Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Today, I am excited to review a new mouthpiece made by Phil Engleman and Theo Wanne.  Phil Engleman is the founder of Phil-Tone mouthpieces and I have reviewed a number of his mouthpieces in the past.  The Equinox,the Eclipse, the Solstice, etc…………… Phil contacted me a few months ago and said he was going to try to produce a new metal mouthpiece.  He had tried over the past four or five years to find a machinist who could do the job with little success.  He wanted to find the best possible florida link and produce a new mouthpiece based off of it.   He said he would call the mouthpiece the “Tribute”.  He wanted to give players easier access to one the most legendary vintage mouthpieces in history. He informed me that it was important to him that it not be a souped up or modernized version. He wanted to reintroduce the sound and feel of the best Florida link back into the marketplace.

I was immediately interested in trying this “Tribute”  mouthpiece.   So many great players throughout history have played Otto Links and sounded amazing on them. If you are like me, you have probably tried many links looking for that special “one”.   I remember going into music stores in the 80’s and 90’s and trying every Otto Link they had.  Every time I did, I would leave wanting to scream.   I remember getting so frustrated and disappointed.   All the ones I tried sounded tubby, uneven, dull, thin and some would even squeak………….I couldn’t find a great one!

Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

After talking to Phil, I was really excited to see what he would come up with.  Obviously, the first step would be finding that perfect Florida Link mouthpiece that would inspire the “Tribute”.  In his search for this “great” link Phil crossed paths with Theo Wanne who happened to have a collection of great playing Links.   Phil and Theo picked what they thought was the best of the bunch and as  they communicated back and forth, they decided to make this a joint venture.   Theo would  machine “Tribute” blanks in his factory in line with his high standards and Phil would hand finish, face, and play test each mouthpiece until they were perfect.  I was very excited at this joint venture because I knew  that Theo Wanne’s great craftsmanship combined with Phil Engleman’s great refacing work would produce a “killer” mouthpiece.

Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Even though these pictures look like the mouthpiece is gold………..it is actually a silver color.  The outside of the mouthpiece is immaculate and lives up to the Wanne standards of mouthpiece manufacturing.  It has a bead blast silver finish and texture to it with Phil-Tone and Tribute engraved on the top of the mouthpiece.  On the bottom of the shank is the Theo Wanne symbol and USA.  The mouthpiece is a 7* tip opening which is what the original florida link that inspired this mouthpiece was.  There is no bite plate on the mouthpiece but it just has a mouthpiece patch where the bite plate would be.  The table and rails of the Tribute look perfect, not a blemish anywhere.  The beginning of the baffle is a smooth silver finish and halfway down the baffle it transitions to the bead blast silver finish.  The sidewalls are scooped out by the CNC process I believe.  The scooped sidewalls don’t travel all the way to the tip but starts about half an inch from the tip.  The transition to the chamber is smooth and subtle.  There’s not a ridge or imperfection anywhere to be seen within the chamber or bore.  The chamber looks to be the same as a typical florida link size chamber.

Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

My mouthpiece didn’t come with a ligature but the production pieces will be coming with a Theo Wanne Enlightened ligature.  I tried the “Tribute” with Rigotti Gold reeds.  The reeds matched up perfectly with the rails and tip of the mouthpiece.  I found the facing to be very reed friendly.  Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 reeds and 3 light reeds were way too soft for me on the Tribute.  The Rigotti Gold 3 medium reeds were perfect.  I tried 3 strong size reeds also.  They played well but I felt like the added strength and resistance gave the tone a more “Coltraneish” type sound.  I preferred the 3 mediums.  They gave the piece a little bit more resistance but still a clear fat tone which I prefer.

Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

How does the Tribute play?  Well first off, I do believe it plays and sounds as good as the best florida links I have had through my studio here.  That being said, there are always differences in how Otto Links play.  Even the great ones.  In my collection now I have what I consider 3 great florida links and a double ring link.  One has a rounder sound, one is brighter and edgier, one is much darker and fuller and one is right in the middle.  I felt like the Tribute was a little brighter than the middle of these 4 links.  I could lean either way with it and make it a bit darker or a bit brighter.  The tone was nice and full.  The highs had a nice ring and brightness to them but were still fat and beautiful sounding.  The bottom end subtoned like a dream.  The mouthpiece played very smooth and evenly around the range of the horn.   The altissimo was easy to play and the mouthpiece had great intonation.

