Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing a new 100th anniversary model Florida Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece by JJ Babbitt.  The vintage metal Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpieces from the 1960’s are some of the most sought after vintage Otto Links on the vintage sax mouthpiece market today.  When I heard the news that JJ Babbitt was coming out with a new Florida Otto Link mouthpiece for their 100th anniversary I had to try one of these mouthpieces out.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I reached out to JJ Babbitt a couple times to see if I could get a mouthpiece to review but both times they didn’t have any available to send me as they seem to have their hands full just filling existing orders.  Luckily, a member on SOTW (Sax on the Web) offered to send me his mouthpiece to try for this review.

I thought that this was an original “off the shelf” mouthpiece but I found out after it was already in the mail that this sax mouthpiece was refaced by Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness for the customer who bought it.  Although, the mouthpiece is a 7* and was at a .105 tip opening, the customer wanted it at a .103 tip opening so Jimmy set it up for him. (I hope to find another new Florida Otto Link that is original to review in the coming weeks……)

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The new Florida Otto Link mouthpiece looks beautiful upon opening the box.  The gold plating looks thick and rich looking.  The mouthpiece comes with an Otto Link ligature and a gold mouthpiece cap.  I thought the mouthpiece cap was pretty cool because it looks like metal but is actually gold plastic so it looks great but is nice and light and won’t scratch or damage a mouthpiece when you slide it on (I have put my share of nicks in mouthpieces by being clumsy with metal mouthpiece caps when I was younger…..).

I must admit that when trying the new Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece for the first time my excitement quickly turned into annoyance.  First,  I was hoping the new mouthpiece would have a better ligature than the ligature Otto Link mouthpieces have come with over the last 30-40 years.  The ligature looked solid, well made and better than the usual modern Otto Link ligatures so I thought I would give it a try.  I slid it on over the reed but when I went to tighten it with the screw the pressure plate that the screw controls turned with the turning of the screw and was now crooked on the reed.  That was annoyance number one.

Later, I tried the ligature again and found that I could center the plate by working with the screw and holding the plate with my finger but it was honestly more of a hassle than I like to deal with so I decided to use my trusty Selmer 404 two screw silver ligature that is simple and has never let me down.

The second annoyance was when I tried to slide the mouthpiece on to my neck cork.   It was really tight on the cork.  Now, vintage Florida Links are normally one of the sax mouthpieces that have a smaller bore and are pretty tight on a saxophone neck cork so I got out two of my vintage Florida Links and tried them on the cork.  They were snug on the cork but could easily be pushed on to where they played in tune.  I tried the new Florida Link mouthpiece again and it was quite a bit tighter.  Enough so that I couldn’t push it on to where it was in tune and was afraid I might bend the neck if I used any more force.

I had to take it off and lather the cork up with cork grease to be able to slide it on to where it would play in tune for me.  This is not that big a deal once the cork is compressed but when you review as many mouthpieces as I do, it is a bit of a pain to have your cork compressed that much.

Although I found these two things frustrating for me, I took a break and came back to the new Florida Link a couple of hours later after lunch with a fresh more optimistic perspective.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is how the JJ Babbitt website describes the new Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece:

Introducing the FL (Florida) Otto Link for tenor saxophone, in celebration of our 100th anniversary. Developed over several years, the new FL Otto Link is a superb blend of professional musician input and skilled JJ Babbitt craftsmanship. Created through minor adjustments in virtually every aspect of the mouthpiece – inside and out – the FL expands the opportunity for players to recapture the distinctive sound that players are looking for.

Here is what professionals say:

“A warm big sound throughout [its] range, yet with some edge, if I want it.”

“It is amazing!”

“These are the first current production pieces that truly recreate the best of the vintage mouthpiece sound…dark and powerful, with just the right amount of edge. I most appreciate how well the mouthpiece plays top to bottom, with great intonation and response.”

“The new FL Otto Link has a rich, warm sound, [plus] quick response and flexibility through the entire range of the horn.”

