Nov 19, 2019

A Tufts University Study of Cryogenic Treatment of Brass Instruments

Last week I ordered a copy of The Leak Light Speaks, by Tom Levitt, just because it looked like an interesting book. The subtitle reads, “Saxophone Purchase, Assessment, Set up, Repair, Overhaul, Customisation, Playing and Reflections on Jazz Education outside of Academia.” It’s a fun read for saxophonists; I’ll post a review sometime soon.

For now, though, I just want to put up a quick post about a study mentioned in the book's bibliography. It's a Tufts University project that attempted to determine whether or not cryogenically treating (i.e., supercooling) brass instruments has any effect on tone. The study used trumpets, but the results would apply to saxophones as well.

The study was done in 2003, but I hadn't seen it until now. Here's your executive summary:

Supercooling brass has no significant effect on tone. The researchers were careful to allow that there might be a subtle effect difficult to measure, but the approach and preparedness of the individual player are factors that far overshadow any effect that there might be from cryogenic treatment.

Click here for a link to the study itself.

Click here for a New York Times article on the study.

Here’s a previous post from this blog, with an informed opinion on this topic from a metals expert friend who is also a saxophonist.

It's a controversial subject. Many people apparently are convinced that cryogenic treatment somehow has a beneficial effect on tone. Antigua Winds and Forestone both offer models of saxophones with the selling pitch that the horns have been cryogenically treated. The 300 Below company not only will superfreeze musical instruments, but also offers cryogenically treated firearms. For details on all these products, just google "saxophones + cryogenic." This search will also take you to a long, snarky discussion on

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