I will say at this point that the Tribute is like a link in that you have to really spend time with it to get the most from it.  There are little subtle things that make a huge difference with link type mouthpieces.  These are things you have to experiment with and figure out.  Where to put the reed in relation to the tip, where to put the ligature, how tight to make it, how much mouthpiece to take in your mouthpiece, how tight or loose to make your embouchure to get the best tone,  how to voice the lower range, upper range and altissimo for the best results, etc…………..  One of the interesting things I discovered with the Tribute was that it played much better for me with a looser embouchure than I normally play with.  I took a little more mouthpiece in my mouth and loosened up my embouchure just a bit and the tone blossomed.

The Tribute has a great “straight ahead” type sound to it.  For me it has a bit of a Coltrane/Early Joshua Redman type sound to it.   I don’t think I would venture to do a loud modern rock or pop gig with this mouthpiece but that might  change as I spend more time with it.  The great thing about link type mouthpieces is that the sky is the limit with where you can go with them.  As you experiment with the elements I mentioned above and different reeds you will find that you can get brighter and louder just by finding a brand of reed that points you in that direction……….

(addition………..I published the review a few minutes ago and then went out my garage to really push the mouthpiece and see where it could go volume wise.  I could get pretty darn loud with it but I was working really hard.  It would take some more time and gigging with the piece to see how it performs in those loud dance band type settings…………)

Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone Theo Wanne Tribute was a complete joy to play.  If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then give it a try.  You can contact Phil on his website at www.phil-tone.com.  Tell him Steve sent you………….Great work Phil and Theo!!

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks, Steve

Phil-Tone & Theo Wanne Tribute Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

 

 

 

 

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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. Austin Zhang says:

    You got the stars back! Very cool! You sound awesome here!
    Can you compare it to your Barone SNY? You sound like you’re having on lot of fun on this clip. Very cool!

  2. Steve There is no sound on the sound clip of the the Wanne/Phil Tone Mouthpiece

  3. Jimmy, what are trying to listen to it on? Computer and browser? It works on my macs with Firefox as well as on my iPhone…………

  4. I finally got it to work on my iPad.Sorry it wasn’t working much earlier today. Great Review as always

  5. Humbardi says:

    Steve :
    It does not open in Mozilla in Windows 7…
    I used Internet Explorer and I could hear it..
    Thanks

  6. Austin, The Barone SNY compared to the Tribute…………The SNY is brighter and louder when pushed. At a soft volume or medium I think they are similar in tone but when I push the SNY it gets quite a bit brighter which is cool if you have to dig in to some solos with louder bands……….

  7. Hello. It would be interesting to hear you play a Tribute piece side by side with the Link that Phil & Theo chose as the blueprint.

  8. Tom, that would be interesting! I would love to do that if the opportunity arises.

  9. Just bought a Tribute! What a lovely sounding piece – a darker, smooth, full-bodied piece with a sensuous quality that feels special. Best metal mouthpiece I’ve played by far. Never been that interested in Links for a variety of reasons, but this is beautiful! Highly recommended, and ligature is easy to use.

  10. Great write up Steve.

    I just got my first of the “Tribute” models in last week and I gotta say, I am impressed. So much so that I am going to start selling them in my store (which Phil can tell you, I am a HARD sell when it comes to mouthpieces). I really think this mouthpiece fits a segment of the market not being well served.

    Its a very well made piece, a great playing piece and at its price – there really isn’t anything else that competes straight up with it on all levels.