You might notice as you read the description above that it doesn’t state that these new Florida mouthpieces are exact copies or reproductions of the original Florida Links from the 60’s.  It just states in somewhat vague terms that these new mouthpieces were “developed over several years, the new FL Otto Link is a superb blend of professional musician input and skilled JJ Babbitt craftsmanship. Created through minor adjustments in virtually every aspect of the mouthpiece – inside and out – the FL expands the opportunity for players to recapture the distinctive sound that players are looking for.”

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As I examined the new Florida Otto Link next to my other vintage Florida Links I quickly saw some obvious difference between the two models.

First of all, the new Florida Link mouthpieces have a much thicker backend to the body of the mouthpiece.  You can see this clearly when comparing the new mouthpiece side by side with the vintage Florida Otto Links.

I also saw this clearly when I slid my Selmer 404 ligature onto the new Florida Link.  I have used a Selmer 404 ligature on most of my metal Otto Link mouthpieces whether they be vintage or newer Otto Links for the last 20 years.  It usually slides on very easy.  On the new Florida Link mouthpiece, the rear body of the piece is so thick that I had to unscrew the rear screw of the Selmer 404 ligature all the way until it was about to fall out to be able to slide the ligature back towards the rear of the table.  Even unscrewed to that point, I couldn’t get the ligature all the way to the butt of the reed.

Secondly, the beak of the new Florida mouthpiece immediately felt higher to me than my other vintage Otto Links.  It was enough of a difference that it felt a bit uncomfortable and odd to me because I am so used to the beak heights of my vintage Florida Link mouthpieces.  I took the mouthpiece off and compared it side by side with my vintage Florida Links and it did look higher to my eye which confirmed what I felt.  I don’t think this is a deal breaker for me but rather just something I would have to get used to if I owned one of these new mouthpieces.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When comparing the baffle and chamber of the new Florida Link mouthpiece to the vintage Florida Link mouthpieces I have to start with the acknowledgment that I have seen many Florida Links with variations between there baffle shapes and chamber shapes.  Even when comparing the two vintage Florida Links I have right now, the baffles and chambers have variations between them.

The baffle of the new Florida Link has a nice rollover to it and looks pretty darn close to the height of my vintage Florida Link baffles. There is a difference in that the vintage Links have a smooth rollover which makes the rollover harder to see as it is a gradual smooth rollover.  The new Florida Otto Link baffle has a more abrupt crooked change in the baffle as you can see in the picture below.

The chamber of the new Florida Link looks to have slightly deeper floor in the chamber than my vintage Links do.  The sidewalls are scooped out as they are with the vintage pieces.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Another difference I noticed is that the new Florida Otto Link chamber seems a bit longer than the vintage Otto Link chambers.   What I mean, is that when I compare the new Link with the vintage Links the bore past the chamber starts farther back on the new Florida Otto Link than on the vintage Florida Otto Links.  I think this might have the affect of making the chamber a bit larger than on the vintage Florida Links although this is just speculation on my part without measuring the chamber volume of each mouthpiece.

The other difference I see is that the table of the new Florida Link is thicker than on my vintage Florida Links.  When you look at the chamber from the tip of the mouthpiece you can see the thickness of the table while looking at the roof of the chamber.  I do have to say that the two vintage Florida Links I own now have been refaced so this thinness in their tables might be due to the refacer’s work. (I have actually never owned an original vintage Link…….too expensive……)

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The 7* Florida Link seemed to play well with a Rigotti Gold 3 Light or 3 Medium reed for me.  I used the Rigotti 3 Medium reed for the recording below.

I found the new Florida Otto Link to to be in the middle of the dark to bright tone spectrum.  It has some nice brights and highs in the sound but the thick slightly spread nature of the tone balances well with the highs.

