Early Babbitt HR Otto Link Remake Tenor Mouthpiece

Today, I am reviewing a mouthpiece that is being sold by Tenor Madness.   A big “Thank You” to Dr. James Romain who serves as Associate Professor of Saxophone and Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at Drake University.  He was kind enough to offer to send me his mouthpiece that he picked out personally at Tenor Madness.

The Tenor Madness Early Babbitt Remake is being advertised as a remake  of the “Early Babbitt” mouthpiece that the JJ Babbitt company made in the 70’s.   The Early Babbitt model was the model that came after the Slant Signature model that is so popular these days.  It was only a few years ago that the vintage slant Otto Link mouthpieces skyrocketed in price.  I remember during that time, not being able to afford a slant but buying quite a few “Early Babbitt” mouthpieces because they were only 200-300 dollars back then.  Recently, I’ve been seeing the Early Babbitt mouthpiece going up in price dramatically also.  I have to say that the Early Babbitt mouthpieces that I have played have been some of the best hard rubber mouthpieces I have played on tenor.  What makes these models unique from the slant signature links and the current hard rubber links is that the Early Babbitt hard rubber links have much more material in the baffle area producing a higher rollover baffle.  The higher baffle  makes the tone brighter and many times more powerful sounding.  One negative I have noticed is that it seems like JJ Babbitt changed there hard rubber through out the run of Early Babbitt mouthpieces.  The Early Babbitt I own seems to be made of a hard rubber like the slant production but many of the others were made of a darker more oily kind of hard rubber.  It might be my imagination but I always felt like this later hard rubber didn’t give as much depth to the sound and brought out the brightness and highs in the sound more. (Just my opinion, not based on any factual data……..)

I’m not sure if you can make it out in the pictures below but this mouthpiece that I am reviewing today does have quite a bit of material in the first half inch of baffle.  It does indeed look quite a bit like my Early Babbitt mouthpiece that I own.  The chamber and bore looks to be very close in size and shape to my EB hard rubber link also.

Here is the description that Tenor Madness has for this mouthpiece on their ebay ads:

“The TM Custom tenor sax mouthpiece is an early Babbitt blank with a large chamber and a long baffle.  The beak radius is comparable to the original Slant Sig.  The result is a big, gutsy tone unlike any current production mouthpiece.  Here’s what NY jazz great Joel Frahm says about the piece, ” Randy Jones’ new line of Otto Link hard rubber mouthpieces is  what saxophonists have been waiting for; a new production mouthpiece that responds as easily as the best vintage jazz mouthpieces, but with a profound depth and roundness of tone that I’ve never found in another modern mouthpiece.  My tone is my biggest concern, and Randy has come up with a mouthpiece that  completely fulfills my needs. I love it!”  These are available in 7 & 7* tip openings.”

Sounds pretty good to me.  I was pretty excited as I always am to try this mouthpiece.  Before I even played it my first thought was that it was going to be brighter than I like.  I’ve probably owned about 10 Early Babbitt mouthpieces and I always ended up selling them sooner or later because they played brighter than I had liked………………..

Tenor Madness “New” Early Babbitt HR Otto Link Remake Tenor Mouthpiece

This was a very reed friendly mouthpiece for me.  I put a Vandoren Java 3 on it and it played perfectly.  I was so happy I didn’t have to mess with reeds for an hour to find a good one.  As you listen to the clip below you can hear that this mouthpiece is a bit brighter than other hard rubber links I have reviewed on here.  I found it to have a nice focus and center to the sound that I really liked.  Unlike many other bright mouthpieces I have played, I didn’t feel like this one was one dimensional or lacking character in the sound.  It has a bit of graininess and air in the sound that adds to the character of it I think.  The low notes are nice and round although not as fat and dark as some lower baffled mouthpieces I have played.  You can hear a bit of edge in them when I go down low without subtoning.    In the first half of the clip I’m just messing around with the changes to Beautiful Love.  In the last few seconds I play with more air and volume and try to make it a bit funkier so you can hear that type of style on it.  This piece played very easy for me and was a joy for me to play.  I’m going to play it some more today and compare it to my Gerber Slant,  Early Babbitt Link and Lamberson J7 which have been my favorite hard rubber mouthpieces to date.  Maybe I’ll be able to put up a battle post between all four so you can hear the differences………………I think I’d like to order one of these in the future to spend more time with it. Thanks for listening.  Let me know what you think below.  I love to hear what your opinions are.   If you want try one of these out yourself visit the Tenor Madness website.    Steve

This is a clip played with a brand new Vandoren Java #3 reed

This is a clip played with a brand new Rico Jazz Select 3M Unfiled Reed

I’ve added this second clip to the post late because on the advice of Jim Romain I went out and bought some Rico Jazz Select reeds to try on the NEB (New Early Babbitt Link).  The sound difference was so noticeable to me that I wanted to do a recording to hear what it sounded like in comparison to the Java reed. It was recorded exactly the same. Nothing changed except the reed.  This is the first time I’ve strayed from my trusted Java reeds in probably 6 years I think. Can you hear a difference in the two takes?  To me the RJS take sounds thicker and huskier.  The Java sounds a little smoother to me but maybe not as much meat to the sound.  I’m curious what your opinions  on these two clips are?  Let me know………..Steve

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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. Hi Steve. I’m amazed at the difference between the two reeds. I much prefer the RJS!!…MORE BODY, MORE MEAT ….MORE OF EVERYTHING GOOD!