  11. Hi Steve
    Since you tried both which one would you prefer: the Navarro Bebop Special(I play the 8*) or the Tribute ? I feel sometimes in a Big Band setting that I need more projection (might be my lack of skill though 🙂 Soundwise I think I would be interested in the Tribute but the “small ” tip of 7 scares me a bit with regards to projection or power.
    Best regards,
    Walter

  12. Hi Walter, They are very different mouthpieces. If you want projection and power I would go with the Navarro Bebop Special. I could get tons of volume out of the one I tried and it has more brightness to cut through the mix. The Tribute is like playing a really great Florida link. Beautiful tone but wasn’t as powerful for me. Hope this helps.

  13. Steve,
    How would you compare this Tribute to the Barone Jazz?

  14. Steve,
    How does the Tribute compare to Theo’s Amma version 1 and the Kali? Also, is 7 the only tip size available?

  15. Huston, To be honest, it has been years since I played the Amma and Kali so I’m just going by my recollections. The Tribute is more focused than the Theo Wanne Kali and Amma. I remember the Kali being much brighter but don’t remember where the Amma sat on that bright to dark scale. You’ll have to listen to the sound clips to judge for yourself. As far as tip size I believe Phil Engleman can make a different tip size if you request one from him. Hope this helps, Steve

  16. Hi Nemo, These are two very different mouthpieces in my opinion. The SNY has a fatter more spread sound that I believe is more lush and full down low but brighter and louder up high. I could get more volume out of the SNY than the Tribute. The Tribute has a prettier more middle of the road link sound to it. Not has fat as the SNY but more focused and centered. The highs got brighter when pushed but not as bright as the SNY that is for sure. The SNY has a higher rollover baffle that gives it more power and brightness so the question for you is how bright do you want your sound when you really push the air through the horn…………Hope this helps. Steve

  17. Steve,

    My question was about how you would compare this piece to the Barone Jazz (not the Super NY). I’ve played a Barone Jazz and liked it and therefore would find that a good point of comparison. Thanks.

  18. Nemo, Sorry about that. I think I just answered a question about the Barone SNY and still had that on my mind. I’ve played some great Barone Jazz mouthpieces. I have found them darker than the Tribute mouthpiece. They both play great so it is a matter of how dark you want your tone. If you want some more brightness and highs in your sound the Tribute would be a good move in that direction. If you want to go even brighter than the Tribute then a Barone NY model and the Barone Hollywood are even brighter. Steve

  19. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the review of this piece. After reading/hearing your review of this piece I decided to look for one myself and I am glad that I did!
    I recently bought a second hand (yes they can be found second hand) Philtone Theo Wanne Tribute wich I really like. The Tribute really captures the Florida Link vibe (it should as its a copy) and a direct comparison with the original would be really interesting to hear. You can really dial the sound by trying different ligatures as they change the sound pretty noticable to the listener and even more from the players perspective. I prefer RJS 3m and Rico Royals 3.5 with a modern STM NY ligature. The Wanne enlightened lig. is fine but not better than the standard STM lig. I wonder how close they managed to get to the sound of the original. Keep up the great work!

    /Roger

  20. Hello Steve
    You say this mouthpiece “has a bit of a Coltrane/Early Joshua Redman type sound to it”
    I’m fond of Eric Alexander’s sound, dark with a bit of “Coltrane-ish” edge when needed.
    Do you think this mouthpiece would be a good choice to get close to this kind of sound? Isn’t it too dark? (or too bright!)
    Thanks
    Best Regards

  21. I think this piece is a little bit brighter than an Eric Alexander type of sound. Maybe with a slightly bigger tip opening like an 8 it would get you there………..or the 7* might be great if you play with a darker concept than I do. I tend to play on the brighter side of a piece. Steve

  22. Random question: what mouthpiece patch are you using on this and the Mosaic? I know they’re all basically the same, but I’m liking the particular shape in your pictures. Thanks!

  23. Brian, I’m not sure what mouthpiece patch that is. Phil sent the Tribute and the Mosaic with these patches all ready on them. You’ll have to ask him. Let me know if you find out. Steve

  24. Thanks, Steve! I did email Phil last week, too, and he said the patch is the same as the one Theo Wanne makes (which makes sense, since they collaborated on this piece). I had recently picked up a used, minty Tribute and therefore preferred to order the patches directly from Phil rather than anywhere else. He had some available, and they arrived yesterday. They appear to be maybe thinner than the Runyon patch I’d been using, but I haven’t had a chance to put the patch on yet. The spot where the old patch was located has developed an outline from slight tarnish to the silver. So I’m going to give the Tribute a polish with a Connoisseurs polishing cloth. Phil said it would work and not do any harm, but that his first choice is Mother’s California Gold Metal Polish, recommended by the platers (just don’t let it dry and also don’t use any abrasives).