I did find that this mouthpiece seemed to put the tone out in front of the saxophone.   Some mouthpieces I play seem to fill the room and the sound seems like it is right next to my ears.   Other mouthpieces seem to put the sound out in front of the sax so it seems a bit further from my ears.  I usually attribute this to the spread quality of the tone.   I would classify the new Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece as having a tone that leans slightly to the more spread side of things.  This is interesting to me as I really dig my vintage Florida Links because they are more focused in tone.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I found the new Florida Otto Link to give me the same volume I typically get from a great Otto Link style mouthpiece.  I felt like I could push it to about 80% of my full volume but then it felt like it hit a wall for me and I couldn’t push it past that point without the tone getting crass and breaking up a bit. This is typical for me and why I usually don’t use a Link type mouthpiece on super loud gigs.

This also might just be me not being 100% used to the mouthpiece yet.   Usually I can spend a few weeks with a mouthpiece before I review it but I have only played this one for a few hours and have to get it back to the owner who so graciously let me borrow it.

At the end of the day, I really dig the new Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece and wish I could spend more time with it.  I think it is a different beast than the vintage Florida Links I have tried in that this piece feels and sounds more spread to me than the focus of those old Florida Link mouthpieces.

This mouthpiece is hands down better than any other modern Otto Link STM I have tried over the last 30 years.  It doesn’t have that dreaded tubbiness I have found in some of those mouthpieces and the tone has a richness and complexity to it that reminds me of some great NY Otto Links I have played that have a larger chamber.

It’s almost like it mixes the thick full character of tone of a great NY Otto Link large chamber mouthpiece with the focus and brightness of the vintage Florida Otto Links.  To combine that balance of both concepts is a hard thing to do but I think JJ Babbitt has created a mouthpiece that does just that.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the sound and look of the new Florida Otto Link from JJ Babbitt you can find them at Kessler & Sons Music or Tenor Madness as well as other stores.  If you play one or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.   Thanks,   Steve

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Disclosure: I borrowed this New Florida Otto Link 100th Anniversary tenor saxophone mouthpiece reviewed above from a fan of my site and will be returning the mouthpiece after the 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 Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Hi Steve ,
    Sending you best wishes from LosAngeles.
    I read your review and hear you play the
    Otto Link New Florida 7 * mouthpiece .
    As usual you sound beautiful on every mouthpiece you play . ( personally , I have been back and forth with a 2001 Otto Link SMS 7 opened to 105 . I get mixed results . The new Florida 7* sounds like it is holding you back in power or aggressiveness , Just a little . But on the whole it sounds very excellent , rich and the complexity of tone , that players look for . Thanks for the review .Murray

  2. Is this on wwbw website yet?

  3. Bill, I don’t see them on the WWBW website yet………I get the impression from Babbitt that they are barely keeping up with demand as it is. Maybe WWBW would be too big a jump to stock and sell from. No idea??

  4. I seen some of these and they looked cheaply railed and tabled, this is probably why your friend has it refaced

  5. I have an Otto Link Tone Master Tenor saxophone mouthpiece 7* and love the sounds I get from it.It gives me the edge I need when playing hard and aggressive and a low rich tone when playing soft and laid back! I use it when I’m playing Jazz,Funk,R&B and other various styles of music. It’s one of the best mouthpiece I own.

  6. Sounded to you, it looks beautiful …
    There is the usual problem of crushed neck cork?
    Why don’t they make the mouthpieces all with the same size as the bore?
    Excuse me, Steve, the method that you once described as putting the cork part of the neck in boiling water to make it swell, doesn’t it risk detaching the cork? Does the water have to be hot or just boiling at 100 degrees? For how much seconds can you keep the cork of the neck immersed in boiling water without damaging it or ungluing it?
    Thanks for an answer,
    Giuseppe.

