Sensual Sax For iOS

Can the Sensual Sax for iOS really replace the saxophone?

By now most of you know that my predilections for saxophone tends to lean towards the vintage side. What I am writing about today is so new that is makes brand new saxophones look like antique doorstops, but does it really replace them?

King Zephyr, tenor saxophone, doorstop

My beloved tenor (a 1950 Zephyr) now just merely a doorstop???

Embertone has an app for iPad and iPhone that lets you simulate a smooth jazz alto saxophone sound. How does this app do? Surprisingly well, but at its lower “sexy” settings it sounds very midi to me.

Check out the informational video below and see what I mean…

So what do you think? Sound like processed alto sound to you? It kinda’ does to me. However, if you compare it to a real smooth jazz alto player, it does fall short…

Yes, comparing Sensual Sax for iOS to David Sanborn is perhaps not the fairest comparison in the world, but let’s face it: there really is no comparison. Sanborn is a rock star. On the other hand, no one will be lifting up a phone in lighter mode for an ersatz sax solo played by a keyboard player using the Sensual Sax for iOS app. Just saying…

If one overlooks the sound differences (which may well be by uninformed audiences during a short solo or for backing tracks) then the features of this app should make even the most experienced and capable saxophone player shudder. Sensual Sax for iOS continues the trend that started decades ago when synthesizers first started mimicking the sounds of other instruments.

Saxophone players have long known the adage, last hired first fired, to be true. This saxophone app perpetuates this truism by allowing bands to bypass hiring saxophone players altogether.

Want a short sax solo, why hire a player? If you do, then you have to continue to pay them whenever you play that tune, or you have to drop their solo. Bands for years have been re-jigging their arrangements so that they don’t have to pay an extra sideman to come on tour with them, or to play smaller venue shows. This app just makes it easier for bands not to hire that sideman to begin with.

Sensual Sax For iOS, app, screen shot

Now nothing in the demo for the Sensual Sax app indicates that it does anything other than alto sax. I wonder if the keyboard player plays lower or higher on the keys if they then simulate a tenor, bari, or even a soprano sound. If so, I guess for $4.99 it is about the cheapest way on the planet to get multiple sax voices. Even for one or two altos, it’s a freaking bargain.

Speaking of bargains, for that $4.99, the Sensual Sax for iOS app comes with the following features:

  • MIDI input / output
  • IAA
  • Audio Unit 3
  • Audiobus
  • True legato sampling for realistic note transitions
  • Three sets of articulations
  • 600+ recorded samples

Hope you don’t have too much money tied up in gear, because this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. As technology improves, this true legato sampling will likely be coming to a band near you—and it won’t stop with saxophones either. Eventually real instruments will go the way of the dodo bird, and e-instruments will be all that’s available.

Guess you should have listened to your parents and taken those piano lessons as a small child, huh?

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2017, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.


  1. Appreciate this article and the comments below it! As the developer of this product, I sincerely hope it would never replace a live player, for the following reasons:

    (1) It could never even approach the emotion and quality a live player brings. Not even by a million miles
    (2) Even as a virtual instrument, it is meant as a novelty — something cheesy and fun
    (3) It is also meant to recreate a verrrrry specific style of saxophone playing… Namely, the “Careless Whisper”, 80’s pop variety.

    Happy New Year to all!


  2. Lets have a gelukkig nieuwjaar, in which our saxophones will not be used as doorstops.
    Most people can not hear much difference between an alt-saxophone and the best imitation.
    But they still feel a difference.

  3. Although you’ll need a laptop to run it, rather than a phone, Mr. Sax T (the only one I own, though the same is probably true for S, A, and B) is much more convincing. Learn to control it properly and it works well enough. At least I think so, but you can decide.

    Here’s the trick: You kind of have to play the instrument to some degree to understand what its idioms are. Only then can you really hope to emulate that instrument properly. This means the laptop is more likely to replace one or multiple instruments in the keyboardist’s “sideboard” rather than a separate player.

    (If you’re wondering how I get any other size sax out of Mr. Sax T, two words. Pitch. Shifter.)

  4. First of all let me wish you a belated HAPPY NEW YEAR, thanks for this post .In my humble opinion this app will not be a serious threat to sax players as it falls short of reproducing the real sound .I had an ARP Pro Soloist Monophonic synthesizer back in 1976 but the sax sound was really synthetic .The closest KEYBOARD instrument to duplicate he sax sound was the MELLOTRON which had tapes of pre recorded sounds of various instruments and it would re play those sounds when needed .The sounds were stored in tapes so it was in analogue format.There are plenty of duos and trios that use electric keyboards and they may find this useful.I play solo sax with acking tracks and I get the gigs because they want to see and hear me play sax live .People would rather see and hear a sax player doing his thing live so I dont think that this is going to be a threat to us .BTW I have bought another vintage HOHNER PRESIDENT Tenor in fine condition from Germany as well as a vintage TONE KING Tenor also in fine condition and very much similar to the HOHNER . All the best .

  5. Ein Frohes Neues Jahr. I’m not sure if an adult rock/soul audience would approve with some nerd on stage playing on an I-phone. The sound/articulation is impressive (with the sex button to the max)but I prefer an even less cunning player (like me, haha) on stage.
    Viele Grüße aus Berlin

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