Ken Okutsu High Baffle Mouthpiece Alto Saxophone Review

Today, I am reviewing my fourth hard rubber alto saxophone mouthpiece from Ken Okutsu in Japan. It is the High Baffle model and has a 7 tip opening which is .079.   I already reviewed four Okutsu tenor mouthpieces which were all excellent so I have been very curious to review these alto mouthpieces as well.

Four New Ken Okutsu Alto Saxophone Mouthpieces

Here is the description and features of the High Baffle alto mouthpiece 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 spreading 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 Alto Saxophone 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 four alto saxophone mouthpieces from Mr. Okutsu.  The alto mouthpieces are the Traditional model, the Traditional II model, the Focus Core model and the High Baffle model.  I kind of like how simplistic and straight forward the model names are.   The Traditional model looks to be the darkest of the four, then the Traditional II looks to have a slightly higher rollover baffle.  The Focus Core has an even higher baffle and the chamber is much smaller. Finally, the High Baffle model has the highest baffle as the name implies although the chamber is bigger than than the Focus Core model.

The mouthpiece looks great 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 Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The High Baffle model’s tip opening was a little larger than the other three Okutsu alto mouthpieces which all had a 6 tip opening (.075).  I used the same Rigotti Gold 3 Light reed  that I used on the other Okutsu alto mouthpiece reviews.  The reed felt slightly harder because of the larger tip opening but it still played easily.  I usually stay away from high baffle alto mouthpieces as the tone tends to get too bright and edgy for my tastes but I don’t mind a brighter sound if it is coupled with a fat big sound like Cannonball Adderley’s sound.

Many times,  alto player’s email me asking for my suggestions for a great “lead alto” mouthpiece.   My suggestion is to find a mouthpiece that gives you the power and brightness you want but is still fat and full sounding.  Ideally,  you want a mouthpiece that can scream in a big band setting but can still play in a small combo setting as well.  Many time those high baffle “pea-shotter” type mouthpieces will be too edgy, loud and bright for a small group setting and in my opinion many times are too much for the balance and mix of a big band sound also.  The key is to try some of these pieces and find a piece that can do the job but is also versatile.  I say all this because I think the Ken Okutsu Traditional II, Focus Core and the the High Baffle models are good piece for that type of playing.

The Traditional II is like a brighter more powerful Meyer type sound.

The Focus Core is a brighter, edgier, focused, powerful sound.  Not as fat as the Traditional II but more focused and powerful.

The High Baffle model is a mix of the Traditional II and the Focus Core.  I think it can be as bright and edgy as the Focus Core but the tone is a bit fatter and fuller to my ears.  It is still very focused because of the high baffle but the big chamber spreads out the sound a little.  The Focus Core has a high baffle but small chamber which compresses the sound into a “laser beam” core of sound.   That’s how I can best compare and describe those 3 models……….

 

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Ken Okutsu High Baffle model had a brighter tone as was expected.  It had a very immediate in your face kind of sound,  direct and focused. In my opinion it leans more to a bright Meyer sound than an edgy Dukoff sound, probably because of the large chamber.  You can hear in the recording when I blow harder it does get a bit edgier and more aggressive in a Sanborn type of way  but I could also lay back and ease off on the edge when wanted.

The intonation was very good on my Selmer Reference alto saxophone.

I talked above about “lead ” alto mouthpieces and I think this would be a nice choice although it does lean a bit towards the edgy side of an alto tone.  That being said, I also tried some different reeds on it which were not as edgy for me like a Woodstone 3 1/2 and a Rico Select Jazz 3S which both played darker for me.

 

 

Ken Okutsu High Baffle Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Ken Okutsu High Baffle Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece was great to play.  This is another great mouthpiece for players who want the power and brightness to cut through in a band setting.  Lay into it to get a Sanborn type of sound or lay back to play some bright bebop lines.  You can listen to the sound clip yourself and decide if you like it for yourself…………..

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 Alto Sax 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

    I am a french saxophonist. I like very much the sound of the Okutsu Alto High baffle and the traditinal II also. Wich one dou you prefer in term of resistance and response. I know that is very subgestive opinion but i am interested about both model and choose one. I am affraid about shrillness of the high baffle model on the upper register but i like the core of the high baffle. The traditional II model sound very similar with less preadness….what do you think? I have sent an email to Ken Okutsu and it takes 6 weeks for him to make a piece. He seems to be a serious mouthpiece maker.

    Regards

    Damien

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