    Count me in with the other many players who are very satisfied with this piece. I haven’t played Florida-era Links, but I did want the confidence and convenience of not having to go through a bunch to find “the one.” It’s .015 more open than I’d been playing, and yet it’s easier for me to play and I can play slightly harder reeds on it, too. So it seems like it’s a good fit. I’m using the Enlightened Ligature with the “alive gold” plate, although it seems to move a bit and doesn’t hold the reed in place as well as the “heavy copper” plate that I first used. I’ve always used the thick brass plate with the Francois Louis Pure Brass lig as opposed to the stainless steel plate or rubber coated one, so maybe it’s just what I tend to prefer. I’m waiting for a Selmer 404 to arrive and then I’ll figure out which I like better.

    Plus (and this is always a very good thing): my wife likes the Tribute a lot. She says the Tribute sounds fuller than my previous piece (a Doc Tenney-refaced Brilhart Ebolin), that I sound better and play better on it, and that it’s better looking than an Otto Link.

  25. hey neff one question i know you have also tried the theo wanne gaia, both mouthpieces are florida link inspired, which difference do you notice between them? which of them is brighter?

  26. Comparing the Gaia to the Tribute I would say the Tribute is brighter and more focused. The Gaia is darker, more buttery and spread sounding. That being said, I have heard that Theo has redesigned the Gaia. I actually have one coming to me in the mail as I write this. It has a redesigned baffle and chamber which I have heard gives it more power and projection. I’m looking forward to trying it out. Steve

  27. Hi Steve it is definitely one of the best tenor saxophone sounds around out there, but regardless of how good it actually is, I am wondering if this mouthpiece was machined from extruded rod stock or cast in one piece and machined from the casting. If it was not cast then it is the excellent facing and other reasons for which this mouthpiece is so good, so why not give it the added advantage of original Florida Otto Links which were cast in two pieces from genuine bell metal which is only copper and tin in a ratio of something like 78:22 copper: tin. I found out the reason why genuine bell metal is not used much, the tin can contaminate any gold found on the premises but if cast in a foundry without precious metals, as a friend of mine had done, bell metal is so much better than brass, copper, stainless steel and all but Sterling silver and titanium, it should be used. So that brings up another question, is this mouthpiece made of bell metal or something else. If it is something else imagine how much better again if this is featured as well. Vibrancy of the material is vital.

