10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Mark Sepinuck, 10mFan as he is known in the saxophone world, came out with a line of tenor saxophone mouthpieces a few years ago that have been very popular with saxophone players.  Mark, created a very detailed three category system of tenor sax mouthpieces and he designed (with the help of Eric Falcon) what he considered to be the best tenor sax mouthpieces in each of those three categories.  These mouthpieces were the Merlot, the Robusto and the Boss.  I won’t go into the categories but Mark has a detailed description on his site at 10mFan.com if you want more information.

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Mark announced a new mouthpiece to his three category system back in May ’17 and after reading his description I was excited to try it out. Here’s the description of the Black Widow in Mark’s own words:

“So many players love the Merlot model because it is warm and open blowing. It has the lowest baffle height of any of my pieces and gets a huge warm and open sound. Others who want more punch and bite than that, will love The Robusto model. The Robusto is a killer all-around player, but definitely leans more for the jazz player who wants some extra fatness and punch. It wasn’t designed to be a “pop” piece, but it has plenty of power to be used in a huge variety of settings. It has a longer, moderate baffle height and is incredibly well balanced. Others who seek much more power and available brights for more pop, funk, R&B, etc…have enjoyed my high baffle Boss model.

SO WHERE DOES THIS BLACK WIDOW FIT IN??? 

Well, many have asked me to make another powerful piece option with a less high, more moderate height baffle than the Boss has, that could cross over both the all-around and powerful piece categories VERY well. 

A piece the jazz guys could use more easily than The Boss, and a piece that the powerful playing guys will love too. Thats what THE BLACK WIDOW does.  The pop guys love the Boss with the high baffle, but those pieces are not for everybody….jazz guys can have a harder time with higher baffle pieces when coming from a lower or moderate height baffle piece. I understand that, and that describes the tons of requests I have had for this new design.
It has become clear that many players want a “cross-over” category piece that is different from the other models. Something easily used for jazz stuff AND for guys playing commercial pop, blues, smooth jazz, rock, and funk type of stuff too. 

The BLACK WIDOW will be loved by jazz players looking for a powerful piece that can be used for straight ahead stuff+++, and also the more commercial players looking for another design option for a powerful piece with a longer and more moderate baffle height design than The BOSS HR. The baffle goes to the chamber and makes this piece incredibly versatile.
This describes this new piece perfectly.” 

That is the description I read that got me excited.  Coming from a background where I played weddings and corporate gigs for many years, when someone mentions a great “cross-over” or “all round” mouthpiece I get excited.   I remember in the mid 90’s searching for a sax mouthpiece that would do it all.  I wanted to sound great and authentic on the jazz dinner sets and cocktail hour and then be able to let it rip on the dance set without having to change mouthpieces.

I remember hearing tons of other sax players in many of those other function rooms over the years and I can’t tell you how many times I heard a sax player with an Otto Link that I could barely hear on the dance set.  Other times,  I would hear a sax player on a Dukoff or Guardala playing on a dinner set or cocktail hour and it just sounded too bright and edgy.  Those guys needed a “cross-over” all round sax mouthpiece in my opinion………

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Mark was nice enough to send me a sample Black Widow in a 8* tip opening to try out.  For those who follow my mouthpiece reviews, I generally like to stay around the 7*-8* range for tenor saxophone mouthpieces.  I was afraid the 8* tip on the Black Widow would be too big  but it ended up being perfect for me. The larger tip combined with the long baffle was a perfect combination for me.

The 10mFan Black Widow saxophone mouthpiece looks very similar to the rest of the other 10mFan hard rubber sax mouthpieces I wrote about above.  It has the signature three white lines on the shank which I think is a great marketing idea.  You can spot these three lines from pretty far away and know what mouthpiece brand a player is using……..genius!

