Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Yes,  you read that right!  A .170 tip opening!! That’s a 14 tip opening!  To give you a little bit of a backstory, I received this email the other day from a fan of my site:

“Hi Steve,
I have a favor to ask of you, if you can fit it in to your schedule. I’ve been playing for MANY years  and have been through the mp numbers as my music/bands have changed…… Bergs, etc.. I’m now using a Lawton 10 *B and love it. I purchased a bronze Berg 185/2 a few years ago (for kicks) and got to like it a lot (for what it can do). It’s been worked on a little by a couple of people and I think it’s tip is now closer to a 170. But it’s still a monster and a lung exerciser. My problem is this. My hearing is lost… used aids for years and now have one cochlear implant – have it for 5 months. It has made my life whole again, BUT I don’t recognize my sound anymore. LOTS of “treble”. Once in a while I go through my mp drawer and have a ball – not easy when you also have to get a good matching reed (as you know). I’m mainly using the synthetics and very happy with them. However, ANY reed I use on the big Berg gets bent in and actually plays better/easier. (I play with a LOOSE embouchure).  Back to my request… Can you try out my Berg and tell me where it fits in the sound spectrum? I’m NOT trying to sell it. So far, with my present hearing, it seems to have a thin loud sound in an open area, but solid and full against a wall. Sub tone is easy, as well as up to D5. It fits right in with Gato’s Europa sound (I think).”

At first, I responded that I couldn’t do a review of this saxophone mouthpiece.  I have too much on my plate and besides that,  who the heck plays a .170 tip opening sax mouthpiece?  That is just crazy!   After sending out the email, I gave it some further thought and realized that I was a bit curious what a mouthpiece that open would actually play like so I decided I would like to try it………..

Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When I received the Bronze Berg Larsen sax mouthpiece, I immediately opened the package to examine the mouthpiece.  I must admit that I didn’t 100% believe the person who sent it knew what they were talking about.  A .170 tip opening mouthpiece?……does that even exist?  Apparently so, I opened the package and looked at the mouthpiece, it was a bronze Berg Larsen tenor saxophone mouthpiece with the numbers 185 over 2 SMS inscribed on the shank.  That means it was a .185 tip opening !  WHAT?  Are you kidding me?  That’s like a 15* tip opening!   If I play a .120 I get winded!  Who the heck plays a .185?  I have never even heard of such a thing!

The owner of the mouthpiece let me know that this mouthpiece was worked on by a few people and now measured around .170.  (I believe Dave Jary put the nice looking baffle in it and Keith Bradbury did some work on it as well)  I was still skeptical of this even though the tip opening looked huge,  I put a few feeler gauges under the tip just to get a ballpark figure.  I put a .125 gauge plus a .024 plus a .014 plus a .010 and it was pretty close to the tip of the mouthpiece.  Add those numbers together and you get .173.  That is close enough for me………

Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I put a brand new 2 1/2 Vandoren Java reed on this mouthpiece and honestly thought there was no way it would seal and get suction on this tip opening.  As you look at the mouthpiece from the side, the facing curve looks pretty extreme to my eye.   I thought there was no way a reed would conform to that extreme of a curve!  I did the suction test and the reed immediately stuck to the curve of the facing for a second.  Wow!   I was impressed!  I blew on the mouthpiece alone and it blew easily and produced a nice buzz, also surprising to me.

When I first played the mouthpiece, it was during a Skype lesson with a student.  I played a little bit and immediately started to feel a bit dizzy and winded.  The amount of air I usually used to play for about 30 seconds seemed to last for about 8 seconds and was gone.  The student did say he thought it sounded pretty good though……….

Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

After the lesson, I played for another 20 minutes just trying to get used to this mouthpiece.  It took more air than I was used to and I was trying to get used to that.   At first, the tone seemed really spread and kind of lost in the room but as I played it, it seemed like it came into focus more for me.

I also noticed that the intonation was much more flexible that I was used to. As I played with my normal embouchure pressure the sax was in tune but the more I played,  my embouchure got tired and I started to go flat.  I kept trying to fight against this but the more I did the more tired my embouchure got.  I really didn’t feel like I was biting or adding more pressure with my embouchure but in retrospect I think I was subconsciously adding pressure so the reed was  easier to play for me.

Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I was actually surprised by how easy the .170 Berg Larsen mouthpiece was to play.  I didn’t think it would play with the 2 1/2 reed at all and that I would need a 1 or 1 1/2 size reed to play this monster tip opening.  If nothing else, I was prepared to spend a few minutes tonight sanding down my Java 2 1/2 reed so that I could play it on this clip.  I was surprised when that wasn’t needed…….  The Java 2 1/2 played pretty well on it!

Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As I listen back to the sound clip, the tone of this mouthpiece has the characteristic hollowness of a big tip opening mouthpiece to my ears.  The tone has an airiness to it and is quite spread to my ears.  None of these are bad things but just descriptions of what I hear in the tone.  I go into a little bit of “Pink Panther” at the :46 mark just because I have heard that Plas Johnson played a .150 tip opening Berg Larsen and he played on Pink Panther so…..

The tone sounds very mid-range to me. That means that the middle part of the range of audible frequencies is boosted more than the lows or highs are.  That’s how I perceive it anyways.

At 1:53,  you can hear how the mouthpiece sounds playing soft.  Although it sounds lush and spread,  you can hear a lot of air in the sound because of the huge tip opening…….I actually say “Wow” afterwards as I feel a bit winded and lightheaded…….

