Phil-Tone Rift Alto Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing another great mouthpiece by Phil Engleman at Phil-Tone mouthpieces.    Phil Engleman is the founder of Phil-Tone mouthpieces and I have reviewed a number of his excellent mouthpieces in the past.  The Equinox,the Eclipse, the Solstice, the Tribute, the Sapphire, etc…………… Phil came out with this new alto sax mouthpiece a number of months ago and asked me if I would be willing to review it.   I was more than happy to and Phil sent me one to try.

Phil-Tone Rift Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I was intrigued by the Rift as I opened the package and examined it as it looked to have a different and unique baffle design.  I have reviewed hundreds of mouthpieces over the years and seen many different baffle designs but the Rift looked to be unique.  It has a high rollover baffle that rolls down and then back up slightly and then down again into the medium chamber.  The shape reminds me of those slides at the water park that we all love.  I was curious what effect this type of baffle might have on the sound……….

Phil-Tone Rift Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Rift I received had an .081 tip opening.   I picked a random Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 strong reed I had laying around, wet it, put it on the mouthpiece and tried it with an Vandoren Optimum metal ligature.   The mouthpiece just smoked for me with that very first reed.  It had that combination of bright power and edge with a very fat tone.   I always think of Cannonball when I get into a description of tone like this.  When you listen to his recordings,  he had an incredible balance of brightness and edge with a big fat full sound.   This is how I felt about the Rift!

The other element of sound that I really loved about the Rift is the smoothness and evenness of the notes. Fast runs and lines are as smooth as butter on the Rift.  A lot is said about how effectively a player can communicate with a mouthpiece,  how well he can reproduce what he imagines as he plays his horn.  For me, the Rift has that quality and connection.  I really felt that as I played it that I could play almost anything I imagined as I was improvising. That’s an amazing feeling to have.

Phil-Tone Rift Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I liked the Rift so much,  after that first week of playing it I emailed Phil and asked to purchase one for myself.  This was a mouthpiece I had to have in my alto case.  Unfortunately, right after I got the Rift, I started having some medical issues with pinched nerves in my upper back and for the past 5 months playing the sax has been very difficult and painful.   Today has been the first day in 5 months that I felt like I could actually play and enjoy it.

Phil-Tone Rift Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I can gets loads of power out of the Rift and the intonation is excellent.  On many alto mouthpieces my Selmer Reference Alto can be a bit sharp on the midrange notes (Middle D,Eb,E,F and F#)  The Rift was much easier to play these notes in tune.  The tone to me is very lively and strong.  The palm keys have a nice round fatness to them that balances the brightness so it doesn’t sound thin.

In comparison to other mouthpieces, I would say the Rift has more power by far than the standard off the shelf Meyer mouthpieces I have played.  I would also say it has a fatter and brighter sound than a typical Meyer mouthpiece.  If you are playing a Meyer and think you need more power and volume then the Rift might be a good mouthpiece to try.

The Phil-Tone  Rift was a complete joy to play and I’m glad I now have it in my collection of favorite mouthpieces. 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!!

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

Phil-Tone Rift Alto 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. Sounds great. How did the Rift compare to something like a java jumbo or somthing similar in regard of brightness?

  2. Hi Florian,
    It’s been ages since I played a Jumbo Java so I can’t speak to the comparison with much authority. The Jumbo Java I tried last was brighter and harsher to my memory. Not as fat sounding as the Rift. I think the Rift’s unique baffle design might smooth it out and fatten the tone a bit if I had to guess……….

  3. Hi Steve,
    could You give a short comment how the Rift would compare to Morgan Fry’s HR alto piece You reviewed some month ago?

