Benjamin Allen 10E Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Today, I am reviewing a hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece from Benjamin Allen.  It is called the 10E model and if that sounds familiar it is because I reviewed a 10E years ago that was crafted by Paul “Doc” Tenney.

Benjamin Allen mentored under “Doc” Tenney and after Doc’s death decided to carry on his tradition and dedication to the mouthpiece making craft.  Ben decided to come out with a 10E model in honor and memory of Paul “Doc” Tenney” himself as a reflection of Doc’s work and mentorship.    Here are a few words from Ben’s site on the 10E:

“I have placed every ounce of my knowledge, skill, and training into making this mouthpiece worthy of carrying the mighty initials “10E”– I do not and will not ever take this obligation lightly. While my model “10E” is an exceptional mouthpiece reminiscent of Doc’s Jazzmaster, it is still not Doc’s work–it is my own. But I firmly believe this mouthpiece will fully reveal Doc’s outstanding mentoring and my dedication to the craft.”

Benjamin Allen 10E Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here are some more bullet points from Ben’s website about the 10E model tenor saxophone mouthpiece he makes:

BULLET POINTS ABOUT THE MODEL 10E:

  • This mouthpiece has a truly large chamber, yet it retains a nice level of relative focus and density to its spectral coloration and envelope.
  • The walls are undercut, but there is a slight squeeze going into the chamber.
  • The facing curve is moderately resistant on this mouthpiece.
  • The beak design is based on a standard Otto Link.
  • The ramp is undercut and the side rails are slightly thinned and balanced.
  • The tip rail profile is significantly thinner that Dr. Tenney’s (this does not make it better; it’s different)
  • The mouthpiece’s core sound is that of Dr. Tenney’s Jazzmaster.
  • My concept of “neutrality” is ever so slightly more brilliant than Dr. Tenney’s concept.
  • Each mouthpiece is handmade and hand adjusted to ensure each piece approaches playing perfection.
  • All steps are completed in the United States.
  • Each mouthpiece is made of American hard rubber–sorry, but there is no plastic in my pieces.

Ben actually sent me three 10E mouthpieces to try and review.  One is the 10E model which I am reviewing today and one is a brighter version of that model that I will review after this.  The other 10E he sent was an absolute monster of a mouthpiece at a .135 tip opening.   I hope to review that in a few days after I take an adrenaline shot straight to my heart to pump me up  and maybe some steroids for recording the audio clip! (Actually, it was much easier to play than I had imagined……more on that later…….)

Benjamin Allen 10E Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When you open the package, there is nothing about this mouthpiece that says  ” this is the greatest mouthpiece to ever exist and will change the future of saxophone sound forever”  It isn’t shiny and doesn’t have glitter or anything.  It’s pretty nondescript.  It looks like your average black hard rubber mouthpiece with the words “Benjamin Allen” and “New Orleans” engraved on the top.  When you turn the mouthpiece over and look at it in the light it looks perfect though. Not one ounce of asymmetry or imperfection.  The table, rails and tip rail look even and perfect.  The tip rail is thin and even as are the the side rails and baffle.

The 10E tenor sax mouthpiece has an ever so slight rollover baffle that then angles down into the large chamber.  It almost seems like it goes straight to the back of the chamber but there is a slight scoop in the chamber at the bottom.  The side rails are scooped out smooth and evenly.  There is a slight protrusion around the back of the chamber where the chamber meets the bore as you look at the chamber from the tip.

 

Benjamin Allen 10E Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

OK,  on to reviewing the sound and playability of the 10E.  The 10E is one of those mouthpiece that can slip by you if you are not careful.  The first two times I played the 10E, were after I had played the Benjamin Allen Dagradi model and the brighter Allen 10E I had received.   Those mouthpieces have higher rollover baffles which speed up the air and get you a louder and brighter sound with not much effort at all.   When I went from those to the standard 10E I initially felt like it was harder to play.  It sounded too dark and didn’t have much power compared to the Dagradi and brighter 10E I thought………….but, I decided to give it a fair shot so I slept on it and the next day I decided to dedicate the whole day to the 10E.  I started with reed selection and went through a bunch of Rigotti Gold and Rico Select reeds.  They all actually played really well on the 10E and I found it incredibly reed friendly but I was looking for that perfect strength for me.  I finally found a Rigotti Gold 3 Strong reed that was perfect (on the sample clip I say it is a medium strength but when I took it off the mouthpiece after recording the clip I saw that it was a strong)

I stayed on that reed and went up to an unfinished room above my garage.  This room has a nice reverb effect and I like to play in there now as the garage is too cold in the winter. As I warmed up, I  found that I really enjoyed the darker sound of the 10E and was quite inspired by it.  I do lots of recordings but I felt really inspired on this one as I felt like the mouthpiece turned me in a more creative direction.

The sound is warm and darker sounding, almost has a classical sound to it.  Even up high the sound never got too bright or edgy at all.  It was still warm, dark and round to my ears.   It was smooth as butter with the runs and fast lines.   The intonation was perfect and the tone seemed even and solid throughout the range of the saxophone.  The one thing I noticed and loved was the tone was very rich and thick sounding.  The altissimo was exceptionally easy for a lower baffle mouthpiece.

