Brand Spankin’ New Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a new 100th anniversary model Florida Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece by JJ Babbitt that I found out after the fact was refaced by Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness. I decided to proceed with the review anyways with the hopes that I would soon get a brand new JJ Babbitt Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece to review and the comparison between the stock Florida Link review and the refaced Florida Link review would be interesting.  Here is my review of a brand new 100th anniversary Florida Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece that I am the first to play since it has left the JJ Babbitt factory.

As you can see from the photos below, this Florida Otto Link saxophone mouthpiece still has the seal on the box as well as the sealed plastic wrap around the mouthpiece so I believe I am the very first person to play this mouthpiece since it was boxed up at the factory.  This was chosen purely at random from someone outside of JJ Babbitt with no play testing or picking it out of a batch of 20 or anything like that.

Brand New Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece in Sealed Box

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.

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.

 

Brand New Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece in Sealed Plastic Bag

The second annoyance was when I tried to slide the mouthpiece on to my neck cork.   It was really tight on the cork.  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.

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 high rollover baffle on it that is a bit crooked as you can see from the photo below. I’m not sure if this crooked baffle is the same in all the new Florida Otto Links or this is just a variance with this mouthpiece.  The Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Otto Link had a slight crooked baffle in it but this one looks to be worse to my eyes.  You can see in the photo how the left side of the baffle is quite a bit higher than the right.

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

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 Florida Link with the vintage Florida 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, 3 Medium or 3 Strong reeds for me.  I tried some 2 1/2 Strong Rigotti reeds but they just felt too soft for me.  I used the Rigotti 3 Strong reed for one recording below and a 3 Light reed for the second recording.

I found the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Otto Link that I reviewed last week to to be in the middle of the dark to bright tone spectrum in my opinion.  I know Jimmy said he did some work on the baffle so I wonder if that made it more neutral than this brand new Florida Otto Link.  I found this mouthpiece to have a brighter tone that actually reminded me quite a bit of Coltrane’s tone in the middle and high registers.  It’s got that Coltrane bright but spread tone as I refer to it. (Michael Brecker had what I call bright and focused tone)

I did find that this mouthpiece seemed to put the tone out in front of the saxophone the same as I experienced with the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Link.   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 to the more spread side of a saxophone tone.  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 Otto Link type mouthpiece on super loud gigs.

I have to be honest and say that I definitely preferred the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Link to this “new from the factory” Florida Otto Link.  This mouthpiece played ok for me, but I found the low notes to be a bit iffy in response.  There were a few times where I went to play something down low that I usually play and the notes wouldn’t speak easily.  I had to put a little more air through the horn. It happened enough times, that I was wondering if my horn had a new leak in it.  I ran a leak light through it and didn’t see anything though. (You can hear this at 1:57 of the 3 Strong recording as well as hear me honking the low notes out a little more on Moose the Mooche at 2:08 of the 3 Strong recording, also at the 2:56 low note of the 3 Strong recording, also at :19 of the 3 Light clip).  The Rigotti 3 Light reed made the low notes easier but I still felt I had to put more effort into them than I usually do.

Although the brand new Florida Otto Link seemed to play ok besides this low note issue, I did find it to be a bit stuffy and tubby in the middle range of the saxophone.  I had a reader ask me what “tubby” meant a few reviews ago.  That is a word I use when I feel like a note has a bit of a “stuffy” and “nasal” quality to the tone.  I’m not sure how else to describe it.  I mostly noticed this on the middle D,Eb, E and F notes.  (I hear this stuffy nasal quality at the 1:45 Eb of the 3 Strong clip but also at various other places during both clips).  I didn’t experience this “tubby” quality on the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Link.  At least it didn’t stick out to me like it did with this mouthpiece.

Please review the clips below and compare them with the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Otto Link review clip.  I feel like the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida mouthpiece has a clearer more focused sound than the brand new out-of-the-box Florida Link which to me has a brighter more spread tone.  I also felt like the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida was easier to play in the low register and had less of that mid-range tubbiness that I described in this review.

As I stated above, this Florida Otto Link saxophone mouthpiece was selected randomly.  I have heard from quite a few people that have played these new JJ Babbitt Florida tenor mouthpieces,  that there are great ones, good ones, ok ones and bad ones. In my opinion, this is an ok one in my mind.  If I played it for a few months and got used to it,  it might very well become a great one for me but that is impossible to state without going through that process.  For right now, it is ok.

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-Rigotti Gold 3 Strong Reed

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed

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. Steve: I think you sound good on both setups although I can hear what you are saying about the low notes w/the harder reed.
    So okay here is a student looking for a good affordable tenor mpc for big band and combo as he/she starts college. SO what would you steer them to, one of these new FL Links, the “New Vintage” LInks that came out a few yrs ago in either metal or HR? Or one of the new production Links either the standard metal/HR Link or the new NY Link? What do YOU think is the best solution.

  2. Yeah, It’s too bad no one really cares about perfection anymore. I was talking to a dealer in mouthpieces, one of many, and he stated a complaint or more like a what’s going on, they said ANYTHING made by JJ Babbitt these days are never exact and many returns are in order , one simply cannot expect to get a prime version maybe 1 in 5, rail, baffle , tip unevenness, most need fine tuning from a refacer if one is to be satisfied with the mouthiece itself, darn……

  3. Avatar Steve Keller says

    I’m not surprised at the problems you had, Steve, Babbitt’s quality control just sucks. I don’t have one of these new Links, but I bought 2 several years ago, one standard STM and one “New Vintage”. The STM I expected to reface, and I did, it came out OK. The NV was about $60 more, and it plays quite well, even though the table is not flat (common to all Babbitt mouthpieces). However, the NV also has a shank that is so narrow that I couldn’t get it on the cork far enough. I spent an hour with a dowel and some sandpaper and fixed that.

    Anything you buy from Babbitt is going to be a project. Just think of them as semi-finished blanks; don’t expect a finished piece from that factory.

    Bottom line – Links are a great design, but Babbitt is doing that fine old brand a disservice, and has done so for many years. Charging a $100 premium for a mouthpiece with the same problems as the standard model is just highway robbery.

    As always, just my opinion.

  4. Avatar Lincoln Apeland says

    I like the light reed clip. It sounds just like my Florida piece.

  5. Avatar Paul Dion says

    Steve, I noticed you steered away from altissimo on these clips. Personally I find Otto Links a bit dodgy up there. My new D’addario Select Jazz 9 is in tune all the way through the range, as is my Meyer 9 (but softer).

  6. Paul, Interesting. I didn’t purposefully steer away from the altissimo for any reason that I know of. That range wasn’t any more difficult than other mouthpieces. I think I was just in a certain mood and on some clips I don’t go up there as much for some reason. Steve

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