When Adolphe Sax invented a brass woodwind instrument in the 1840s, he surely didn’t realize that its volume would annoy housemates and neighbors of saxophonists for all time.

“It’s a difficult instrument to mute. Over the years there have been some funny attempts to mute it, not very successfully,” says Michael Simkin, marketing director for the Emeo Team of Israel.

Emeo aims to solve that problem with the first digital practice sax in the world. This cutting-edge instrument allows saxophonists to practice anytime, anywhere via MIDI-USB or Bluetooth connections to computers or smartphones. (MIDI stands for musical instrument digital interface.)

If used with headphones, Emeo can’t be heard by anyone else. If used with speakers, the volume can be adjusted according to preference.

The product launch on July 3 wasn’t purposely timed to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic but it certainly worked to the company’s advantage.

“Everyone is home these days, and practicing the saxophone is so loud it drives everyone crazy,” says Simkin.

The company was founded by professional saxophonist, composer and teacher Oleg Raskin; sound engineer Evgeny Klukin;  and Eddie Gofman, owner of The Woodwind Lab in Tel Aviv.

“The Emeo has the look and feel of a real saxophone, which means it can be picked up and played straight away by sax players,” said Raskin. “As a digital wind controller, the Emeo can produce an infinite number of different sounds. It can also be played with or without a mouthpiece and without blowing at all.”

The instrument was also developed by electronic engineer and software developer Andrey Kustenko and jazz saxophone recording artist Makar Kashitsyn.

It is intended not as a replacement for conventional saxophones, but rather as the first of Emeo’s planned range of digital practice horns.

The Emeo Team, from left: Michael Simkin, Andrey Kustenko, friend and design consultantIlya Yakovlev, Oleg Raskin, Eddie Gofman, Evgeny Klukin. Photo: courtesy

“The founders don’t quite know why no one else did this first,” Simkin tells ISRAEL21c. “There are other MIDI wind controllers but nothing with an authentic sax mechanism apart from a very expensive concert instrument.”

The 4-kilo (8.8-pound) Emeo costs $1,550 and comes with accessories such as a protective case, neck strap, USB cable and two mouthpieces. When played via Bluetooth connection, the battery lasts approximately six hours.

The Emeo digital practice saxophone. Photo by Ilya Yakovlev

Currently, customers are pre-ordering with a $300 deposit, balance due at shipping. The first batch is expected to go out at the end of August.

“We are a small Israeli company with no track record and yet we presold nearly all the existing stock within days,” said Simkin, without quantifying that amount.

The self-funded startup is doing all the assembly by hand in Tel Aviv.

“Because each instrument takes a long time to assemble, for now they are sold only through our website. If we succeed, we would like to have them available eventually through a global dealer network,” he explained.

Simkin pledged that when the pandemic is finally behind us, “we will be making a party to give Israel’s saxophone players a chance to play the Emeo.”

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