cap stays on firmly but one time, I pulled the cap off, and the ligature came with the cap as I pulled it off the mouthpiece.  The fix is to simply be aware of this and hold the ligature in place while removing the cap.

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature on Florida Otto Link

The Roberto’s Winds Uovo ligature only makes contact with the mouthpiece on the reed, through the floating reed plate (photo above), and at the top of the mouthpiece.  In the photo below, you can see the “resonating acoustic chamber”.  That hollow chamber looks to travel all around the circumference of the mouthpiece body.  The design of this Uovo ligature really is quite impressive and futuristic in the way it looks.

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature with the Sterling Silver Reed Plate

The Roberto’s Winds Uovo ligature comes with four reed plates as I mentioned earlier. I have not done intensive testing of the reed plates but just switched out the brass plate for the sterling silver plate to see if I could hear or feel a difference.  To be honest, the hardest part about any kind of sensory differences when testing ligatures is that every time you put on a ligature, there are changes in how the reed is being held on to the mouthpiece.  That is why I mess with my ligature so much, because when it is tighter, there is a change, when it is loosened, there is a change, when it is further back on the reed, there is a change, etc…… So bottom line, when I put the sterling silver plate on, I did like it over the brass plate BUT I don’t know if that was just because of the different factors of how I put the ligature on that one time or because of the sterling silver plate.  Instead of driving myself crazy by constantly switching up the plates, I decided to just leave the sterling silver plate on the ligature for the remainder of my testings.

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature Reed Plate Height Adjustment Screw

I did ask Tom at Roberto’s Winds about the differences between the four plates and here is his response:

Basically the plates are of two types offered both in Bronze and Silver for a total of four plates. They are all unplated, like the egg shaped shell.

The sterling silver plates have the same shape and dimensions as the bronze ones but since sterling silver is about 20% more dense than bronze, the silver ones are heavier. Besides the weight difference and different degree of resistance,  sterling silver changes the resonance as it provides a cleaner more focused ”noble” sound. 

The difference between the two types/shapes is that  the one with thinner central contact ridges feels lighter and more free blowing than the one with the thicker ridges, which gives more resistance to the playing experience. 

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature on a Shizhao Pilgrimage (same diameter as a Guardala mouthpiece)

Now, we are at the point in the review where I talk about my subjective experience and opinion.  I’m not going to address all the scientific claims and premises of how this ligature works because I went to Berklee College of Music and not MIT across the river in Cambridge, MA.  Although I find all that stuff interesting to listen to up to a point, I then start either falling asleep or losing my temper because I don’t understand what is being said.  At that point, I usually will interrupt and loudly question, “What does it do?” and “Does it work?”. I don’t really care about how it works or why it works as much as I care about  “Does it work?”.

Remember, I am the guy who reviewed the Just Joe’s neck straps and wrote that there was a difference in sound between the metal hook and the plastic hook (I still stand by that observation) and received a lot of flack for that opinion.  I’m the same guy that wrote that I noticed a difference when using the Buzz screw and I received a lot of flack for that opinion.  I could list many more examples including many ligatures I have reviewed but at the end of the day, all I can do is pass on my subjective opinions and experiences.  What you do with those is your decision.

So now, I will give my opinion on the Roberto’s Winds Uovo ligature:  I have play tested and trialed the Uovo ligature back and forth between multiple ligatures I have at least 20-30 times and every time except one I felt like the Uovo was superior than the other ligatures.  One time I felt like there was no difference whatsoever between it and my Selmer Silver 404 silver ligature but then I switch it back again and did notice a noticeable difference so I tend to think something was off with that one test (maybe the reed had moved on me or something……).  These were not blind tests so I know some of you will dismiss my findings as biased and I won’t totally rule that out.  When you hear and feel a difference a number of times, you start to believe more and more that there is a difference so then, when you put the ligature on, you start expecting the difference.

Right now, I am taking a break from typing this review to go downstairs and play test the ligature again just to make sure……………. I’ll be back shortly……..

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligatureon a Barone Mouthpiece-The True Test!

