Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today I am reviewing another great tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by Phil Engleman at Phil-Tone mouthpieces.  I have reviewed quite a few Phil-Tone sax mouthpieces on the site already and am always interested when Phil announces a new mouthpiece model.  A couple of months ago he announced that he had stumbled upon a new sax mouthpiece that he was very excited about and that Bob Franceschini was playing on and endorsing called the Intrepid. Here’s a quote from Phil about the new Intrepid sax mouthpiece:

I got a Reso Chamber mouthpiece in recently and started looking at it. When I designed the Sapphire chamber I wanted a piece between a slant and an EB link. I also wanted a thinner table. Later I made the Sapphire special which is a higher baffle version of the Sapphire.

…Little did I know that I made a chamber nearly identical to the Reso Chamber. I’ve been experimenting with rail width, lengthening the window which is quite long on reso chamber pieces and I have altered the baffle design on the Sapphire special. Low and behold its a piece very much like a Reso Chamber.

I just took some more measurements out of curiosity. Chamber depth anywhere my tools will go is dead on…in a weird way. My tip looks wider than the original but after measuring I found it to be in the same. The exterior shape difference of my blank makes it look a little wider at the tip. At this point I would never call it a copy. It wasn’t digitized like the Tribute. However, it more than makes reference to the Reso Chamber tone, color and behavior. 

Its always interesting how different baffles behave. Some designs play brighter with a lower baffle than a traditional rollover. Its counter-intuitive but it happens. This piece has a subtle step baffle vs the original sapphire rollover and this piece is significantly brighter in terms of the color surrounding the core.

Next…drop the baffle way down and change its shape from a rollover to a straight baffle with a lesser angle than on a piece like a STM and all of a sudden you have a piece that was brighter than when you have a rollover, clearly it is about baffle type not height. But it is interesting. It seems to then be about moving air across the surface of a plane prior to the drop off into a deeper chamber. -Phil Engleman 

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone Intrepid saxophone mouthpiece I received to review is hard rubber.  The exterior of the mouthpiece is pretty plain looking.  Phil-Tone is engraved on the top of the mouthpiece in white.  The word Intrepid is written by hand on the corner of the body of the mouthpiece.  The mouthpiece is a 7* tip opening which is around .105.

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The tip rail is very close in shape to my Rigotti Gold reeds and the table and rails look even and well made.  The baffle looks a bit lopsided when looking at it by eye in the light.  You can see this in the last picture below.  You can see how the right side of the baffle extends a little bit further than the left side making the baffle curve look askew. Although this might bother some perfectionists out there, my experience has been that a slightly crooked baffle can play surprisingly well.  In fact, some of my favorite mouthpieces in my collection have baffles that are crooked. (My main gigging metal Otto Link has a very crooked baffle in it that Jon Van Wie put in it and that mouthpiece wails!)

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I spent about two weeks playing the Intrepid mouthpiece and ended up making two sound clips of it.   One is with a Rigotti Gold 3 Light reed.  Although the reed felt great on it and it was easy to blow, I had the thought yesterday that perhaps it was a tad soft and I should try a harder reed.  I put on a Rigotti Gold 3 Medium and that did the trick for me.  The slightly harder reed gave me more to blow against and I could get more volume and a thicker heartier sound up high.   I included both clips because I think they both provide good examples of how the mouthpiece plays for me with the different reed strengths.

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

In Phil’s description above he writes that the Intrepid mouthpiece is similar in design to the old Otto Link Reso Chamber.  I have never played on a Reso Chamber so I can’t compare the Intrepid to one.   I have to admit that I have not heard much if anything about Reso Chambers over the years and always assumed they were probably not very good compared to the Otto Link Slant Signatures that we have all heard about.   The only player I have known that played a Reso Chamber was Seamus Blake who I went to Berklee with.  I always thought Seamus sounded great on his Reso Chamber although I always considered his sound to be quite dark on it. I believe Ben Wendel plays a Reso Chamber also and he also has quite a dark sound in my opinion.

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Interestingly enough, I found the Intrepid mouthpiece to be quite bright for me.  I was expecting a darker tone from it from my preconceived idea of what a Reso Chamber would sound like but what I got was surprisingly brighter I thought.  I emailed Phil about this and he responded:

“Its not a copy…its similar but I tend to add a little punch to them.  The baffle profile and the structure is much like the Reso Chamber but the angle of the baffle can be changed for darker or brighter presentation.”

This is not a brightness like a Guardala or similar step baffled mouthpiece but a more spread brightness.  Higher baffled mouthpieces will generally have almost a laserbeam type focus to their brightness.  When you play, it is like the sound comes out of the bell, hits the wall in one specific spot and bounces back to your ears. What you hear is a tightly wrapped core of focused sound.  With the Intrepid it is more like the tone is fatter and more spread.   For me, it feels like I would play and the tone would leave the bell and immediately disperse to all corners of the room.  In a way, the sound is bigger and fills the room with a big “wash” of sound but it is not as direct and focused as a typical higher baffled mouthpiece if that makes sense.

