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Gearhead: Theo Wanne’s Innovative Mantra Tenor Saxophone

A spiritual sax that plays and sounds great and looks even better

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Theo Wanne Mantra tenor saxophone

When it comes to appearance versus function, most musicians I know, myself included, favor the latter. Some of us prefer an aged and weathered look to our instruments anyway, perhaps suggesting a link to musical history or providing proof that our horns are being put through their paces on the bandstand. Let’s face it-vintage is cool. That said, when this classic Mark VI owner took a look at Theo Wanne’s new Mantra tenor saxophone in its silver-plated finish, vintage didn’t seem so cool anymore. (Of course, Theo has you covered on all aesthetic fronts: I tested the silver-plated prototype, but the production models will also be available in Vintified, Black Nickel and standard Honey Lacquered versions.)

The mostly U.S.-made Mantra-$3,995 online-is a beautiful instrument, boasting a reticulated silver finish that is matte and satiny without evoking a high-end kitchen appliance. Its only engravings are of a woman in a flowing gown on the inside/center of the bell, right next to an Art-Deco-ish Theo Wanne logo on the outside. The relief on the prototype is very pronounced in the sharp corners of the engraved lines; it’s not going to snag a thread on your sweater or anything, but it could be filed down a hair. Its navy blue felts are an attractive touch, and they pair nicely with the neck plug, which is crafted from dark-stained Lacewood, complete with two black rubber gaskets to tighten the seal when in place.

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