  2. Eric Spaulding says:

    Steve, I love the way the RJS reeds sound! More depth and more centered. I hear you that they may not be quite as polished as the Java’s re: sound, but the Rico’s have more character to my ears in these two clips…

  3. Alessio Roman says:

    I like more the sound with the Java #3… I feel it a little clearer. I think it cut better through the mix during gig.
    The sound with the RJS Unfiled 3M is cool, it seems to me woody… probably a litte better on studio work.
    It could be interesting try it with a RJS Filed 3M or 3H reed…

    I agree with you: this EB remake is one of the best mouthpiece you have reviewed.

    I personally like best the Gerber Slant then the GW Slant and then strangly the Kanee O7 and V7 (they are not as cheap in the sound as in the price, IMHO).

  4. Ray Dickaty says:

    Perhaps the Javas sound more “refined”…”cleaner”…..”brighter”…?
    The RJS could be percieved as sounding slightly stuffy, or perhaps this may be termed “woody” by some people.
    BUT…..there is a vibe to the RJS that has that very “classic jazz” type sound – especially on this mpce (which by the way sounds great)
    The RJS sound-clip, for a moment put me in mind of french new wave cinema of the 1950/60’s, I don’t know, just certain harmonics that I almost caught a glimpse of…
    Sorry I digress, there is more “meat” to the sound on the RJS that’s for sure and a “graininess”
    Better ? – no, just different, it would have to be down to personal preference.
    Again it shows the importance of matching reed with mpce though (and then we get onto Ligs :)…)

  5. Paul Bavington says:

    Steve, I think you may have stumbled on makings for a new blind test: a couple of your current or all time favorite pieces with the Javas Vs. the RJS.

  6. I personally prefer the JAVA reeds they just sound clearer, I like it.

    The Rico’s kinda sounded stuffy to me.

  7. Ryan Knight says:

    Yes Neff! The RSJ reeds! These are the reeds for you! but you aren’t used a 3M. A 3M is closer to a Java 3 1/2 so I would go down to a RSJ 3S or 2H and you’ll get the clarity and brilliance/smoothness you’re used to hearing in the Java with the added huskiness and soul of the Rico…

  8. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been wondering about these pieces since I heard about them from Randy.

    I agree that there is more huskiness and grain to the tone in the middle registers with the RJS, but I don’t think the RJS sounds very impressive up high, and I actually feel that the Javas sound deeper in the low notes and allow you more flexibility in shaping the sound (which of course could be more a reed strength issue as Ryan points out.) I tend to like more clarity and flexibility with less reediness in the sound, so that’s a personal preference. But I clearly prefer the Javas out of the two. My 2 cents worth. JT

  9. Kevin Groody says:

    Steve, are they actually selling these? Tenor Madness’ website has a description of this piece but no sales/purchasing information like their other pieces.

    Thanks

  10. Yes they are. You have to call them to get the scoop. There website isn’t the most up to date. I remember when they came out with the new slant that I couldn’t find it on their website either. It’s there now but the new EB isn’t. You have to go “old school” and use the phone……………

  11. phil lyew says:

    I prefer the RJS. It actually sounds more lively and full to my ears.

  12. I just listened to these clips again and I much prefer the RJS reed clip. Makes me want to order one of these pieces tomorrow!

  13. Marcio Arese says:

    Hi, Steve. I have just bought a EB 7* from TM besides a New Vintage Otto Link 7* and I think the EB has a bigger sound. Reading about and listening to your test I was forced to buy the Rico 2H and the 3S for testing, as I use the Java 2 1/2.
    Man, it’s difficult to choose, as the Rico has a focused sound but too brilliant for my taste; on the other hand, the Java produces a vibration on the sound which is more noticeable in the second octave, a “buzz” within the sound that I don’t like. I prefer to think that I have to play more with this mouthpiece and, who knows, to test with a different reed: The TM guys said that Joel Frahm use a Rigotti to play this mpc…

  14. I’m using mostly Rigotti Gold reeds now. The 2 1/2 medium and 2 1/2 hard are good if you like 2 1/2 Java’s. The mediums are about the same strength but a little firmer. The 3 Light are great also. I use those on some of my 7* mouthpieces and love them. A bit harder than the 2 1/2 Java but once you break them in they crank.

  15. Sounds like a good piece Steve. Thanks for reviewing this one. I’ve been thinking about this or the Gerber for a while now. I’d be really interested in hearing a comparison between them.

  16. I just got a new one in the mail the other day that plays even better than the first one I had. These are really great pieces. If I had to order one from Tenor Madness I think I would order 3 and pick the best one to keep. Then again, maybe they all play like this which would be great!

  17. I too got one of these pieces in the first week of August. I play on a Keilwerth SX90R tenor. I am a college student and I’ve only blown 4 or 5 different pieces but the descriptions others give about the nature and character of the sound are right on. I’ve been putting in about 10hrs a week on it in the last month and man, the sound is coming together. Its an expensive piece but if you’re looking for a big, vintage, moderately bright piece, this one is good. I play on java 3’s and on RJS 3 soft. Either plays well.

  18. I like the sound of the RJS better. It sounds more alive. Have you tried a regular orange box Rico on this mpc. If you were playing a RJS unflied 3M you might try a orange box 3 or 3.5 reed.

    I play a 60’s vintage metal FL Link 8* w/a orange box Rico # 2.5 reed. It works for me.

    I would have liked to hear you sub tone down low on the RJS with the Early Babbitt from Tenor Madness.

  19. No, I haven’t tried Rico’s on tenor in about 20 years. I’ll have to give them a try again. I carry the alto reeds for my younger students but none for tenor. Thanks

  20. I recently purchased a TM EB from an SOTW member …. .108 opening … been a red java fan for a long time .. however, I slapped on an RSJ 3M on this mouthpiece and it came right to life … the previous owner said he used 3S … anyway, it is obviously meant for Rico reeds as opposed to my other mouthpiece (.105 opening) which plays best off of Red java 3’s. The other mpc stuffs right up on Rico’s …go figure!

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