  4. Walt,
    I would consider both of these top notch alto mouthpieces. I think they were similar in brightness with the Rift being fatter sounding to me. Although I was very comfortable on the Morgan Fry Ebonite the Rift had something that was extra special for me. It was almost like I was “one” with the Rift mouthpiece. It’s hard to put into words. Every once in a while I play a mouthpiece that is like that if you know what I mean. Most mouthpieces are just me playing the mouthpiece and the sax and playing as good as I can. Once in a while I play a piece where it is no longer me playing the “mouthpiece” or the “sax” but I am just playing……..Ideas and lines are just flowing and things are happening instantaneously. It’s a special feeling for me. That being said, I think it is a very individual thing. I could have 10 students come in and try my favorite mouthpieces and they might not connect the way I do with them. As I think about it, I think it has to do with the fatness factor for me on alto. The alto mouthpieces that I have connected the most with have had that fatness. Vandoren V16 with a super long Brian Powell facing on it, Drake Jazz NY and the Rift are the 3 that come to mind. They all had a fatter more spread sound but with power and highs in the tone. The Morgan Fry Ebonite had a big full sound but wasn’t quite as fat sounding in my mind. Hope that makes sense.

  5. Yes I understand completely, thank You for such an comprehensive answer!

  6. Florian Heidtmann says:

    How would you compare the brightness of the rift to other mpcs. Is it similar to a small chambered Meyer?

  7. Florian,
    For me, the Rift had a brighter bigger sound than the small chambered Meyer’s I have played. I think of a Meyer sound as somewhat “dry” sounding. The Rift is a big and fat sounding to me but still on the brighter side of life……..

  8. Hey Steve, I’m in dilemma about choosing either the Rift or Drake NY Jazz…. Can i ask which if these 2 do you prefer more? And which do you think can get a Cannonball ‘sound’ more easily?

    Thanks Steve
    Sean

  9. Sean,
    Both a very good mouthpieces. I can get a Cannonball type sound out of either. I do think the Rift as more volume and power if that is a factor in your decision. I no longer have a Drake NY Jazz here to compare it side by side with the Rift that I recently got. Steve

  10. Hi Steve,
    I was just wondering if you ever tried Phil’s Aurora mouthpiece. It’s supposed to be a bit more mellow sounding I think. Just curious since I haven’t heard a sound clip of this particular mouthpiece. I think he makes some great mouthpieces and does a great job on his custom Meyers.

  11. Sheryl,
    No, I don’t think I have tried the Aurora model yet. Phil does make great mouthpieces. Steve

  12. Hey Steve,

    Any chance you have played an RPC B alto? If so can you compare it with the Rift?

    thanks

  13. Hi Harry,
    i played a RPC alto piece that was a .090 tip. I can’t remember what model it was but had a really high baffle. I personally didn’t care for that one at all. I was just way too open for my tastes so I really can’t compare to the Rift as they were so different in tip size………. Steve

  14. Christopher says:

    Steve,

    I currently have a Morgan Excalibur (6M). Do you have any thoughts on how the two might compare?

  15. Hi Christopher, it’s hard for me to compare as I haven’t played a Morgan Excalibur since many years ago. Might be 15 years now. I remember thinking the Morgan was too bright for me back then. That being said, I think the Rift is just as bright probably but much fatter sounding in my opinion. But……….I don’t have a good memory of the Morgan piece but just the memory of why I didn’t keep it……..Hope this helps, Steve

  16. Christopher says:

    Steve,

    I ordered a Rift from Phil, and I can tell you I am positively thrilled. The biggest differences I’m hearing in my tone echo much of what you’ve already said. I get a MUCH fatter tone, across all registers, with the Rift than I do with the Excalibur. This is especially noticeable in the palm notes and the altissimo register: before, I just hated the sound of high D and above, and I always thought it was my fault that it was so shrill. Now I’m loving the core I hear even in these notes.

    You’re definitely right about the Cannonball sound (which is what convinced me to get this piece – he is truly my favorite sax great). Just so rich and full a sound.

    It’s even more powerful than the Excalibur, as well – this piece can get LOUD if you want it to.

    Thanks for reviewing this piece Steve! As you can tell, I’m excited by the difference it is making in my sound.

  17. Hi Steve,

    I was just wondering how you would compare the Theo Wanne Durga and the Rift. Any thoughts?

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