Yep, same results.  My preferred ligature on an Otto Link metal tenor sax mouthpiece for the last 20 years has been a silver Selmer 404 ligature.  I have repeatedly come back to this ligature for every Otto Link metal tenor sax mouthpiece I have played.  When compared to the Roberto’s Winds Uovo ligature the Selmer 404 ligature seems thinner and less substantial in tone to me.  Especially in the upper register palm keys and altissimo range.  The Uovo ligature seems to give the tone around the entire sax a more complex and full tone to my ears.  Also, with the Uovo ligature, the response between the notes seems smoother to me and the notes seem more grounded to me.  What I mean by that, is that the notes seem more solid and full.  Like they have a firmer foundation of sound.  The low notes seem thicker and fuller as well when compared to my Selmer 404 ligature.

I play tested the Uovo ligature against my Selmer 404, a fabric Rovner, a Vandoren V16 Optimum, an Otto Link ligature (I have always hated these…..) and a Francois Louis Optimum ligature.

For those that are curious, here were my impressions of the other ligatures I tried when A/B testing.

  • Selmer 404 Ligature-brighter tone but thinner tone (Especially on certain notes on the horn). High notes and altissimo can get a bright, thin, edginess to them at times.
  • Vandoren Optimum Ligature-more centered and focused tone. Neutral tone in my opinion
  • Rovner Fabric Ligature-more spread and darker tone.  Sounded dulled to me. Response seemed more mushy and not as clean.
  • Francois Louis Ultimate Ligature-nice clear and clean tone. Rich but seemed darker like it has less brightness but seemed more focused than the other ligatures.
  • Otto Link Ligature-nice tone but the notes seemed more unstable to me.  A couple times a note broke on me. The ligature was hard to work with. When tightening the screw the plate kept turning on the reed.
  • Uovo Ligature-I thought this had the biggest tone that was rich, full and fat sounding. I think the fatter tone is what gives me the impression of smoothness when playing faster as the notes blend together instead of sounding like all separate notes.  Not as many highs as the Selmer 404 but it didn’t have the thinness of the Selmer 404 ligature either.  The high notes were more round and fat,  the Selmer 404 seemed thinner in tone up in that register.  The Uovo ligature did have more highs and brightness in the tone than the other ligatures tested (other than the Selmer 404) which I think gives the notes that “singing” quality while still retaining a fat round sound.

I know what you are thinking,  “Steve, post some sound clips!”  I have given up long ago on posting sound clips of ligatures.  There are so many differences between sound clips with just the way I play that any differences that are noticed could be the ligature or could just be me blowing a little harder, or supporting a little more, or nailing the low note a little better, etc…….   Besides all that, any perceived differences could be written off to the variable contact points on the reed or the variable pressures on the reed for each ligature.

Even with this conviction firmly in my head,  I did record a clip of me playing Body & Soul with all six ligatures.  I played a clip with the Uovo ligature at the beginning of the recording, then another clip with each of the other ligatures, and then a clip at the end of the recording with the Uovo ligature again.  These recordings solidified my convictions that the differences between ligatures can’t necessarily be captured in a recording.   Were there differences between each recording? Yes.  But, I even found differences between my first recording with the Uovo ligature and my last recording with the same Uovo ligature.  There are just too many variables going on while playing not to mention the reed getting softer while playing or the saxophone and mouthpiece warming up more and more as you play.

So for those reasons, I will not be posting sound clips but the findings and opinions I posted above are my over-all sense and feel of the differences I perceived as I played this Uovo ligature.

Roberto’s Winds Uovo Tenor Saxophone Ligature with Cap

If the Roberto’s Winds Uovo tenor saxophone ligature interests you, you can find them at the Roberto’s Winds Uovo Ligature Main Page $425.  Roberto’s Winds has also decided to give more options as far as prices for the Uovo ligature on these pages: Uovo Ligature with just the Brass Plate $295 and Uovo Ligature with just the Sterling Silver Plate $325.  ROBERTO’S WINDS HAS AGREED TO GIVE READER’S OF THIS REVIEW 5% OFF THE PURCHASE OF A UOVO LIGATURE IF YOU USE THE COUPON CODE STEVENEFF WHEN YOU CHECKOUT ON THEIR WEBSITE. (Neffmusic also gets a small commission from each sale using this coupon which helps support this website,  so thank you in advance if you use the coupon code).