The mouthpiece has Black Widow engraved in white on the top as well as 10mFan in cursive engraving.  When you look at the table side of the mouthpiece the table looks flat and smooth and the rails and tip look even and perfect as all of Eric Falcon’s work does.

The baffle is where you see the difference between the Black Widow, the Robusto and the Boss.  The Black Widow has a lower initial baffle than the Boss but that baffle is much longer and continues at a steady angle towards the chamber where it terminates in a scooped out curve. As I look at the Black Widow, Robusto and Boss side by side, it looks like the Robusto has the biggest entrance to the chamber, then the Boss and the Black Widow has the smallest entrance to the chamber of the three mouthpieces.

My experience with these smaller entrances is that they can boost the power, focus and brightness of a mouthpiece dramatically. (I have played Selmer Soloist’s with hardly any baffle in them that were surprisingly powerful and bright because of their chamber entrance size)

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When I first played the Black Widow I was taken aback by how big the sound was.  The 8* tip required more air than I am used to pushing through my 7* mouthpieces but man, when you push it, the power is there.  I put on a funky groove in D minor and started soloing to it and thought the Black Widow sounded terrific.  It had a big fat tone coupled with great volume and a nice blend of highs in the tone.

Honestly, my big concern with the Black Widow was that it would be too mid-range sounding for me.   I have played other pieces with a similar baffle profile that I thought sounded too mid-range and lacked the sparkle of the highs in the sound. In my opinion, these highs make the tone brighter and help to cut through the mix when playing with a lot of mid-range instruments.  Mark, being a working musician, really dialed the Black Widow in in this regard.  To me, it is a great blend of the brights and power with a fat robust sound full of character.  Well done Mark!

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

In comparison to the Robusto, I would say the Black Widow is brighter and much more powerful when pushed.  The Black Widow is less bright compared to the Boss but in my opinion it can head to head with the power of the Boss. If you combined the Robusto and the Boss to create something in between those two mouthpieces it would be the Black Widow in my opinion.  I think this lies right in the middle and that was probably Mark’s intention when he called it a great “cross-over’ mouthpiece.

I played the Black Widow for about a month and used it while practicing, jammin’ to tunes and on Skype lessons all month.  I found I preferred a Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong the best on the 8*.  A slightly stiffer Rigotti 3 Light reed worked well also but I like the ease of play with the 2 1/2 strong and that is what I used on the sample clip.

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I included a dry recording with no effects so you hear the raw sound.  One thing I have to disclose first is that I tried recording this at my normal level of gain for the mic but the Black Widow was still going above the threshold into the red.  I had to turn the gain down a couple of notches from most mouthpieces I have reviewed on here so keep that in mind. (It’s much louder than the recording portrays……)

From the opening notes and the descending chromatics down, I just found the Black Widow to have a thick and robust sound.  I hear a focus in the sound that gives it a strong solid core to each note.  At 1:19 I play a few altissimo notes and you can hear how the Black Widow brightens up and projects for me.  I think you can hear it at 1:30 also.  At 2:30 I think you can hear how smooth the range of the sax is as I play faster lines.

The intonation was great on the Black Widow also.  I’m not judging this from a tuner but rather on how easy it was for me to lock it in while soloing over that D minor funk groove.  It just felt at home and every note fit into place.

The one thing that I am not sure can be conveyed by the recording is the power and big sound of the Black Widow.  I’m listening to the clip now and think it sounds great but I’m just hearing this recorded sound coming out of my little computer speakers.  When I played the Black Widow in my office and downstairs in my garage the sound just seemed gigantic to me.  That’s the kind of thing you have to experience live I think…………

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I think Mark Sepinuck and Eric Falcon at 10mFan did a great job with the Black Widow.  Mark is great with his descriptions of his mouthpieces and I feel like he nailed this one.  Well done guys!  If you are interested in a Black Widow tenor saxophone mouthpiece contact Mark Sepinuck at 10mfan.com.  Mark is a great guy and he can answer any questions you might have about his mouthpieces…….