  7. I just get the water boiling in a coffee cup in the microwave, take it out with a towel (because the cup is pretty hot), dip the full length of the cork in for 1 second and then dry it off with the towel. Thats all it takes. I have been doing this for years and the cork has never come off. Steve

  8. Tony, Do you have the new Florida or just a regular modern STM? Steve

  9. Hey Steve, I don’t have the new Florida Link. I have the regular Tone Master Otto link!

  10. Thanks Steve for the information to re-inflate the cork.
    I went to JJ Babbitt’s website and found the new Ottolink Florida centenary, now it there is; there is, also, for the centenary, a New Meyer New York for alto sax.
    Please, a lesson of english language: is correct to write, for the neck of the sax, chiver, cheever or cheaver? And what this word means? How to pronounce? In Italy some say as Kiver, me and others, as “chiver”.
    Thanks,
    Giuseppe.

  11. For the neck of the sax you write the “neck of the sax”. We don’t use the words chiver,cheever or cheaver that I have ever heard in my 50 years on the planet. You just write “neck”. Steve

  12. Steve, have you never reviewed the metal Ottolink Tone master? I think this is one of the best metal Ottolink built over time and, I read, is the model used by Coltrane for the album “Blue Trane”, one of my favorite Coltrane sounds.
    Do you have this mouthpiece in your collection?
    What do you think is a modern mouthpiece that comes close to this sound that Coltrane has on “Blue Trane”?

  13. Thanks to replay for the neck of the sax; but… I am astonished, because my first teacher of sax, and jazz, Larry Dinwieddie, who moved to Italy from New York for a few years, I met him in 1977, he used this term “chiver”; also many other saxophonists in Italy, even today, use it …

  14. Anyway, played by you, and considering the refacing, I must say that I really like the sound of this new model; I, too, feel sorry about the problem of ligature, which I also don’t love much for how it presses the reed, and for the problem of the bore of the shank, really tight on the cork… They make this model only from 0.085 tip opening, except custom orders!

  15. No, I haven’t reviewed one of these yet. I don’t really play with a Coltrane type of sound so it is hard for me to say which mouthpiece gets closer to this type of sound but the guys I have heard that sound the most like Coltrane have been on Otto Links. Steve

  16. These are not Americans. We don’t use the word chiver that I have ever heard. We call it a saxophone neck. Steve

  17. Hi Steve, I have enjoyed the reviews on your website a lot because of my constant search for a tenor sax mouthpiece which I can both enjoy playing and love the sound of. I mostly listen to 1950s jazz music and am greatly influenced by the sound of that jazz sax era. I was delighted to see you review this mouthpiece since I pounced on this piece as soon as it was available for retail but no reviews on it yet, only one. I think it’s fantastic for a modern made Otto Link! I have tried MANY! Brilharts, Links, Theo Wanne, Meyer, Selmer, you name it. When I got this one, FINALLY I found my perfect mouthpiece! The right amount of edge, smooth playing, easy to play from top to bottom, lovely mix of warm and bright vintage Link sounds. It plays the closest to a beautiful Link double ring I had the chance to buy, but didn’t due to cost. My search has ended. I think Babbit are doing the right thing concept wise with their New Vintage series! Sorry for the long post! And as always I really loved your playing. I’m green with envy!!!

  18. Avatar Giuseppe says

    Ok, thanks,
    Giuseppe.

  19. Steve: Thanks for the review. I wonder what an off the shelf one sounds like that hasn’t been fixed.
    Re: the question about Trane’s Link. He would have used the Links that were available to him him back in the ’50’s. That would have been the new STM FL Link or the older 1940’s NY Tone Master. Either way, Trane built up his baffle to give his mouthpiece more edge.
    This “New” FL Link is only supposed to be a 1 year Limited Edition. However the “New Vintage” Metal Link are still being made. That mouthpiece has gotten really great reviews w/out it being fixed. It has been reviewed as being closer to a NY Tone Master from the’40’s. Steve, did you ever play the “New Vintage” Link? If so what are your thoughts and comments?

  20. Larry,

    I have a brand new Florida Link 100th Anniversary 7* headed to me as I write this. It is in a box and has never been opened so it is the perfect example of one of these fresh off the shelf. We will see how it is.

    I haven’t played the “New Vintage” metal Link as of yet. Hopefully soon! Steve

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