I think that “spread” big sound gives the tone more character and depth in my opinion. It has a thick substantial sound to it. This is especially true with the 3 Medium reed clip. I felt like the higher register and altissimo had a more substantial thick tone to the notes than the 3 Light reed.

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

With the 3 Light reed I felt like the Intrepid would only give me so much power but with the 3 Medium the power of the Intrepid was multiplied.  I had a lot of fun playing up in the altissmo with the 3 Medium reed as the tone didn’t thin out as it does with many mouthpiece.   It was full and fat.

The low notes were also very robust and thick in my opinion.  I use subtone quite a bit down low and the Intrepid subtoned nicely.

The other thing I loved about the Intrepid is that it had a nice resistance that I could blow against to manipulate and shape the notes.   The intonation was also very good.

As far as playing gigs with the Intrepid, I think it would be a terrific mouthpiece to play in a jazz or big band setting for sure.  In really loud settings with guitars and synths, I think the spread nature of the tone might make it hard for the Intrepid to cut through in a mix like that.   Don’t get me wrong, the Intrepid has plenty of power and brightness when pushed but my experience has been that pieces with a spread tone often times get lost in the mix when fighting with electronic instruments.  That being said, Bob Reynolds plays a hard rubber Otto Link and seems to manage in those settings so it could work…….

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the clips below and the Intrepid mouthpiece interests you contact Phil Engleman via his website at Phil-tone.com.   Phil is very knowledgeable about sax mouthpieces and will answer any questions you might have about the Intrepid or any of his other mouthpiece models.  Thanks for letting me try the Intrepid Phil!

 

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece- Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed

 

Phil-Tone Intrepid Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece- Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed

Disclosure: I received the mouthpiece mentioned above with the option of buying it at a discounted rate if I so choose 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. Joel Frahm says:

    Steve-

    I like the way you sound on this piece. It’s maybe a little more compact sounding than some other pieces you’ve tried, in the sense that it has a really nice focus and the overtones seem really nicely balanced. In other words, not too bright, not too dark. It also sounds pretty darn free blowing. Really nice clips. I think I actually preferred the softer reed clip.

  2. Joel if you would like to try the piece let me know
    Phil-tone@hotmail.com

    Thanks

  3. Julien Wilson says:

    That’s definitely got a fatness and evenness to it that appeals to my ears Steve. I prefer the grittiness of the slightly harder reed (but that’s my thing). It seems to have a little more zing than I’ve heard on Reso pieces but I am listening through computer speakers – Always hard to tell how it fills a room. I’ve never tried an original Reso myself, although the new Rubber Klum that I tried recently definitely reminded me of that vibe. Actually it sounds quite similar to this. Really fat in the palm keys as well as warm down the bottom end. Sounds quite colourful and flexible. More so than the Sapphire 9 I had Phil make me, but maybe I went out of the sweetspot range on that one.

  4. Larry Weintraub says:

    Steve: They both sound good however I agree w/Joel Frahm, I like it w/the slightly softer reed. When you played the bit of “I Thought About You” it really had a core to the sound, I think it subtoned easier and fatter for you too.

    Not to be critical but I notice that when you try a mpc out and switch to a harder reed you tend to play a lot from the middle register to the altisimo. When you play low w/a a harder reed the low Bb’B, C , C# tend to bark out. Plus while it will subtone it’s not as fat sounding as the softer reed. I guess it depends on the type of gig you are playing huh.

    I’ve heard Semaus Blake play live at GMU. He talked a bit about his Reso Link. According to an article in an old Saxophone Journal by Ralph Morgan the HR Reso Link was made to be an inexpensive version of the Tone Master made in the 40’s. The article gave a whole list of players who played either the Reso or the metal Tone Master Links. The article said what they played and what size they played. Metal Tone Masters were played by guys like Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Georgie Auld, Flip Phillips etc. The only player that I remember using the Reso HR was Bud Freeman. But I do not have the article in front of me. Needless to say Semaus Blake sounded Great on his HR Reso Link when I heard him about 5-6 yrs ago.

  5. Thanks for the feedback Larry. I don’t think the way I played was due to the reed but I listened back to the clip with the 3 light reed and thought it was a bit too laid back and mellow. I didn’t feel like I showed the more powerful side of the mouthpiece so I made another clip to show that and just so happened to use the harder reed. The harder reed does give much more power in my opinion but there are trade offs like you write about. Steve

  6. Brian Taylor says:

    What sort of ligature do you use? I have this mouthpiece and it is a joy to play!

  7. Brian, On those clips I was using a Francois Louis Ultimate ligature but I have probably 50 ligs in my desk and switch up quite a bit. i find the FL ligature makes the tone a tad darker and more focused in my opinion. Steve

  8. Hey Steve any plans to review Intrepid alto? I would love to hear your thoughts on it.thanks!

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