Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing my first hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece from Ken Okutsu in Japan. It is the high baffle model and has an 8 tip opening which is .110.  I hadn’t heard of Ken Okutsu before but he emailed me asking if I would be willing to try his mouthpieces.   I of course said “Sure!”  The first Okutsu mouthpiece up for review today is the high baffle model.

Here is the description and features from the Okutsu website:

Features

  • High baffle model has a bright and powerful contemporary sound.
  • Long and high step baffle with large chamber.
  • The large chamber makes very rich and spread sound.
  • All mouthpieces are crafted by CNC machinery for incredible accuracy and finished by hand carefully.
  • Concave table. It makes the tone full and rich. The practical life span of reeds is lengthened.
  • Material is the highest quality ebonite (hard rubber).

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece

The Okutsu mouthpieces are hard rubber and come in a protective plastic case.  Within the case they are wrapped in a black velvet bag.  I received 3 tenor mouthpieces and one alto mouthpiece from Mr. Okutsu.  The tenor mouthpieces are the Traditional model, the Traditional II model and the High Baffle model.  I kind of like how simplistic and straight forward the model names are.   The Traditional model looks to the darkest, then the Traditional II looks to have a slightly higher rollover baffle.  Finally, the High Baffle model has the highest  baffle as the name implies.

The mouthpieces look good to my eye.  The hard rubber is shiny and without any imperfections.  The gold engraving is neat and clean.  The rails, tip rail, table and baffle look very well crafted and even.

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece

The High Baffle model was very reed friendly to me.  I had no trouble trying different reeds on it and all the reeds passed the suction test when first put on and then later after playing awhile.  The Okutsu mouthpieces have a concave table which many player’s and mouthpiece manufactures have preferred over the years.  In recent years,  it seems like I am getting a lot of mouthpiece with flat tables instead of concave.  Now that I’m writing this review, I am curious  as to what the differences are  between the two table in regard to playability, response and sound……….In the Okutsu bullet points above, the Concave table is listed as making the tone full and rich and increasing the life of reeds………….Interesting!

 

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece

How did the Ken Okutsu High Baffle tenor mouthpiece play?  Well, it was very reed friendly but I felt most comfortable with a Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Medium reed (I forgot to say the reed number in the sound clip…..sorry).  I also used a Vandoren Optimum ligature with the length long rails plate on it.

As you would expect, the Okutsu High Baffle model leaned to the bright side of the saxophone tone spectrum.  I didn’t feel like it was overly bright but the tone was nice and crisp with a nice edge to it.  The altissimo was super easy to get and the range of the sax was smooth and even sounding when playing fast.  I played this mouthpiece up in a big unfinished room above my garage.  The room is big and empty so the sound bounces around the room with a natural reverb.  The Okutsu mouthpiece sounded huge in that room.

The tone has a strong core and center to the sound.  In the opening statement of the sound clip you can hear how the tone has a brightness to it then at the :29 mark I blow with a little more power and it gets a bit brighter and edgier.

I haven’t had an opportunity to play this mouthpiece on a loud pop gig but this is a mouthpiece I would like to try in that setting.  The brightness and power is appropriate for that kind of music but I don’t feel that it is so bright that you would sound out of place on a standard with it.  This is the type of mouthpiece and sound that would sound killer with a bit of reverb  on a gig.

I would place this mouthpiece as being in a similar category sound-wise as a Lamberson DD. RPC 115B, or a Ponzol M2.  I think the Ponzol would be a bit brighter than this mouthpiece though.  Although the tone reminds me of the Lamberson DD or RPC 115B I feel like it is much easier to play for me. Maybe because of the .110 tip opening.

Sorry for the Pink Panther quote in the sound clip……….I taught a young student on Skype the song shortly before this clip so it was lingering in my mind…………

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece

The Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece was great to play. To be honest, I think it has been one of my favorite high baffle mouthpiece to play.  I’ve played other high baffle mouthpiece that sound killer on a pop gig but then when I play them in my studio they are so loud and obnoxious I can’t stand practicing with them.  This  Okutsu mouthpiece is a good choice for that bright sound and power but with more flexibility to  darken and shape the sound in my opinion.

If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then please contact Ken Okutsu and give it a try. You can contact Mr. Okutsu at his website at Okutsumouthpieces.com. Tell him Steve sent you………….Great work Mr. Okutsu!!

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

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece-Dry

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece-Little Reverb

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Tenor Mouthpiece-Moderate Reverb

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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, cool new stuff… and moderately priced as it seems. The Traditional II sounds like the most interesting piece made by Ken Okutso, so I’m eager for that review…

  2. Larry Weintraub says:

    How is the tuning on the mpc to A – 440. A lot of times w/high baffle mpcs you have to pull out as opposed to rollover type baffles where you are pushing in. Don’t apoligsize for “te Pink Panther” quote. It sounded good. It’s nice to know what a moc sounds like playing a song instead of a bunch of scales and licks.

  3. Larry,
    The tuning on the Ken Okutsu High Baffle mouthpiece was fine. I don’t remember where it sat on the cork but it wasn’t way out on the end of the cork like some high baffle pieces are. It was a little further out than a rollover but not much at all. Steve

  4. Paul Sorensen says:

    Thanks for the comments Steve. Interesting site you have here! I was wondering if you could comment on the sound and style of playing that Tom Scott has done on those albums of his (quite a few years ago now) LA Express – I think it was called. He always caught my attention with that bright alto sound of his. Don’t know what kind of setup he used?

  5. Hi Paul, Sorry to say that I haven’t done a lot of listening to Tom Scott. I remember checking him out when I was a kid when I got some records out of the library but besides that I have never owned a Tom Scott recording since then. Sorry. Steve

  6. Hi Steve,
    I had never heard of Ken Okutsu until today I received a tweet from his firm.
    Checked out what I could find and came across your sound samples.
    Thanks very much for your efforts Steve! Ken Okutsu did himself a big favor sending his mpc’s over to you!
    The dry sound is full and rich. Very impressive and fitting in all musical settings.
    Ron.

  7. Thanks Ron. That’s great to hear. I hope the review helped you make an informed decision. Steve

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