Poll of 10 Alto Saxophone Mouthpieces

I decided to run a poll of 10 alto saxophone mouthpieces that I have on my shelf.  I’m having a heck of a time deciding which ones to sell and I figured it would help me to play them side by side and record them.  On all 10 clips I’m just playing a simple slow F blues (D for alto)  I’m trying to keep it relatively simple so the clips are similar.  Each one was with the same Java 2 1/2 reed and I was standing about 2 feet from the mic. Take a listen and let me know which one you like the best and help me decide. I haven’t even listened to these yet so I haven’t made a decision myself yet. All 10 mouthpieces play great for me but they all have slightly different characteristics to their sound. I could play any of them and be happy I think (well maybe not the Yamaha 4C……..). I’m doing this as a blind poll because I think when people see a name before they listen they go into it with a pre-conceived idea of what they will like before they even listen. The mouthpieces heard here are:

Theo Wanne Gaia HR 8

Theo Wanne Gaia HR 6

Greg Weir HR .080

LAW metal .080

Aizen .076

Mouthpiece Cafe NYC Resin 6

Phil-Tone Meyer 6

Drake Ceramic Jazz .080

Vandoren V16 Medium refaced to a long 23mm facing by Brian Powell

and just for kicks a Yamaha 4C.

Obviously,  I mixed up the order so they aren’t in this order but I thought you should know the mouthpieces.


Before you  judge which mouthpiece you like the best, try to not be too influenced by what I play in the clip.  Try to just listen to the sound and tone of the piece as well as the flexibility it has.  I will post the results and which mouthpiece is which after I get 200 votes.  I’m actually very curious how this will turn out and if all of you out there can tell which mouthpiece is which.   It’s pretty darn hard for me and I played them.
Listen………

NEW COMMENTARY  (After The End of the Poll)

Here’s the results of the alto saxophone mouthpiece poll.  I’m not sure what this will prove to any of us except that some people hear no difference at all between the clips while others do.  My personal favorite right now is the Gaia 8 and the LAW MCB.  I hardly ever play the LAW piece as I find it to be on the brighter side of the spectrum but I still love it for that kind of sound.  I’ve been playing the Theo Wanne Gaia 8 almost everyday for the last month.  The tip is at .086 which is bigger than I normally like but the sound of this piece is just huge.  I was hoping that the Gaia 8 would come in first and confirm my reasons for liking it but alas it was beat out  by a few others including the Yamaha 4C!  As far as the other results are concerned, I wouldn’t base your buying decisions on this poll.  Like many have posted, there can be many reasons one mouthpiece scored high while another scored lower.  Including movement around the mic or even what I played.  Also remember that many of these mouthpiece are pieces that I have had in my collection for years.  These are mouthpiece I have thought were the best I have tried so I kept them.  One of my personal favorites is the Vandoren V16 which I played for about a year and received all sorts of compliments on.  I was surprised to see that mouthpiece at the bottom of the poll.  The Yamaha 4C which you can get for 35.00 dollars last time I checked did rather well in the polls. I do have to admit that I had a lot of trouble getting a solid clip for that one since the tip opening was so small and I felt uncomfortable on it.  I had to record it about 10 times before I accepted this clip.  Anyways, I hope you had some fun listening to the clips.  I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.     Steve

Which alto mouthpiece clip do you like the best? (Poll Results)

  • LAW MCB 6* (22%, 33 Votes)
  • Theo Wanne HR Gaia 6 (18%, 27 Votes)
  • They all sound the same to me……….. (16%, 25 Votes)
  • Phil-Tone Meyer 6 (12%, 18 Votes)
  • Yamaha 4C (9%, 13 Votes)
  • Theo Wanne HR Gaia 8 (7%, 11 Votes)
  • Greg Wier HR 7M (5%, 7 Votes)
  • Drake Double-Ring Ceramic 5 (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Aizen HR 6 (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Mouthpiece Cafe NYC (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Vandoren V16 (Brian Powell Refaced) (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 152

Yamaha 4C


Aizen 6


Mouthpiece Cafe NYC 6


Drake Double-Ring Ceramic 5


Theo Wanne HR Gaia 6


Theo Wanne HR Gaia 8


Greg Wier HR 7M


LAW MCB 6*


Phil-Tone Meyer 6


Vandoren V16 (Brian Powell refaced)


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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 25 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. I can’t wait to see the results….

  2. Very nice post, but they all sound pretty similar to me =] you get a nice warm sound in all of them

  3. Hi Steve, great work, but you’d better to add a Meyer in the comparison istead than a Yamaha!!!

    Anyway I must advise you that I voted for n.7, but since I lestened them again and with more attention I’m sure I love best the number 8, hope you will let us know soon what do the numbers correspond to!!

    Hi and have a good time!!!

    David

  4. number 9 all the way!

  5. number 9 sounds like the aizen.. better not be the 4C hahaha

  6. There is a Meyer in there although it was refaced by Phil Engleman. It’s still a Meyer though………just much better now!

  7. Charles McNeal says:

    I like #1 and #8 the best with #8 getting a slight edge over #1. They all sound good though (didn’t like #5 as much). Again it just goes to show that good players can sound good on any decent set-up…(sshhh…mouthpiece makers don’t want that info getting out there)..smile.