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Dry Recording

10mFan Black Widow Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Recording with Reverb

Disclosure: I received the sample mouthpiece mentioned above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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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. Graham Snell says:

    Great review Steve, I have the same piece and found the jazz select 2h filed and unfiled work well.Im using a new model Marc Jean ligature but also found a Rovner dark works well.The clips sound great but I would have liked to hear you play something a little more laid back to show the versatility of the piece

  2. Steve Neff,

    Here in Brazil we have your oppinion as a kind of Southern Cross constelation. It always points to the truth. That’s why we quote you as an authoritative source of information. We represent Mark Sepinuk, our dear 10mFan, in Brazil, as well as Marc Jean that Graham quoted above. My company, Grilo Musical, has you as a kind of “free treasure of knowledge”. The Black Widow is superb. As you mentioned, the “3 white stripes” are a notorious visual sign of 10mFan. Both you and Mark Sepinuk, Marc Jean are commited with the truth. Be sure that we are always reading your reviews looking for honesty in a hackney world. And we find always. I ask your permission, also, in the name of these friends I have (because they are not only suppliers), to mention “approved by Steve Neff” on our web posts. We face an enemy that is a faceless caitiff: the one that, only guided by greed, make fake copies, with low quality and even carcinogenic materials. Those ones try to kill our (the saxophone brotherhood) heritage: pieces made with the best materials, skill, equipments, not so profitable to the makers and, above all, impregnated with passion. Thank you for the review of the Black Widow. It is a priviledge to follow your light.

  3. I have no idea what Mark Sepinuk does when he makes his mouthpieces, but I don’t know know another mouthpiece maker who can craft a mouthpiece that can refreshingly give such a range of different impressions. It’s too bright one minute, great the next and wow, it’s quite dark the next. I feel the same way about my metal Robusto which provides an amazing array of flexibility. The Black Widow is a step further but still sounds great and as it’s HR ,but with such power, for me it sounds well worth consideration. Thanks for great review Steve.

  4. Steve, I agree with you that it is hard to capture the full presence of the sound of these in a simple recording setup. I really liked the Black Widow that Mark sent me. For my purposes (no pop/metal/etc.) it was too much for me. I play a Robusto 6* and it is HUGE. The Black Widow gives one even more and that is saying a lot. I also noted the improved intonation. The A2 and D2 on my Yamaha YTS 61 fell into place for the first time. Love your review and just wanted to pile on for the 10mFan pieces. I played through my drawer of terrific alternatives, collected and optimized by experts over the years, and not one is so big, so easy, so in tune, and so much damn fun to play.

  5. paul fessenden says:

    Hi Steve. I like that m/p. If you want to sell it ,let me know.

  6. Thank you so much Steve for your wonderful review. I am so glad you are enjoying the mouthpiece and I appreciate all your efforts with all you do for the saxophone community!!!

    Until my webmaster updates my website, you can buy these directly from me by emailing me at: connsaxman@comcast.net

    You can also go to my website and listen to my Merlot and Robusto hard rubber Mpcs. There is something for every player there.

    They are $450, made from the finest German hard rubber, and each one is hand finished one at a time. More audios on YouTube.
    All the best, Mark

  7. steve like the way you review m/p.mostly people dont go in to much depth like you.and by the way you have great style to make pictures as well.
    jack

  8. Steve,

    great review! How would the Black Widow compare to the Ishimori Woodstone?

    Thanks

    Claus

  9. Claus, The Ishimori Woodstone HR mouthpiece is more of a rollover baffle kind of mouthpiece. Very different than the baffle of the Black Widow if you compare the pics. The Black Widow is more powerful and brighter at full power. I think the Ishimori would be very hard to play in a loud dance set. The Black Widow would be more suitable for that kind of loud atmosphere. That being said the Black Widow could also handle a jazz set if also if you play it with a darker vibe. Steve

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