The one element that I felt wasn’t optimal was the volume of the mouthpiece.   When I went into that funk or extreme rock solo sax sound I felt like the 10E couldn’t be pushed to that extreme.   Don’t get me wrong, it got plenty loud and filled the room but it is a darker and a warmer kind of loud. The tone is amazingly beautiful and I totally dug it but when you are in a loud club it’s in the spectrum of sound that get’s swallowed up in the mix in my opinion.  That being said, I don’t think this mouthpiece was made for that.  It’s made for those players who love to just play and indulge in their own sound and then go out and play jazz for people who love to indulge in that sound also.  I found myself really digging the sound up in my 2nd floor room and that is what inspired and excited me.  The clip is about 4 minutes long which is long for my clips but I actually recorded for about 10 minutes.  I had to cut 6 minutes out of it!………..That says a lot about a mouthpiece in my mind. (I ws having fun playing it!)

Benjamin Allen 10E Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Benjamin Allen 10E Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece was great to play. If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then please contact Ben and give it a try. You can contact Benjamin Allen at his website at Allenmouthpieces.com  Tell him Steve sent you………….Great work Ben!!

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

*Bonus question: Can anyone name the classical piece I quote somewhere in this clip?  I’m curious if anyone recognizes it.  I wasn’t planning on playing it but it just came out from my past I guess………….

Benjamin Allen 10E 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. Hi, Steve. You sound great on this mouthpiece. This looks like a really cool mouthpiece. It’s a bit dark for my taste (I play a Drake Tenor Contemporary I) but is sounds like a great piece non the less. So, the classical piece you quoted. It was the first few measures from The Caprice movement from Eugene Bozza’s Improvisation et Caprice.

  2. Thanks Chris, I didn’t think anyone would get it that fast. Very good

  3. Mike Gallagher says:

    “The tone is amazingly beautiful ” is right.The tone is thick and rich throughout, fantastic!
    The clarity is penetrating on the 10E in your clip, Steve. The clarity of tone on the 20TD,of which I have two examples, is one of its best features too, as well as its built in resistance, which the 10E apparently has, as well… sounds beautiful. I have a 10E on the way, can’t wait to play it.

  4. Hi Steve,
    you sound great on that Mouthpiece!

    How would you compare the Sapphire to the 10E in terms response, resistance, colour and versatility?

    I think they share some common ground and as far as i could read on SOTW Phil Engleman and Benjamin Allen have a similar philosophy.

  5. Werner,
    From what I remember of the Sapphire it was a bit brighter than the 10E. I think the Sapphire has more in common with the brighter 10E+ I reviewed but it hard to say exactly without playing them side by side. Steve

  6. Arya Boustani says:

    I listened to both 10E and 10E+. 10E sound has more reed vibration (buzz). I’m wondering if it is the reed difference. I found not using the same reed and even minor differences in reed placement makes the comparison a bit hard. Probably using a softer reed as the common denominator for both 10E and 10E+ mouthpieces would eliminate the reed difference factor. I’m wondering if Ben would consider making a 10E+ with the same facing curve as 10E and if not, why? I have a high baffle Berg Larsen and always I thought the facing curve is too long and as a result the sound is sort of pushed away from having the buzz. Personally I like the buzz. I like to have it available. It’s easy to avoid it if you have to but it’s hard to create it (especially in pianissimo) if the mouthpiece inherently doesn’t have that tendency. Just some thoughts. I may be wrong.

  7. Arya Boustani says:

    Steve,
    Are you going to review the new 42 tenor mouthpiece you got from James Bunte? I’m wondering what you think about comparing it against 10E?

  8. N. Flannelle says:

    Hello, Steve. You sound so incredible on this mouthpiece. I really feel this is one of the best tenor recordings you have ever done for this website! The sound is so rich, dense and gorgeous. It’s mind blowing. After I heard you on this, I reached out to Ben (a really nice and rather hilarious gentleman, BTW) and ordered this mouthpiece. I asked Ben about James Bunte’s mouthpieces as I have a 42. Ben mentioned he is in the very preliminary stage of working with Dr. Bunte on a new concept for tenor. Amusingly–Shockingly–Amazingly, I asked Ben about also buying the brighter version–he recommended I buy a Phil Tone mouthpiece and offered that he felt Phil’s pieces and Dr. Bunte’s pieces were great for brighter sounding pieces. My 42 is quite bright, and I’ll stick with that for brighter pieces, but I am amazed that someone would promote a competitor’s product!

  9. Hi N. Flannelle,
    Thanks so much! I really enjoyed playing all the 10E pieces I have tried. Ben is a great guy and does indeed have a unique sense of humor. I don’t get the sense at all that Ben is doing this to become rich or beat out the competition. He is very complimentary to other mouthpiece makers that he respects the work of. From my conversations with him I get the sense that it is all about the art and craftsmanship for him. He really wants to make the best product he can and has a lot of pride in getting the right piece into a players hands. This is a great attitude and philosophy to have although in today’s sax world it can drive you crazy I think. Lawrence Waldron who used to make LAW mouthpieces had a similar philosophy and goal and I think he got burned out after a while. Us sax players can be mighty fickle and we can go from saying a mouthpiece is the greatest think we have ever played to 2 weeks later asking for a refund, exchange or more work to be done on it only then later to sell it on ebay…….. That kind of stuff can wear on a craftsman who is working so hard to get you the perfect piece I would imagine………..

  10. Arya,
    Yes, I have it on my desk waiting to review. It is one of my favorites. I’ve been having off and on hearing issues with the pressure in my inner ear or something. Right now I’m waiting for that to subside before doing more reviews………….

  11. Arya,
    yes, I would imagine the softer reed would have some effect. That being said, the reed i used with the regular 10E just felt too hard on the 10E+. I actually don’t know if the 10E has a different facing curve or not as Ben hasn’t told me that info yet. The .135 had a much longer facing curve I know……….

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