History Notes #05 : Radio Improved
« The third generation of the SELMER Super Sax has become known as the Radio Improved for an obvious reason : they all had the words Radio Improved, stamped on the bell, in English. The production ran from mid nineteen thirty four to late summer nineteen thirty five. This is one of the smallest identifiable production runs that SELMER produced.
For the alto there was a small carryover of the previous geared octave key, just for the first 50 or so instruments. So, collectors out there, look for a radio improved with a geared octave key, it's very rare. What happened at the beginning of the production was that they came up with a further improvement in the octave system. This is the only really identifiable major change that distinguishes the Radio Improved from the previous model. For alto there was about one thousand total production. The tenors actually had their first two production batches, about 70 instruments, with the geared octave mechanism, and then they switched over to the new mechanism as well. There's a total of just over five hundred tenor Radio Improved.
The baritones are even more interesting. There are two types. One is essentially the Super version and there's only 14 of those in existence. I'm lucky enough to own one of those and that was one of the reasons why I started doing Selmer History research, because at the time I was told the Radio Improved baritone did not exist, so I thought : there is something that I could learn. The second half of the baritone, 18 examples only, are actually more like early Balanced Action instruments. They have many of the improvements of the Balanced Action, the key being that the bell keys have been moved over to the right side. But these are still stamped as Radio Improved.
So why was the Radio Improved called Radio Improved ? Well, the answer seems probably pretty obvious. Radio had taken off. Jazz on the radio was the big thing. So any development that could be seen to be geared towards radio or more specifically to be an improvement for radio, for projection of the instrument, would obviously be of great interest to many players.
Even though the geared system was fantastic, the octave key system is an improved system. It's fast, it's very quiet. And so it would be able to play quick passages over the radio with a minimum of any noise.»