At the 2:17 mark I go into a louder R&B type of sound and the volume really kicks up a notch.  I am in no way playing at 100% either.  I would say I am playing at like 70%.   This mouthpiece has plenty of volume if you have the air to put into it but I will say that I think the larger tip opening makes the tone more spread and hollow to my ears than a more closed tip tenor mouthpiece.

At 2:57,  I am”buzzing” my lips because they feel so tired. At the end of the clip, I actually feel like I have to sit down as I feel so dizzy!   I don’t usually leave these thoughts in the clips but I thought it was important for this review as I am playing a MONSTER tip opening Berg Larsen!

Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

At this point in the review, I usually point you to a maker who makes this mouthpiece,  but I have no idea who makes a .170 tip opening mouthpiece these days.  This mouthpiece actually has “Kenny Long” engraved on the side.   I have no idea who that is but I am wondering if this is a special order mouthpiece that was made for Mr. Long at some point. (I tried doing a google search for “Kenny Long” but doing that search gives you mostly Kenny G long note clips)

You don’t see or hear too many of these mouthpieces so I am happy I could take some pictures and record a sound clip.  I’m still most comfortable with my .105-.115 tip opening tenor mouthpieces but this piece was fun to try that is for sure.  Thanks to Don for letting me borrow this mouthpiece to try. It was quite the workout for me………Let me know what you think in the comments below.    Thanks,   Steve


Monster Berg Larsen .170 Tip Opening Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Disclosure: I borrowed the mouthpiece mentioned above from a fan of my site in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. I am returning it immediately after this review. 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


  1. Graham Snell says:

    Sounds great to me Steve, big and fat and not too spread to my ears

  2. Mike Wilkens says:

    Glad you sat down before you had to post photos of the stitches you had to get to close the gash on your forehead from the fall you took (hitting the coffee table in the process) when you passed out cold from playing this beast! Hahaha

    It sounds pretty good, but it should come with a Surgeon Generals warning label!

    Thanks for posting.

  3. Jazz Is All says:

    Great sound Steve, but why kill yourself when you can sound the same on a more commonly sized Berg?

  4. I was curious how it would play at .170………

  5. I think it sounds really good! Lots of frequency spread and lush sounding.

  6. Hi Steve…
    Welcome to the “wide open spaces”… lol.
    I have been playing a Geoff Lawton-made .155 for quite a while… and I think it’s my easiest blowing mouthpiece…
    Was sitting in a drawer (like we all have) gathering dust… Rico continued making me #1 PlastiCovers after they stopped carrying that for Public Sale (but, had to buy a Gross of boxes)… and when they did I stopped playing it…
    Last week, I tried a Legere Signature #2… plays like a dream…
    As far as Colour… anything I want… from Gato to Getz.. and everything between.
    I’m from the “wide open spaces” PLUS soft reed school… don’t think I cudda played THAT Berg (Use same Legere on my 60’s 130/0 offset M).
    If you’d like to hear the .155, listen to Europa, Chelsea Bridge and Poor Butterfly.
    They all are the .155 with a #1 PlastiCover @

    Really enjoy your reviews and insight on the different mouthpieces.


  7. Almost forgot… opening was measured by Arnie Brilhart at Rico…

  8. Jeffrey D Todd says:

    Dude, sounds fantastic! To think that it might be necessary to play an extreme opening to get the sound you really want… Yikes! Honestly, I think that’s about the best sound I’ve ever heard you get. Sorry…

  9. Joel Frahm says:

    I’ll tell you-

    Physical fatigue aside, that’s a damn good sounding piece. I’m surprised at how natural it sounds. I had to chuckle a bit at the in-between lip buzzing and breath-catching. I’d be in the same boat! Still, super fat!!

  10. David Thomasson says:

    Very classic Berg sound. BTW, Ernie Watts plays on an Otto Link that is a .160 opening and no added baffle!

  11. Thanks Joel! It did play a lot easier than I imagined it would……

  12. David, Ernie Watts playing a .160 Link blows my mind also. I usually think I can hear when players are using a huge tip but I never suspected that from listening to Ernie over the years……..

  13. Wow, thanks Jeff!

  14. Those recordings sound great Pat. Such a huge sound! Wow!

  15. PAT ZICARI says:

    Thanks, Steve…

  16. Egil Furre says:

    It sounds very nice, almost not as a Berg Larsen… But how is it attacking the reed with the tongue? Ain’t you risking harming the tongue?
    (By the way: Ernie Watts got a small wedge in his .160′ Link 13. At first he made it himself and glued it with superglue. Some years ago he had Phil Barone to make a permanent wedge.)

  17. Egil, The tonguing wasn’t as crisp and immediate as a smaller facing like a .105 that is for sure. It wasn’t bad though. I mean I could work with it…….I would want to play a staccato classical etude on it that is for sure!

    That’s interesting to hear about Ernie Watts. I always wondered if he had any kind of baffle or wedge in that Link of his……..People are always pointing at players and saying “Look how bright and loud they can get on a Link!” but we never know what is actually inside that Link. I have a few Links with wedges and baffles and if someone saw me play they would be amazed at how loud and bright I was with a Link also……….

  18. PAUL DION says:


  19. In this video Ernie Watts talks about his Link 13 and the wedge inside:

    I have a plan making a Link 13, just have to fine a cheap 8* first that I can use as a blank :-).

  20. Man that sounds great! Gonna have to get an oxygen tank in your room man lol.

  21. Guess you’ll change your name to ‘Broken Jaw Steve’ after this.
    A friend told me who has hearing loss is that he is quite happy with a Swiss make of hearing aid. Hope the fella that has the hearing problem reads this and perhaps follow it up.


    Quite an amazing Forum you have here.

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