  8. It’s really tough to give an opinion over 10 mouthpieces. Personnally I already find hard to have an opinion among 4 mouthpieces…
    It’s an excellent idea. It shows that the player does have his/her “sound” even changing the mouthpiece.
    However, listening several time those excerpts, some mouthpieces give brighter/darker sound, some are dry, other give warm low notes and smooth altissimo. The #9 has a nice balance, at first glance I also liked the #2 and #7…

  9. Dave Erato says:

    How do you decide that a Java 2.5 is the right reed for each mouthpiece? Obviously you do a lot of mouthpiece reviews, but given the various cuts and strengths, might it be possible some of these pieces might play/feel better with a different setup? For example, I just received a phil-tone Meyer 8 (.086), coming down from a Ponzol M2 100 (yup, .100). When the Meyer finally came, all I had was Java Red 2.5, and the mouthpiece didn’t play well. Slapped on a 3 of various types (was able to obtain 2 javas, zz, and v16) and they all play the mouthpiece infinitely better.

  10. For the Poll I used a 2 1/2 on every mouthpiece to keep it consistent. It was a bit soft on some mouthpiece but if I had switched then people would say they liked a certain mouthpiece because of the reed. On the other hand, now they could say they didn’t like a mouthpiece because the reed was softer. It’s a Catch-22. That being said, the mouthpiece that were near the top were the ones that the reed felt a bit soft to me. The Yamaha was really soft! The Aizen 6 and Meyer 6 were softer. The 2 1/2 reed was perfect on the rest. Especially the LAW and Aizen 8. I use Java’s because I like them the best. About 7 years ago I went to my local store and bought every brand of 2 1/2 and 3 reed they had. 2 of each. I spent about 150.00 if I remember correctly and had a whole bunch of reeds. (This store had a ton) I tried every single brand and the winner for me was the Java’s.

  11. Interesting to see the Yamaha score so high. But a major factor, besides sound, is how a mouthpiece feels for the player, and in that respect you’ve said it all.
    Also, often democracy and quality don’t go hand in hand. See, for example, some people’s choices for president, or how popular some saxophonists of very doubtful quality are. Maybe the LAW scored higher because that’s the kind of sound that most people love. Butit is a great mpc. no doubt about it. By the way, I still keep the alto LAW LCD that I bought from you, although I rarely play it, mostly because of the very small size of the beak, and also because I’m in love with my TW Gaia.

  12. Doron Orenstein says:

    I was surprised at how similar all of the mouthpieces sounded since I though the mouthpieces affect the sound most profoundly after reeds. I agree Steve about the 4c though, sounds a bit more constricted than the rest, so to me this is basically a backup mouthpiece for alto players to take on gigs.

  13. It’s amazing how similar they all sound. Probably this has to do with the way they were recorded. The mic used during recording and the speakers used during listening could alter the sound incredibly.

    Typically mics used for recording something for the internet and speakers people use when they listen at their computer aren’t very good… Most of the highs would go out the window to begin with. All those fine points we saxophonists listen for when we select our mp’s and reeds would not be audible.

    With (all of) that being said, the ones I liked the best were the Meyer, the 4c and the MP Cafe NYC 6.

    Thanks for the test and all the best,
    Dan G.

  14. Do you play any Jody Jazz mouthpieces?

  15. Nope, I’ve asked Jody a number of times to send me some mouthpieces to do reviews of but nothing has ever come of it. Oh well……………….

  16. David Martin says:

    Hi Steve,
    Really interesting thing to do. Sorry I missed the poll. From a listeners point of view I too found them
    very similar and I would not like to say one is better than another – small differences yes. I think the more important test is on your side of the sax. Which one(s) did you get on best with? By the way I play a Meyer 8 normally and when I try a 4C I describe it as “trying to blow through a fish’s asshole”. Thanks and cheers, David Martin

  17. I actually got on with all of them pretty nicely. Any would do for me I think except the 4C which was a bit like you described I imagine…………..One of my favorites is the V16 and that was in last place. I like the Gaia 6 a lot also and the LAW and those two were in first place.

  18. TOP 2 :

    1) GAIA 6
    2) Phil Tone Meyer 6

  19. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the 10 mouthpieces comparison. Personally I would perferred NYC cafe bros as what currently I am playing (NYC cafe bros 6 with hard rubber composite). Sound is mellow and nice but just an curious question, is what is your preference when comparing GW alto HR 6 versus Cafe bros alto 6? Which one you think will be near to ‘Meyer” sound? By the way, I’m using Yamaha 82Z, Rico Royal size 2 & 2 1/2 reed.

    Thanks in advance!
    Robby from Singapore

  20. I still have my NYC cafe mouthpiece. It is a great mouthpiece. I sold the GW a while ago. It was also great. It had a little more resistance to it than the NYC piece. It seems to me that they both have their own unique sound. If I had to compare to a Meyer I would say the GW is closer in sound. I prefered the NYC just because I liked a fatter darker sound than a Meyer at the time I bought it.

  21. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the quick response. Anyway my Yamaha 82Z alto already had resistance (maybe you can comment if you have tested this horn before) and no point of having a more resistance mpc which makes my playing even harder (correct me if I’m wrong). Anyway, I will stick to NYC cafe bros.

    Best regards
    Robby

  22. I do have two students that have Yamaha Z’s. They are more resistant than my Selmer Reference that is for sure. I didn’t really care for them when I tried them but that’s just me.

  23. Its’s funny that I like the LAW MCB over the others because its warm and not too bright sound, and…then… I read your comments that you like this mpc but you feel it on the bright side.lol

  24. paul baylis says:

    Long live the Yamaha 4C !
    And the 5C too.

    PB

  25. Andrew Benington says:

    Great test. It does demonstrate that our sound is embroucher first, mouthpiece second. As ever attentive practice is the key to developing a voice. Even so the SO and eclipse, neither in this shootout, have me by the Alto. And I’m a TMEB 2 make it speak on tenor. I guess I should put my own vote in. It goes to the Phil-tone.

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