  28. Addendum: In my desire to share what I have found important so as to add, where possible to great projects which I have wanted to see in action like recreating the best of the past, since they are out of patent and the original makers have disdained to continue making them, which is an insult to the original makers and the would be buyers who love them. Like I can’t be bothered but I object to anyone else bothering because somehow it seems like I am being robbed even though I do not have a patent pending on this any more. The reason for the addendum is that you mention no bite plate, well it most definitely will not be the same without a bite plate, but not necessarily better or worse just different because it is a matter of judgment and taste for if you put a bite plate into metal material, it will cause a thinner wall which will become more sensitive where the reed impacts opposite the baffle, at the expense of causing a little more tinniness in the tone, but providing the bit plate does not go right across the mouthpiece leaving original thick edges the thinness and tinniness will remain acceptable and a matter of fine taste in the optional trade off. I would favour a round drilled hole about half to 40% of the way through the metal and filled exactly with a CNC accuracy between the hole drilled and the high quality rod rubber plug which is to fill the hole completely to carry on the vibrations, so that the vibration patterns are not of a metal mouthpiece with a chunk out of it above the baffle on the other side where the player’s teeth rest, but a filling of the whole with a more resonant material rod rubber but placed where it cannot exhibit the one thing which allows metal mouthpieces to exist, their unacceptable level of sound absorption. That is, being nowhere near the internals as it would be if the bite plate were to be drilled into the baffle and filled on the exact opposite side of where the bite plate goes. On that side the rod rubber would absorb the sound and not reflect the sound anything like the bell metal it should be cast in. By the way, I had my prototype vacuum spun cast titanium mouthpiece cast in one piece. The pattern makers of today have solved the problems which caused Otto Link to make theirs in two longitudinally symmetrical halves which were brazed together. Cast a bell into two symmetrical halves and braze it together and tell me if it would ring the same as one cast in one piece and it they did sound to all intents and purposes the same I may consider the two pieces of Otto Links acceptable but if not, and I most definitely think the bell cast in two pieces would not ring acceptable enough for bell ringers to accept such a thing, so why continue to cast replicas in two pieces and braze them when modern pattern making technology can now cast it incredibly accurate in one piece. Finally, imagine if we made rod rubber mouthpieces in the exact same thin walled design of the bell metal Florid Links. They would sound tinny and unacceptable, albeit much more sensitive, so, why tolerate metal mouthpieces in the same thin walls if we can use metal which is way more sensitive and lighter like rod rubber, for it is true, that the thicker the better. My rod rubber thick walled replica sounds and reels like rod rubber and is as resonant as rod rubber but does not sound dull like rod rubber, because is is vacuum spun cast in titanium and for the first time in 48 years frustrating playing I am finally a happy contented man.

    I bought six Florida Links and with the exception of the first a 5* my 7,8,9,10 and the 11 which Ben Harrod personally made for me, and talked with me about in the early 70s shortly before he sold his business, all were the * models and I bought them new. They were the best I could find in my global search, which included Berg Larsens including a 0.140/1.000″./O chamber which Berg Larsen made personally for me also, like Geoff Lawton made made me a 0.150″/1.000″/B chamber but they could not come close to my Florida 11* using #3.5 Rico Royal reeds. It was on this set up on my ‘Silversonic that I was able to hit a triple high D which is four octaves above middle C on the piano, and if someone would be so kind as to make a replica of my 1948 Conn 12 M but add a low A without the original intonation problems adding another 8 more notes to the lower end and make it exactly the same length and fold it the same places but make it with the smaller bore to take a tenor sax mouthpiece it would sound so much fuller and armed with a six octave range five of these in the right hands could reproduce the exact same notes of the best piano concerto ever written especially the III mov by J S Bach*, and would beat far better pianists in their own territory simply because the sax tone is three dimensional like fiber optic cable and the piano strings only one dimensional like copper cable the same diameter. This is like if a 3d television were possible it would not need to be fancy to upstage anything else in the world. Tenor sax players would do well to model their tones on the best of grand pianos especially from the lower end of the keyboard they are dead straight, ringing, resonant more than most tones and beautifully charming, and if this gets done we sax players can repay the huge debt we owe to one of the most persecuted inventors of all time Adolph Sax by fulfilling his most cherished dream, having the symphony orchestra accept saxophones, euphoniums and tenor horns, all invented by this great man, and all rejected from regular spots in the orchestra. By beating soundly the champion solo instrument in the symphony orchestra on its own territory, if the symphony orchestra would ever accept this, remembering these piano concertos were no more written for pianos which were just being invented at the close of Bach’s life, than for saxophones. *For those curious about what this concerto could sound like see on YouTube Tatiana Primak Khoury -BWV 1051 III movement solo piano, and for tenors sax style sound and technique by far and away the best player who stopped playing at this level late 1959, so that I can no longer put him into even my top 50 players any more, is Sonny Rollins- It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, 1959, Sweden. Rollins had the sound here for the part and the technique as well, he had it all, on a Otto Link Bell metal moutpheice and one of the best King Super 20 Silversonics ever. Because saxes only play one note at a time and the largest chords in this III mov are five not, it will take five players to reproduce the piano solo note for note, but armed with these two videos you should be able to see how it could take out even the best piano performance with a sound like Rollins. Just play a simple scale on the grand piano and get Rollins at his best their is no comparison.

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