I would suggest trying the Roberto’s Winds ligature for yourself and forming your own decision about it.  Whether it is worth the price tag is really only a question you can answer.  We might disagree on the effects of this ligature or whether it is worth the price tag but if you are lucky enough to hold a Uovo ligature and examine it for yourself, there is no arguing with the fact that it was designed with lots of thought and passion and is an extremely well made saxophone ligature.

If you try a Roberto’s Winds Uovo tenor saxophone ligature or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Lastly, here is an opinion about the Uovo ligature that was texted by Eric Alexander and was shared on Instagram over the last few days.  He seems pretty excited by it and he’s Eric Alexander so……….   check it out for yourselves. Thanks,   Steve

Eric Alexander’s Response to the Uovo Ligature

Disclosure: I received the sample Uovo ligature reviewed above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. I also receive a small commission when you purchase from the Roberto’s Winds website using the 5% off coupon code “STEVENEFF” above that helps to support this site. Regardless, I only review sax mouthpieces and saxophone gear that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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 Chris Mickel says

    I’ve heard about these ligatures. But, I’m happy with my gear, so I’m not really in a hurry to pick one up. But, I am curious. The thing is that I play a hard rubber mouthpiece, so it wouldn’t work anyway. Do you know if they have any plans to make them for hard rubber pieces, or other saxophones, or clarinet?

    • I haven’t heard that but you never know what they will do in the future. Maybe someone from Roberto’s Winds will pop in here and let us know……..

  2. Did you try them on any Theo Wanne mouthpieces?

    • Actually, no I didn’t. I tried it on a bunch of metal Otto Links including modern and vintage, a Shizhao Pilgrimage that is like a Guardala in diameter and a Barone SNY. I also tried it on an RSBerkeley Chris Potter metal mouthpiece. I’m sure it will work great on the Theo Wanne mouthpieces as they are a similar size and the Uovo is flexible as far as what size metal mouthpieces you can use on it.

  3. I think this ligature looks absolutely fantastic, I just can’t justify the price. However I recently got a couple of saxclinic ligatures helped by your review and loving them! Particularly for my Marantz Double Ring Legacy tenor piece.

    • Yes, those are great ligatures as well. This one is a totally different approach. Roberto’s Winds has me so interested and curious about the resonance chamber in the Uovo ligature. It really does seem like it has more resonance and body to me…….

      • I wonder if the resonance chamber provides feed back to the player, but perhaps nothing discernable to the listener?

  4. Avatar Mike McDonough says

    Birdwalk: I know Just Joe! Went to hight school with him and played in jazz band together. Does good work for public school music programs by putting on artist-series concerts. Pretty dang good alto player to boot! OK! I’m done!

  5. Avatar Vincent Gaglio says

    Any ligatures for Alto Saxophone

  6. Avatar Grant Koeller says

    We used to go to the hardware store and cut PVC tubing in 3/4 inch lengths. They were basically white plastic slip on ligatures in all sizes. You could customize the fit by adding rubber black electrical tape to the inside. Now, This new ligature is an adjustable slip on style, which no one has thought of before! So this is a massive breakthrough in saxophone and clarinet ligature design. Way to go!
    Grant “King” Koeller

  7. Avatar Giuseppe says

    For that price, although justified, I would give, in addition to the “egg”, also the bacon!
    But no, I’m a vegetarian …
    If allowed to joke.

  8. Thank you for the review Steve, you are one of my favorite players and reviewers. And I appreciate you being a straight-shooter on all of the products you review. Honestly, the optics of this ligature are a bit of challenge for me to get over, and I would have to A/B it next to my stalwart Selmer 404’s or Rico H’s to see how it sounds but $295 – $325 prices it too high for me, even with a 5% discount.

  9. Not only does it appear to be a “Rube Goldberg” approach to holding a reed on a mouthpiece, it also costs as much as the mouthpiece. Nothing like taking a simple task and making it more complex and expensive than it has to be.

  10. To me any lig comes in 3rd after reeds and mouthpiece. Did Bird or Lester worry about ligs?

  11. Avatar wilson costa MORAIS says

    Tudo isto é muito importante, são novidades precisamos sim disto. É muito importante, queria uma para o meu alto . Vamos sempre esperar grandes novidades a cada ano para a melhoria dos sons nos saxes.

    Google English Translation:

    All this is very important, they are news, we really need this. It is very important, I wanted one for my high. Let’s always expect great news every year for the improvement of the sounds in the saxes.

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